Blessing the year: a Wasi/Rangi

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This paper gives a description of the blessing of the year, witnessed on 1st December, 1953, at Kolo, where the Chief of Irangi's headquarters is situated, seventeen miles north of the District Headquarters at Kondoa. This chiefdom consists of 104,748 inhabitants of whom 81 per cent belong to the Rangi tribe of Bantu origin, and 11 per cent to the Alawa or Wasi, a splinter off the Iraqw, possibly a Hamitic group but certainly non-Bantu, mostly living in the Mbulu District. For the purpose of identification, it is necessary to record the venue of the ceremony as being in the area of Headman Ramazani Mkwata under Sub¬chief Hamisi Mresa of Kolo, who is, in turn, under Chief Heri Salim of Irangi. It must not be taken as derogatory of this functioning political hierarchy when it is explained that the whole system is non-indigenous. In pre-Coionial times both Rangi and Wasi political systems were segmentary, each local community, under its own leader, Hapaloitno (Wasi) or Mwenesi (Rangi), being an independent unit. It is the ceremony of one such area, Dirava, which is described below. The Dirava area is one of three such indigenous units in Headman Ramazani’s country, the total tax paying population of which is just under 600. This area was originally Wasi, but has been subject to heavy infiltration of Rangi from the “cradle" area of the latter tribe, Haubi, situated a few miles to the south-east. The present ethnic composition of the area is about two Rangi to one Wasi. Though mission work (mainly Roman Catholic) goes on in other parts of the .chiefdom, in Dirava there is not a single Christian. The majority (82 per cent) are Islam and the small proportion of pagans are to be found in the older generation. By virtue of precedence of arrival, the “ownership" of the country rests in the Wasi, in the person of Ndarera Lali, of the Ivara clan. This old gentleman, aged about seventy but looking older (Plate I), holds the office of hapoloimo. In point of fact, apart from gracing it with his presence, the substantive head took little active part in the ceremony which was conducted in the main by his younger brother, aged c.62. The degree to which the Wasi and Rangi jointly participated could not be ascertained by actual count at the ceremony (this would have been injudicious) but I was assured that both groups were participating. Confirmation of this was forthcoming from the Rangi sub-headman of the area, who could recall the names of those called on to contribute the sacrificial lamb over the last thirteen years. These consisted of nine Wasi, three Rangi (including the sub-headman himself) and one Burungi, figures not disproportionate to the ethnic composition of the group. Some final preliminary details before proceeding with the actual description of the ceremony concern the composition of the participating group by age and sex, their dress, and general demeanour. Except two small girls, aged between nine and ten, no females were present at the ceremony. The males comprised three groups, the elders, the men, and the boys. These are not merely descriptive, but precise terms, the elders consisting only of grandfathers, the “men” being adult tribesmen from initiation upwards, but excluding grandfathers, and the “boys”, the uninitiated. The groups kept themselves apart during the ceremony, as each had a different part to play. The elders numbered twenty-five, the men more than forty, and the boys two (plus two or three youthful hangers-on) who sat apart with the two girls.
Available in print form, EAF Collection, Dr. Wilbert Chagula Library (EAF FOS F78.B4)
Rangi ceremony, Wasi, Memorial Museum, Kondoa
Fosbrooke, Henry A. (1958) Blessing the year: a Wasi/Rangi