Participants playing football at Mgao sports day

Novel approaches to research during COVID-19

Futures through underwater pasts was carried out amidst Covid 19 pandemic where major sports, including football, were restricted for sometime. Following research, football and exercise were allowed and declared a tool to battle the pandemic. The project utilised this opportunity by organising soccer games between different groups of children and youth from Mgao village. Soccer was organised with the research team and against each other in the Mgao community. Together with soccer, the research team managed to interact with the local community to understand the significance of maritime heritage and its proximity, sustainability and significance to the maritime heritage to the community.

Participants playing football at Mgao sports day

Mgao sports day

Fishers haul a fishing ngalawa onto the beach at Bagamoyo before the tide ebbs (Image: L.K. Blue)

New theme song for Marine Cultural Heritage in East Africa

Dr. Elgidius Ichumbaki, Associate Professor in the Department of Archaeology & Heritage Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam, in collaboration with popular Tanzanian rapper Chemical, has written a ‘Bongo Flava’ song entitled ‘Bahari Yetu’ (Our Ocean) outlining the importance of Marine Cultural Heritage and its relationship to the challenges currently facing Tanzanian coastal communities.

The song is intended to raise awareness of Marine Cultural Heritage in the region in a local style (Bongo Flava is a popular East African music genre) and has been widely featured on radio and television in Tanzania as well as on social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube).

The song builds on two research projects funded by the Rising from the Depths network – ‘Bahari Yetu Urithi Wetu’ in Bagamoyo and ‘The Kisima Project’ on Kilwa Kisiwani – as well as the ‘Digitizing Cultural Heritage for Sustainable Preservation and Development in Tanzania’ funded by Scottish Funding Council GCRF.

It is sung in Kiswahili (with English sub-titles) and has been widely played by Swahili radio stations and televisions channels beyond Tanzania including Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda.

As well as Tanzania the song makes reference to the other counties included in the Rising from the Depths project (Kenya, Mozambique and Madagascar) and, as a result, has become an anthem for the aims of the network as a whole.

The ‘Musicalizing Marine Cultural Heritage in Tanzania’ team are now working on a short documentary covering the making of the song and the issues it addresses. The documentary will aim to cover a behind the scenes production of the music video but also addressing the wider themes discussed in the song.

 

Find out more:

MUSICALIZING MARINE CULTURAL HERITAGE IN TANZANIA

BAHARI YETU, URITHI WETU (OUR OCEAN, OUR HERITAGE)

THE KISIMA PROJECT: HISTORIC AND FUTURE WELL MANAGEMENT ON KILWA KISIWANI, TANZANIA 

Chemical YouTube channel

 

Bi Peris, at work on the seaweed fields

Hidden Histories Produce UNESCO Briefing on Intangible Heritage

Thembi Mutch – Hidden Histories

The Hidden Histories team have produced a UNESCO Briefing on the role of intangible cultural heritage in coastal Tanzania. It covers the research undertaken within the project and sets out recommendations for further work. You can read the full briefing here.

Bi Peris, at work on the seaweed fields

Bi Peris, at work on the seaweed fields – Image by Jenny Matthews

And you can read the full Hidden Histories Blog here.

Remains of the ruins at Mgao associated with the French slave trade in Tanzania

Futures through Underwater Pasts Fieldwork

Nancy Rushohora – Futures through Underwater Pasts

The Futures through Underwater Pasts have been carrying out fieldwork and surveys in Mgao where they have conducted a tide survey as well as an excavation where they found 16th-17th century beads as well as observing the ruins at Mgao, associated with the French Slave Trade in Tanzania.

You can read more about the project here.

Onshore/low tide survey of Mago being carried out

Onshore/low tide survey of Mago being carried out

Team recording site in Mgao

Team recording site in Mgao

Beads collected during the excavation of the Mgao settlement about 16-17th century

Beads collected during the excavation of the Mgao settlement about 16-17th century

Remains of the ruins at Mgao associated with the French slave trade in Tanzania

Remains of the ruins at Mgao associated with the French slave trade in Tanzania

Figure 1: Binti Chanuo reef crest where spiritual practices are conducted

Linkages between Tangible and Intangible Heritage in Mkadini Village of Bagamoyo, Tanzania

This week, we have a guest blog from Miza Alex, an MA student who has provided a blog about their research in Bagamoyo.

Miza Alex, University of Dar es Salaam

Introduction

My study details research carried out at Mkadini village in the Pwani (Coastal) region of Tanzania from February to May 2019. The study focused on the linkages between tangible and intangible heritage, whereas some of the research questions I envisage to address included why the management of several heritage sites in Africa have failed to link the two, hence, a failure to achieve intended goal of ensuring heritage sustainability (Chirikure 2013; Schmidt and Pikirayi 2016). Despite the inseparability of heritage sites and the spiritual attachment local people have for them, the management of several heritage sites particularly by government officials, antiquities and heritage professionals, have failed to recognize the intangible heritage embedded in these sites which local people value most (Ndoro 2001; Munjeri 2002; Ichumbaki 2015). Cultural heritage studies conducted in Tanzania have contributed to our understanding of the existence, management, conservation and protection of various cultural heritage assets in the country. However, these studies and management institutions have placed more emphasis on the tangible cultural heritage, while intangible cultural heritage has attracted less attention. Consequently, local people, heritage professionals and government officials have developed uses of tangible cultural heritage that is not linked to the intangible. As part of an intervention, my research intended to evaluate the perceptions of local people of the intangible heritage embedded in monumental ruins and the surrounding landscape against those imposed by the government and heritage professionals using Mkadini village in the historic town of Bagamoyo as the case study.

The study was conducted in Mkadini village, UTM 0482919/9294976. This is a fishing village located about 13km north of the 19th century historic port town of Bagamoyo in the Pwani (Coastal) region of Tanzania. There are two means to access Mkadini village. From Bagamoyo town, the village is accessible by two ways which is either by road or boat. By road it takes about one and half hours. By boat it depends with the type of the boat one opts to use. With a traditional boat that uses a sail, locally known as dau (dhow), it takes about two to three hours depending on the direction of the wind. On the other hand, the boat with an engine, it takes the maximum of two hours to reach the village. The selected study area provided an ideal case study for the following reasons. First, preservation of cultural heritage sites is heavily dependent on local taboos the management strategy implemented and practiced by the local people called Wakwere reveals power relations that silences, manipulates and uses local epistemologies to achieve sustainability. Second, compared to many other ruins and sites along the coast of central Tanzania, Mkadini has not been exposed to domestic or international tourism, and there are no associated businesses that generate income from it. This means that, the local people have not attached economic value to heritage sites that are located in their area. Third, the ruins and baobab trees in Mkadini village are close to one another and, as noted previous studies at the site (e.g. see Ichumbaki 2015), both the ruins and the baobab trees are used for spiritual practices. Therefore, the area provided the researcher with viable settings for applying the theoretical and practical methodology.

