Katherine Millet

Name ID 1146

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Millett, Katherine Makonde Carvings: In the beginning
Extract Author: This article was submitted by Katherine Millett and Thomson Safaris.

Makonde Carvings: In the beginning

Images and text "2000 Thomson Safaris, Inc.

"In the beginning, there was a being, not yet man, who lived alone in a wild place and was lonely. One day he took a piece of wood and shaped it with a tool into a figure. He placed the figure in the sun by his dwelling. Night fell and when the sun rose again the figure was a woman and she became his wife. They conceived and a child was born, but after three days it died. 'Let us move from the river to a higher place where the reed beds grow.' Said the wife. And this they did. Again she conceived and a child was born, but after three days it, too, died. Again the woman said 'Let us move to yet higher ground where the thick bush grows.' Once more they moved. A third time they conceived and a child was born. The child lived, and he was the first Makonde."

The Makonde are one of the five major tribes in Tanzania who originally migrated north from Mozambique to the southern Tanzanian highlands. They are internationally famous for their intricate carvings, based on Life, Love, Good and Evil and which form their beliefs about the origins of man. The carvings are possibly the greatest art forms which originate from Tanzania and are considered the most positive and uninhibited of all East African art. For centuries their figures carved from Mpingo or Ebony have played a central role in their ceremonies. Today the carvings still maintain the traditional elements of the human story in a tribal setting although many of the carvers have inevitably been influenced by the Western demand for their products. It is easy to find what is classed as "Modern Makonde" which is aimed purely at the tourist market and is basically Modigliani in style.

Mpingo bark is a light color under which is a small layer of white soft wood. The heart wood, however, is very hard and varies in color from a deep red to black depending on the soil type and age of the tree. When finished, the carvings are polished and the wood quite literally shines. Again, due mainly to the tourist trade, the carvers also use other types of wood such as coconut and some have also learnt to carve in stone and coral. Imitators of the Makonde art across East Africa, often use cheap local hardwoods and finish the carvings with boot polish to give it the Ebony look. The most important theme in true Makonde is the Family, especially the Mother figure. The artists show the struggles and problems of the family as well as the good times that they share. Many of the carvings are also based on faith and religion. The many Spirits they believe in, good and evil, are depicted as well as the folklore passed down through generations.

Extract ID: 3113

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Millett, Katherine The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania
Extract Author: Katherine Millett and Thomson Safaris
Page Number: 1
Extract Date: 2001

The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania

All images and text courtesy and "2000 Thomson Safaris, Inc.

Trees almost hid the grass huts. The fireplaces were still warm. When Barbara Zucker-Pinchoff held her palm over a circle of rocks, she could feel heat from the embers. The ground was littered with feathers, mostly from guinea fowl. A group of Hadza people had just left the campsite. They had taken all their possessions with them.

Barbara and Barry Zucker-Pinchoff, both doctors from New York City, took their three daughters on a walking safari last year in Tanzania. Barbara told about their experience in Kinbero, "the most remote place I have ever been," camping with a few other Americans, two Tanzanian guides, and several Hadza who had time to sit and chat because they had just killed a giraffe.

About 400 members of the Eastern Hadza tribe (also known as the Tindiga or Kindiga) live in Tanzania today, the only hunter-gatherers who reamain in Africa. It was a mere 12,000 years ago that our ancestors domesticated plants and animals. Until then, hunter-gatherers dominated Africa as they did the rest of the world. Since human beings first appeared in the form of homo habilis two million years ago, according to anthropologist Richard B. Lee, we have been hunter-gatherers for 99 percent of the time. To look at it another way, of the eighty billion people who have walked the earth, 90 percent of them have been hunter-gatherers.

The Hadza hunt game, gather edible plants and honey, and move from place to place whenever the weather changes, or the wild herds migrate, or they just feel like moving. In small groups of about eighteen adults and their children, they pitch camps among the rocks and trees of the dry savanna where they live on 1,000 square miles near Lake Eyasi, a salt lake in northern Tanzania. Every two weeks or so, they move to a new campsite.

At the Pinchoffs' campsite, three Hadza men stopped by to visit and ended up staying three days. Barbara described their first interaction. One of the guides gave the men a cigarette. They took out the tobacco, put it in a pipe, and lit the pipe with fire they started by twirling a wooden firedrill.

It takes less than two hours for Hadza women to build a new camp. They make huts by bending and weaving branches into round structures about six feet high, then covering them with thick clumps of long, golden grass. Or, if the weather is very wet, the women may skip the hut building and choose a dry cave to set up a camp that includes a hearth, cooking vessels, sleeping mats made of animal skins, and tools for sharpening stones and scraping skins. Some rock caves have been used intermittently over thousands of years and are decorated with ancient rock paintings.

Whether they sleep in huts, caves or in the open, the Hadza cover themselves only with thin cloths and rely on fire to keep them warm. It takes them less than 30 seconds to start a fire by rotating wooden firedrills between their palms and creating friction in a hollowed-out scrap of soft wood.

A couple of days later, the Hadza men were sitting at camp when one suddenly called for silence. "He told our guide that he had heard the bird they follow to honey," Barbara said. "The three of them ran up a hill, and a few minutes later we saw smoke. One of them ran down to borrow a big, metal basin from our cook. A while later, they brought it down full of honey and comb. They had wood in their hair, they had been stung in several places, and they were laughing away. Our guide later told us they make money selling honey, but they seemed very happy to share it with us, with no thought of saving it for cash."

