The role of crafts in the economy of Sumbawanga district the case of cotton weaving in the Rukwa valley 1870 – 1975 – 1975

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University of Dar es Salaam
Reports from European travelers the second half of the nine teeth century such as R. Burton, B. Livingstone, J. Thomson and the early missionaries spoke of cotton growing and weaving of cotton cloth in parts of the country. The craft declined with the coming into the country, especially in the last quarter of the nine teeth country, of imported cloth from the industrialized countries of EUROPE. It is curious that the craft of weaving survived in one area the Rukwa Valley and the skill of traditional weaving is still known to some individual there. The study investigates the organization of this traditional weaving in the Rukwa Valley, how it managed to survive during the colonial period, and the present revival of weaving. The study is beased on archival, oral and written sources. Archival material from the Tanzania National Archival (I.N.A) Early secretariat Files is too generalized to give precise information on the area of study which is only a Division of the present District of Sumbawanga. The Secretariat Files speak mainly on the situation of the whole province- Kigoma Prevince and the District – Ufipa District. Material from District Files was also used and this was very relevant to my study. Oral sources were very useful not only in describing the traditional weaving, but even in demonstrating to me how the spinning and weaving was done traditionally. I was Fortunate in that most of the surviving weavers are now living at one place. Mtowiso Ujamaa Village, where a revival of the weaving was started in 1966. The weavers came from various villages in the Rukwa Valley which formerly were engaged in weaving such as Zimba, Ukia, Takasangwe, Milapa, Kalumbaleza Ng’ongo and other villages of the valley. My informants were very helpful in telling me all they know about this craft as this was not something they feared would have any adverse effects on them in giving the needed information. It is different from when you are interviewing people about their cash crop earnings or cattle they own for they may have fears that the information they give will be used against them, perhaps in assessing their incomes taxes. On written sources, very little has been written on this area apart from the reports of the early European travelers and Administrators. A study of the fipa and neighbouring tribes was carried out by the Social Anthropologist R.G. Will is in his cook The Fipa and Related Peoples of South West Tanzania and North-East Zambia: London, 1966. He described the Political system of the Fipa their customs and culture and be mentions in passing only about the weaving in the Rukwa Valley. Thus most of my written sources were based on reports of early travelers who described at length the different activities of the people they mat including such activities as crafts.
Available in print form, EAF Collection, Dr. Wilbert Chagula Library, (THS EAF HD8039.W3L9)
Sumbawanga, Tanzania (district), Handicraft, Rukwa valley, Economic history, 1970-1975, Weavers, Tanganyika
Lyimo, P (1975) The role of crafts in the economy of Sumbawanga district the case of cotton weaving in the Rukwa valley 1870 – 1975 – 1975, Masters dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam