Cultural activities of volunteers in Tanzania

Cultural activities are an important element in the YOU.COM project. The main goal is to introduce us to the local lifestyle, traditions and habits. To start, we learned how to make traditional vikapu (local baskets) helped by Mama Novetha, Mama Friday and Theresia, three women who are members of the cooperative that collaborates to Mani d’Africa, a project of Tulime about handcrafts.

The process begun by cutting milulu, an indigenous plant growing next to rivers. We cleaned and let milulu dry under the sun light. Once it dried, we began to make vikapu. It will be quite complicated to describe the whole process and all the different ways our expert teachers interweaved milulu, but we tried to make them with their help. What we understood is that there are two main steps: the first one is to make the top of the basket and, afterward, we continued interweaving the rest.

It has been a long work and, for sure, it is impossible to learn just at the first sight how to make a real kikapu. We really enjoyed spending the day with these vigorous women who taught us their art and their fantastic manual abilities!

One of the several talents of Mama Novetha, the woman who lives next to us, is making clay pots so, in one of our cultural activities, we had the chance to see and to learn how to handle and to shape this natural material. In order to use it we mixed it with water to make it softer. To realize this operation we used two tools already seen in the previous activity (see baagia report): the big grinder stone and the pestle. Since it requires a lot of strength, Mama Novetha helped us.

As soon as the paste was ready, we started modelling it following the instruction of Mama Novetha on how to create a pot from a ball of clay. It has been funny to learn the little tricks used by Mama Novetha to smooth and to decorate them.

Mama Novetha was surprised by our ability (compared to kikapu experience) and we were very proud of ourselves!

For our next cultural activity, we went to visit the Boma Museum in Iringa, 55 km from Pomerini. Its history is very young; in fact, Germans founded it at the beginning of the last century, as a defence from the local population called Wahehe.

The Museum is in the city-centre and even if it is small, it offers an interesting exhibition that gives visitors the possibility to discover the history, the culture and the traditions of the area and of its population too. We started with brief but accurate overview on main battles between settlers and locals, political facts and the growing of Christian religion. What shocked us more was to see the kind of primitive tools used as weapons in quite late battles (dating the end of XIX century).

Furthermore, we have been introduced to the role of witchcraft in past and present society. Some of the most common rituals were described through very impressive pictures and magic tools, but recently those practices (divination, natural medical cures and rituals) has been banned by the governament because they caused fights among population. The visit of the museum continued with an exposition of traditional tools of daily use, some of them are still important for the realization of local products.

Finally, we ended up with the vision of pictures about wildlife in Tanzania. When we went out it was raining, but we are used to it due to the presence of rainy season!