Analysis of the data obtained through in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, physical survey and mapping as well as observation and participation, revealed that local people value the, reef crest, baobab trees, the ruins of stone-built tombs not because of their external appearance but because of the spiritual practices (healing, rituals, offerings, etc.) they undertake either within or around these sites. In addition, local community in Mkadini Village believe that spiritual practices done at these sites, resolve community problems.

Some of the site with spiritual value recorded during physical survey includes the reef crest, locally named Binti Chanuo. The area is known in Kiswahili as Mzimu wa Binti Chanuo (the spirit of Binti Chanuo), Mzimuni (the spirit) of Kijiwe Mtu (reef looking like a person). The reef crest is located in the southern part of Mkadini Village and its UTM point is 483302/9295606. It is located on the western side of the sea and is at the northern end of the Ruvu River. This site is accessed by walking along the beach or, during high tide, by a dhow along the shore from Mkadini Village. The reef crest is 17m long and 8m wide. It is the most visible feature at the site, although there are other smaller reef crests. In the vicinity, there is a thick mangrove forest and a perennial stream called Chalawe River.

The local people interviewed said that Binti Chanuo is visited by people from the villages of Mkadini, Winde, Kijitokamba, Chalawe and Utondwe, as well as from Dar es Salaam, Bagamoyo and Kibaha. According to the local guide at the site, Mzimuni is mainly visited during what is locally known as Mfungo Tatu, which is when visitors clean all the spiritual sites so that their ancestors dwell there free from dirt. Some spiritual practices are also conducted to honour the ancestors and request their intervention to resolve various community problems. As in the case of other sites found in the village the visitors to the reef crest bring animal sacrifices with them, which are accompanied by traditional medicines, food, cooking vessels, fragrances and many other things to enable them to say prayers and offer spiritual practices. Locals’ narratives are supported by the cultural materials which were recorded during the physical surveys. The materials recorded from around the reef crest included white bottles, some of which contained liquids, scatters of coconut shells with some marks, coins and local ceramics. Other cultural materials included incense sticks, green and brown glass bottles, matchboxes, chicken feathers, plastic bottles which local communities identified to contain spiritual medicines.

Figure 1: Binti Chanuo reef crest where spiritual practices are conducted

Figure 1: Figure 1: Binti Chanuo reef crest where spiritual practices are conducted

The results of my study contradict the Government of Tanzania perceptions of what constitutes heritage whereby Tanzania’s Department of Antiquities legally mandated to protect the cultural heritage which values the monumental and aesthetic importance of heritage sites at the expense of their spiritual value, which local people greatly respect. Hence, it is where this study concluded that in order to achieve the sustainable conservation and management of heritage sites, government officials and scholars should consider the importance of the intangible heritage associated with monumental ruins and the surrounding landscape.

“We learnt what it means to do Interdisciplinary Research” University of Dar es Salaam Students Narrate

Elgidius Ichumbaki, Edward Pollard, Jean-Christophe Comte

The Kisima Project

A team of researchers consisting of coastal archaeologists, hydrologists and cultural heritage management scholars have returned from fieldwork on Kilwa Kisiwani Island, in southern Tanzania where they are implementing the Kisima Project. The Kisima Project funded by the Rising from the Depth Network administered by the University of Nottingham investigates the possible links between freshwater conditions (presence, absence, salinity) in the stone-lined historic water wells and the economic rise and fall of a maritime community in East Africa. As part of capacity building, fieldwork for the Kisima Project involved students from the University of Dar Es Salaam (UDSM) to provide them hands-on experience of some of the theories they learn in class. UDSM’s Archaeology and Heritage Management programmes’ students namely Claudia Lubao, Neema Munisi, Hassan Juma, Betuel Mbogoro, Irene Reuben, and Javern Sabas share their experiences.

On the final fieldwork day, Elgidius Ichumbaki asked these students to share experiences gained from participating in the Kisima project field activities. Their joint response was, ‘we learnt what it means to undertake interdisciplinary research.’

They explained that the experience gained from working with a team of professionals was exceptional as they never had such a chance before. “Working with the hydrologists, archaeologists and maritime heritage scholars from Tanzania, France, Britain and Ireland confirmed what I recently heard from one of my instructors that ‘the best research projects must be multidisciplinary’” said Javern Sabas, one of the participating students pursuing BA Heritage Management.

Regardless of whether it was one’s first, second, or third time to visit Kilwa Kisiwani, they expressed their perceptions that the visit this time was special. “…. having studied at the University of Dar es Salaam for three years and having heard about Kilwa Kisiwani in six of the thirty-two courses I have studied, it was a shame that I had have no opportunity to visit Kilwa. Kisima project has quenched my thirst to visit Kilwa and learn about the Swahili civilization”, Irene Reuben, another group member narrated.

Cementing the same point, Claudia Lubao said, ‘…. I have visited Kilwa Kisiwani about three times, but my experience this time is different.  Visiting the families in Kisiwani, sharing food with them in their homes, as well as discussing issues about Kilwa history made me see another side of Kilwa Kisiwani that I didn’t know.’

Claudia Lubao (in the middle) discussing various project issues with a group of women from Kilwa Kisiwani.

Figure 1: Claudia Lubao (in the middle) discussing various project issues with a group of women from Kilwa Kisiwani.

Photo by E. Ichumbaki

Intervening the conversations, Irene Reuben added…. ‘although I have attended two practical training in archaeology, I have never been given opportunity to practice some of the skills such as undertaking mapping, interacting with local people to record their narratives as well as working together with other fellow students to address particular topics. Working together with the hydrogeologists gave me an exceptional experience.’

Likewise, another student explains how taking part in the project triggered a passion for becoming a professional photographer. “One of my interests has been to produce images that communicate a particular message to people of all walks of life. It came as a surprise to learn that I was supposed to capture images of various wells we mapped and excavated as implementation of the project continued” Hassan Juma, another team member informs.

Hassan Juma taking a photo of a historic well at one of the monument in Kilwa Kisiwani

Figure 2: Hassan Juma taking a photo of a historic well at one of the monument in Kilwa Kisiwani

Photo by E. Ichumbaki

Of much interest was to learn that the project changed some of perceptions they had regarding STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects as one of the students narrated. “The belief of many students in Tanzania is that ‘science and engineering subjects are hard to pursue.’ Participating in Kisima project has allowed me to question this wisdom! For nearly one week I managed to learn how to record geographic coordinates and elevation of wells using a differential GPS, configuring and installing groundwater loggers in the wells, and using these instruments to understand changing water level, salinity, and temperature. These methods are commonly regarded as ‘too scientific’ to be accomplished by students undertaking arts subjects. In fact, it is not very complicated to do ‘science’ as part of a multidisciplinary project” informs Javern Sabas, another project member.

Javern Sabas (in the middle) listening to Dr. Jean-Christophe Comte (right) from the University of Aberdeen and Dr. Simon Melchioly (left) from UDSM.

