The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Art and Life Among the Zaramo of Tanzania

by Diane Pelrine
Indiana University Art Museum

Millet-stalk truck with its maker, Hamisi Mbegwe, Zaramo artist, Tanzania, 1985. Photo by Diane Pelrine. 

The Zaramo peoples are mainly farmers, living along Tanzania's coastal plain in and around Dar es Salaam.  As with most East African peoples, figural arts are not a prominent part of Zaramo life.  Instead, a look at Zaramo arts is a look primarily at daily life, at objects that Westerners are likely to label crafts.  But that is not to say that the appearances of things are not important or that creativity is unvalued.  The millet-stalk truck in this picture, shown with its maker, Hamisi Mbegwe, who was six years old when the photo was taken in 1985, was greatly admired by friends and neighbors.  Many boys make trucks out of bits of wire, metal, or, as Hamisi did, millet stalks.  Painting them, however, was not something usually done, and this twist from the usual, this addition of something extra, brought the boy recognition and praise.