2011 Fall Africa Esther Needham External Programs Tanzania


Bagamoyo is a really interesting town. Its nestled right on the coast and was the site of many slave markets and trading before slaves would be taken to Zanzibar to more markets or shipped overseas. We had a tour guide for the two days we were there, Mr. Smart. He took us around to a small museum and then to the dilapidated old “Slave-House” which used to be the site of a large slave market, holding cells, and administrative offices. We climbed the crumbling and winding stairs all the way up to the very top floor of the house, it was hot and attic like with small windows overlooking the sea. As we mounted the top stairs, someone let out a shriek and much to everyone’s surprise, it was for good reason. There was a small owl trapped in the room because of a hurt wing and he was scuffling around on the floor. It was quite the excitement although sad, I’m not sure what the fate of a broken-winged African owl may be.

My favorite thing in Bagamoyo, besides the beautiful landscape and beaches, was an arts university that we visited. The College of Arts in Bagamoyo teaches traditional forms of Tanzanian art, painting, sculpture, drums, theater, and dancing. They had a professor teach our whole group how to do a group dance and then treated us to an awesome performance by some of their own. It was really incredible, their dance team was very talented, doing a sort of stomp, chant, dance combination, I think it would be really popular in the US.

It was really nice to see an arts university in Africa, I feel like most people here that I meet are pursuing degrees in business or health in order to acquire a good job, understandably. Most art and craft-work I encounter is done by women who use it as their primary source of income and attempt to sell to tourists on the streets or to the stalls in the crafts markets. Much of the work, beading, carving, painting, etc is done in the same style, little creativity or diversity between artists, which can be frustrating for someone who really appreciates art as I usually do. But the university seemed to foster the students’ individuality and imagination. The school even does outreach work to the surrounding villages, attempting to solve some of the community problems through theatrical expression. I would love to learn more about the programs they do, the short explanation of their innovative approach we received really piqued my interest.

Those last two days we spent in Bagamoyo were the calm and quiet I think everyone in our group needed after the hectic experience in Dar and the drive down. The hotel we stayed in this time was up to standards, not glamorous by any stretch, but it was actually right on the beach which can make anything better. We spent a night lying on blankets on the shore looking for shooting stars while some of the boys climbed the trees, retrieving coconuts and competing to crack them open. The morning we left a handful of us woke up around 4:30 to watch the sunrise. It was cloudy and overcast at first so the colors were muted but as the sun came up it burned away some of the moisture and a few patches of radiant pinks, oranges, and yellows peeked through. The fishermen were all starting out for the day and numerous small African style fishing boats dotted the horizon creating one of the most picturesque sights I’ve seen in my time here so far. The drive home was not nearly as bad, no rain, we managed to organize our bodies and belongings better to have a little more space and spirits were high after a great breakfast and relaxing few days. Back to classes!

The beach right by our hotel with lots of fishing boats

watching the sunrise 🙂
Sunrise over the Indian Ocean
On the Road Home to Arusha

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