Figure 3: Javern Sabas (in the middle) listening to Dr. Jean-Christophe Comte (right) from the University of Aberdeen and Dr. Simon Melchioly (left) from UDSM.

Photo by E. Ichumbaki

The students have gone further to explain their interactions and engagements with some members of the local community. “I could not believe that the local people were eager to learn about our research topic and give constructive comments. Within a short period of our stay, some local people became aware of our research, gave ideas and advised strategies of how to collect data. Kisima Project has allowed me to physically witness the practice of ‘community archaeology’ I learnt in class” narrated Betuel Edson, another group member.

Agreeing with Betuel, Claudia Lubao added, “Kisima Project has enabled me to interact with fishermen and fish with them. Being the only woman in a team of six men fishing in a traditional boat, and listening to the songs fishermen sing or narrate as they travel from the beach to the ocean, undertake fishing activities, navigate back to the beach, land their dhows, and sell fish on the beach was the first time I experienced these activities.”

On a similar note, Neema Munisi comments that “local people’s narratives, myths, stories, beliefs, and customs about ancient wells are very interesting and must have contributed to preserving wells and ensuring sustainable water use.” She further narrates that “…. for me seeing beads that are made from the local aragonite minerals was exciting and evidence of the highest level of civilization of Kilwa people during the ancient times”.

The students also faced challenges during fieldwork, and they expressed the troubles they went through. ‘Some local people asked for money before they talked to me and others were not ready to hold discussions. I did not have money to offer them’ says Claudia Lubao.

Neema Munisi (left) and Irene Reuben (right) filling well survey forms

Figure 4: Neema Munisi (left) and Irene Reuben (right) filling well survey forms

Photo by E. Ichumbaki

On her side, Irene Reuben notes that “…people had perceptions that our movement from one well to another, asking them about the problems associated with water, and establishing archaeological trenches nearby the wells would directly improve their water access, hence, solve their water shortage problem. Indeed, it was a disappointment for the local people to learn that our research will not immediately solve their acute problem despite being a first step towards it.”

Language was another challenge the students faced as they were collecting ethnographic information. Claudia Lubao narrates that ‘some elders code-mixed and code-switched Kiswahili and their local languages, the later of which was unclear to me’.

“For me, the difficult moment was when I interacted with a boy; a student at Kilwa Muslim College. He completely ignored me and would not answer my questions. When I asked him about his name, he responded that his name is ‘mume wangu’ meaning he is my husband. Such response was a disappointment, but it did not stop me from carrying on with the interview”, says Irene Reuben.

The gereza (fort), part of the remaining monuments indicative of civilization in Kilwa Kisiwani Island

‘The Ocean Shapes Our Social Behaviour’ –Wives of Fishermen in Kilwa Kisiwani Island, Tanzania Narrate

Elgidius Ichumbaki, Edward Pollard, Jean-Christophe Comte

The Kisima Project

Sources of fresh water are vital, and also social places, for the Kilwa Kisiwani maritime community, as it is the case amongst many other communities. A team of researchers from the University of Dar es Salaam, University of Aberdeen, and Ireland’s Discovery Programme continue to investigate the role of freshwater wells, and seawater intrusion, in the Swahili civilization that flourished between the 11th and 18th centuries, and the lessons it may yield in terms of sustainable development. We undertake this project at Kilwa Kisiwani inhabited by an island community exploiting the Indian Ocean environment along the southern coast of Tanzania. Along with archaeological surveys and excavations, we are recording narratives, myths, stories, and other forms of intangible heritage that are linked to groundwater use, salinity and freshwater management within the Island.

A team of archaeologists and geologists at one of the historic well in Kilwa Kisiwani

Figure 1: A team of archaeologists and geologists at one of the historic well in Kilwa Kisiwani

Photo by E. Ichumbaki

In various discussions and interviews we have held with local women fetching water at the wells, we have noticed that in addition to being social places, freshwater wells are centres where women, the majority of whom are wives of fishermen, narrate to one another ‘the rewards’ and ‘the cruelties’ they face. The benefits and obstacles they encounter are part and parcel of their lives, which emanate from being ‘sea people’. Considering this scenario, we aimed to answer the question ‘what does the ocean/sea mean to the wives of fishermen’ concentrating at various wells to fetch water?’ Interestingly, we have found that memories, narratives, stories, songs, and other forms of intangible heritage linked to navigation and fishing activities continue to shape the Islanders’ daily behaviour. Here, we report our findings.

Women have informed the research team that what the fishermen say, narrate or sing as they travel from the beach to the ocean, undertake fishing activities, navigate back to the beach, land their dhows, and sell fish on the beach has shaped the women’s behaviour within the Island.

‘If you cheat your husband and his friends find out about your behaviour, they will inform him accordingly. His friends will not tell him directly but through singing various songs. They do so as they are on the way to go for fishing, in the ocean as they fish, on the way back from fishing, or at the beach selling their fish. When this situation happens, you (wife) are humiliated and your husband is ashamed of your behaviour too’—one woman informed the team.

A team of researchers and a group of women discussing various Kisima project issues.

Figure 2: A team of researchers and a group of women discussing various Kisima project issues.

Photo by Neema Munisi.

Javern Tenga (with an orange reflector), a student from the University of Dar es Salaam measuring the water-depth at the great-well—the main water supply in the Island

Figure 3: Javern Tenga (with an orange reflector), a student from the University of Dar es Salaam measuring the water-depth at the great-well—the main water supply in the Island.

Photo by Jean-Christophe Comte

‘Although foreigners may see the song as totally unrelated to the fishing activities, for the Islanders, the message is clear to everyone,’ another woman narrates. She further informed that, “the song mentions a name of a lady given a name of ‘meno ya chauma’ (biting teeth) or that she has bad habits.” As singing continues, the fishing crew evaluate themselves and if one realizes that it is his wife who cheated him, he divorces her upon returning home.

One woman added that, because of this scenario, women in the island of Kilwa Kisiwani are very careful to ‘misbehave’ especially when their husbands have gone out fishing. ‘If you don’t respect yourself, thinking that your husband is away fishing and that your acts will not be known, then, you will suffer the consequences,’ another woman insisted.

Apart from the songs that concern marriage, there are other songs and narratives which shape the daily lives of both fishermen and their families. For example, there are songs, which warn people of the island to be extra careful such as if an accident happens, they are in position to rescue each other as they navigate from the island to the mainland. ‘We are not allowed to continue carrying anything while in the boat. Be it luggage or children, as soon as we get into the boat, we must lay it down. Doing that is important so that if anything happens, then, other members in the boat will rescue you and/or your child,’ says one woman. These views from a woman residing in the island is shared by a fisherman who insists that ‘getting into the boat with shoes is like being against the voyage to where others intend to go.’

