Meet Hadzabe tribe and Datoga tribe at Lake Eyasi, Tanzania!

We didn’t expect that two of our most exciting encounters with local people will happen in the area of Lake Eyasi in Tanzania. Two communities of African tribes that we seem to find somewhere back in time. They live with their traditions and customs since hundreds of years ago and have acquired minimal to nothing from the “modern” and “civilized” world. We present to you the Hadzabe tribe and the Datoga tribe! Any Tanzania itinerary should include this off-the-beaten-path activity!

Tribes in Tanzania, Hadzabe tribe, Datoga tribe, local communities in lake Eyasi

We’ve been driving for two hours on dirt roads with the destination Lake Eyasi. We pass arable land, many crops with onions. We pass a few houses from what looks like a ghost village (it’s 10 o’clock in the morning and it is already quite hot). Several people are lying down in the shade of the trees. We reach a small hut and a sign for the Lake Eyasi Community with Lake Eyasi Health Center and Girls Vocational Training Center programs. Rasuli comes out of the hut, he will be our guide and translator when visiting the tribes. Together, we ride the safari jeep and our driver Charles tries to navigate through even bumpier dirt and non-existent roads.

Tribes in Tanzania, Hadzabe tribe, Datoga tribe, local communities in lake Eyasi

The Hadzabe tribe

We are very excited because we are walking through the bush and looking to see representatives of the Hadzabe community (also called Hadza). What impresses us the most is that they don’t know when to expect visitors so when you get there you encounter their normal daily activities. Our guide, Rasuli, gives them a sign with two quick claps as we approach their huts. In response, we instantly hear two claps back, which means they already know they have guests and are ready to meet us.

A group of women is sitting in the shade, two of them just rolling cigarettes. The Hadzabe people smoke tobacco and marijuana, which they obtain by exchanging products with the other tribes around. One lady tells Rasuli that she had a dream of how he will come today. She tells him to share with us that she is the witch-healer of the village.

The Hadzabe are called Bushmen because they live in the bush and the forest. Their occupation is hunting and gathering fruits and roots – to feed themselves. They are identified as hunters and gatherers. They don’t breed animals (except for dogs), they don’t cultivate plants. 80% of their food is fruits and honey and 20% is meat.

Their language is specific because of the clicking consonants – we barely even managed to say “hello”. The communication is accomplished thanks to Rasuli, who lived with them as a kid and learned the language. Hadzabe tribe people try to live the way they always lived and don’t use modern communications. The government is trying to support them by sending clothes for children and women and food for the days when hunting and gathering are unsuccessful.

About 15-20 people live in the community we visit today. Half of them are out hunting so we can’t meet them. We accompany two women to dig roots with pointed sticks. There are two young boys who are able to hunt a small bird with an arrow. The catch is cooked on fire literally for a few minutes. The ladies taste the tubers found in the ground, we try them too – juicy, sweet, and soil-flavored. A great source of water. Otherwise, one of the children’s tasks is to fetch drinking water.

We start a fire (we try to and get some help to do that) and watch how they make arrows and how they bake a pigeon. The boys give some of it to the puppies which are trained to be hunting dogs. We try to hit а target with a hand-made arrow and bow. We have superb young archers to set the example, but we will need more practice.

It is not natural for the Hadzabe people to send their children to school. There are governmental attempts to send youngsters to schools in nearby towns and villages – but for now with no success. Many children fail to get used to the environment and run away from school. If they have stayed for a little longer, they may not be able to find their family and community at the place they left them. The Hadzabes often change the place where they live – especially if the food in the area is not sufficient.

The main help they receive from the state is clothes and medicines. It gets cold at night and it is especially dangerous for women and children – they get sick, often with pneumonia. Malaria is another serious problem- they treat it with medicines they get from nature, but sometimes they aren’t successful. When we met the Hadzabe tribe, we heard several of them coughing deeply.

We go back to the “residential” area, where now they arranged various hand-made souvenirs and items for sale. We choose a wooden spoon. We leave little money as a donation – the “civilized” people taught them how to recognize money by banknotes’ different colors. They use them for provisions or clothes for women and children. There is no concept of numbers or age in their culture. Which might be a good thing, actually.

The Datoga tribe

The Datoga tribe – another incredible encounter that will take place near Lake Eyasi in Tanzania. We ride the jeep again and stop in front of a house.

Their construction is somewhat more stable than the one of the Hadzabe tribe, houses are made of mud, twigs, adobe, and useful plants such as aloe are grown on the roof. This does not mean that they don’t move – they rarely spend more than 7-8 years in one place. Inside the house is dark and cool, fire is burning – something is boiling.

Datoga people cultivate grain, love many different kinds of beans, grind corn with stone. With the flour, they make a delicious polenta, recognized even by the neighboring Hadzabe families. In general, they are not looking for food in nature but they rather grow it. They trade (exchange) with Hadzabes grain for wild honey and fruit. I’m trying to grind corn flour, but I need a little more technique to do without big losses. Squatting next to me, a woman sorts different kinds of beans.

Datoga tribe is occupied with casting iron and producing anything from bracelets to hunting arrows. They speak a completely different language (not a clicking one), but they manage to get along with the other tribes around.

The translator Rasuli helps us talk a little more with a few women in the family. Our small talk turns into a very interesting discussion about happiness, dreams, and lifestyle. The ladies claim to be happy to live according to their tribe’s traditions. However, they know that our lives are quite different and perhaps better. They ask how much time they need to walk to our village. Airplanes are a strange concept for them. In the end, we manage to score a deal and sell Nace as a son-in-law for 25 cows. But the negotiations will continue at our next meeting because we are sure there will be one.

In the tribe, polygamy is allowed, and usually, a man marries several women. Nace is still not ready to stay in the tribe, to train for a blacksmith, and to have a simpler way of life. Even when you have in mind 25 cows would have an excellent impact on our family budget. Near the fire in a small yard, there is iron which is turned into arrows, bracelets, other appliances, and jewelry. Nace is trying to blow the hot iron with something that resembles a double bagpipe bag.

I like a copper-colored bracelet that is on the hand of the saleswoman. The profits here will be shared among all members of the family. This means we do not have to leave them a “donation”, we can just buy something. The copper bracelet is carefully wiped with sandpaper and is ready to come to my hand.

Tribes and communities of Tanzania

Words and pictures are not enough to describe the emotions that appeared in us with the get-together with the Hadza tribe and the Datoga tribe. Rasuli tried to teach us a few words from their languages, but we still need a lot of practice. In order to keep the little we learned, we asked him to briefly summarize the basic words so we can get better in communication when we return to Lake Eyasi someday. Those clicking languages are not a joke. Here’s a crash course in Hadzabe and Datoga languages.

Tribes in Tanzania, Hadzabe tribe, Datoga tribe, local communities in lake Eyasi
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