Category Archives: Cultural

The Culture of Tanzania

Several tourists who spend their vacations in Tanzania would like to know some elements about the culture of the country. As a country in the Eastern section of Africa, the culture is quite dissimilar to many countries around the region. The literature of Tanzania for example offered the world a number of distinctive writers. We remember Shaaban Robert, the famous poet and writer. This renowned poet was responsible to develop the prose style of the Swahili, the main language of Tanzania.

Another famous Tanzanian writer is Mohamed Said Abdullah. Originating from Zanzibar, Abdullah is famous for his detective stories like Graveyard of the Ancestors and he is also considered the founder of the Swahili literature. With a wide collection of creations, Abdullah is popular as well among tourists who travel to Tanzania as some of his works were translated to many languages.

The most renowned writers of contemporary Tanzanian literature include Abdallah Gurnah who was born in Zanzibar in 1946. His best works include Paradise, which takes place in East Africa after World War I. This novel was nominated to win the UK booker prize in 1994. This is another novelist that is famous among tourists who go on vacations in Tanzania.

Another significant aspect of the culture enjoyed by various travelers who enjoy their holidays in Tanzania is the traditional music and dances of the country. The most famous traditional dance of Tanzania, the Ngoma, is featured with its subtle rhythm and smooth tunes. This dance, among many others, forms expressions of thanks and praise.

The Marimbas, this metal percussion musical instrument, is among the most famous instruments of Tanzania. It is popular as well to find the Marimbas accompanying many traditional dances escorted by the drums that is a vital element in the dances and the music that amaze travelers who tour Tanzania.

The Maasai Tribe has some wonderful dances and music that make tourists who travel to Tanzania feel as if they have left the world behind their backs and harmonize in wonderful music and dances.

Another famous element of the Tanzanian culture would be the sculpture and wood carvings. Together with Mozambique, Tanzania is famous throughout the East African region for its wonderful carvings of various sorts and type especially wood. A lot of tourists who travel to Tanzania love to buy some wooden carved items from the country as valuable souvenirs to take back home.

The center of wood carved products in Tanzania today is this section of Dar El Salam, the capital of the country, which is called Makonde. Huge blocks of African black wood are made into magnificent fancy carved products to be sold to tourists from all the world that enjoy tours in Tanzania. The motifs of these wood carved products commonly include faces, various images, and simple natural scenes.

Painting comes in second place in the types of arts famous in Tanzania. The most famous traditional style of painting is surly the Tingatinga that is in fact derived from the famous painter, Edward Saidi Tingatinga who started his creations in 1960s. Popular among tourists who go on vacations in Tanzania, the Tingatinga is featured for its square shape, bright colors, dominating animal motifs, and the singular colored background.

Although there are many places around Tanzania to purchase Tingatinga paintings, among the best places to get them is the Tingatinga Center, situated near the famous Morogoro stores at the heart of Dar El Salam. Many interesting paintings are also sold in at several cultural centers in Dar El Salam as well. It is quite recommended for travelers who go on vacations to Tanzania to buy paintings and wood carved creations.

Introduction to Japanese Language and Culture – Part I

You might be reading this article because you already have a vast interest in Japanese culture. Perhaps you a fan of Japanese animation or comics. Or you could be an avid video game player with an affinity for Japanese games. Or perhaps you just stumbled here for another reason. Whatever your interest, it’s likely you have at one point or another wished you knew more about the Japanese language or their society.

Prehistory and Written Language

For starters, I should give you a quick background on the country behind the people. Japan, known as ‘Nihon’ or ‘Nippon’ by the Japanese people, is an island nation of the coast of East Asia. The actual meaning of its Japanese name is “sun-origin”, aptly named because its eastern location. The English name ‘Japan’ evolved from Marco Polo’s dubbing of ‘Cipangu’ likely stemming from the pronunciation of ‘Zeppen’ in the dialect of the then native Chinese he encountered.

The prehistoric people themselves probably moved from the Korean or Chinese mainland to what is now Japan somewhere between 100,000 and 30,000 BC. The Japanese people have the longest known recorded history, going back almost 2600 years! The lineage of their emperors supposedly traces back to the very first emperor, Jimmu. According to Shinto belief, he was the direct descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu. Japan has been historically isolated for most of its existence, only receiving its first verified visitor from China around 499 A.D.

In fact, Japan had no formal writing system until it borrowed from existing Chinese characters. Even modern Hiragana and Katakana are evolved, simplified forms of what was originally Chinese ‘hanji’. However, it should be noted that the actual spoken language evolved completely independent of other languages, and is unique in that linguists are still debating what, if any connection Japanese has to languages of other nations.

As for the written language, Japanese is composed of Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are phonetic and have set pronunciations (more or less), whereas Kanji are Chinese characters that represent an idea or image and can have different meanings and pronunciations depending on how it’s used and contextual factors. The difference between Hiragana and Katakana is a little tricky to explain, but as a general rule, native Japanese words are written in Hiragana (or Kanji), and loan words as well as names of some locations, people, animals, plants, etc may be written in Katakana. There are always exceptions though, for example some Japanese people may write their name in Katakana to seem trendy or unique, or a word that might have been a loan word originally, like “tobacco”, would be written in Hiragana. It may help to think of Hiragana as a smooth, ‘cursive’ style used for most common writing, and Katakana as a sort of ‘block’ print used to show distinction. Kanji is used when a Japanese word has a Kanji counterpart that can replace the Hiragana (or in some rare instances, the Katakana). This is done in adult Japanese writing as much as possible. Kanji usage shows an increase in articulation, if everything was written in Hiragana/Katakana, it might seem like it was written for a child to read, or that the writer was unintelligent. Kanji also is said to improve the flow of the sentence, making it easier to understand and read quickly. Traditional Japanese is written vertically, top to bottom, although it is no longer uncommon to see Japanese written horizontally, left to right. In either case though, books, pamphlets, etc are written with the content leading right to left, opposite of how western books are written.

This concludes the first part of my introduction into the various aspects of the Japanese language and culture, please make sure to check back for future installments.