The ocean seems to have shaped people on the island to live communal lives by sharing the few resources they obtain from the ocean. ‘All newly-built fishing vessels or purchased nets must be acknowledged by many villagers; so, the first and/or second catch are distributed to neighbours of a villager who make the vessel and/or purchase new nets. According to over twenty interviewed women, the purpose of offering the first catch is to ‘give life to the new vessel or net’ so that it gains recognition in the society’.

Among the songs accompanying fishing activities is one that raises awareness of the marine resources that are protected within Tanzanian laws. Some of the fishermen, for instance, as they go for fishing, sing songs which remind them not to fish the protected marine resources. “Turtles are undesirable, totally undesirable; Whales are desirable? No undesirable! Dolphin is undesirable, very undesirable” some fishermen sing as they go fishing.

Some songs and other narratives warn young fishermen to be careful and avoid dangerous fish. ‘When you plan fishing, do not go alone. Going fishing as a group will save you from being attacked by venomous fish such as a stingray or stonefish. Even if you get stung, your companions will save you’ says one fisherman. Indeed, these stories, narratives and songs, which are linked to the fishing activities, seem to have been and continue to shape the lives and behaviour of people in Kilwa Kisiwani.

As it is today, islanders, whose daily life is supported by groundwater, Kilwa Kisiwani’s civilization was at a much larger scale supported by the use of groundwater through the 26 water wells the Kisima Project have located distributed across the island. Today, most of the known wells are dry and of those who remain in use by the small fishing community, most are too saline for drinking. Kisima project is trying to gather archaeological and hydrological evidence to understand the role of groundwater and saline intrusion, another direct influence of the ocean on islanders’ daily life, on the rise and fall of Kilwa Kisiwani great civilization and use the lessons learnt to inform future water security.

The island of Kilwa Kisiwani is located about 300 km south of Dar es Salaam adjacent to the Tanzanian coast. An ancient town on this island reflects the fact that the inhabitants of the Swahili coast were key players in the transoceanic Indian Ocean trade. Between the 11th and 18th centuries AD, Kilwa Kisiwani was a wealthy port that regularly served as the hub of trade between the Indian Ocean and the interior of eastern Africa. Products such as cloth, glass beads, perfumes, Chinese porcelain, silver, Persian faience and carnelian were imported in exchange for ivory, gold, animal hides and mangrove timber. As a result of this, in 1331, the Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta considered Kilwa Kisiwani as ‘one of the most beautiful cities of the world’.

The gereza (fort), part of the remaining monuments indicative of civilization in Kilwa Kisiwani Island

Figure 4: The gereza (fort), part of the remaining monuments indicative of civilization in Kilwa Kisiwani Island.

Photo by Elgidius Ichumbaki

Kilwa Kisiwani’s cultural significance is exceptional and transcends national (Tanzania) boundaries. The island (and its monuments) is of common importance for present and future generations of humanity. It was because of this importance that in 1981, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee inscribed the Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani on the World Heritage List.

People rushing towards the boat as it is docked on a good day.

Weather information and livelihoods in Mafia Island

Fasco Chengula (University of Roehampton PhD Student)

Fasco Chengula (PhD research student, University of Roehampton) in the Field in Mafia Island, Tanzania

Having completed all the administrative logistics and research clearance from relevant authorities, I finally arrived in Mafia archipelago, one of the most important Indian Ocean ancient trading networks, scattered over the Indian Ocean 21 km off the Rufiji River Delta in central Tanzania, home to whale sharks, ancient Swahili city ruins of Kua, Chole and Kisimani Mafia as well as a world class scuba and snorkeling diving center.  I had an opportunity to introduce myself and the research I am doing to the Mafia District Commissioner (DC), District Administrative Secretary (DAS), and District Executive Director (DED) and met a number of stakeholders relevant to my research: heads of Department at Mafia District Council (e.g. Fisheries officer, Community Development officer, Land officer, Natural resource and environment officer, Tourism officer and Agricultural officers); Mafia Marine Park;  Kua Ancient Swahili town conservation society; Mafia Airport Meteorological section; Mafia Island Lodge Diving centre (great users of weather data for diving excursion) ; Fishing  groups in Kilindoni town and Jibondo Island and women fishing groups.

Plate 2: A view of Kilindoni Port, Mafia Island as you Land down at the Mafia Airport. Photo by Fasco Chengula

Plate 3: Whale sharks are a popular tourist attraction in Mafia, and a contributor to local economy and, revenue for Mafia District Council. To see this incredible marine mammal, you must consult local fishermen who possess enormous local ecological knowledge of the ocean and its bio-physical resources. Photo by Fasco Chengula

Plate 4: King of Kua remains of a double storied palace at the Ancient Kua Swahili city ruins in Juani Island, Mafia. Photos: Fasco Chengula

Small-scale rustic fisheries activities are a strong component of the local livelihoods and economy in the Island. Small scale farming (food and cash crops such as rice and coconuts respectively), tourism, small business activities and livestock keeping are also practiced. Mafia islands are also known for boat building which is justly famous throughout East Africa, with hand tools and hand-forged nails to create the jahazis, dhows, mashuas and ngalawas you will see in Mafia.

Mafia’s weather and oceanic conditions exhibit certain features that are unique to Coastal Tanzania and East Africa. Being highly influenced by trade wind systems (Northeast monsoon December to April, and southeast monsoon June to October) and pronounced moisture convergence in Indian Ocean sea breezes, Mafia Archipelago is the highest receiver of rainfall in coastal Tanzania

The lunar cycle, not only controls fishing schedules, but also influences most of the tourist activities (diving excursions to experience marine life such as swimming along with whale shark/ school of whale sharks, shoals of fish, turtles  and coral life). Weather information not only helps tour guides (boatmen) to truck marine organisms that are of interests to tourists and obtain the best visibility for their guests but also to avoid strong currents and ensure safety.

Plate 5: Top, Fishermen preparing fishing nets and boats for night fishing; Bottom, fishermen offloading fish/landing from day fishing.

Movements from one island to another in Mafia can only be done using rustic boats, and dhows whose operations and schedules is depend on weather and tides. Swahili phrases such as “Bahari/ pwani ikiwa shwari, in shaa Allah” (in case the ocean is calm, God willing) are common phrases you can hear when people conclude a plan/agreement of activity schedule for the next day. The Kua Ruins in Juani Island extending over more than 40 acres with a large double storied palace is an archaeological site from the 12th Century, established by settlers from Kilwa can be accessed by boat across the Bay from Utende only during the high tides.  The Kua Ancient town preservation Society formed by residents of Juani Island are the only certified local tour guides who stays at the entrance gate close to the boat landing site to receive guests only when its high tide. “We do not expect visitors during low tide, since the tides are not predictable; we depend on information from experienced fishers’ fishing around the area” said the Kua Ancient town preservation Society chair when I visited the site.