The Hadza steadfastly refuse to be "settled" into villages or to adopt the life of sedentary farmers. For seventy years they have resisted efforts by the English colonial government, and later the Tanzanian government, to limit their living space or make them grow crops. From time to time, substantial amounts of money have been spent to move the Hadza into government-built housing and teach them to grow cotton. The Hadza may stay for a short time, while free food is available, but then they return to the bush. The largest resettlement occurred in 1964, when the government of Tanzania provided brick houses, piped water, schools, and a medical clinic, but many of the Hadza got sick or died because of the monotonous diet and the boring lifestyle. By 1979, almost all of them had returned to their old, nomadic ways. The Hadza may be the only tribe in Africa that has never paid taxes.

James Woodburn, an English social anthropologist, studied the 400 Eastern Hadza people intensively from 1958 to 1960 and revisited them frequently in later years. The following information is derived from his numerous published articles.

Extract ID: 3114

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Millett, Katherine The Meru People
Extract Author: Katherine Millett
Extract Date: 14 June 2001

The Meru People

"2001 by Katherine Millett and Thomson Safaris, Inc.

A quiet revolution

In villages on the slopes of Mt. Meru, a quiet revolution is taking place: women are starting cottage industries to make and sell goods; groups of families are buying technology for all to use; children are going to school. The Wameru have forged bonds with the larger world that might surprise the English colonial officer who visited them in 1936 and observed only that they lived on "meat, milk, bananas, maize" and "do not migrate much to the coast."

The Meru people, known as the "Wameru" in Bantu, settled around the base of Mt. Meru in the 17th century. So did the Warusha, for whom East Africa's Arusha District is named. Today, members of these two ethnic groups still live in small villages at the western edge of Arusha National Park. Traditionally, the Wameru have been farmers, and the Warusha, like their Maasai relatives, have herded cattle.

Mama Anna's farm

When Laura Hoenig of Connecticut visited the Wameru in 2001, she spent a day in a small village and sampled cheese and butter made at Mama Anna's farm. ("Mama" is an honorific like "Mrs." and does not necessarily signify motherhood.) The farm serves as headquarters for the Usangi Women's Group. Its members, entrepreneurial women who see their future in education and economic self-help, welcome visitors to their farms and the banks of the Marisha River, where colorful birds and mischievous monkeys play.

"They were very hospitable," Hoenig said. "They took great pride in the farm and the lunch they cooked for us, and they seemed genuinely interested in having visitors." When Hoenig and her group from Thomson Safaris arrived at the farm, they found women grinding coffee beans or grain in large, wooden mortars, using pestles the size of broomsticks. After the Meru women had served a lunch of rice and vegetables, a man who may have been Mama Anna's husband took their guests to see the farm's residential buildings. These were simple brick or wood-frame structures with one or two rooms and tin roofs. Around the houses, cows, goats and chickens lived in barns and pens.

Foreign aid

Many Meru people are taking advantage of foreign aid projects like low-interest loans to help them start businesses. The assistance they receive helps them acquire and care for a cow, or buy flour and yeast to make the first few batches of bread, or get a sewing machine and thread. Assistance is also available for skill training and the marketing and transportation of finished goods.

As a point person for assistance programs, Mama Anna seems to occupy an important place in the community. She teaches other women to make cheese and butter. She participates in the Heifer Project, an international program that gives young cows to farmers with the understanding that they will give the cow's offspring to their neighbors. Some of the women who now milk and breed heifers they received from Mama Anna also congregate at her farm to enjoy each other's company while they separate the milk for cheese, churn butter, gossip and sing.

At one edge of Mamma Anna's farm, Mrs. Hoenig noticed a tank that is used to covert farmyard dung to methane gas. The fermentation process is so easy and inexpensive that biogas tanks are becoming increasingly popular in farming areas around Tanzania. The Wameru use the gas for cooking.

Unusual customs

Unusual customs govern the naming of Meru babies. Writing about her own name, the Meru-American woman Ireri Mukami explained that the first boy born in a Meru family is named for the husband's father, the first girl for his mother. The second boy is named for the mother's father, the second girl for her mother, and so on, moving to the parents' brothers and sisters as sources of names. So Mukami was named Washuka after her grandmother, but she could not be called by her real name. It would be disrespectful, according to custom, to use a living woman's name for her namesake. The younger Washuka, therefore, was given the nickname "Mukami" because it means "one who milks cows," and milking was something her grandmother liked to do.

Like the "real" names of the Wameru, which are kept secret, the traditions of Meru culture may remain hidden from outsiders, beyond the reach of German and then English colonizers, beyond missionaries of the Evangelical Lutheran church, and beyond modern government administrators. The Wameru cheerfully welcome visitors to their homes, nevertheless, to appreciate their way of life and call them by their nicknames.

Extract ID: 3167

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nTZ Feedback
Extract Author: J. Urio
Page Number: 2009 02 13
Extract Date: 13-Feb-2009

The Meru People

With reference to the 14th of June 2001 article on The Meru People by Katherine Millett and Thomson Safaris, Inc., especially the following statement:

" "Like the 'real' names of the Wameru, which are kept secret, the traditions of Meru culture may remain hidden from outsiders, beyond the reach of German and then English colonizers, beyond missionaries of the Evangelical Lutheran church, and beyond modern government administrators. The Wameru cheerfully welcome visitors to their homes, nevertheless, to appreciate their way of life and call them by their nicknames."

are the authors talking about the 'Meru People' of Tanzania or about the 'Meru People' of Kenya (I guess the latter but using the context of the former). While the naming of babies is as described in the article, there are no hidden and real names in the 'Meru People' of Tanzania (Varwa). Instead, they are always open and proud of their multiple names (each with its meaning in that society; even new comers to that society are assigned similar names). Also, there are no such names as 'Washuka' or 'Mukami' in that society.

Great website


Extract ID: 5965