Art and Life Among the Zaramo of Tanzania

by Diane Pelrine
Indiana University Art Museum

A staff and other healing paraphernalia owned by the Zaramo mganga, Athumani Moto, Zaramo peoples, Tanzania. Photo by Diane Pelrine.

The mganga Athumani Moto has another figural staff, this one with hooks below the figure, that he uses in certain healing ceremonies.  Various medicines may be hung on the hooks, and the patient sits with his or her back against the staff, which has been stuck in the ground.  Mzee Moto's medicine bag, a lidded basket, and its contents are displayed around the staff.  Small gourds holding various herbal medicines are in the foreground of this picture; sometimes these containers are closed with wooden stoppers carved in the form of miniature figures resembling those used in girl's maturity rites.  The use of these images or more naturalistic female ones, as on his staff, are references to the ancestors and to the matrilineal roots of Zaramo society.