At the far south-western tip of Mafia, is the Kisimani Mafia, a submerged old town. Most of its ruins are highly susceptible to ocean wave erosion whose strength, magnitude and frequency is believed to have increased over the recent years due to rising sea level.

Plate 6: Still Standing (top) and almost gone (bottom) water well ruins along the beach of Kisimani Mafia ancient town whose part is said to have been submerged.

Plate 7: Water well built in the times of yore of the Kisimani Mafia ancient town which Still in use today by the local community.

The focus of this study is to explore and document ethnography of the intangible marine local and indigenous knowledge heritage of weather forecasting (LIKS) among fishing communities in Mafia Island, and to investigate their role in strengthening coastal rural livelihoods amidst changing climate in Tanzania. This research is being conducted at a time when LIKS in weather and climate is lacking in the scientific literature, and highly needed to inform international policy processes. This study is also at the core of the intangible marine cultural heritage for which the UNESCO’s Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems Programme (LINKS) was established in 2002. Coming blogs will feature how local fishers in Mafia Island predict weather using knowledge acquired through years of experience in interacting with the ocean.

Part of the Bagamoyo beach with local boats

Bagamoyo visitors love the sea—and want to get on it, University of Dar Es Salaam students find

Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu:

Undergraduate students Martha Kipande, Daniel Antony Munuo, Noella Mrosso and Javern Aveline Sabas and postgraduate student Neema Munisi report on their findings.

Part of the Bagamoyo beach with local boats

Photo 1: Part of the Bagamoyo beach with local boats

 Photo by E. Ichumbaki

A team of students from the University of Dar Es Salaam (UDSM) have been out and about in the Tanzanian fishing town of Bagamoyo finding out what some of its over 17,000 visitors a year enjoy—and what they’d like more of. Unsurprisingly, the natural beauty of the beach and its busy fishing community rate highly. But the students—on UDSM’s Heritage Management programme at the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies—also found that visitors would relish a trip on a traditional boat. Undergraduate students Martha Kipande, Daniel Antony Munuo, Noella Mrosso and Javern Aveline Sabas and postgraduate student Neema Munisi report on their findings.

Bagamoyo’s beach, with its busy fishermen, traditional wooden sailing boats, fine sand, clear water and seashells is a key attraction for tourists visiting the town, we found in a questionnaire we conducted among visitors this month as part of the Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu (Our Sea, Our Heritage) project. “The lives of people, fishing boats, dhows, white sand, the sunset, clean beach and palm trees are all very interesting” one Danish tourist, a postgraduate student, told us. A Russian visitor said simply that, “The beach is the best”.

Daniel and Martha interviewing a tourist from Spain

Photo: Daniel and Martha interviewing a tourist from Spain

Photo by Neema Munisi

Tourists were also interested in the sights and history of the town itself—citing its historic architecture, fish market, curio shops, food, people, climate and slave-trade history among its attractions. “The old-style buildings have not changed,” noted a tourist from South Korea, “The structures are still original.”

We conducted the survey over almost two weeks. For us—young people waving clipboards in the street—the main challenge was to win the trust and patience of visitors, and also to convince the tour guides that we were not stealing their business. Many tourists were in a hurry. Some ignored us, and others thought we were beggars!

But, in the end, we gathered more than 110 reponses, and were amazed by the results. People enjoyed their stay, but there is a clear market for boat-trip experiences that is not currently being satisfied. Overwhelmingly, respondents said they’d love to go on a traditional boat—especially one with a sail—for activities such as visiting an island or snorkelling. A German tourist interviewed by Daniel Munuo was typical—he favoured going on a short boat trip using a tradition wooden boat with a sail. But, with very few exceptions, these activities are not available in the town, and they are not publicised at all.

As a group we enjoyed face-to-face conversation with visitors from more than 20 countries, including Brazil, Israel, Australia, Mexico, Spain, the USA, Ghana, German, the UK, and Zimbabwe. “It was a great experience interviewing the tourists and I was amazed with their response,” says Javern Aveline Sabas, another UDSM team member. But as a group we have also enjoyed the food, festivals and people, who are simply lovely. “Being a Maasai and coming to Bagamoyo for the first time was a season to remember”, says Martha, a member of the UDSM student team. Like many of the tourists, “I really enjoyed the culture and the authenticity of the people especially engaged fishermen at the beach.” “Walking from one street to another, and restaurant to restaurant to talk to tourists and get their feelings about Bagamoyo was my first experience but indeed evidence that undergraduate and postgraduate students can collaborate to produce tangible outputs” says Neema, another team member and UDSM postgraduate student.

Martha and Javern interviewing tourist from United States of America (U.S.A)

Photo: Martha and Javern interviewing tourist from United States of America (U.S.A)

Photo by an unknown

Bagamoyo is a quiet town, with a seafront area that is packed with historic buildings, some of which are crumbling, while others are still in use. It was once a very prosperous settlement, and the main port of mainland Tanzania until the increasing size of ships moved international trade to Dar Es Salaam. It was also a major port for ivory and slaves.

Currently, the historical buildings of Bagamoyo are managed by Tanzania Forest Services (TFS) and Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), which aim to revitalizing the old ‘stone town’ area.

For a better experience in Bagamoyo, tourists said they also wanted a good map of the town, and better signage, street lighting and public transport. One Brazilian tourist interviewed by Noella Mrosso also suggested “better prices on accommodation and better internet.”

Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu is a collaborative research project investigating ways of leveraging Bagamoyo’s rich maritime heritage for social benefit. Part of the Rising from the Depths Network, it brings together researchers from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and the Universities of Exeter and Southampton in the UK. It is funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, and Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Fishers haul a fishing ngalawa onto the beach at Bagamoyo before the tide ebbs (Image: L.K. Blue)

A maritime heritage paradox: aspiration and preservation on the beaches of Bagamoyo, Tanzania

Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu Project Team:

John P. Cooper, University of Exeter

Elgidius Ichumbaki, University of Dar Es Salaam

Lucy Blue, University of Southampton

 

The first field season of the Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu project is under way. Academics from the University of Dar Es Salaam, the University of Exeter, and the University of Southampton are working with fishing and boatbuilding communities around Bagamoyo to examine the stresses this heritage faces, while documenting its material and intangible manifestations. As the project progresses, the team will hold community events to celebrate this heritage and develop pathways to heritage sustainability.

Fishers haul a fishing ngalawa onto the beach at Bagamoyo before the tide ebbs (Image: L.K. Blue)

Figure 1: Fishers haul a fishing ngalawa onto the beach at Bagamoyo before the tide ebbs (Image: L.K. Blue).

The Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha has a fleeting, but transformative effect on the seascape off the Tanzanian coastal town of Bagamoyo. On any other day, a glance out to sea would reveal an industrious scene of fishers setting nets and traps, mostly in locally made wooden boats powered by sail our outboard motor, or otherwise heading out to more distant fishing grounds. On the town beach, teams of stevedores and crew would normally be noisily loading timber, vegetables or livestock bound for Zanzibar, or unloading bright yellow plastic containers of cooking oil coming from there. But on Eid morning, the scene is unusually empty, as the community prepares to celebrate with feasting and family time in community with the global Islamic ummah.

