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George Peter Murdock
1897 — 1985

Professor of Anthropology, Yale University

Africa. Its Peoples and Their Culture History

New York. McGraw-Hill. 1959. 456 p.

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Explore also (a) the SemanticAfrica Peoples Vocabulary
(b) the Tanganyika Bantu mind-mapping diagram

Part Ten
Spread of Pastoralism to the Bantu
— 46 —
Tanganyika Bantu

On the fringes of the present trust territory of Tanganyika we have already encountered several Bantu peoples—the Central Bantu in the South (Chapter 38), the Northeast Coastal Bantu in the east (Chapter 39), the Interlacustrine Bantu in the north (Chapter 45). The remaining inhabitants of the country, who constitute the bulk of its present population, must now receive attention. The Tanganyika Bantu, as we shall designate them, arrived as part of the Central Bantu immigration which also peopled the south and east. Since the Cushites had not penetrated this part of East Africa, the immigrants found it occupied only by Bushmanoid hunters and gatherers with cultures of the Stillbay complex, who had held it since Paleolithic times. The Kindiga and Sandawe in the north (see Chapter 10) constitute the only suniving remnants o f this earlier population.
It was the African cereals-sorghum, eleusine, and millet-diffusing from Uganda, where the Interlacusrrine Bantu had acquired them from the Cushites, that made possible the agricultural occupation of central and western Tanganyika. That the immigrants themseh'es belonged to the Central rather than the Interlacustrine group of Bantu is indicated both by linguistic evidence and by the widespread survivals of matrilineal institutions among the present inhabitants of the province.
Several centuries later, probably early in the second millennium, the Tanganyika Bantu received a second valuable cultural gift from their neighbors in Uganda-namely, cattle, or, if these perchance had been borrowed somew hat earlier, at least the knowledge of how to milk them and to make butter. This introduced an important new form of movable property and strengthened the economic position of the male sex, thereby initiating a transition from matrilineal to p atrilineal forms of social organization, as will shortly be demonstrated.
Surrounded by peoples of differing cultures and of greater economic and political strength, the Tanganyika Bantu accepted in varying degrees the innovations offered to them, with the result that they fall into a number of somewhat disparate clusters.

Rift Cluster

The tribes of this cluster reside in the extreme northeast adjacent to the Masai, with whom they share a number of Cushitic and Nilotic traits not prevalent in the province as a whole. The Gogo, Rangi, and Turu, for example, practice circumcision, clitoridectomy, and also the extraction of the lower median incisor teeth, and most groups drink fresh blood drawn from the necks of their animals.

  1. Gogo (Wagogo), with the Ngomwia (Wangomwia). They number about 110,000. The Ngomwia, who occupy an enclave in Gogo territory, appear to be of Southern Cushitic origin.
  2. Iramba (Aniramba), with the kindred Izanzu (Issansu) and Irambi (Yambi). They number about 125,000.
  3. Mbugwe (Wambugwe). They are an offshoot of the Rangi and number about 8,000.
  4. Rangi (Irangi, Langi, Walangi, Warangi). They number about 80,000.
  5. Turu (Lima, Nyaruru, Toro, Walimi, Waniaturu). They number about 150,000.

Nyamwezi Cluster

The tribes of this cluster adjoin the Interlacustrine Bantu in the northwest, and the Sumbwa in particular have become strongly acculturated to the latter. The Nyamwezi peoples do not practice genital mutilations, and the central tribes keep few cattle because of the prevalence of the tsetse fly.

  1. Bende (Vende, Wabende), with the Tongwe. With them live numerous Holoholo immigrants from across Lake Tanganyika.
  2. Kimbu. They form the southeastern branch of the Nyamwezi.
  3. Konongo. They form the southwestern branch of the Nyamwezi.
  4. Nyamwezi (Banyamwezi, Wanyamwezi), embracing the Gala, Galaganza, Irwana (Bilwana), and Nankwili. With the Kimbu and Konongo, they number at least half a million.
  5. Sukuma (Basukuma, Wassukuma), with the Longo (Rongo). They number about a million.
  6. Sumbwa, with the Msalala and other subtribes. They adjoin the Ha and Zinza tribes of the lnrerlacustrine Bantu.

Rukwa Cluster

The tribes of this cluster reside in the southwestern part of the province adjacent to the Bemba g roup of Central Bantu, with whom they reveal an unmistakable linguistic connection.

  1. Fipa (Wafipa), with the Nyika (Banyika, Wanjika). The Nyika number about 15,000.
  2. Iwa (Awiwa, Wawiwa, Wiwa), with the Nyamwanga (Ainamwanga, Inamwanga, Namwanga, Winamwanga). They were reported in 1910 to number about 20,000.
  3. Lambya (Rambia, Warambia), with the Malila (Penya), Ndali, Tambo, and Wandya.
  4. Pimbwe (Bapimbwe), with the Rungwa.
  5. Safwa (Wassafwa), with the Nyiha (Nyixa). The Safwa proper number about 15,000.

