Haya people

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Haya girl of Tanzania

The Haya are an ethnic and linguistic tribe based in the Bukoba District, Muleba District and Karagwe District of Kagera Region in northwestern Tanzania, East Africa. In 1991 the Haya population was estimated to number 1,200,000.[1] They speak the Haya language.

Haya History[edit]

The Haya are said to have settled in the Kagera Region of north western Tanzania during the time of the Bantu expansion. They are believed to be some of the earliest inhabitants in the area to practice metal work which allowed them to create various new forms of pottery.

They were organized into small groups which were loosely affiliated with one another and organized in a system similar to feudalism with commoners and nobles as the main participants. With the arrival of the Europeans and christianity the region became famous for yielding the first African Roman Catholic Cardinal the late Cardinal Laurean Rugambwa; they also adopted the European style of formal education earlier when compared to other nearby tribes.[2][3][4]

In 1978, the ancestral region to which the Haya belong was subject to an attempted annexation by the former Ugandan president Idi Amin Dada whose invasion of the Kagera region eventually lead to the toppling of his government by the Army of Tanzania.

The Basimba living among the Haya tribe are part of the Basimba people living in Uganda, Zambia and Congo[5]

Archeological discoveries[edit]

Archaeologist Peter Schmidt discovered through a literalist combination of archaeology and oral tradition that the Haya had been forging steel for around 2000 years.

This discovery was made accidentally while Schmidt was learning about the history of the Haya via their oral tradition. He was led to a tree which was said to rest on the spot of an ancestral furnace used to forge steel. A group of elders were later tasked with the challenge of recreating the forges.

At this time they were the only ones to remember the practice, which had fallen into disuse due in part to the abundance of steel flowing into the country from foreign sources. In spite of the lack of practice the elders were able to create a furnace using mud and grass which when burned provided the carbon needed to transform the iron into steel. Later investigation of the land yielded 13 other furnaces similar in design to the re-creation set up by the elders. This process is very similar to open hearth furnace steelmaking.

These furnaces were carbon-dated and were found to be as old as 2000 years.[6]


In the area covering the present day [[Muleba], [[Bukoba Urban],[[Bukoba Rural and Misenyi] Districts, as is the case in other areas where Buhaya culture is predominant in the Kagera Region in Tanzania, musical performances - singing, dancing, and playing of musical instruments - are integral parts of everyday life. As is the case in many African societies, among the Haya musical performances are inseparable from the daily events and the social, political and cultural life of the community. Traditionally, events such as marriage, funerals, worship, installation, praise, and exaltation of kings (omukama), celebratory war dances (omutoro) and heroic recitations or self-praise recitations (ebyebugo), healing practices such as cleansing and chasing away evil spirits, and all occasions calling for celebration produced performances.[7]In 1952 world-renowned ethnomusicologist, Hugh Tracey, recorded songs of the Haya people. These songs are preserved by the International Library of African Music. A sample of one of these songs include the use of enkoito drum rhythms.[8]


  1. ^ "Haya: A language of Tanzania". Ethnologue.
  2. ^ Appiah, Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy the University Center for Human Values Kwame Anthony; Appiah, Kwame Anthony; w e b Dubois Professor Of Humanities Chair Of Afro-American Studies And Director Of The w e b Dubois Institute For For Afro-American Research Henry Louis Gates, Jr (1999-10-27). Haya,an ethnic group of northwestern Tanzania (html). Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. ISBN 9780465000715. Retrieved 2007-09-21..
  3. ^ "UGANDA: Profile of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni" (html). IRIN Africa humanitarian news analysis. 2006-02-15. Retrieved 2007-09-21.
  4. ^ "Culture heritage and tradition Kagera - Bukoba- Tanzania". Kagera.org. Archived from the original (html) on 2005-12-21. Retrieved 2007-09-21.
  5. ^ Ethnographic Survey of Africa: East Central Africa, Parts 1-4, International African Institute, 1950, p. 80
  6. ^ Avery, Donald; Schmidt, Peter (1978). "Complex Iron Smelting and Prehistoric Culture in Tanzania". Science. 201 (4361): 1085–1089. ISSN 0036-8075. JSTOR 1746308.
  7. ^ Ndomondo, Mathayo (2012). "A woman can sing and dance but cannot dance with high leaps: musical performance of the Haya of Bukoba, Tanzania". African Music: Journal of the International Library of African Music. 9 (2): 7–31. doi:10.21504/amj.v9i2.1802. ISSN 0065-4019.
  8. ^ Kaijage, Komile. "Orumbugu". International Library of African Music, Rhodes University. hdl:10962/d1013480.

See also[edit]

Haya language