Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Queen's University Tanzania Schools Project

The alternate practicum for teaching students from Queen's University in Ontario Canada is in its fourth year. The Canadian teachers spend three weeks teaching at Butiama Secondary School. This year's group, in the photo below, included (L-R, standing) Dayna Hobbs, Elizabeth Johnston, Erica Frischkorn, Erin Kristalyn, Kelly McGann, Lauren Newton, Rebecca Dunbar, and Rosemary Nolan. I am the odd person out seated in the middle.

After this year's group presented me with a garden table and four chairs, I asked that we record that important occasion with a photograph.

As with the past groups from Queen's University this year's group donated various items including teaching materials, textbooks, laboratory equipment, sports gear, and uniforms to students of Butiama Secondary School and two primary schools. These items were made possible through cash raised by this group as well as donations received from Canada totaling more than 13,000 Canadian dollars, worth more than 17 million shillings.

More than 7 million shillings of this year's donations has been used to pay for secondary students' school fees.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Visitors to Butiama: Three nuns and a brother from Kerala

At Butiama we receive visitors from as far afield as Kerala in India. Well, indirectly, by way of Musoma and Ujiji in Tanzania.

Sr. Jyothi Thomas and Sr. Mary Sudhera (standing left and centre) work at a dispensary at Ujiji in Kigoma region and visited Musoma where Sr. Elize (standing, right) taught at Mwembeni Secondary School with Brother Shaju Joseph (standing behind).

Thursday, 22 April 2010

My best friends

I have developed a strong friendship with a group of children, most of whom are my nieces and nephews. The reason for the bond is evident: I frequently share with them sweets, bananas, but mostly biscuits, having in recent years developed a keen taste for biscuits after having almost entirely weaned myself from a variety of Tanzanian lagers.

Think of a highly popular leader, such as Nelson Mandela, as the principal candidate in a "dream ticket" comprising political figures from each continent, all working together on one campaign ticket and with me on the opposing side with hands tied, mouth gagged and under house arrest throughout the campaign period and I still would win the elections if these children were the only voters in that election.
My nieces, nephews, and some neighbours

Not long ago, two of the children showed up and asked me for some of the usual treats. I said I had none, but recalled having an unopened packet of biscuits and went to my bedroom to fetch it. It was a brand that the supermarket attendant had recommend after I found they had run out of my favorite biscuits. I decided beforehand I would taste one of the biscuits before handing over the entire contents to the children. It was a decision that has altered our hitherto good relations.

The biscuits were labeled "shortbread" but the exceptional taste I experienced had nothing "short" about it and undoubtedly contradicted the label. Contrary to my earlier decision to hand over the entire box, I ended up reversing my earlier decision: I gave them two biscuits each and retained the rest.

I keep telling myself that it was only biscuits, that I was the only one with the compromising information, and no one was adversely affected, but I wondered whether relations, particularly between leaders and those who are led, may produce conflicting choices to particular individuals where the stakes are much higher than a two thousand shilling box of biscuits, less four.

The contradictions are not limited to politics and the range can extend to all types of relations, including parenting where the subjects end up licking the crumbs while the leader gets the cake and the cream.

The Irish wit, poet, and dramatist Oscar Wilde wrote: "The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it." Those who yield to various temptations will most likely support such a stance, but such support accepts a weakness rather than confronts it.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Mwalimu Nyerere's defense lawyer

Three years prior to Tanganyika's (later Tanzania) independence in 1961, Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, the leader of TANU, the political party that won independence from the British, was charged with committing libel against two District Commissioners of Her Majesty's government.

In an article he wrote and which was published in TANU's publication, "Sauti ya TANU" (the Voice of TANU), issue No.29 of 7th May 1958, Mwalimu Nyerere wrote:
These folks are instigating people to make false depositions in court to implicate TANU....We are not afraid of the law, if the police do not involve themselves in politics and do not adjudicate between law-abiding citizens and jungle governors who pretend that they are above the law....The motive for these madmen in provoking people to cause trouble is that we will not fail if we follow the law....
- my translation from "Kesi ya Julius Kambarage Nyerere 1958" by Simon Ngh'waya
In his defense, TANU paid for the services of a famous British barrister, D.N. Pritt, who had earlier defended the Mau Mau fighters in Kenya. Pritt was assisted by two Tanzanian lawyers, Mahamoud Rattansey, and K.L. Jhaveri.

I met Mzee Jhaveri (pictured in the photo above), who now lives in India with his wife Urmila, a few years ago in Dar es Salaam. He gave me two items: the robe he wore in court in that famous 1958 case, and a painting of a young Mwalimu Nyerere that he bought from an artist in Dar es Salaam in the early sixties.

Mwalimu Nyerere lost the case and paid a fine of three thousand shillings.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Zanaki and meat

There is a tradition among the Zanaki ethnic group that continues to be observed in which a family is required to donate a cow to the wider clan to which it belongs when the head of the family's household dies.

After Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere died in October 1999 and soon after he was buried, members of the clan showed up to demand their customary cow. It took a long time before that cow was given but it was eventually handed over, 8 years after his death.

I handed over the cow to the elders who insisted I accompany them to hand over the cow, in person, to members of the clan.

On the agreed date, four representatives of the clan showed up to collect the cow. Before we set off and in following custom, they cut down a branch from a tree and carved a narrow stick of about a metre long and handed it to me. They told me I had been elevated to a higher age class and was required to walk with the stick in my hand from that day onwards.

We set off with my family's cow and three other cows that were collected from other families and walked a distance of about 3 kilometres to a remote location that was enclosed by short a fence-like bush that concealed a large gathering of clan members from passers-by.

The meeting revolved around the slaughter of the cow and the distribution of its meat among all those who had assembled; it was also a gathering that was mandated by the clan to receive complaints against undisciplined members of the clan and could also apply fines or sanctions to any clan member who had breached social rules.

I asked whether I could take photos of the proceedings but was told it was forbidden. However, I carried home about three kilos of meat neatly wrapped in leaves that were picked from the surrounding trees. I also updated my list of known relatives, and was invited to attend the meat distribution meetings that are convened regularly.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Accepting reports at face value

Forty years ago the news of two Apollo astronauts who had landed on the moon elicited an awkward response from my schoolmate, Richard. He did not believe it was possible to land humans on the moon. I was nine and he must have been roughly the same age. "They staged that and are lying to us!"

I believed that those two astronauts had actually landed in the moon; I cannot remember why I did not doubt the reports, but I just believed the reports were true. My friend, on the other hand, concluded the reports were false. At that age none of us had taken our decisions based on any evidence we had accumulated and yet we held opposing views.

I believe now that I took a position that the majority of people maintain in similar situations. The risk that the majority faces is to expose themselves to manipulation by authorities that sometimes present falsified reports to the public.

It was interesting to learn recently that Richard's doubts were shared by some Americans at the time of the moon landing. In a film documentary one of the astronauts said the news reports had quoted Americans saying they believed the entire moon landing was staged in an airport hangar somewhere in the United States.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Letter from Butiama: The latest fashions

This is one of numerous articles I wrote for the Sunday News (Tanzania) column "Letter from Butiama" between 2005 and 2011.

Last Sunday* I listened to a sermon in which the priest talked about the tendency among many today of imitating 'foreign customs', particularly fashion. Among the imported fashion styles he mentioned were clean-shaven heads, tight trousers, and straightened hair.

He grew up where people shaved their heads to mourn the death of a close relative. He talked of seeing a younger sister, during a recent visit to his parents' home, dressed in tight-fitting trousers and amazed she did not find that 'inappropriate'. He noticed that among the congregation some had hairstyles that are different from the African weaved hairstyles he saw while growing up.

While it is true that many Tanzanians still shave their heads when mourning, there is a growing number of Tanzanians to whom a clean-shaven head is a fashion statement. The priest said and I agree that we spend too much time copying what others do instead of promoting what we have. We have a treasure of cultural diversity that we do not value.

And I understand his frustration about some of these styles. I recently knocked on my nephew's bedroom door, who is in his early twenties, and when he opened the door I had a feeling he had rushed to open the door while still in the process of putting on his clothes. He was bare-chested and his trousers seemed to be over sized, loosely held by a belt, and exposing a significant part of his coloured underwear.

I felt like asking whether there was a problem with his belt, but decided it was better to stick to the original purpose of talking to him. It was apparent he was not at all bothered by his underwear sticking out of his trousers. I concluded later his manner of dressing made sense only in the context of style because I recall seeing a similar expose' by a young man in Mwanza.

It is awkward fashion. I wouldn't mind if they were exposing some sleek looking underwear because from the little I have seen the 'internal' fashion accessories leave a lot to be desired. It makes one wonder that while some people are extremely weary of hanging their washed underwear in full view of passersby, there are some who are willing to parade their unlaundered ones in town.

Fashion is normally the obsession of the young, and I was reminded that I too passed through that age. Today, young men braid their hair openly. I recall a period when young men braided their hair at night, with assistance from their sisters, and undid the plaits in the mornings to get the 'Afro' look. Then, as today, young people copied the hairstyles of African Americans who, in the past, were reaffirming their African roots through style and fashion.

It is an irony that is replaying itself today. It is quite possible that the young men with plaited hair we see today want to imitate David Beckham's hairstyle. It is also quite possible that Beckham picked his style from Nigerian footballer Nwankwo Kanu.

Many will say this is a phenomenon that most young people will outgrow. I agree. As a teenager I was one of those who plaited his hair at night so that I could wake up with the greatest 'Afro' the next day. Then, as today, young people still search outside for cultural values that are homegrown.