Rufiji Cluster

The tribes of this cluster inhabit the eastern section of the province adjacent to the Zigula group of Northeast Coastal Bantu and to the Yao cluster of the Central Bantu, and their cultures are in some measure transitional toward both. In addition, they were strongly affected by the Ngoni invasions of the nineteenth century. The Matumbi and Mbunga tribes contain substantial goni ingredients, and the Hehe defeated the Ngoni by adopting and turning against them their own military organization and tactics.

  1. Bena (Wabena), with the Sowe (Sovi, Wasove) and Vemba. They number at least 20,000
  2. Ilehe (Wahehe), with the Chungwe (Zungwa). They number about 100,000.
  3. Marumbi (Wamawmbi), with the Ndendehule.
  4. Mbunga (Bunga, Vambunga).
  5. Ndamba (Gangi, Vandamba). They number about 30,000.
  6. Pogoro (Wapogoro, Weganga). Their language and that of the Ndamba are mutually intelligible.
  7. Sagara (Sagala, Wasagara, Wassungara), with the Kaguru and Vidunda.
  8. Sangu (Rori, Sango), with the Poroto.

Nyasa Cluster

The tribes of this cluster reside in the extreme south around the northem end of Lake N yasa. Except for the Nyakusa, who reveal a highly distinctive form of social organization, they are ethnographically almost undescribed and are apparently culturally very divergent.

  1. Kinga, with the Mahasi, Mwelya, Pangwa, and Wanji. They inhabit the Livingstone Moumains northeast of Lake Nyasa.
  2. Kisi, with the Mpoto and Sandia. They subsist primarily by fishing along the precipitous shores of Lake Nyasa.
  3. Matengo (Wamatengo). They were reported in 1933 to number about 40,000.
  4. Nyakyusa (Niakiusa, Sochile, Sokile), with the Kukwe, Mwamba, Ngonde (Konde, Wakonde, Wangonde), Selya (Salya, Seria), and Sukwa. They number well over 200,000.

