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The Sukuma museum Mwanza Tanzania

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The Sukuma museum is a cultural institution that promotes and celebrates the history, traditions and contemporary arts of the Sukuma tribe and is located in Mwanza city of Tanzania. It is a community based organisation that provides an interactive and educational learning environment where Sukuma elders teach younger generations the ways of the Sukuma people. The museum also provides a place where younger people and artists with crafts related to the tribe can develop and showcase their skills [1].

A proud tribe whose home is in the Lake zone – Mwanza, Shinyanga and Mara regions, the Sukuma tribe is one of the largest tribes of Tanzania and as such, much of their traditions are still practiced today. The tribe’s people are now spread throughout the country, with many still having roots in the region and the prowess of the tribe can be seen today in the beauty and cleanliness of Mwanza city and its surrounding areas.

History of the museumThe Sukuma museum was founded with the aid of the Bujora Sukuma research committee, in 1968 shortly after the country got its independence from the British in 1961. Much of its structures and architecture were built and designed by the actual Sukuma people of the time and are exactly as they would have been in their actual lives. A few items were donated from their owners such royal families, who also helped to recount the actual tales of the events and struggles as you would hear them today at the museum. [1]

Every year, the museum holds the Bulabo dance festival – an event that traditionally featured the two dance societies of the Sukuma people, the Bagika and Bagalu; However, although it is normal to see the original competing societies perform, the current event invites any group of dancers to perform and compete using their own design of traditional costume and dance style.

What to do at the museum?Visitors to the museum would receive a show and tell tour, of the tribe’s previous chiefs, known as ‘Mtemi’ including their struggles, battles, their lifestyle, houses and even getting to sit in a one of their actual chairs and hold their spear and shield. Apart from that there is a tour of the different houses lived in by the rest of the Sukuma people, a guide of the Sukuma courting process (as in men finding wives) and the tools used in their day to day lives.

Also onsite is the traditional blacksmith’s (yes they were advanced) compound and tools of trade which you would get a first hand account of how each worked. You can even buy a few souvenirs drinks or snacks from the local shop that is located near the main entrance gate.

A more interesting experience would be some time with one of the museum’s resident snakes, a few pythons – each at least about 5 metres and normally kept in a cage. Snakes are regarded as an important animal in the Sukuma tribe and thus these ones even have their own care taker, who would be more than happy to let you hold one, or two and even take a photo with them, like some Tarzan.

The pythons are non venomous but a bite from one of them would still cause a septic wound, something that the care taker is more than prepared to treat; However, if you are planning on holding of of these hissing babies, it would be best to err on the side of caution and avoid being bitten by all means. One trick they normally like to play is add another snake while you are holding the other one (surprise surprise).

For an extra fee, you could get to watch and even take part in a Sukuma traditional dance, where the snakes come out to play. The snakes were all captured from the wild and according to the caretaker, they were called from hiding using a song and dance, one that was used throughout the tribe by snake charmers, traditional healers and witch doctors.

Location of Sukuma museumThe Sukuma museum is located on a gently sloped hill in Bujora, a small area of the Kisesa district of Mwanza region. It is in the suburbs and just off the highway to Musoma and Kenya, with much of its surroundings being residential houses.

Getting to the museumThe museum is easily reached from the city of Mwanza, both by public transport and by car. It is about 20 km south east of the city centre or about a 20 minutes drive during low traffic. Any local would easily point you in its location, but if you would still like to navigate on your own then see the map below.

Public transport users would need to find buses headed to Kisesa and ask for the conductor to drop you where the Sukuma museum is, which is usually on the left hand side of the road if you are coming from the city centre. From there you walk about 20 minutes uphill (gently sloped), or you could get a motorcycle or vehicle taxi to the place. If you are trying to get there from outside Mwanza, then you could first use a plane or or bus to first get to the city, then head out to the Museum.

References1. – accessed on 2nd April,2017
2. Photo – By Patricia Gambula Larsen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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