Dancing is a vital part of Sukuma life

The Sukuma are a Bantu ethnic group inhabiting the southeastern African Great Lakes region. They are the largest ethnic group in Tanzania, with an estimated 8.9 million members or 16 percent of the country’s total population. Sukuma means “north” and refers to “people of the north.” The Sukuma refer to themselves as Basukuma (plural) and Nsukuma (singular). They speak Sukuma, which belongs to the Bantu branch of the Niger-Congo family.
Dancing is a vital part of Sukuma life. The Sukuma are famous throughout Tanzania for their innovative dancing styles. Dancers continue to perform and compete in annual competitions, creating new costumes and using new and old dances just as their ancestors did over a hundred years ago. Some suggest that many of the current Sukuma dances started through cooperative farming groups who traveled from farm to farm. Members assisted one another to till their own farms and also worked as a group in exchange for money. To help pass the long day and to maintain their energy, the workers composed songs and lifted their hoes to the rhythm of singing and drumming. Such cooperative groups still exist; yet, Sukuma dancing is not limited to farm work.

The Sukuma live in northwestern Tanzania on or near the southern shores of Lake Victoria, and various areas administrative districts of the Mwanza, southwestern tip of Mara Region, Simiyu Region and Shinyanga Region. The northern area of their residence is in the famous Serengeti Plain. Sukuma families have migrated southward, into the Rukwa Region and Katavi Region, encroaching on the territory of the Pimbwe. These Sukuma have settled outside Pimbwe villages.

The Sukumaland is mostly a flat scrubless savannah plain between 910 and 1,220 metres (3,000 and 4,000 ft) elevation. Twenty to forty inches (51 to 102 cm) of rain fall from November to March. High temperatures range from 26 to 32 °C (79 to 90 °F) while lows at night seldom drop below 15 °C (59 °F). Population is very spread out among small farm plots and sparse vegetation.

The Sukuma believe in spirit possession and have a holistic lens of viewing the world as interconnected with all living things, natural and supernatural


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