What did it mean to be an African subject living in remote areas of Tanganyika at the end of the colonial era? For the Kaguru of Tanganyika, it meant daily confrontation with the black and white governmental officials tasked with bringing this rural people into the mainstream of colonial African life. T. O. Beidelman’s detailed narrative links this administrative world to the Kaguru’s wider social, cultural, and geographical milieu, and to the political history, ideas of indirect rule, and the white institutions that loomed just beyond their world. Beidelman unveils the colonial system's problems as it extended its authority into rural areas and shows how these problems persisted even after African independence.
About the Author
T. O. Beidelman is Professor of Anthropology at New York University. He is author of Colonial Evangelism: A Socio-historical Study of an East African Mission at the Grassroots (IUP, 1982); The Moral Imagination in Kaguru Modes of Thought (IUP, 1986); and The Cool Knife: Metaphors of Gender, Sexuality, and Moral Education in Kaguru Initiation Ritual.
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The Culture of Colonialism
The Cultural Subjection of Ukaguru
By T. O. Beidelman
Indiana University PressCopyright © 2012 T. O. Beidelman
All rights reserved.
Kaguru and Colonial History: The Rise and Fall of Indirect Rule
Ukaguru has a special colonial history in that it embodies a number of firsts. Ukaguru is the site of some of the earliest European settlements in mainland Tanzania and is where the first white child was born on the mainland. These settlements involved Church Missionary Society people (CMS), who founded one of the earliest missions in East Africa in Ukaguru. This mission station was founded because it lay on the caravan route that the missionaries took to reach their main goal for conversion, the great African kingdoms far to the west in what is now Uganda. For similar reasons Ukaguru was the site of the first major Arab inland fort set up to protect the caravan trade going westward. Obviously the early precolonial history of Ukaguru was above all determined by the caravan trade. During the era of the great East African caravans in the second half of the nineteenth century, Ukaguru lay along what became the main central route for those setting out from the ports of Zanzibar, Bagamoyo, and Sadani to the great and rich, populous areas around the distant great inland lakes. Most famous early European travelers inland passed through Ukaguru—Stanley, Burton, Speke, and many others. Stanley described the Kaguru as amiable, at least where they had not been frequently raided by Arabs or by other Africans, and provided one of the best accounts of the Kaguru's early appearance (1872:247–249). Misleadingly, the early CMS missionary Roger Price wrote home in 1877 to his supervisors: "If there is anywhere a country so near the equator as this where Europeans can live and enjoy health—this must be it" (quoted in A. Smith 1955:8). The frequent deaths of early missionaries to this area proved him wrong. Early travelers' accounts dwelled on how green and beautiful the Kaguru mountain area was. Stanley called it "picturesque and sublime," comparing it to the Alleghanies (1879, I:91). None of these visitors except the missionaries stayed, so that there are few early accounts of any true sociological value.
The early caravan trade is the key to understanding how Kaguru eventually emerged as a seemingly solidary ethnic group and how Ukaguru took on the form of a chiefdom. From the start of the caravan trade, large groups of outsiders passed through Ukaguru seeking supplies and shelter. In doing so they asked local natives to take them to their leaders, who could guarantee strangers safety and provide supplies. The opportunistic men who stepped forward as leaders were the forerunners in the process by which outsiders found local Africans willing to organize Kaguru to cater to the needs of alien exploitation. These early Kaguru leaders often claimed to have more influence and to rule larger areas than they actually possessed. Consequently, a brief account of that caravan trade and the social processes it generated is the best place to begin my account of how Ukaguru became a chiefdom in a system of colonial rule. Ironically, the ideas of Kaguru as a united people and of Ukaguru as a well-defined country owe their meaning and being far more to colonial contact than to any earlier African traditions that prevailed before the Arabs, Germans, and British arrived. This is what Justin Willis terms "the comic spectacle of the invention of tradition" (2002:135).
Ukaguru, the Caravan Trade, and the Germans' Arrival
Caravans going west across what is now Tanzania were organized on the island of Zanzibar, the place where large European ships docked and the trading center of the region. Once a caravan was formed, a difficult process that often took many weeks, it was put on small boats and sent west to the nearby mainland ports of Bagamoyo or Sadani. From there it was about 130 miles west to the borders of Ukaguru. As a caravan got within sight of the impressive mountains of central Ukaguru, it took one of two routes. A southern route went through the Mukondokwa River Valley, passing by a hill where the Germans later built their fort and headquarters in what would become Kilosa town, later the capital of the local colonial administrative district. This route passed though a thinly populated borderland between Ukaguru to the north and Usagara to the south. The Mukondokwa Valley stretches northwest from Kilosa until it ends in the hills at Mpwapwa in western Ukaguru, which was the last major watering place and source of food supplies before caravans crossed the Marenga Mkali, a dry and treacherous area of Ugogo where they had few chances of securing food or water and where they were likely to be attacked by Gogo and other hostile people. Mpwapwa lies on the western borders of Ukaguru, and while it is mainly inhabited by Kaguru there are many Gogo influences. The alternate northern route was through mountainous central Ukaguru with major stops at Mamboya, and then west to Geiro before moving into drier western Ukaguru at Pandimbili or Mlali, and then on to the hostile Marenga Mkali. This was a more difficult but shorter route winding through valleys and passes between high peaks and hills. Sometimes caravans detoured southwestward after leaving the central Kaguru highlands and stopped at Mpwapwa on account of its better supplies and safer quarters, especially after the Germans built a fort there. Mpwapwa lies about thirty miles southwest of the Kaguru trading settlement of Geiro and about sixty miles northwest of Kilosa.
Both these routes passed through a corridor region of relative safety lying between the warlike Maasai to the north and the warlike Hehe to the south. At the height of the caravan trade the northern route through central Ukaguru was vulnerable to raids by the Maasai and the related Baraguyu as well as local Kamba. The southern route was also sometimes raided by Baraguyu but more often by Hehe. All of these peoples, Baraguyu, Maasai, Hehe, and local Kamba had periodically raided Kaguru for livestock and foodstuffs. Yet Kaguru and Ngulu (the Kaguru's eastern neighbors) also raided caravans, sometimes allied with Baraguyu and Kamba. As a result of all this raiding many Kaguru had retreated to the more mountainous parts of their area where they could better defend themselves. Many Kaguru also fled from the caravans (Moloney 1893:41–42; Burton 1860, I:168–169, II:261–263; Stanley 1879:247). While some caravans traded with Kaguru for food, others simply raided them for what they needed. Some Arabs and the Nyamwezi involved in the caravan trade sought more stable relations with Kaguru, hoping to set up permanent stations where they might receive supplies and be quartered. To do so they traded firearms and other goods with Kaguru and settled some of their own people, especially Nyamwezi from central Tanzania, along the route to aid in providing supplies. As a result, along these two routes settlements grew up that contained Nyamwezi and even a few coastal Africans and rarely a temporarily settled Arab. These stations were often palisaded and well armed and provided safe havens for some of the caravans passing through. Kaguru at these stations used their added wealth, newly acquired firearms, and the prestige of Arabs and later Europeans allied with them in order to augment their own political influence over their neighbors.
The impact of the caravan trade during this period cannot be overestimated. Schmidt estimated that in 1892 about 80,000 people passed through Mpwapwa alone, coming from or going to the coast (1894:185). The largest caravans sometimes had over a thousand members and were financed by Indians or Arabs in Zanzibar. Most were led by Arabs or coastal Africans. The porters were often Nyamwezi from central Tanganyika. Many smaller bands of traders, usually Nyamwezi, carried goods and messages back and forth along the route. The Nyamwezi were not above local raiding: as late as 1888 Nyamwezi made alliances with Kamba in order to raid and burn Kaguru settlements northeast of Mamboya until Kaguru drove the Kamba from the area (Roscoe 1888a).
