Introduction / History
The Zaramo are a Bantu tribe who live in the coastal plains and low hills surrounding Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's capital. Many Zaramo also speak Swahili, the language of trade and communication for much of East Africa.
Before the eighteenth century, the Zaramo lived farther inland, and have only moved into the area around Dar es Salaam in the last 200 years. They could have become a powerful tribe in the region, but because of internal fighting, they have prevented themselves from gaining any real influence.
During the late nineteenth century, the Zaramo became prominent traders, dealing in ivory, salt, fish, and rhinoceros hides. They were also highly involved in the slave trade and would hunt slaves from other tribes.
What are their lives like?
Although a few Zaramo live in cities such as Dar es Salaam and follow modern professions and lifestyles, most continue to live in the countryside and earn a living as farmers. They raise cash crops that include mangoes, oranges, and coconuts, as well as cashews and rice. Rice is usually sold in the cities. Other plants cultivated include tobacco, corn, beans, sweet potatoes, pineapples, sugarcane, limes, and cucumbers. The Zaramo also raise livestock, with goats, sheep, and chickens being the most important.
In rural areas, the Zaramo live in rectangular houses made of a framework of poles tied into place and plastered over with mud. The roofs are thatched with grass or reeds, or woven from coconut palm fronds. More prosperous Zaramo have homes with concrete floors, plastered walls, and corrugated iron roofs. Their villages are small, and vast spaces are completely uninhabited due to a scarcity of water.
A unique characteristic of the Zaramo is the fact that their society is matrilineal. This means that the line of descent is traced through the females. Family names are passed down through the women. Their society is divided up into clans, or groups of Zaramo who acknowledge common descent. The children always belong to the clan of their mother rather than their father.
Zaramo marriages are usually polygamous (one man having several wives) and divorce is frequent among them. The birth of a child is a great event for the family and clan, especially if the child is a girl, since the birth of a girl ensures the passing on of the family name.
What are their beliefs?
Today, the Zaramo are predominantly Muslim. Although they adhere to the teachings of the Koran and observe basic Islamic practices, many have mingled their Islamic beliefs with their traditional ethnic religion. Islam has only gained a foothold among them in the last 100 years.
Traditional Zaramo religion contained many folk beliefs. Formerly, the people made pilgrimages to a cave to honor a spirit called Kolelo. There, they made a sacrifice to Kolelo, preferable a black goat. After harvesting their crops, they performed a ceremony to purify the harvest. They believed that if a person refused to make this sacrifice, he would become ill.
Other Zaramo beliefs include the idea that the rustling of leaves or a gust of wind meant that a spirit was passing by. They also believed that an eclipse of the moon was considered to be a war between the sun and the moon. The Zaramo greatly fear poison and witchcraft, which they hold to be the causes of nearly all deaths.
What are their needs?
The Zaramo follow folk beliefs as well as the Islamic religion. The New Testament is available in their language. Prayer and intercession are needed to break the strongholds that are keeping them bound. The Zaramo need laborers who are willing to go and work among them.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Tanzania to share Christ with the Zaramo.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Zaramo.
* Pray that God will give the Zaramo believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a vigorous Zaramo church for the glory of His name!
* Pray that Christian radio broadcasts and the Jesus film will be made available to the Zaramo.