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Destination: Tanzania (part 7)

March 25, 2010

The fiercely delicate arrow heads Hadza hunters use to kill iguana, baboon, bird and kudu are made by Datoga craftsmen that share their Lake Eyasi scrub-land. Different prey require different arrow head profiles (some additionally laced with posion) and our departure from the bush meant we were on to visiting a Datoga family. In contrast to the haphazard temporary shelters of the Hadza,  Datogas build neatly planned mini-homesteads in rural village-type clusters. The homestead we visited contains a cooking and sleeping shelter separate from a foundry area, all surrounded by a treebranch fence woven to create a densely thicketed edge. Like the Masaai, this tree circle serves as a night stable when the animals are in from grazing. We were greeted happily and with gusto – yes, because we would surely be good shoppers and maybe big spenders, but it seemed also becuase they genuinely enjoyed showcasing their knowledge and skills, if not their talent. It was during the hour or so with them that I realized how our interaction could ever approach a meeting on equal footing. In their homestead we weren’t rich westerners ogling poor men and women, but rather a group of people who didn’t know how to hunt, raise animals, make dried corn edible or even how to make a fire and keep it burning hotly. My personal stupidity about how to live hit me and I saw the beauty and possibility of the homestead with sharper, more willing eyes.

Upwards of 20 people populated the homestead on this day and at least half of them would play parts in my vivid memories. Among those memories: learning to grind corn, taking photos and showing them to a grandmother and her grandchildren, and gifting my sunglasses to a young woman who wanted to wear them in the portrait I took of her.

Eventually we were led to the foundry area and watched incredulously as two teens worked a hammer and bellows to create metal jewelry and arrow heads from unlikely sources of scrap metal. Copper, brass and silver colored bangles, cuffs and rings perched and dangled on display and for sale, created by working discarded radiators, padlocks and cooking pans, respectively. The highly adorned Datoga women went to work deftly placing cuff after cuff on all our wrists, paying careful attention to variety and color combinations until we couldn’t resist asking how much? The elder male was a jovial king of his castle and brought in to count the money but notably content to hand it back to the saleswoman who earned it.

This sweet, genuine encounter signaled the end of our time on safari. Today I can still remember the great welling of emotion I felt for days after meeting the Hadza and Datoga groups who shared their ways of life with us.

Next time:  Zanzibar

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 25, 2010 9:13 pm

    Great Work!! Awesome Photos!

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