Ukaguru was too mountainous and sparsely inhabited to make it attractive for extensive slaving, though eastern lowland settlements such as Mvumi had been burned down by Arab slavers and their Zigua allies. The last serious slaving in Ukaguru took place in the late 1860s, when Hehe repeatedly raided the southern mountain area; men were slain and women, children, and livestock seized, presumably for use in Uhehe and not exported (Last 1883b:584–586). The Kaguru highlands with their regular supply of water and relatively reliable supply of foodstuffs (at least when compared to areas between Ukaguru and the coast and the Marenga Mkali to the west) made Ukaguru the main resting spot and provision center before the next harrowing passage westward. Arabs even encouraged the planting of coastal crops such as fruits, palms, and sugar cane, though the major local crops were sorghum, maize, beans, yams, plantains, groundnuts, castor, tobacco, manioc, and tomatoes (Lambrecht 1903:393–394). Sorghum was the major crop, especially in the west, followed by maize. There was no dependable food surplus. Cultivation was by hoe or, where metal was scarce, by wooden digging stick (ibid.:395). Long before the caravan trade, Kaguru had a flourishing group of ironworkers who sold to their neighbors (Beidelman 1962b). Kaguru say that when they acquired firearms, local smiths were able to repair them and replace parts. Kaguru also sold tobacco, metal goods, beer, and salt to Baraguyu, Kamba, Maasai, and others (Kjekshus 1977a:87–89, 98).
Early written reports on Ukaguru do not convey a picture of a solidary ethnic group. Various writers describe them as Sagara, Gedja, Tumba, Megi, Sika, as well as Kaguru or Kagulu, though even Burton and Meyer who describe Kaguru as such (Meyer 1909:193; Burton 1860, I:168–169) note that they are often grouped with the Sagara. It was Burton who first published the Chikaguru word Wakaguru (the plural form of Mkaguru, a Kaguru person), which means "mountain or hill people."
The earliest reports of Kaguru leadership describe a "sultanate" at Mamboya that forced nearby Kaguru leaders to acknowledge its paramountcy. These reports stress the lack of unity of Kaguru and note there were leaders north and east of Mamboya who claimed to have their own chiefships and rejected the claims of Mamboya (Schynse 1890:68; Last 1878:645; 1883b:585; A. N. Wood 1889b:24–28). Kamba, Nyamwezi, and Zigua had settlements in Ukaguru, and each tried to run village affairs independent of any Kaguru leaders (A.N. Wood 1889b:28).
Kaguru say a chief should display leadership (undewa), and indeed the Kaguru word for chief is mundewa. A leader should command respect or influence (chipeho), have strength (ludole) and ability (udaha), and be a fighter (chitang'ata, warrior). Some say a chief should have medicines (uganga) to combat the ill will of competitors. A chief's enemies may term this his witchcraft (uhai). A chief was entitled to a portion of the people's harvest and to some of their labor by right of his clan owning the land. He was said to have the stool (igoda), that is, to sit in judgment before those standing before him. He sometimes worked with a council (chalo) of elders (A. N. Wood 1890).
The leader of Mamboya who first took full advantage of the caravan trade was named Senyagwa Chimola (senyagwa, eloquent; chimola, forceful one). Dealing with Arabs and Islamicized Nyamwezi, he changed his name to Saidi Chimola, though he remained a pagan. Senyagwa descended from a matrilineal clan that claimed to own the area around Mamboya. The clan was originally called Tangwe (mediation) because they led others by moderating between contending groups. They later changed their name to Jumbe (the Swahili term for a headman or local official). This would make sense if they wanted to claim some sort of leadership that would appeal to the Swahili-speaking Arabs and Nyamwezi (Kilosa District Book; Price 1879a,b).
The Tangwe/Jumbe clan's legendary founder was named Chibawka (clever one, circumcisor, anointer) and was succeeded by his sister's son, Semwali, who in turn was succeeded by another sister's son, Chipala. Chipala's younger matrilineal kinsman was Masingisa (dominator) who became chief of Geiro, another key caravan stop lying eighteen miles west of Mamboya. Masingisa made blood brotherhood (umbuya) with the Baraguyu who helped him raid caravans. While Masingisa's mother was a Kaguru of the Jumbe clan, his father was a Baraguyu. One legend says that Senyagwa/Saidi was the younger brother of Masingisa. When Chipala of Mamboya died, he was succeeded by his younger brother, Chibanda, and when Chibanda died he was succeeded by a woman named Madalamengi. Kaguru say that some Kaguru scorned a woman leader (though Kaguru legends tell of women leaders). For this reason, she was deposed and replaced by Masingisa's younger brother Senyagwa/Saidi Chimola, the first colonial chief of Ukaguru. These different legends are told by elders of the Jumbe clan, though disparaging counter-tales are told by elders of other, competing clans. The main opposition to the Jumbe clan was from the Gomba clan, who contested Jumbe ownership of both the Mamboya and Geiro areas. The Gomba are also traditional ritual joking relations (watani) to the Jumbe and therefore bound to criticize them.
