The Chagga of Kilimanjaro

The Chagga of Kilimanjaro

The Chagga of Kilimanjaro : The Chagga people live on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro which is the highest mountain in Africa and is located in the northern part of Tanzania.

They are also known as the waschagga and they are part of the Bantu ethnic group. The language of the Chagga people is known as Kichagga and they also speak Swahili and live in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania.

The Chagga live on the southern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in the bushland zone. They grow coffee, banana, maize among other crops and are known to practice agriculture. The homesteads of the Chagga are also found close to the banana groves.

In the town of Moshi which is found at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Chagga people can be encountered. The Chagga are among the largest ethnic groups of Tanzania and tourists who hike Mount Kilimanjaro can interact with them and get to know about their culture and way of life.

Machame village is also found at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Chagga are part of the community which lives in this village. The experience of interacting with the Chagga involves visiting the traditional homes and learning about the gardens and plantations, tasting the local foods of the Chagga, listening to the traditional stories of the Chagga told by the elders and local guides.

The Chagga village experience also involves visiting the local village and the surrounding environment. Tourism has benefited many of the Chagga people who earn income through tourism.

Information about the Chagga

Origin of the Chagga shows that they came from the north eastern direction and settled on Mount Kilimanjaro. The Chagga belong to different clans and the clans are headed by chiefs also referred to as “mangis.”

With time people from the different clans started moving and settling in other parts of the mountain. Some of the practices of the Chagga people include kihamba where land is passed on from one generation to another in a family.

Chagga traditional dance

The traditional dance of the Chagga involves a dance following the rhythm of songs sung by performers.

During the dance, the dancers move in a circle following the beat of the drums. The dancers also have small bells on their ankles. Some of the instruments used by the Chagga include wooden flutes, bells and also drums which are sometimes carried by the dancers during the performance. The drums which are held by the dancers are long.

Clapping is also part of the traditional dance of the Chagga and the performance also involves some of the dancers blowing horns. The dancers sometimes also tie banana fibers around their waists.

The male dancers during the traditional dances of the Chagga also wear a head gear which consists of fur. The drums are known as “mtingo” and the horns used during the dance are referred to as pembe.

Stories and songs have been used by the Chagga people as a way to record their history and also educate the youth about their culture and traditions.

Arts and crafts of the Chagga

Some of the traditional arts and crafts of the Chagga are made using wood and other items are also made using iron and they include spears, ornaments, bells, hoes and many others.

Baskets are also among the crafts made by the Chagga people. These items can be sold to tourists during their community tours around the Chagga village hence earning income to the local community.

Beliefs and traditional ceremonies of the Chagga

Among the Chagga, different roles in the community are distributed depending on the gender such as women taking care of the homestead while the men take care of the farm.

Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro

The Chagga believe in a god known as “Ruwa” which is also a word that means sun. After the introduction of Christianity, the Chagga converted to being Catholics and Anglicans. There are also Muslims among the Chagga.

The Chagga also have a ceremony known as “Ngasi” which is a rite of passage of boys to adulthood. The ceremony takes place in the forest and during the ceremony the boys undergo different tests such as hunting, climbing a tree by the river bank to cross to the other side.

Marriage among the Chagga

Among the Chagga after the “Ngasi” ceremony which is an initiation ceremony, the boys are allowed to marry.

Parents arrange marriages among the Chagga and for courtship it involves sharing of gifts and the first gift was usually a necklace. After gift exchange and visiting of all her relatives, a girl would be isolated for 3 months doing no work and being fed well and after dowry has been paid, the girl would be taken to her husband’s house.

Traditional food of the Chagga

The Chagga are generally agriculturalists and are known to grow crops like coffee, bananas, maize, millet, among other crops on terraced fields. Coffee is a major cash crop which is grown by the Chagga people.

There is a variety of foods which the Chagga people prepare and they include bananas which can also be used to prepare beer. Other foods of the Chagga include millet; maize, beans, cassava and the Chagga also keep animals such as cattle, goats and sheep.

Some of the local foods of the Chagga include machalari (banana and beef stew), kiburu (banana and beans dish), kitawa which is made by mothers or mothers in law for the young mothers and is a dish that consists of bananas and sour milk. The Kitawa dish helps in increasing breast milk and is therefore good for breast feeding mothers.

Other local foods of the Chagga of Kilimanjaro include mtori (banana and meat stew), mlaso (for mothers with new borns), ngararimo, kisusio, kimamtine, kiumbo and many other dishes. Tasting of these local foods is another way to experience the culture of the Chagga and the village tour also involves learning how to prepare and serve these dishes the traditional way.

Clothing of the Chagga

A unique factor about any culture is their way of dressing and for the Chagga, the traditional form of dressing is attire that is made from cow hide and also beads.

The Chagga also wear kangas or kitenges which can also be worn over a dress. Kitenges are also used to carry babies.

For tourists visiting the Chagga community, decent dressing is recommended and they are discouraged from wearing shorts in public.

Enjoy a cultural visit and interact with the Chagga during your hiking experience to Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania.

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