The Shambaa (also called the Sambaa, Shambala, Sambala, or Sambara) are an ethnic and linguistic group based in the Usambara Mountains of northeastern Tanzania. In 2001 the Shambaa population was estimated to number 664,000.
Kishambaa is the Sambaa word for the Shambala language, Wasambaa are the people (Msambaa for a person), and Usambaa or Usambara is used for Sambaa lands. The Shambaa call their lands Shambalai.
The language is mutually intelligible with Bondei and Zigua, with the three groups sharing significant overlap in territory and a long history of intermarriage. The similarity between them has prompted some to refer to themselves as "Boshazi" (the first syllable from each of the three groups).
The WaSambaa were ruled by the Kilindi dynasty from the mid-1700s to the end of the 19th century. The founder of the dynasty was Mbegha, and his son Bughe established the hilltop capital at Vuga. The kingdom reached its greatest extent under Kimweri ye Nyumbai. After he died in 1862 a civil war broke out over the succession, fueled by competition for the new wealth that the caravan trade in the Pangani valley had brought to the region. Smallpox and slave trading contributed to the disintegration of the kingdom, and in 1898 a fire destroyed Vuga. The Germans took control. Under colonial rule the dynasty continued to have some authority, but in 1962 the Tanzanian government removed all power from the hereditary chiefdoms. Kimweri ye Nyumbai's descendant Kimweri Mputa Magogo (died 1999) was the last Lion King.
The Usambara area was the early colonial headquarters for German East Africa during the hot season. Tanganyika, the name for the German colony, and later for the republic and eventually for the mainland portion of Tanzania is itself from Sambaa: Tanga means farmed land, and nyika is brushy land.
- Conte, Christopher Allan (2004-01-01). Highland Sanctuary: Environmental History in Tanzania's Usambara Mountains. Ohio University Press. ISBN 978-0-8214-1554-2. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
- Feierman, Steven M. (1990-11-14). Peasant Intellectuals: Anthropology and History in Tanzania. Univ of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-12523-3. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
- Murless, Peter (2013). "The Usambara Mountains of Tanzania" (PDF). Irente Biodiversity Reserve. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
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