Culture of Tanzania

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Tanzanian sculptures

Following Tanganyika's independence (1961) and unification with Zanzibar (1964), leading to the formation of the state of Tanzania, President Julius Nyerere emphasised a need to construct a national identity for the citizens of the new country. To achieve this, Nyerere provided what has been regarded by some commentators as one of the most successful cases of ethnic repression and identity transformation in Africa.[1]

With over 130 ethnic groups and local languages spoken, Tanzania is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Africa. Despite this, ethnic divisions have remained rare in Tanzania, especially when compared to the rest of the continent.


A total of 130 languages are spoken in Tanzania; most of them are from the Bantu family.[2] Swahili and English are the two official languages of Tanzania. However, Swahili is the national language.[3]

Given the conditions of the period, it was not possible to introduce Swahili in the entire educational system, because the scale of the task of writing or translating textbooks for primary schools was already considerable.[citation needed] As a result, English, the colonial language since the end of World War I, is still the language of high schools and universities. Many students leave school after finishing primary education.

Although the many non-official languages in Tanzania are not actively suppressed, they do not enjoy the same linguistic rights as Swahili and English. Some also face language extinction, such as the Kw'adza language that is not spoken any longer.[2]


Some writers include:

  Charles Mloka

Mandela Pallangyo



National anthem[edit]

The Tanzanian national anthem is Mungu ibariki afrika (God Bless Africa), composed by South Africa's composer Enoch Sontonga. The song is also the national anthem of South Africa (with another tune) and of Zambia.[citation needed]

Music industry[edit]

The music industry in Tanzania has seen many changes in the past ten years. With a fusion of local and foreign music traditions, Tanzanian musicians have grown in prominence within the African Great Lakes region. It includes artists from traditional music, such as Dionys Mbilinyi, Sabinus Komba, and many others, to new vibrant artists in R&B, pop, Zouk, Taarab, and dance.

Imani Sanga is a composer, ethnomusicologist, church organist, and choral conductor.

Mwakisinini Felix is a music artist who contributed a lot in church music as a composer, trainer, and choral conductor.



Tingatinga is the name applied to a popular genre of Tanzanian paintings, which are painted with enamel paints on canvas. Usually, the motifs are animals and flowers in colorful and repetitive design. The style was started by Edward Saidi Tingatinga in Dar es Salaam. Since his death in 1972, the Tingatinga style expanded both in Tanzania and abroad. One of the most famous African artists, George Lilanga, was a Makonde from Tanzania. Contemporary Tanzanian artists include David Mzuguno, Haji Chilonga, Salum Kambi, Max Kamundi, Thobias Minzi, Robino Ntila, John Kilaka, Godfrey Semwaiko, Evarist Chikawe, and others.[4]


Tanzania's cartoons have a history that can be traced back to the work of pioneering artists, such as Christian Gregory with his Chakubanga cartoons in the Uhuru newspaper back in the 1970s and 1980s, and Philip Ndunguru in the early 1980s. Outspokenly political cartoons were created on a more recent date.

In the past decade, the art of cartoons and comics has really taken off in Tanzania. At the present date, there are dozens of cartoonists, some of whom are well known throughout the country. From the 1960s and so on, a number of artists prepared the way, and their names are cited by today's artists as essential influences. Some of these known cartoonists in Tanzania include Ally Masoud 'kipanya', Sammi Mwamkinga, Nathan Mpangala 'Kijasti', King kinya, Adam Lutta, Fred Halla, James Gayo, Robert Mwampembwa, Francis Bonda, Popa Matumula, Noah Yongolo, Oscar Makoye, Fadhili Mohamed, and many others (see the excellent history of cartoons in Tanzania at the Worldcomics website:


Apart from being a painter, George Lilanga, who died in 2005, was also one of Tanzania's most famous sculptors. Tanzanian craftsmen and artists of different ethnic groups have created a rich legacy of sculptures, representing people, animals or practical items of everyday use. Best known of these different ethnic traditions are the Makonde carvings of surrealist sheitani figures, made out of extremely hard ebony (mapingo) wood.[5][6]



Lemon and ginger tea.
Traditional Tanzanian food consisting of pilau kuku (seasoned rice with chicken), mishkaki (grilled meat), ndizi (plantain), maharage (beans), mboga (vegetables), chapati (flatbread) and pili pili (hot sauce)
Barbecued beef cubes and seafood in Forodhani Gardens, Zanzibar
A Ramadan dinner in Tanzania

Tanzanian cuisine varies by geographical region. Along the coastal regions (Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar, and Pemba), spicy foods are common, and there is also much use of coconut milk.

Regions in Tanzania's mainland consume different foods. Some typical mainland Tanzanian foods include wali (rice), ugali (maize porridge), nyama choma (grilled meat), mshikaki (marinated beef), samaki (fish), pilau (rice mixed with a variety of spices), biriyani, and ndizi-nyama (plantains with meat).

Vegetables commonly used in Tanzania include bamia (okra) which is mostly eaten as a stew or prepared into traditional stew called mlenda, mchicha (amaranthus tricolor), njegere (green peas), maharage (beans), and kisamvu (cassava leaves). Tanzania grows at least 17 different types of bananas which are used for soup, stew, and chips.

Some breakfast foods that you would typically see in Tanzania are maandazi (fried doughnut), chai (tea), chapati (a kind of flat bread), porridge especially in rural areaschipsi mayai.[7]

Famous Tanzanian snack foods include visheti, kashata (coconut bars), kabaab (kebab), sambusa (samosa), mkate wa kumimina (Zanzibari rice bread), vileja, vitumbua (rice patties), and bagia.

Since a large community of Indians have migrated into Tanzania, a considerable proportion of the cuisine has been influenced by Indian cuisine. Famous chefs, such as Mohsin Asharia, have revolutionized traditional Indian dishes, such as kashata korma tabsi and voodo aloo. Many Indians own restaurants in the heart of Dar es Salaam, and have been welcomed by indigenous Tanzanians.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pierre Englebert and Kevin C. Dunn, "Inside African Politics" 2013: 81
  2. ^ a b "Ethnologue report for Tanzania". Archived from the original on 2012-01-11. Retrieved 2012-01-28.
  3. ^ "Tanzania National Website". Archived from the original on 2001-04-17. Retrieved 2012-01-28.
  4. ^ East African Development and Communication Foundation; Art in Tanzania (1999). Art in Tanzania. Dar es Salaam: Michel Lanfrey, East African Movies. OCLC 50326689.
  5. ^ Kingdon, Zachary (2002). A Host of Devils: The History and Context of the Making of Makonde Spirit Sculpture. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-27727-2
  6. ^ * Jahn, Jens (1994). Tanzania : Meisterwerke afrikanischer Skulptur = sanaa za mabingwa wa Kiafrika (in German and Swahili). München: Verlag F. Jahn. ISBN 3-88645-118-6. OCLC 30557893.
  7. ^ Lyana, Manimbulu, Ally, Nlooto (2014). "Culture and Food Habits in Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo". Journal of Human Ecology. 48: 9–21. doi:10.1080/09709274.2014.11906770. S2CID 42910567.

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