The Nyamwezi Culture of Tanzania

The Nyamwezi is the second largest ethnic group in Tanzania, they are also bantu speaking people who occupy the provinces of Tabora and Shinyanga collectively known as the Unyamwezi region. The Nyamwezi speak Kinyamwezi language, they call themselves Banyamwezi and Munyamwezi for one person.

The ethnic group is made of four distinct groups and formed small communities that grew into larger kingdoms ruled by a king (Mtemi). The Banyamwezi have a special relationship with the Sukuma, they relate in different activities and ways of life and above all they are close neighbors.

masai women singing on a kenya safari

The Banyamwezi practice agriculture, they both grow crops like sweet potatoes, millet, maize and rear animals like cows, goats, sheep. Some people also grow cash crops for trade. Farm work is both done by women and men.

The Unyamwezi lived in houses made of mud thatched grass, they constructed them in round form and they had a major house and others where they kept their food and a kitchen. Although some have built the modern ones, they still keep the traditional structure of their houses and in the rural areas, mud thatched grass houses are still constructed.

During their free time the Nyamwezi sing and dance, play board games like bao (African chess). The elderlies also visit one another and they could have a snack or locally brewed bear as they talk about this and that. Apart from that, the elderlies also educate their children about their traditions through stories and talks.

Family and Marriage of the Banyamwezi

A Banyamwezi family is made-up of a father, mother and their children, the father is the head of the house, he is the overseer. The mother is responsible for taking care of the children and house chores, such as weeding crops and cooking. Girls help their mothers with household work, while boys help with herding the livestock. Today children are sent at school but still know their responsibilities in the home so that they are groomed well for their future.

When a man finds a woman in the Banyamwezi, they be in courtship so as each one to understand another. When the man feels she’s the right partner, he goes with one or two male friends, to visit her home to discuss about his marriage proposal. The next step is to accept his proposal by the woman and her family and then bride price negotiations commence. Celebrations start for both families and bride price is paid off to the woman’s family, and the woman officially becomes a wife. A wedding ceremony is held for the man to take his wife when everyone plays witness, people enjoy as they eat, sing and dance.

Dress code for the Banyamwezi

The Banyamwezi traditionally wore clothing made of bark cloth. Later on as the world evolved, they changed to textile clothes. The women wear khangas, a printed cloth decorated with Swahili words and vitenge, a printed cloth with brightly colored and decorative designs. Men wear kanzus, a white long clothe and also trousers and shirts made from vitengi and khangas. During cultural occasions, the banyamwezi still wear the backcloth.

Food for the Nyamwezi

The Banyamwezi eat maize, millet, sorghum, cassava, sweet potatoes, rice, spinach, peanuts, cassava leaves, fruits, meat, chicken among others. their special dish is ugali (posho) made from maize flour, its served with meat and other dishes may be included.

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