Thursday, 6/5. Iraqw village.
Unlike most safari operators, Maasai Wanderings balances wild-game watching with opportunities to visit local villages and learn about indigenous cultures. The Iraqw, known as Mbulu in Swahili, are farmers. Our guide, Paulo Salle, is a handsome, graceful man who walks us through the “village” – village in this case meaning the broad, hilly expanse that is Iraqw territory. Huts, schools, a Pentecostal church (the tribe is largely Christian) and a canyon where, Paulo says, men hide when they’ve done “mystic.” (He means mischief).
Our tour reminds me of an ethnographic newsreel from the ‘50s or ‘60s: we stop at a brick-making factory, go inside a dark, low-roofed hut with a dirt floor where Tanya is asked to grind corn and pose for pictures. Outside the hut we take turns grinding maize. We end at Paulo’s home for cold drinks and musical entertainment. He plays a stringed instrument called a zeze and a neighbor, Cecilia, plays a drum called an ngoma.
We’re all asked to get up and dance, and the rhythm of the music is so strong that it’s easy to bust a move. I’ve been the shy and quiet one all week and everyone is surprised by my burst of energy and showmanship. Tanya, the one in our group who consistently connects with everyone we meet, shares a video on her camera with the village kids. It shows her singing with the children she taught at a poor rural school near Dar es Salaam. A group of shy young women hovers in a doorway, staring. We’re the neighborhood event.