Africa Direct
Africa Direct


Location: East Central Tanzania
Population: Estimated 50,000

Arts: The arts of Tanzania as a whole are poorly understood, and styles tend to overlap to a great degree. Additionally, the "crude," though appealing, carving methods used on much of Tanzanian works make identification a challenge. The Kwere craft doll-like statuettes called "Mwana Hiti" which are thought to have originated with the Zaramo. They are used as amulets for protection and fertility, and the Mwana Hiti image can be found on a wide variety of objects, from staffs to fly whisks. A variety of interesting artworks have been attributed to the Kwere, but unlike carvings from well-studied areas, there is almost always a question of an exact attribution. Of all the groups in Tanzania, only the widely-scattered Makonde have established a following among collectors and scholars sufficient to produce a documentable style.

History: The Kwere migrated into their present homelands around 1000 years ago from the south, in what is today Mozambique. They mingled with their new Bantu neighbors and also with Muslims who had lived in Tanzania for several hundred years. They absorbed much from those around them, as have a majority of other peoples in this part of Africa. This situation helps explain why there is so much overlap in Tanzania arts, as it was only as a result of the colonial boundries established by the British in the 19th century that the constant social intermixing between cultures diminished.

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