The gradual appearance of a handful of fishing boats on the water as the day progresses, however, is a sign that not all is well among the Bagamoyo fishing community. A smattering of fishing lamps on the sea after dark shows that some are working even into the night. “In the past, no one would have gone fishing on Eid,” on elder fisher tells us. “But these days, some people cannot afford to lose a single day”.

The inshore waters of Bagamoyo, as elsewhere along the Tanzanian coast, are increasing overfished, with even immature stocks being depleted. Meanwhile the human population is rising, with more fishers active, and demand for fish on the up.

Fishing in Bagamoyo is arranged around small crews operating small, privately owned, wooden boats. The large majority of craft are striking sailing dugouts fitted with outriggers, called ngalawa, used for line and net fishing, with a smaller number of stout mtumbwi dugouts powered by outboard engines for setting traps and nets. A smaller fleet of larger plank-built vessels, up to 11m long, are also powered by outboard engine: recent innovations, they pursue sein netting by day or night. Other similar-sized plank-built daw still use sail.

A range of fishing vessels—mtumbwe (front), ngwanda (rear left) and mtando (rear right)—moored on the waterfront at Mlingotini (Image: J.P. Cooper)

Figure 2: A range of fishing vessels—mtumbwe (front), ngwanda (rear left) and mtando (rear right)—moored on the waterfront at Mlingotini (Image: J.P. Cooper).

“You won’t find a single person in this town who would prefer to keep the sail if he was offered an engine,” says one fisher. With coastal waters overfished, the need of communities dependent on fishing to go further and faster in pursuit of fish trumps any sentimental attachment to sailing craft as ‘heritage’ objects. This does not mean that people are not aware of the historic importance of their craft. “I would like to see research conducted into the origins of the ngalawa and its connections across the Indian Ocean,” one fisher tells us. Yet owners of the sailing ngalawa struggle to make a living for their families, and builders of larger plank vessels complain of the soaring cost of timber.

Bagamoyo is a historic town. Its role as entrepôt of the East African slave trade and capital of the short-lived German East Africa has left a series of historic buildings. Tourists come from near and far to see these—but few miss the beach and its maritime bustle, and most rate it as a highlight of their visit. Polling by University of Dar Es Salaam heritage management undergraduate students as part of the Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu project is beginning to reveal the prominent role that traditional boats, especially those with sails, play in the tourist experience of the Bagamoyo. Yet the relationship between tourists—especially those pointing cameras uninvited—and porters, fishers and boatbuilders on the beach is not always a comfortable one. Work clearly needs to be done to improve mutual understanding and beach etiquette.

Members of the Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu project team, together with fishers, boat-builders and spiritual practitioners, at a project co-creation event aimed at identifying the key issues faced by the community (Image: unknown photographer)

Figure 3: Members of the Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu project team, together with fishers, boat-builders and spiritual practitioners, at a project co-creation event aimed at identifying the key issues faced by the community (Image: unknown photographer).

The more fundamental issue, however, is the disconnect between the ailing economic health of traditional maritime activities for the Bagamoyo community, and its value to that community, and its visitors, as a globally important cultural and heritage asset. The wooden sailing boats and their attendant cultural practices have to weather an economic storm of overfishing and rising material costs: if not, they could disappear at a rapid rate as technological alternatives come to market and accelerate a fishing-technology ‘arms race’. If that happens, they would take with them a wealth of material, spiritual, cognitive and linguistic heritage. Preventing that loss cannot entail forbidding fishers and sailors from seeking prosperity through changing practices. But the solution might be through finding new ways to deploy and valorise this heritage—even on a smaller scale.

Seaweed being laid out to dry on the beach at Tumbe

Preserving the Maritime Cultural Heritage on Pemba Island, Tanzania – Women’s work

East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project Team:

Mark Horton, Royal Agricultural University

Eréndira Quintana Morales, Northern Illinois University

Shadia Taha, University of Cambridge

Abdallah Khamis Ali, Zanzibar Heritage Foundation.

Abdallah Mkumbukwa, State University of Zanzibar

Laura Basell, University of Leicester

 

Women’s work

The role of women in this economy is particularly interesting. In the past, with the men taking all the fish and selling it, the women and their families had to rely on their own food supply. This mostly involved agriculture, rice paddy, where the terrain supported this, or millets in the drier coral lands, together with bananas, citrus fruit and coconuts. Zebu cattle grazed on the harvested rice fields. An important source of protein was shell fish, with large groups of women going out at low spring tides (every two weeks) to collect them.

A typical rural scene behind the fishing towns. The rice is being harvested by women, while cattle graze on the stalks left behind.

A typical rural scene behind the fishing towns. The rice is being harvested by women, while cattle graze on the stalks left behind.

This familiarity with the inter-tidal zone was useful for the women to exploit another cash rich resource – seaweed. Seaweed (Swahili: mwani) farming is a relatively recent phenomenon in East Africa, dating from 1988. Processed for lotions, cosmetics and even toothpaste, it is a major export for Zanzibar and around 80% comes from Pemba island, especially in the north east where the shallow lagoon environment is ideal. The seaweed (Eucheuma denticulatum and Kappaphycus alvaresii) is planted in small plots and is harvested 6 weeks later, where it is then carried ashore and dried. The dried seaweed is then sold for cash per kilo, to an agent. The women benefit and can be financially independent of their husbands. With the success of seaweed farming it seems that shellfish collection has declined – or has become more a social event. There have been reports that the price the women get has declined, and that the seaweed has to be planted at greater depths, as a result of the warming of the ocean. One result has been the use of light weight plastic boats to provide access to deeper water.

Seaweed being laid out to dry on the beach at Tumbe

Seaweed being laid out to dry on the beach at Tumbe. In the foreground can be seen a light plastic boat, supplied by the agents, to help facilitate harvesting in deeper waters.

So where do all the fish go? It seems that the maritime societies of Pemba island both in the past and the present are successful entrepreneurs, who realised that fish are more valuable as cash resource to be sold, in the past to the Arab plantations, and in the present to the beach hotels; meat and shell fish were the preferred everyday protein source. This is a hypothesis at least, that we are now testing at the household level and by future excavations on some of the ‘living’ towns.

Project Investigator Abdallah Khamis interviewing Kojani boatbuilders as they construct a dug-out from a mango tree truck.

Preserving the Maritime Cultural Heritage on Pemba Island, Tanzania – The technologies are changing

East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project Team:

Mark Horton, Royal Agricultural University

Eréndira Quintana Morales, Northern Illinois University

Shadia Taha, University of Cambridge

Abdallah Khamis Ali, Zanzibar Heritage Foundation.