The Tanganyika Bantu subsist primarily by cereal agriculture. Maize has joined millet, sorghum, and eleusine as one of the principal crops, and actually outranks them among the Bende, Hehe, and Pimbwe. The Bena and Ndamba differ from the rest of the province in cultivating rice as their staple; the Nyakyusa and Sumbwa, in depending chiefly upon bananas. Other crops of consequence include cow peas, earth peas, and sesame from the Sudanic complex; gram beans and pigeon peas from the Indian; beans, cucurbits, manioc, peanuts, and sweet potatoes from the American.
All groups keep goats, sheep, dogs, and chickens, and the tribes of the Rift cluster usually have donkeys as well. About one-third of the tribes of the province—the Bende, Fipa, Kisi, Konongo, Marengo, Matumbi, Mbunga, Ndamba, Nyamwezi, Pimbwe, and Pogoro—have few if any cattle, largely on account of the tsetse fly; all other groups, however, possess them in fair numbers, and they assume exceptional importance in the economies of the Nyakyusa, Sangu, Sumbwa, and peoples of the Rift cluster. The Tanganyika Bantu, indeed, served as the intermediaries who transmitted cattle and milking to the Bantu provinces south of the Zambesi River.
As far as geographical propinquity is concerned, the Tanganyika Bantu could have acquired their pastoral skills and knowledge equally well from either the Masai or the Interlacustrine Bantu. The position of milking in the division of labor by sex provides the probable answer, for the Masai, like other Cushitized Nilotes and the Cushites themselves, assign this task to women, whereas the Interlacustrine Bantu, like the Central Sudanic peoples and the Nilotes of the Luo cluster, rigorously segregate women from all contact with cattle. Significantly, the Tanganyika Bantu observe the same taboo in all reported instances—with a single exception. In the Rift cluster, which reveals so many other instances of Cushitic influence, a number of tribes lack this taboo; men, to be sure, do most of the milking, but no objection is raised to female participation. Men, of course, universally do the herding. Except among the Iramba, Iwa, Matumbi, Nyakyusa, and Rangi, where men share equally in field labor, women do the bulk of the agricultural work.
The Kinga, Matumbi, Sumbwa, northern Hehe, and all tribes of the Rift cluster except the Gogo inhabit neighborhoods of dispersed family homesteads, but the predominating settlement pattern for the province as a whole is a fairly compact and sometimes stockaded village. The Sumbwa have adopted the beehive hou es of the adjacent Interlacustrine Bantu, while the southern tribes of the Rufiji cluster occupy rectangular dwellings with thatched gable roofs like those of the neighboring coastal peoples. A house type peculiar to the Tanganyika province prevails among the northern Rufiji tribes and those of the Rift cluster, and has recently spread to the Kimbu, Konongo, and some Nyamwezi. This is the so-called tembe, an elongated rectangular structure with mud walls and a nearly flat roof covered with earth. Often several such dwellings form a quadrangle around an interior courtyard. The tribes of the Nyasa and Rukwa clusters and many in the Nyamwezi group live in cone-cylinder huts of the widespread Sudanic type.
Political integration does not transcend the local level among the Iramba, Ibugwe, Rangi, and Turu of the Rift cluster. All the other peoples of the province, however, possess true states. Often these embrace only districts or subtribes, but among the Bena, Fipa, Hehe, Iwa, Pimbwe, Sangu, and Sukuma political organization extends to the entire tribe. Whatever its size, the state nearly always assumes the form of a typical African despotism, with an absolute ruler possessing divine attributes, a capital and court, a territorial administrative hierarchy for the collection of tribute, a central council of ministers, and frequently a prestigeful Queen-Mother. Slavery prevails in all except the st ateless tribes, and a hereditary nobility tends to emerge where states are complex. The ruling aristocracy is of Hima or Tussi origin among the Nyamwezi tribes that adjoin the Interlacustrine Bantu.
The Nyakyusa exhibit a highly distinctive type of social and political organization. At the age of eleven to thirteen all the boys of a district remove from their paternal homes and establish a new village of their own. Until they marry they return daily to eat with their mothers and hoe with their fathers. Ultimately, however, their wives join them in their village. Local groups among the Nyakyusa consequently consist of agemates, not of kinsmen. Each has a headman, or “great commoner,” selected by the paramount chief of the district. A district chief is succeeded by two sons, the firstborn of his two “great wives.” Some years before his death, when these sons are about thirty-five years of age, he formally retires at a great “coming out” ceremony, dividing his territory between the two sons and assigning definite tracts of land to each recently established age-village. Being a successful and expanding people, the Nyakyusa have been able to perpetuate this system without excessive fractionation.
The Tanganyika Bantu represent various phases of a general tran ition from matrilineal to patrilineal forms of social organization. The Iramba, Mbugwe, and Rangi in the extreme northeast still preserve their original exogamous matrisibs, as did the damba until very recent times. Since the Mbugwe also possess exogamous patrilineages they are characterized by double descent. Among the Nyakyusa, the development of age-villages has removed the local basis for any form of unilinear kin group, with the result that patrilineal descent has very nearly disappeared. The strictly mau·ilineal rule of succession followed by the Fipa, Pimbwe, and most tribes of the Nyamwezi cluster and the matrilineal inheritance prevalent among the Mbunga and Sagan bear witness to the former existence of matrilineal descent in these tribes. As a matter of fact, in the entire province only the Sumbwa of the Nyamwezi cluster, the Iwa and Safwa of the Rukwa cluster, the Gogo and Turu of the Rift cluster, the Bena, Hehe, and Sangu of the Rufiji cluster, and doubtless some of the tribes on which information is lacking (the Kinga, Kisi, Lambya, Matengo, Matumbi, and Pogoro) have completed the transition to a thoroughly patrilineal and patrilocal form of social organization.
Matrilocal residence appears, though only during the initial period of marriage, among the Bena, Tramba, Nyamwezi, Safwa, and Sukuma, and avunculocal residence is confined to individual cases. Except among the Nyakyusa, whose age-village organization requires neolocal residence, patrilocality prevails throughout the province. Extended forms of the family occur in some of the northeastern tribes but not elsewhere. The Mbugwe stand alone in practicing monogamy. The Hehe, Nyakyusa, Pimbwe, Safwa, and Turu permit polygyny in the sororal form, but the Nyamwezi tribes and the Bena do not. Cross-cousin marriage occurs, sometimes preferentially, among the Bena, Gogo, Hehe, Iramba, Kimbu, and Sangu, and exclusively with the mother's brother's daughter among the Iwa and Mbunga; but most other groups forbid unions with any first cousin. Kinship terminology conforms to the Crow pattern among the Mbugwe and Sukuma, to the Hawaiian pattern among the Nyakyusa and Turu, and to the Iroquois pattern among the Bena, Bende, Gogo, Hehe, Mbunga, Nyamwezi, Pimbwe, Sangu, and Sumbwa.
Marriage normally entails the payment of a substantial bride-price, and the Bena, Fipa, Iwa, Nyamwezi, Safwa, and Sangu require bride-service in addition. Most tribes of the Nyamwezi cluster, however, recognize an alternative mode of marriage. A man who lacks sufficient livestock for the usual bride-price makes only a token gift and then subsequently a standard payment whenever his wife bears him a child. In such cases, however, the children belong to their mother's sib, not their father's, and they inherit from their maternal kinsmen. This practice suggests how the introduction of cattle into the province initiated a transformation in the social organization. By acquiring the wherewithal to pay bride-prices for their sons, men could affiliate the latter with their own kin group, and when this became sufficiently common it wrought a shift from matrilineal to patrilineal descent.

Selected Bibliography