"The Ways of the Tribe" Book
Cover of the book
Jan 2011 - Book published and available
The Ways of the Tribe
explores the diverse tribal cultures of Tanzania and examines how they contribute towards our modern identity and
The book covers the tribes of north-eastern Tanzania scattered in the four regions of Tanga, Kilimanjaro, Arusha and Manyara. These
regions form a vast area of the country, extending from the northern coast of Tanzania to the plains of Serengeti near Lake Victoria,
stretching out from the slopes of the northern volcanoes to the floor of the Great Rift Valley. They contain the well-known landmarks
of Mounts Kilimanjaro and Meru, the crater highlands of Ngorongoro and the ancient Eastern Arc Mountains of Usambara. This is also the
location of the active volcano, Oldonyo Lengai, the extensive Maasai Steppes and the alkaline lakes of Manyara, Eyasi and Natron. About
twenty tribal cultures have evolved in this part of the country, each with its unique language, mode of life and folklore.
The Ways of the Tribe is written for those who are interested in the interplay between the beauty of the land and the beauty of its
people. And it is also written for native dwellers, whose culture has been inextricably linked to this magnificent area since the
time of their ancestors. The Ways of the Tribe explores the indigenous tribes in the area and draws from them a cornucopia of African
traditions, philosophies and humour in a manner that calls for a renaissance of African identity. The tribes are described in separate
chapters, each of which divides into the same five headings covering tribal origins, history, community life, customs and national
Author: Gervase Tatah Mlola
Editor: Jill Watson
Designer: Dismas Luvena
Illustrations: Abdul Gugu and Bosco T. Mpitivyako
Cartography: C. P. Mahui of the University of Dar es Salaam
Photography: Colin Hastings and Briony Campbell of Majority World
The book is available in all the major bookshops of Arusha, Moshi, Dar es Salaam and Iringa. In the UK, it can be purchased from
www.africanbookscollective.com for £20.95
The book consists of 262 pages all full colour, size 210mm wide by 274mm high, with a soft cover binding
Review by Antony Shaw
Tanzania has a rich and diverse cultural landscape. The Ways of the Tribe
is a compelling and authoritative reference work that
makes a valuable contribution towards documenting the ancient heritage of the various tribes that populate this vast and
beautiful land. Mlola’s first book offers readers a fabulous survey of fourteen tribes from the north-east of Tanzania.
Whilst the Maasai may be familiar to readers worldwide, the book also chronicles less familiar peoples like the Barabaig of
Hanang District and the Mbugu of the Usambara mountains. This account is the result of a decade of research arising from visits
to the present-day tribal communities by the author – a respected travel writer and cultural expert.
The content of this book is arranged by tribe and within each chapter there are sections on origins, history, community life,
and customs. The contribution of each tribe to the national life and development of the nation is also included with a
range of fascinating stories, such as the heroic story of the Olympic runner John Stephen Akhwari of the Iraqw.
The Ways of the Tribe is a lively and engaging chronicle packed with legends, humour, and colourful insights into everything
from the naming of babies to the brewing of sugar cane beer. Each chapter also contains a very useful bibliographical section;
the work would benefit further from the inclusion of an index. In addition to many striking images contributed by Colin Hastings
(now a director at Majority World Photo Library) and photographer Briony Campbell, there are also illustrations by artists Abdul
Gugu and Bosco Mpitivyako. Their work (together with a selection of maps) contributes to the bright and attractive appearance of
Mlola’s scholarship has resulted in a very accurate historical account, but his work also provides another level of understanding
beyond the factual. The author’s first-hand experiences, passion, and dedicated research also offer readers a valuable understanding
of the interplay between the beauty of the land and the beauty of the people. In doing so he offers a unique insight into the
essence of the identity and vibrancy of these peoples.
In addition, the author provides a description of the present-day circumstances and lifeways of these peoples. In doing so, we are
reminded these tribes are real communities whose rich heritage is sadly threatened by a host of issues often faced by indigenous
peoples around the globe who strive to retain their identities in a rapidly changing world. The final chapter on the “lost tribe”
of Engaruka is a reminder of the fate of indigenous groups who are unable to withstand the social, economic and environmental
pressures that may come to threaten their future.
The Ways of the Tribe is a well-presented and important reference work that will have widespread appeal. For students and scholars
it is a valuable historical chronicle and present-day commentary on the tribes under discussion. The book should give Tanzanians
a greater appreciation of their diverse and lively heritage. Tourists planning a visit to the region that is home to many
worldfamous destinations will greatly benefit from understanding the peoples they may encounter on their holidays. And finally
for the general reader, this lively reference work is a wonderful way to begin exploring the people, places and cultures of this
fascinating part of Africa.
Anthony Shaw is Managing Director of Creo Communications, a Tanzania-based company offering communication consultancy and English
language support services to individuals, organisations and businesses.