Abdallah Mkumbukwa, State University of Zanzibar

Laura Basell, University of Leicester

 

The technologies are changing

Fishers need boats, and one of our observations was that traditional dug-out catamarans (known as ngalawa), wooden dhows (mashua) are being replaced by fibreglass boats with outboards engines. Modern fibreglass boats have the advantage of being less dependent on the winds, but of course require expensive fuel to operate and are more difficult to repair.

 

Fibreglass boats are increasingly replacing traditional wooden boats for fishing.

Fibreglass boats are increasingly replacing traditional wooden boats for fishing.

We were told that the fisheries ministry issued new boats to fishers a few years back in an attempt to increase catches, but within a short time, they had been abandoned, as the engines and the boats themselves fell apart. It was a relief to see that traditional boat building continues along much of the north east coast. For example, on the beach at Likoni, opposite to Kojani island, we observed four enormous hulls, from dug-out Mango trees in the course of construction. The people of Kojani are especially well known as traditional boat-builders.

Project Investigator Abdallah Khamis interviewing Kojani boatbuilders as they construct a dug-out from a mango tree truck.

Project Investigator Abdallah Khamis interviewing Kojani boatbuilders as they construct a dug-out from a mango tree truck.

The government fish market at Tumbe, north-east Pemba

Preserving the Maritime Cultural Heritage on Pemba Island, Tanzania – Where do the fish go?

East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project team:

Mark Horton, Royal Agricultural University

Eréndira Quintana Morales, Northern Illinois University

Shadia Taha, University of Cambridge

Abdallah Khamis Ali, Zanzibar Heritage Foundation.

Abdallah Mkumbukwa, State University of Zanzibar

Laura Basell, University of Leicester

 

Where do the fish go?

Our ethnographic research perhaps helps in solving this riddle. In the south-east monsoon season, there were two main harbours where the fish was landed, Tumbe and Shumba Mjini and where we spent a lot of time recording interviews from the fishers. Both have fish markets; Tumbe is an impressive government building.

The government fish market at Tumbe, north-east Pemba

The government fish market at Tumbe, north-east Pemba.

There is considerable tension between the traditional fishers, who use lines and traps, and the more modern ‘ring-net’ fishers, who are seen as overfishing and reducing the catches for traditional fishers. The fish is generally landed around midday, and is auctioned for cash, to agents and wholesalers. We talked to several women who bought the smaller fish, and then resell at road-side markets. However, the larger fish were bought by the hotels and restaurants – mostly on Unguja island, as there were few on Pemba. We also learnt that many of the fishers could be away for months at a time, fishing on the mainland coast, as far away as Kenya, where they were able to sell the fish directly to the many hotels there. The Kojani fishers are well known as purse-seine net fishers, who travel huge distances, and are reported to illegally enter marine protected areas from Mafia to Malindi.

An informal transaction for a local hotel (left); preparing the latest catch for sale (right).

An informal transaction for a local hotel (left); preparing the latest catch for sale (right). The fish is normally auctioned in bundles that can include several species of fish.

It seems that many of the fish caught do not get to the villages where the fishers come from, but instead generate cash for the fishing families to invest in new houses, mosques or boats. At Kojani for example there is a ‘new Kojani’, where the old houses are being replaced by modern dwelling built of coral and concrete blocks. Many of the old mosques are being torn down to be replaced by large concrete buildings, and unusually the work is being funded locally.

A new mosque being built over the destroyed 18th century mosque at Wingwi

A new mosque being built over the destroyed 18th century mosque at Wingwi. The original building was one of the of the most attractive in East Africa and described as ‘having the proportions of a Greek temple’.

Chinese bowl set into the mosque’s mihrab at Kichokochtwe

Preserving the Maritime Cultural Heritage on Pemba Island, Tanzania – Kichokochtwe – a typical site?

East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project team:

Mark Horton, Royal Agricultural University

Eréndira Quintana Morales, Northern Illinois University

Shadia Taha, University of Cambridge

Abdallah Khamis Ali, Zanzibar Heritage Foundation.

Abdallah Mkumbukwa, State University of Zanzibar

Laura Basell, University of Leicester

 

Kichokochtwe – a typical site?

Kichokochtwe, located on a tidal islet, covers around 5 ha, with a shoreline on three sides. The occupation located across a series of low hills, visible as pottery scatters and a grey soil. A coral-stone mosque with a mihrab adorned with the Chinese blue-and-white bowl (probably Kang-shi) of the early 18th century is located at the highest point of the islet and a small cemetery of stone tombs is just outside the settlement to the east.

Chinese bowl set into the mosque’s mihrab at Kichokochtwe

Chinese bowl set into the mosque’s mihrab at Kichokochtwe and showing that even these small fishing villages were still connected into the Indian Ocean trading networks.

The economic data from the test pits we excavated was particularly revealing. There were enormous quantities of shells and bones mixed in with the ceramics, and carbonised seeds (which still have to be analysed). The shell assemblage is dominated by Strombus gibberulus, which is found along the intertidal littoral that surrounds the site, and which is still collected nowadays. 14 other species were also found, including the African land snail, Achitina fulica. The quantities of shellfish suggest that this was a pretty common staple in the diet, and not just an occasional famine food.

Graph Showing Counts of shell fish recorded at Kichokochtwe from two test pits

Counts of shell fish recorded at Kichokochtwe from two test pits. 14 of the 21 species of shell recorded from our excavations in East Pemba occur here, but the assemblage is dominated by Strombus gibberulus (right) a small conch shell, collected from the intertidal flats.

The bones were also of interest in reconstructing the economy. This was dominated by cattle bones, with a few sheep goat, and very rare chicken. But the big surprise was the almost complete absence of fish bones – despite every attempt to ensure that we were recovering material from fine mesh sieves, and wet-sieving large samples of deposit. The villagers of Kichokochtwe were not eating much fish, and this was a pattern found at all the other sites as well.

Large quantities of cow bones

Large quantities of cow bones were found with the shell fish, but very few fish bones.

Drone image of the ruined 18th century mosque at Mandani (July 2019).

Preserving the Maritime Cultural Heritage on Pemba Island, Tanzania – The Thirteen Maritime Towns of East Pemba

East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project Team:

Mark Horton, Royal Agricultural University

Eréndira Quintana Morales, Northern Illinois University

Shadia Taha, University of Cambridge

Abdallah Khamis Ali, Zanzibar Heritage Foundation.

Abdallah Mkumbukwa, State University of Zanzibar

Laura Basell, University of Leicester

 

The Thirteen Maritime Towns of East Pemba

Thirteen fishing settlements, or towns (Swahili mjini) are located in north-east Pemba. The two monsoons (south-east from July to November; north-west from December to March) provide for two distinct fishing grounds of lagoons and inlets protected by the fringing reef and coral islands. This seasonal pattern explains why several towns are located a little inland – but equidistant from both shorelines. Some indication of the time depth of these settlements can be gauged from their mosques, with inset Chinese bowls in the mihrabs – although tragically several have been torn down recently to be replaced by larger concrete edifices. However, there is strong likelihood that they all date to the 18th century if not earlier.

