The Wachagga Tribe

The Wachagga tribe, one of the numerous tribes of Tanzania, is very interesting from an anthropological point of view. Its lands are positioned on the fertile slopes of the Kilimanjaro, in the North-East of Tanzania. That’s the reason why it is a tribe of farming, even if they keep goats and sheep, and agricolture is its core business: maize, coffee, beans and bananas. They are famous for their bananas plantations from which, apart from cooking them, they produce a sort of beer, the mbege, very appreciated from all the members.

WachaggaThey are proud people, very linked to their land and their assets. In past times they had a bad quarrel with the Maasai tribe for the possession of cattle and, they say, women. The Maasai were guided by their God in stealing. The Wachagga were guided by anger in fighting. Anyway nowadays things have been settled and they live in peace.

The house of the wachagga is round shaped and made with a framework of flexible wood, covered with grass thatch.

No windows are present: both the thatch and the absence of windows are meant to protect from the cold weather of the mountains.

There is a very interesting open air museum at Marangu, in the centre of their land, which shows their housing and their traditions. The tour is guided by a Chagga representative and it is really amazing. You enter the hut and you realize all of a sudden what is the meaning of living without windows. Inside the space is carefully divided into human and cattle space and again in women’s and men’s space. The father sleeps with sons and the mother with daughters. The centre of the hut is the living space with the fire for cooking.

Naturally, this kind of housing is used rarely and especially out of the urban communities, but people in Tanzania are very close with their traditions: every Christmas all the wachagga go back to their families in the Kilimanjaro region and celebrate all together.

One curiosity: there is a special plant that Wachagga women use to colour their hands and feet in certain periods of the year: it is called hina and gives a dark red colour if touched.