Hidden histories; Untold Stories of Pipelines, People and the Sea in Tanzania

Project Description

Tanga port is currently a backwater, peripheral to economic and political centres, about to be propelled into a global freetrade, neoliberal and geopolitical hub. Only few elder Tanzanians recall the walk -in chains- from DRC to Tanga and the auction in the Tongoni caves to secure work on Tanga’s sisal plantations. Once, boat and furniture building, coral rag carving, pottery and fishing were key skills. These days You Tube and Chinese motorbikes are the must-haves. Using copies of figurines –(originally from Tanga and removed in the 1950’s- lent to us by Pitt Rivers museum) to prompt discussions with designated groups. We will develop the personal histories of women farmers, elders, informal workers (taxi-drivers, veg sellers), fish traders and craft-makers. We seek to uncover the ‘hidden histories’ of MCH and explore hopes for the future, and stories from the past. Mangrove poles, coral rag, porcelain, fish, precious stones, people, cotton and sisal were all traded out of this port; oil and liquid natural gas are the latest commodities. Developed over 3 years with Southern partners will produce outputs will be for local and international audiences, policy documents in Tanzania, photos for exhibitions, interviews and material for schools in UK. All of the material will be available for the dedicated Hidden Histories and the RftD websites. We wish to increase research capacity, data and knowledge that is relevant for contemporary Tanzania. We are working with experienced coastal networks and NGO’s (Dar es Salaam Architectural Research and Cultural Heritage) and agricultural specialists at the Nelson Mandela IAST university. Using innovative collaborative arts methods, and tried and tested oral history approaches, we will train community members to use mobile phones and peer-peer interviewing in real time.


Location: Tanzania

PI: Thembi Mutch (University of Sussex)

Co-Is: Aida Mulokozi (DARCH)

Partners: NM-AIST, DARCH

Size: Large

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: