A taste of Tanzania's diversity at Makumbusho village

Thursday February 25 2021
New Content Item (1)

Dancers at Makumbusho village in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. PHOTO | ISMAIL SABUNI

By The EastAfrican

Makumbusho Village, a museum in Dar es Salaam, is a great place to have a quick lesson about Tanzania's ethnic groups and various cultures. There are several traditional houses in the village, as well as artefacts used by specific ethnic groups.

On a recent visit, I learned that the museum started in 1966 and was officially opened in 1967 for exhibitions.

At the front is a grass thatched house from the Waha tribe, who came from Kigoma region almost 100 years ago.

Waha was among the largest ethnic groups in the area before colonialism. Only about 7.5 per cent of the group live in Tanzania (Kigoma region) and are referred to as Ha (Waha) and the rest live in Burundi and are known as Warundi.

A typical house for the Waha is small and usually portable. Waha, like many others tropical ethnic groups, spend very little time indoors. The education officer at the village, Felix Mkuku, said the people used to carry their grass houses when relocating due to agricultural activities and floods.

The Waha house was the first to be built at the Makumbusho village, and perhaps the reason for the establishment of the museum.


The Chagga houses in the village are made with frameworks of flexible wood which are then covered in a layered grass thatch from bottom to top. The thickness of the thatch serves as insulation from the cool climate found on the mountain.

Mkuku explained that the big houses are for mothers and children, while the small house is used by the father.

The Swahili house is common along the East African coast and can be found in Lamu, Mombasa, Tanga, Bagamoyo, Dar es Salaam, Lindi, Mtwara, Zanzibar and Pemba.

“There are four communities in the Makumbusho museum, which represent the southern, the northern, the western and the central regions,” Mkuku said.

There are various types of trees in the Village. The mkole tree is famous among the coastal people. These communities practiced Unyago (a dance to celebrate the coming of age of girls), in which a girl is given tree branches from the mkole.

“Unyango is still practiced in the country by the Makonde community. Some of them come to dance in the forest within the village,” Mkuku said

He said the number of tourists coming to the village has declined due to the pandemic. Before corona, the museum received about 50 to 60 local tourists and 80 to 100 students every week.

On my tour of Makumbusho, there were tourists from Ukraine taking part in traditional dances and visiting the forest.

Ezbon Kashaga, a tour guide at the Village, said the forest is free from most human activities except for social events where artistes come to perform, when women from the Makonde tribe hold lessons ad the a walk on the nature trail.

On the nature trail, one can see monkeys, non-venomous snakes and the mongoose.

The village museum is located on a man-made wetland ecosystem established in 2010. The ecosystem is used for education, recreation and research purposes, as it mimics the functions of a natural wetland.