Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Story of Steel: Lake Victoria and the Haya Mtumbwi

Sunrise from Bukoba

I've just had a newspaper full of senene or fried and spiced grasshoppers, a local and seasonal specialty here in Bukoba, Tanzania. I've made it to the Tanzanian side (south west) of Lake Victoria, the world second largest body of fresh water (after Lake Superior). Those crunchy bugs tasted delicious after a long morning spent paddling the Mtumbwi and fishing for Nile Perch (the invasive species known for annihilating at least 200 native species and nearly destroying the freshwater ecosystem. I had no problem reeling in as many of these destructive buggers as possible near Bukoba's bird haven islands.

Dozens of metal Mtumbwi scattered on the Lake Victoria shores

The people of the Bukoba region are the Haya, who still maintain a distinct language and number more than a million people in the area. The Haya have lived in the region for more than two thousand years and are commonly noted to be amongst Africa's (and the world's) most developed civilizations in antiquity. More than 1400 years ago, the Haya people invented a form of high powered steel manufacturing, as well as being one of the first civilizations to produce steel on a large scale, hundreds of years before anywhere in Europe.

Paddling the Mtumbwi for netfishing
Yet today, that steel making knowledge can only be seen in its influence on the world and region, but not in its local production. A few elders at the early end of the century still mad the knowledge of crafting kilns, but overtime, industrialized steel from the rest of the world has replaced the need for making steel here in Bukoba.

That same impact of necessity has created the metal canoe that Haya locals in Bukoba can be seen paddling out to fish. The sheets of aluminum, usually used for roofing as well, can be molded like a canvass from a wooden bow, stern and set of ribs. Thanks to the innovations of Haya in ancient times, cheap metal of available for the use of Haya today.

Man in Kidea fishing for Nile Perch with line and bag to put caught fish

The Kidea (Key-Day-ah) is a small bamboo boat (filled with foam) that I saw fishing this morning. A few different men were paddling these one manned boats just a kilometer off of shore. This style of boat apparently comes from the Mwanza region (to the east), used by a neighboring tribe to the Haya. Though not very quick, the Kidea is stable and inexpensive, bringing in a solid day's catch.

1 comment:

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