In recognition of Africa Day this year, Africa Unite hosted an event on 29 May 2013 celebrating East African culture, specifically Tanzanian culture. This event was organized in conjunction with the Swahili lessons that are provided twice a week at AU’s Gugulethu Sport Complex. 37 individuals attended the event including students of the Swahili class, friends of Africa Unite, and members of the community. The event focused on traditional Tanzanian food, dress, and customs and raised general awareness of the growing Swahili community within South Africa.
After quickly introducing Africa Unite, the event started with an explanation of the importance of the Swahili lessons. The instructor of the lessons, Eddy, explained that vast majority of immigrants in South Africa are Swahili speaking, and that they language is one of the fastest growing on the continent. Beyond the usefulness of Swahili, Eddy spoke of the need to eradicate ignorance by increasing the understanding of diverse languages and cultures in our communities. Only through this, he said, will we achieve deep social cohesion.
The floor was then given to the main speaker, Mansura Africa, who shared a glimpse into Tanzanian culture. She explained the diversity of the nation’s culture that she experienced growing up in Tanzania, as her mother and father were from very different regions. Additionally, she explained the various global influences on Tanzania culture and tradition, including Indian and Arab influences. She spoke of traditions regarding funeral and marriage practices, as well as the role of families and children in society. Overall, Mansura described Tanzanian culture as vibrant and highly diverse, and the country itself as culturally and geographically beautiful.
She also spoke about the traditional dress that she, and several other Tanzanian women in attendance, wore on that day. She explained that most women wear Khangas, colorful, usually printed clothes worn around the head and waist. She continued by saying that regardless of hot weather, shorts or short skirts are not typically worn by women. As a Muslim, she ordinarily wears a long black dress under her Khanga.
After speaking, Mansura took questions from the audience. Among other things, many seemed interested in the religious culture in Tanzania. Mansura explained that the majority of Tanzanians, about 75%, are Muslims, but there are many Christians as well. She elaborated that despite different very different religious customs, Muslims and Christians share in a similar Tanzanian culture.
Mansura and several other women prepared traditional Tanzanian dishes to share with those in attendance. Before the food was served, she taught everyone about the food they were about to eat. She explained that many dishes make use of local fruits and vegetables such as green bananas, sweet potatoes, and cassava leaves, and that much of their food is influenced by Indian and Arab cuisine. Further, she explained that coconut milk is an important ingredient in many dishes and is used for cooking in place of oils.
All the food was delicious, and Mansura’s presentation of Tanzanian culture was very interesting. The event raised awareness of the cultural background of a neighboring country, and moreover celebrated diversity. It is Africa Unite’s hope that the recognition and celebration of different cultures will promote unity and cohesion within South Africa’s diverse communities.
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