Art and Life Among the Zaramo of Tanzania

by Diane Pelrine
Indiana University Art Museum

Mussa Msonge, an mganga with a miniature spirit house, Zaramo peoples, Tanzania. Photo by Diane Pelrine.


Like Mzee Moto, Mussa Msonge is an mganga, though his practice is somewhat different; he uses miniature spirit houses, which closely resemble their larger-scale human counterparts, to attract spirits that cause people to be ill.  The house in the front is for a spirit associated with the Luguru peoples, who live southwest of the Zaramo and from whom the Zaramo are believed to descend.  Mzee Msonge pointed out that ideally a person who was being afflicted by this spirit should visit the Luguru area, but, since that was difficult for many people, he had built a spirit house to accommodate them.  He noted that its round shape indicated its origin, for Luguru houses are traditionally round, while those of the Zaramo are always rectangular.