This review has appeared in Tantravel, the official travel magazine of Tanzania Tourist Board, and in
Forward by President Ali Hassan Mwinyi
Perhaps more than anywhere else in contemporary Africa, Tanzania
has succeeded in building a harmonious nation that shares the
cultural resources of its different tribes in a fulfilling way.
In “The Ways of the Tribe”, the author shows the importance of this rich
cultural diversity in the development of our nation. Each tribal society
is important to the others, sharing values, traits, skills and humour.
“The Ways of the Tribe” is also a very useful book for our school
children and in towns where contact has been lost with tribal
traditions. Nowadays, the strength of the extended family and the
wisdom of traditional instruction are increasingly being influenced
and undermined by modern lifestyles and foreign culture. How
will the new generation identify itself in the next few years? The
author has tried in this book to reconcile these different aspects.
To the outsider, “The Ways of the Tribe” is a souvenir,
portraying our beautiful country with its beautiful people. It
is a treasure that enables people from other cultures and
lifestyles to experience our own traditional African life.
Welcome to this remarkable work on our African heritage.
Ali Hassan Mwinyi
The Second President of The United Republic of Tanzania (1985 - 1995)
Introduction from the Book
The Ways of the Tribe is an attempt to explore the diverse tribal
cultures of Tanzania and to examine how they contribute
towards our modern identity and national development.
The book covers the tribes of north-eastern Tanzania scattered in
the four regions of Tanga, Kilimanjaro, Arusha and Manyara. These
regions form a vast area of the country, extending from the northern
coast of Tanzania to the plains of Serengeti near Lake Victoria, bulging
out from the slopes of the northern volcanoes to the floor of the
Great Rift Valley. They include the well-known landmarks of Mount
Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, the crater highlands of Ngorongoro
and the ancient eastern arc mountains of Usambara. This is also the
location of the active volcano, Oldoinyo Lengai, the extensive Maasai
Steppes and the alkaline Lakes of Manyara, Eyasi and Natron.
About 20 tribal cultures have evolved in this part of the country, each
with its own unique language, mode of life and folklore. The Ways
of the Tribe is written for those who are interested in the interplay
between the beauty of the land and the beauty of its people. And it is
also written for native dwellers, whose culture has been inextricably
linked to this magnificent area since the time of their ancestors.
The Ways of the Tribe explores 14 indigenous tribes in the area and
draws from them a cornucopia of African traditions, philosophies and
humour in a manner that calls for a renaissance of African identity.
The 14 tribes are described in separate chapters, each of which
divides into the same five headings covering tribal origins, history,
community life, customs and national development. This arrangement
has been useful in compiling the book and will also, it is hoped, be of
assistance to anyone wishing to make comparisons across the tribes.
In the modern world, African tribes and cultures face a challenge
from increasing western influence. With this in mind, a cautionary
chapter on the lost tribe of Engaruka has been included. This
unfortunate tribe once prospered a great deal and then vanished
about 300 years ago leaving a deserted settlement, still visible today
– a matter of curiosity to contemporary historians. What happened
to the tribe? Where did its people go? And will they return?
The same thing could happen to us if we let go our traditional tribal
values which connect us to our ancestors and origins. If this connection
snaps, we will lose our identity and become wanderers in unfamiliar
realms. This book, therefore, is both a warning against the intrusion
of foreign values and an encouragement to hold fast to our roots.
Nobody really expects tribal societies of today to live the way they did
100, 50 or even 20 years ago. Personally, I agree with the transition
from the wattle-and-mud traditional huts to more permanent and
healthy structures. I agree with the present campaigns against tribal
rites of passage involving genital mutilation of girls. And I certainly
agree with regulations suppressing tribal military training that merely
breeds cattle raiders rather than progressive citizens. But I will not
trade the hectic Bantu drum dances, or the African rituals of naming
babies or even the graceful conversational skills of tribesmen for
anything else. So The Ways of the Tribe is for those who yearn to
cherish good African values and pass them to the next generation.
It has taken seven years to write the book and within this period,
I have made countless journeys to the abode of every tribe. My
experience of teaching history in Tanzanian secondary schools for
15 years greatly assisted my approach to the work. However, in
addition to the knowledge acquired from these long sojourns, much
information has also been gathered from the publications of renowned
anthropologists and historians who carried out detailed research on
the tribes. These include the works of H.A. Fosbrooke, John Sutton,
Steve Feierman and Isaria Kimambo, to mention but a few. More
recently, Thomas Spear and Gregory Maddox have written more
up-to-date books on traditional life. I am indebted to them all.
The long study of these peoples has raised interesting questions about
how the tribes developed their own lifestyles, languages and traits. Why
is every tribe where it is? How did the tribes’ myths of origin evolve? I
hope to have thrown light on these questions in The Ways of the Tribe,
which is my contribution to the rich cultural diversity in Tanzania.
Gervase Tatah Mlola
Contents of Book
The Origin of the People of Tanzania
The Lost Tribe of Engaruka