Saidi Chimola sold beer to the caravan porters and built a large palisaded house and beer club. He made friends with the leader of the Nyamwezi porters and traders based at Mamboya (Last 1880:742; Price 1879b). He also welcomed Kamba who served as enforcer-thugs for some of his orders. Even so, in 1888 Kamba and Kaguru raided and burned one another's villages northeast of Mamboya (Roscoe 1888a). When the British Church Missionary Society arrived at Mpwapwa in 1876 and at Mamboya in 1880, they found Senyagwa in charge. Both the missionaries and the Arabs before them considered Senyagwa the chief of the area. The missionaries even gave firearms to Senyagwa. In October 1880, under the advice of British Consul John Kirk, Sultan Bargash of Zanzibar built a fort at Mamboya, manned by two hundred African mercenaries, mostly Zulu, led by a British naval lieutenant, Lloyd Mathews (Lyne 1936:292–294, Last 1883b:541). This fort was established to safeguard the caravans sent out from Zanzibar in ever large numbers. Mathews's troops traveled as far as Ungulu, fifty miles to the northeast of Mamboya, in order to quell caravan raiders (Wissmann 1889:295). Senyagwa clearly thrived; Moloney reports that in 1893 when he passed through Mamboya, he found Senyagwa with ten wives, four sons, and six daughters (1893:41–42). Some claim Senyagwa made blood brotherhood with Sultan Kunambi of Morogoro; at the least he had some kind of political understanding with this more powerful chief (Stuhlmann 1885:223; Schneider 1877:232; Elton 1879:405). Others claim that the Mamboya and Morogoro leaders were joking partners (watani; ibid.).
In 1885 Senyagwa was the Kaguru leader who welcomed the notorious German adventurer Carl Peters when he toured the area asking Africans to sign over their allegiance to him. Jumbe clan legends tell of Senyagwa protecting Kaguru from Peters, who was described as a man-eating leopard (a kind of witch). Near Mamboya the Germans tried to force local Kaguru to be porters without pay, and in the ensuing skirmish a Kaguru and a German were shot (Roscoe 1885). Senyagwa summoned eleven Kaguru elders and urged them to submit to Peters. Peters had one of these leaders, an elder from Kitange west of Mamboya, later executed for opposing him. To placate Peters, Senyagwa collected twenty cows and thirty goats from his followers. In turn, Peters awarded him with a cap (kofia) of office. Peters's purpose was to displace the Zanzibar Arabs from the region, though Senyagwa could hardly have realized this. It was likely Senyagwa saw Peters as yet another alien ally who could furnish him with goods in turn for protection and supplies. Peters's group built a small fort at Mpwapwa in 1887, but avoided contact with the Arab fort at Mamboya, presumably out of fear of Mathews's garrison. Senyagwa had provided Kaguru to help the Germans rebuild the Mpwapwa fort and was paid in cloth, beads, guns, and ammunition (Last 1880:742; Falkenhorst 1890:47; Koponen 1995:115).
Senyagwa Chimola's ambitions were aided and challenged by the three different kinds of foreigners: Muslim Arabs, British Christian missionaries, and the Germans. The most familiar and easily understood were the Arabs, whose main aim was trade. Senyagwa found them useful allies who promoted his power. Besides, the Arabs all spoke Swahili and therefore easily communicated with at least some local Africans. Yet most Kaguru were hostile to Islam because they associated it with slavery. Ukaguru never became a target for Arab slaving, but the Kaguru's neighbors to the east, the Ngulu and Zigua, had converted to Islam in large numbers and obtained arms from Arabs, and earlier had raided Kaguru for slaves and livestock.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: Colonialism and Anthropology
Part 1. History
1. Kaguru and Colonial History: The Rise and Fall of Indirect Rule
Part 2. Colonial Life
2. Ukaguru 1957–58
3. The Kaguru Native Authority
4. Court Cases: Order and Disorder
5. Subversions and Diversions: 1957–58
6. The World Beyond: Kaguru Marginality in a Plural World, 1957–61
Part 3. How It Ended and Where It Went
Epilogue: Independence and After
What People are Saying About This
Personal and engaged while trying to make sense of a contradictory and exclusionary world.