The Sukuma culture to experience on a Cultural Tanzania safari

The Sukuma are Bantu-ethnic group who live in the northwestern part of Tanzania on the southern shores of lake victoria. The Sukuma are the largest ethnic group in Tanzania, they were organized in units called chiefdoms but later on united as one during colonization. The Sukuma people also had different clans like Kinakia clan, Kisomao clan among others. The Sukuma refer to themselves as the people of the north, they are called Basukuma in plural and Nsukuma for one person. They speak sukuma language, and today they speak Swahili and English.

The Basukuma were ruled by chiefs, traditionally, the chief was chosen among the son of the daughters of the previous chief. He was chosen by the royal family members the banang’oma, they did not disclose who would succeed the current ruler until his death. The chief had a cabinet which helped him to make decisions and rule his people peacefully, the traditional healers (bafumu), and the gods also helped him.

sukuma ladies dressed in a traditional attire on a Tanzania safari

The Sukuma are farmers, they grow crops and rear animals. Crops grown by the Basukuma are mainly maize, millet, cassava, rice, sweet potatoes, peanuts and vegetables, they also grow cash crops especially tobacco and cotton. Their livestock includes cows, goats and sheep and it’s rare for them to slaughter any unless on ceremonies, rituals, and large family gatherings. Apart from farming, the Sukuma are hunters.

The Basukuma perform an initiation ceremony of their children into adulthood called lhane, where the elderlies teach the initiates on their roles and responsibilities in the family and whole community. The initiates have to behave and act as adults in all rituals, when they complete this ceremony they’re considered adults and cannot be asked to deliver messages as its considered for children.

The Basukuma enjoy singing and dancing, it’s part of their life, they sing and dance for entertainment like on ceremonies like weddings and initiation, competitions and also during rituals, childbirth, work, among others. Today the Sukuma are famous in the all country for their original dancing styles, they perform with heart and it’s so entertaining to watch them.

Family and marriage of the Basukuma

The family of the basukuma has a father, mother and their children, though some have more than one woman. Each member of the family has a role, a mother is to take care of the husband and children, father oversees the welfare of the house and children do help with household chores as they learn. Young people marry only when they are ready to carry the responsibilities marriage entails.

The Basukuma marriage is more as the same as other African marriages, bride price is paid to the bride’s family for them to be officially married. A man after marriage would have full rights over his wife and the children she bears. When a woman is not officially married, that’s when her bride price was not paid she has full rights over the children until the husband pays off her bride price.

For the Basukuma, men are free to marry other women given he is capable, but for a woman its considered to be adultery and it’s an offense.

Food for the Basukuma

The Basukuma enjoy eating maize, beans, sweet potatoes, millet, rice, vegetables, fruits, meat, chicken etc., their staple food is sweet potatoes and millet.

Dress code for the Basukuma

The Sukuma dress in animal skins and also back clothes, the women used to wear them in form of wrappers either as a skirt or wrapped up the chest. The men also used to wrap around their waste and also tired the cloth or the hide across the neck. Today clothes are made in different fabrics but they still hold the traditional Sukuma designs, the hides and backcloth are wear during cultural ceremonies.

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