Monday, December 10, 2012

Keratu and the Brickmakers . . .

On nearly the last day in Tanzania, we visited a brick-making business in the Iraqw community of Keratu. We were told these Cushitic people came from Ethiopia in the 14th Century, but academics debate exactly how long these people have been in Sub-Saharan Africa, perhaps as long as from 2,000 BC. I did find that the Cushitic language is part of a family of languages spoken in the Horn of Africa, Egypt, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan, and Egypt. So these people have deep roots in eastern Africa.

Our host Saita led us on a tour through the large open-air factory, held by some 70 families.

The brickmakers demonstrated how to pound the red clay soil into a powder that was then mixed with water, fired in large kilns, and sold at roughly 7 bricks for $1.00. These bricks can only be made during the dry season, for dry weather is needed to cure the bricks.

The young men worked hard with few tools; they were strong and very thin. Yet they greeted us with big smiles.

Our host invited us to his home, a short walk from the factory where we met his wife and children, were dressed in kangas, and treated to a lunch of rice and beans called macondi. This is the closest recipe I can find that matches this delicious beans and rice dish we shared, though this version is called Wali Maharage. If you are feeling adventurous, here are some additional recipes (and a little history) from Tanzania.

Saita made a speech, saying he could only share his home and his music with us. He brought out what I later learned was a lute, a two-stringed gourd with a kind of drum pulled over the top. The family then sang and danced for us; the music was lively, punctuated by calls, clicks, and whistles. We were thrilled to join the fun, for music is central to the Iraqw community.

My only regret is that I was not able to take as careful notes as I would have liked to remember this very full day. But I can say Naas, which means, "Thank you!" The music remains!

Saita plays his two-stringed gourd

Read more about the Iraqw people of Tanzania here! Many issues remain controversial for these traditional rural people struggling to retain their culture while adapting to modernism.

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