*18th July 2005

Sunday, 11 April 2010

No excuse not to visit Butiama now

With the launch of a hotel offering accommodation at Butiama it is now possible for visitors to spend a night or two at Butiama (or more), the birthplace of Tanzania's founding president Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, and where he was buried in October 1999.
Photo: One of the chalets of JKN Hotel (Butiama).
The JKN Hotel (Butiama) comprises 10 rooms in one main building with four rooms, and two chalets with three rooms each. Apart from visiting Mwalimu Nyerere's birthplace and mausoleum, the visitor to Butiama has the opportunity to visit the Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere Museum as well as view performances of traditional dances from Mara region.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Sometimes a picture says more than a thousand words

The photo below of a Dar es Salaam night scene shows the junction of Zanaki Street on the left and Bibi Titi Mohamed Road, the road leading to the Julius Nyerere International Airport.

It is a spot I have walked past throughout the years and a spot that has changed considerably through that period. On the left of the photo (hidden from view) stands a large office and apartment complex that was built where a large community of Tanzanian Asians used to live. The new building, where offices of Qatar Airways are located, completely changed the landscape of the area and contributed to the increasing number of new buildings that have cropped up in Dar es Salaam in place of old, but sometimes unique buildings that should have been left intact in memory of Dar es Salaam's heritage.

But even with the new face that Dar is taking on, I have a feeling that photos sometimes paint more than a few thousand words into an image, producing an effect that is far more dramatic than the eye actually sees.

I have walked past this location a few hundred times, but I cannot say that the picture matches the reality that I see on the street. I walked past there only last night, and I still feel that sometimes technology produces a much better image of reality.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Nkrumah lives

In 2008 I, and colleagues from some member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), was invited to report on the Harmonized Zimbabwe elections.

After the votes were cast, we paid frequent visits to the Command Centre of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in Harare to monitor results of the elections as they were received from polling stations throughout Zimbabwe.

Photo: ZEC officials announcing elections results at the ZEC Command Centre
Photo: The media colleagues included Bayano Valy (standing, left) from Mozambique and Penny Kamanga (standing, right) from Malawi.

In my last post, I wrote of the similarities between Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. The quotation on the t-shirt of an unidentified reporter in the top photograph at ZEC's command centre reiterates the similarities. It reads:
Independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of Afrika.
During the leadership of Mwalimu Nyerere, Tanzania provided substantial moral and material support to the liberation movements of the African countries that remained under colonial and minority rule, including Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Angola, and Namibia.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

The Second Julius Nyerere Intellectual Festival Week

The Second Julius Nyerere Intellectual Festival Week will run from 12 - 15 April this year. The program released by the organizers, the Mwalimu Nyerere Professorial Chair in Pan-African Studies of the University of Dar es Salaam, reveals that this year's activities will reflect on the Arusha Declaration.

This year's Distinguished Nyerere Lecturer will be Prof. Samir Amin who will deliver a lecture on Crisis of Capitalism and Imperialism & Exiting from Capitalism in Crisis: Initiatives in the Global South. The Guest of Honor will be the Hon. Samia Nkrumah, parliamentarian from Ghana and daughter of Kwame Nkrumah. She will deliver opening remarks titled Reflections on Osagefyo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah's Pan-African Vision.

Dr. Nkrumah, Ghana's founding prime minister, and Tanzania's founding leader, Mwalimu Nyerere, had a few things in common. In African Socialism Revisited, Nkrumah wrote:
Any meaningful humanism must begin from egalitarianism and must lead to objectively chosen policies for safeguarding and sustaining egalitarianism. Hence socialism.
In a speech delivered in Ottawa Canada in 1998 Mwalimu Nyerere said:
The Arusha Declaration...together with our national language, Kiswahili, and a highly politicized and disciplined National Army, transformed what had been a motley of more than 126 tribes into a cohesive nation. That achievement goes a long way to explain the political stability which my country still enjoys today. That stability comes under ever-increasing strain as inequalities of wealth and power within the country get greater and as our economic woes persist.
Both were fervent proponents of Pan-Africanism and the unification of the African nations, only differing in how they felt the objective should be reached. Dr. Nkrumah said African countries that had become independent should immediately form a single African government and army. Mwalimu Nyerere said it was best to come together in smaller groups of countries as an intermediary step towards a united Africa.

Those opposing views were not only advocated publicly by the two but, according to Mwalimu Nyerere, continued for many years through private correspondence between him and Nkrumah.

On the 50th anniversary of Ghana's independence, in a speech he delivered in Accra, Mwalimu Nyerere appeared to support Dr. Nkrumah's position. Mwalimu said:
...too many of us had a vested interest of keeping Africa divided....Once you multiply national anthems, national flags and national passports, seats of the United Nations, and individuals entitled to a 21-gun salute, not to speak of a host of ministers and envoys, you would have a whole army of powerful people with vested interests in keeping Africa divided.
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