Tanzania People and Culture

Tanzania is a cultural melting pot of the African continent with over 135 different language dialects and cultures. Its population stems from all the four Africa’s language families that include Bantu, Cushitic, Nilotic, and Khoisan. Swahili and English are official languages and the former is widely used throughout the country.

The majority of the people are Bantu speakers that include the Sukuma, Nyamwezi (people of the moon / People of the west), Chagga, and Haya who total to more than 1 million members. Around 99% of Tanzanians are of African descent though; there are small numbers of people of Arab, European, and Asian origin. The Nilotic peoples include the nomadic Maasai and Luo, both of which are found in greater numbers in neighbouring Kenya while the Sandawe, speak a language that may be related to the Khoe languages of Botswana and Namibia. The Hadza people;speak a language with similar click consonants as Khoe, but is a totally independent language. The Hadza people are remnants of the hunter-gatherer society that inhabited Tanzania before the Bantu speakers came to occupy the land. There are also a few Cushitic-speaking remnant groups, such as the Iraqw also known as Wambulu who are believed to be remnants of the NeolithicAfro-Asiatic peoples that introduced domesticated plants and animals to the Great Lakes region.

Historically, the name Nyamwezi was claimed by five tribal groups (Kimbu, Konongo, Nyamwezi, Sukuma, and Sumbwa) which shared most of the cultural norms and values but were distinctive tribes.
The Nyamwezi lived in the Unyamwezi land and spoke kinyamwezi although with the coming of Arab traders and the birth of Swahili culture, they can now speak Swahili. They were originally cattle keepers and crop growers but due to poor soils and high interest in travel, they became traders and were later known to be good at nothing but making money. They were referred to as the ‘people of the moon’ because the coastal people could see the moon set over their home land highlands and were also known to have originated from the west.
The Nyamwezi are the 2nd largest ethnic group in Tanzania next to the Sukuma.

The Sukuma are the largest and dominant ethnic group in Tanzania belonging to the Bantu ethnic group. They are estimated to be about 5.5 million people and occupy parts of north western Tanzania near the southern shores of L. Victoria.
The word ‘Sukuma’ means ‘north’ in their language and are referred to as the ‘people of the north’.They speak Sukuma which belongs to the Bantu branch of the Niger-Congo family and refer to themselves as Basukuma (plural) and Nsukuma (singular)