Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cameroon dancing to Tanzanian dancing

I returned to the U.S. from Cameroon in 1973. After working in Peace Corps recruitment and completing graduate degrees with an emphasis in international agricultural education/extension, I received a contract in July 1980 with an American university, which assigned me to a farmer's training project in Mbeya, Tanzania. The experience in the beautiful Southern Highlands until December 1985 cemented my relationship with sub-Saharan Africa for the rest of my career.

There are many diverse cultures within West African and East African nations. However, while East African dress is brightly colorful, the designs and materials tend to be simpler than those in West Africa. The music in East Africa often relies on percussion drums and basic horns, while West Africa also includes traditional bows and strings. This contrast between Western and Eastern Africa is immediately apparent in the dancing seen here when compared to the Cameroon dancing clips in the previous post.

Below are two clips of a dance by the Wanyakusa tribe, which is the predominant ethnic group in Mbeya where I lived for nearly six years. If one compares the longer versions of the first and second YouTube videos of the two clips below, one can more clearly see the same pattern that seem to reflect warrior dances of decades ago.

It would be a mistake to conclude that there is little pride in local culture, given the contrast to the more vibrant, boisterous, and costumed previous post from Cameroon. However, it is true the East Africa and Tanzania in particular has a more muted expression of its cultural past, which is heavily influenced by centuries of Arab presence and later the arrival of the Portuguese, Germans and British, who in turn welcomed Greek  and other European farmers and introduced Indians to the country in large numbers. The consequence is an accommodating and friendly atmosphere that gives a strong sense of a nation less torn by tribal rivalries that characterizes many of its immediate neighbors and their more distant continental neighbors to the West.

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