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Sukuma

The background
The Sukuma (People in the North) tribe is the largest of Tanzania’s more than 120 different ethnic groups. Close to 15% of the population in Tanzania are from the Sukuma tribe. They live around Mwanza and the southern Lake Victoria region.
For much of their history the Sukuma people were loosely organised into numerous Bantu-speaking subgroups; it is only recently that they have come to view themselves as a single entity

Their ancestors are believed to have migrated into Tanzania from present-day’s Uganda, beginning about the 17tn century. The Sukuma people are closely related to the Nyamwezi, Tanzania’s second largest ethnic group, centred in the Tabora region.
Most Sukuma people are farmers and their lands comprise one of Tanzania’s most important agricultural areas. Cattle (long-horned Ankole cattle) are also an important source of livelihood.

The tribe traditionally had a highly developed and structured form of village organisation in which each settlement is subdivided into chiefdoms ruled by a chief in collaboration with a group of elders.

 

Village committees consisting of similarly aged members from each family in the village decide divisions of land and labour.
These age-based groups, each with its own leader, perform numerous roles ranging from assisting with the building of new houses to farming and other community oriented work.

This system gives most families at least a representational role in many village activities. As a result, houses and land are often viewed as communal property among the Sukuma tribe.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Sukuma culture, please visit the Bujora Cultural Centre (photos on this page) just 16 km east of Mwanza off the Musoma road. Please contact Mwanza Guide’s office in town for more on the cultural centre.