We have a story to tell you about
Africa. It is a story being lived as
we speak. It is a story the world seldom
hears because of all the other tales of wars and famine from our continent.
It’s a story full of hope and beauty, of peace and coexistence, of culture and
We don’t know when the story started, neither do we know when it will end. We only know when it started involving us.
We, telling you this story, are the elders of
Africa. We represent
the four corners of Africa, the four main
language groups of our continent.
We are the Niger-Congo Language family represented by the Bantu speaking Isanzu and Iramba tribes, the Khoisan language family represented by the Hadzabe tribe, the Nilo-Saharan language group represented by the Nilotic Datoga tribe, and the Afro-Asiatic Language Family represented by the Cushitic speaking Iraqw tribe.
But let us tell you who we are and how we came to meet.
There is a place in the middle of Africa and in the middle of
called Haydom. Haydom is a
name from the Datoga tribe of the Nilotic language group meaning a red-brown
Haydom was a place in nowhere, a few of us from the nomadic pastoralists Nilot of the Datoga tribe, would wander down from the North in search of pasture for our cows. We would meet from time to time with the tribe of the Khoisan language group who wandered in search of animals and roots since they were hunters and gatherers. We, the elders of the Khoisan, know we have always been here close to Haydom. But many seem to believe that our forefathers wandered in from the south of
since we share the language characteristics of the click speaking San people.
Nevertheless, we met, the Nilot and the Khoisan. Sometimes we would fight, sometimes exchange items and sometimes just keep a respectful distance.
But nobody really stayed in Haydom. It was a place in the middle of nowhere.
One day it was decided that Haydom should become a hospital . It was a strange decision, how could anybody just define that a place in the middle of nowhere should start growing into a hospital? But so it was, and
was built in Haydom. Haydom
The hospital grew and people moved in. The
of the Cushitic language group, who usually lived in Mama Isara, a bit away
from Haydom to the east, started to come. The Cushitic as you know, had moved
from the East of Africa, Iraq Ethiopia
and further from Mesopotamia into a long, long time ago. Tanzania
The Bantu, who had moved into
from the West of Africa also saw that Haydom was good, so they too started
moving in. And so it was that the Isanzu tribe and the Iramba tribe of the
Bantu language group started to plough their fields and tend their gardens
around Haydom. Tanzania
So here we are- we came from the Four Corners of
Africa and met here.
And here is where we started the story of our life time, the story of the four
Four Corners Cultural programme (4CCP).
And this is our story.
No, we are mistaken. It would be better to say- these are our stories. For our story is a story full of smaller stories. Our story is told in part by all, in full by none. And the story lives on, before us, and after us. We started the 4CCP to tell our stories.
Did you know you are standing on unique ground? Right here you are standing, at Haydom in
Tanzania, is the only place the four of us meet
in Africa! And what’s more, here has never
been a battle or a war. Of course, perhaps there have been some little
neighbouring shuffle for land or a kill over cattle, and certainly many
misunderstandings over cultural values- but never a war. The wars belong to the others, those we came
from, not to whom we became together.
What do we do in our programme?
Can you imagine living side by side with people not only talking a whole different language to you, but having a complete strange set of values, strange customs and strange ways of living off the land? Ha! The tales we could tell! The Datoga stealing our cows believing all the cows in the world belonged to them! The Hadzabe living in the bush never putting a shovel to work and still surviving through hunting the most ferocious animals! The Iraqw with their unique culture and strange like of following us the Datoga and taking our land when we need to move on to greener pasture. And of course, the Bantu with their lively dance and song.
Oh yes, the small tales of strange misunderstandings between us are many. And slowly as our story grows, because, remember, the story we are telling you is still being lived, you will come to see that the small tales make up the full picture of hope and beauty, of peace and coexistence, of culture and values.
We know, such peace does not come from only living in the past. How can we look into the future while not being willing to give up the past? But, how can we give up the past going into the future? And more importantly, how can we live in peace without knowing who our neighbour is?
So we teach ourselves and each other about our past and use our knowledge to go into the future.
It sounds strange we know, but this is our wisdom. We don’t want to loose what we know works. And we don’t want our children to forget the story they came from. So we collect the knowledge of each other.
We collect our knowledge on governance, on health, on education, livelihood, environment and values. We look at for example traditional values and ask each one of us “what are my traditional values? What values do I believe are good and I want to share them with the others? What values do I see help me have a better life? What values keep me from getting development?