The rare surviving mihrab from the mosque at Shumba, dating to the 18th century

The rare surviving mihrab from the mosque at Shumba, dating to the 18th century, with Chinese bowls inset into the architrave. The other four historic mosques in the area have been torn down and replaced by modern concrete buildings. 

Seven of these towns (Tumbe, Micheweni, Shumba, Wingwi, Maziwa Ngombe, Kiyiu and Kojani) still survive as thriving settlements following the traditional economy that seems little changed since the 18th century. Our project has been able to interview the fishers (normally all men), as well as the women, the agents, middlemen and women, as well as government officials who attempt to regulate their activities. But an extra dimension is that a further six former towns, abandoned in the 19th century, provide an archaeological opportunity to record what these settlements were like in earlier centuries.

Project investigators Omar Haji and Eréndira Quintana Morales interviewing boat builders and fishers at Tumbe

Project investigators Omar Haji and Eréndira Quintana Morales interviewing boat builders and fishers at Tumbe

Today fishing is mostly undertaken from three harbours, Tumbe, Shumba Mjini and Kojani, where there is good access to the sea. Government constructed fish markets have also tended to concentrate activities in these areas enabling the catch to be readily sold. But informal fishing was also undertaken, often in dug-out canoes, where there is a beach or harbour, to supply food at a household level.

Dugout canoes in an informal harbour, on the beach near Tumbe

Dugout canoes in an informal harbour, on the beach near Tumbe. The boat in the fore- ground is being scorched to kill marine boring insects.

The abandoned towns present their own challenges. They were first listed in the 1930’s by a district education officer who, on his days off, went searching for ruins. We relocated the sites in the 1980’s now much more ruined and covered in thick bush. With expanding populations, this has now been cleared away and the sites are now extensively farmed, allowing us to map them in detail, to collect surface pottery, and dig test pits. The Department of Antiquities has made a major effort to conserve the ruined mosques and tombs and several have part time guards to protect the sites.

Drone image of the ruined 18th century mosque at Mandani (July 2019).

Drone image of the ruined 18th century mosque at Mandani (July 2019).

In July, we mapped six sites, Kichokotchwe, Mandani, Kiungoni, Chambani Mjini, Tumbe / Chwaka and Shengejuu, excavated test pits and made surface collections. All the sites lie close to the seashore, with accessible harbours, and cover around 4-5 ha. Each had a mosque and stone tombs. Chronological range could be judged from the ceramics – that included post-Ming dynasty Chinese export blue and white pottery, and at the final phase European Maastrict painted wares of c. 1850. Why they were abandoned at this time is unclear but may be linked with the economic dislocations linked to plantation slavery and the decline of the Mazruis.

The Kichokochtwe site

The Kichokochtwe site, showing its location with fringing inter-tidal flats, facing out onto the sound between the main island and Kojani island.  

 

Tomorrow we will be looking further into the Kichokochtwe site.

Preserving the Maritime Cultural Heritage on Pemba Island, Tanzania – Part 1

East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project Team:

Mark Horton, Royal Agricultural University

Eréndira Quintana Morales, Northern Illinois University

Shadia Taha, University of Cambridge

Abdallah Khamis Ali, Zanzibar Heritage Foundation.

Abdallah Mkumbukwa, State University of Zanzibar

Laura Basell, University of Leicester

 

In a year-long project from the Rising from the Depths Network, a collaboration between Zanzibar Heritage Foundation, State University of Zanzibar, the Royal Agricultural University and the University of Leicester investigates the maritime heritage of Pemba island.  

Bringing the catch in; Tumbe fishing village Pemba island, Tanzania (July 2019).

Surviving in north-east Pemba is a maritime way of life that apparently has changed little in the last 300 years. Using traditional fishing methods and boats enable the fragile reef and marine environments to be exploited in a sustainable way. The daily rhythm brings in the catch for sale at midday for sale on the beach, while the women go out in search of shell fish that can be collected in the inter-tidal zone. Behind the villages the rice fields provide the carbohydrates, the cattle graze on the harvested grasses, while shade is provided by the coconuts, mango, banana and citrus trees. But it is not all as it seems, and the East Pemba Maritime Heritage project has been investigating how modern fishing methods are now threatening not just the maritime heritage but also the sustainability of marine environment.

Pemba – the green island of the western Indian Ocean

Pemba island is the sister island to Zanzibar and was known to the medieval Arabs as the Green Island or Jazirat al-Khadra on account of its verdant fertility. Pemba became famous for its spices, especially cloves, grown on slave-operated plantations from the 19th century. These plantations introduced a new population to the island (Arab landowners and their slaves from the interior of Africa) and cleared much of the centre and south of Pemba of its coastal forest. The original inhabitants, Swahili people who were the descendants of the medieval port cities, were confined to the coast, and in the 16th century moved to northern and eastern regions, where they could grow rice in stream-fed valleys and fish in the sheltered lagoons and estuaries.  Here they abandoned their former activity as Indian ocean merchants, and instead created a food-producing maritime economy that produced such surpluses that it was able to feed much of the mainland coast and plantations that were being established during the 18th and 19th centuries – these activities accrued much wealth for the new towns’ inhabitants.  This economy linked the production of grains, such as rice and millet, extensive dairy herds of cattle, the exploitation of fish and of shellfish. One of the towns is still known as Maziwa Ngombe – ‘the milk of the cow’, because we were told there was so much milk, that is was literally poured away into the earth!

Location of research area and towns on north east Pemba island.

Since the 19th century, north-east Pemba has been neglected. It was the capital of the Mazrui who built a fort and tombs at Tumbe, but they were defeated by the Busaidi rulers of Zanzibar in 1822. With the new plantations in the south, the inhabitants of the north east, especially in the Micheweni peninsula, were allowed to continue their way of life, with little colonial or indeed British interference.  The East Pemba Maritime Heritage project, as part of the Rising from the Depths Network, is looking at this neglected part of the Zanzibar archipelago, where there is little supervision or control of the maritime activities by government officials, and where the Swahili towns still rely on the sea for their survival. We are working as a collaborative team of Zanzibari and international scholars. Our approach is both contemporary and historical – to record through observation and interviews what is the current situation, the challenges of the future, and to delve into the past, though interviews, archival study and archaeological surveys.

 

Workshop at University of Dar es Salaam

On 3rd July, Stephanie Wynne-Jones and Paul Lane of the RfTD team were at the University of Dar es Salaam for a workshop discussing community heritage programmes in Tanzania. The RftD grant calls were discussed, and much valuable feedback was given by our Tanzanian colleagues. Dr Emmanuel Kessy, our regional coordinator was also present and helped structure discussions. We look forward to working with our UDSM colleagues in future as we develop RftD projects in the region.

Find out more about the CONCH project here.