The Wasukuma Tribe

The traditional land of the Wasukuma tribe is the part of Tanzania near Lake Victoria, the city of Mwanza to be precise.

The Wasukuma Tribe is the biggest Tanzanian tribe with more than 3 million members and it is part of the so-called bantu group, which means that it was originated by people coming from the west with a common language, the bantu language.

Before coming into contact with the western missionaries their life was entirely dedicated to farming, agricolture and cattle. Nowadays they combine their ancient traditions with modern life: many of them work in the cities, study at university and make their careers in important places. President John Pombe Magufuli is a Sukuma.

The Wasukuma house is round and very spacious, the central room is the one in which they cook and eat together. And the roof is covered with thick straw.

The ancient religion of this tribe based its beliefs on a supreme God and on the spirits of the ancestors, to whom they dedicated special prayers. Between God and men there were the healers, a special caste very much respected. They used several amulets to bring benefits to people or cure diseases. The most interesting was a sort of necklace made with sea shells. In modern times it is very difficult to find one of these healers, but not impossible, especially in internal villages where traditions are still part of every day life.

In the cities the ancient religion has often been replaced by Islam or Christianity.

Music is very important for the Wasukuma members: even when missionaries converted many of them, Sukuma music and dance were integrated into the religious ceremonies. During the months of July and August there still are real dance competitions. The best are during SabaSaba (7th of July) and NaneNane (8th of August), two big festivities, with the Bugobogobo dance, a show with music and dance together with a big python.

The Wasukuma Tribe people are also fine artists: they produce little statues of humans, usually bald, with or without arms and legs. They are also famous for their singular masks with strange facial expressions.

The open-air museum at Bujora, 15 kilometers far away from Mwanza, is the place in which you can witness and ‘live’ the traditions of this tribe. A professional guide escorts you through all the typical features of his people with many details and anecdotes.