And each of these, education, environment, governance, livelihood, health and values will be a story on its own, the story of knowledge of our forefathers, collected from each of us to become a whole, and used by each of us to get better lives in the future.
Did you know we collect tales! We collect them from the elders. The children of the primary schools now go home to their grandparents and ask them to tell a children’s tale. The children write them down and we collect them for our centre.
And the elders collect themselves also. And they write in their respective languages. Later we will write them all in Kiswahili and perhaps in English so you can read?
Let us tell you a tale from the Datoga tribe of the Nilotic language group. They have already collected around 90 different children’s stories!
The Moon, The Sun and The Rooster.
The sun and the moon and the rooster were children of one mother and they were playing together like friends before the world started.
They all watched as the earth was created all of them wanted to play a role on earth.
The sun said: “I will rise above the earth and give light. I will rise in all parts of the world and show my beauty to everyone that lives on it. By me the world will know the day from night.
The moon and the rooster were very upset to hear this. The moon had as strong a light as the sun and said “no, I will rise above the earth and show my beauty to all!”
And so a fight started between the sun and the moon. The fight was hard and lasted for days until the sun took a piece of land from the earth and threw it at the moon. The moons light was hit and became softer than the sun.
The moon saw that its light had become less and the sun saw it had won the argument. But then the moon said “You think you have won, but I will still go around the earth! The earth will be dependent on me still.” You may show the night from the day, but I will show the different seasons. From me earth will know one month from the next.
And from that day the moon held the seasons in its hands.
The rooster, who had been watching the fight, was very angry at the sun. It said, “You may see me as small, but I will jump to the sky and bite you and you too will loose your light.”
But then the time force called Asseta, who had created the world, had to intervene and told the rooster “no, someone has to keep the light of the day and the night.” But the rooster would not listen and flew up towards the sky to bite the sun. Aceta then took a stick and hit the wings of the rooster so it lost its power of flight.
When the rooster saw this, he told the sun “you may have won the right of the night and the day, but you will never be in front of me. I will always call the rise of a new day before you manage to get up in the morning.
And from this day on, the rooster always crows before the sunrise.
|Iramba and Nyisanzu (Bantu)|
Our story is no story without the story of the land. We use the land so differently. We, the Hadzabe of the Khoisan language group are hunters and gatherers. We hunt wild animals and live of the plants growing naturally in our environment. We use almost every plant growing on our land for medicine or for food and we have our own traditional way of ownership to land. We are not so many people, but we need a lot of space to be able to live like we do. But then the Datoga come in with their cows for pasture!
We the Datoga of the Nilotic language group need to move our cows. We are nomadic pastoralists and need a lot of space in order to keep the cows. We too have our traditional way of ownership of land. But when we move on, the Iraqw and the Izanzu and Iramba take our land for agriculture!
We the Isanzu and Iramba of the Bantu language group and we the Iraqw of the Cushitic language group need land for agriculture. We are many and the land is scarce. We also have our traditional land ownership systems but now there is not enough land. How can we help our young get land of their own so they can survive?
Yes, this is not easy. And we see that this can ruin our coexistence.
In order to solve this, we have had a survey to look at how each of us traditionally look at land use and how we traditionally inherit/acquire land. The survey is finished and now we have to use this knowledge to help us into the future. We have asked the government for help. So we now call them the sixth language group, and they are telling us of the village land act of 1999 that will assist all of us together, not one of us only. And we conduct discussions with the government on how we can incorporate our traditions of land into the new Act. We are trying now to combine tradition and modernity and will demarcate our land and make land use plans so that we can protect our own ways of life and at the same time respect the others’.
We must celebrate this coexistence and our cultures!
The Four Corners Cultural Centre is built at the foot of the Haydom mountain. All of us have built our traditional dwelling place where you can see how we lived before. Our grandchildren will now never forget where they came from. And there will be more. An amphitheatre for our dances and songs is now under construction and we have planned an interactive museum for our knowledge and for our artefacts. The women’s stories have their own corner, and the men their own. Here we will store our stories for our grandchildren.
Will you help us tell our story?
We have been doing this for three years already and have built this with our own hands.
If you wish, we can send you a professional project proposal with budgets and breakdowns with log-frames and plans. Yes, our language is so different, you have yours and we have ours. What you have read is how we like our story to be, told by us elders in a language we use, but we can tell it in your language if you wish us to.
Will you help us tell our story?