Tumbatu Cultural Heritage
Tumbatu is an island in the North-East of
the Zanzibar archipelago. There are around 12,000 people living in
Tumbatu an isolated and impoverished life, dominated by conservative
Islamic traditions. Still today, everyone who is not from Tumbatu –
even people from the neighbouring island of Unguja – need a written
permit by the village eldest to enter the island. The island is meagre
and not very fertile for agriculture, therefore food supplies such as
rice or cassava (manioc) have to be bought from the other islands.
Although most islanders are fishermen, they hardly eat fish but rather
sell it on the fish market of Mkokotoni on Unguja Island (Zanzibar’s
main island) to buy rice or cassava from the revenues. As a
consequence, many people of Tumbatu are under- or malnourished. The
medical care is insufficient and there are only very basic schools.
Until today, there is no electricity on the island and many people live
under alarming sanitary and hygienic conditions.
However, the Watumbatu, how the habitants of
Tumbatu are called, are proud people who believe that they are the
direct ancestors of the kings of Shiraz, who probably arrived on the
island in the 10th century from Persia. On the Indian Ocean the
Watumbatu have an excellent reputation as sailors. Today ruins of a
mighty palace from the early 13th century can be found and it is almost
sure that the first stone-built city of the Zanzibar archipelago
existed in Tumbatu. There are numerous remains of this big city to be
found - today overgrown by the tropical rain forest.
In December of 2006 two Watumbatu, Mr. Haji
and Mr. Hamza started the inception of the new NGO “Tumbatu Cultural
Heritage” which has the aim to find out more about the history of the
palace and the city, to restore the ruins and to make them accessible
for tourism. The organisation which in the meantime has 35 members in
Tumbatu expects new perspectives through tourism on the impoverished
island. However, most Watumbatu are doubtful about such plans. They
fear that their culture might suffer from the influence of tourists.
Therefore, the approximation of the Watumbatu to the topic of tourism
on the island must take place in a socially responsible way. This
process will certainly take several years and is also linked to the NGO
„White Star“, which has been founded by Mr. Haji and Mr. Hamza, too.
"White Star" regularly brings foreign doctors to the island and is
after initial resitance today generally accepted by the islanders.
Tumbatu Cultural Heritage is looking for
volunteers with expertise in archaeology, history and/or social
responsible tourism. Tasks which have to be tackled are to locate
historically relevant scripts from the city archives of Zanzibar and to
analyse them with the help of historics and translators. The project is
supported by the archive authorities and the authorities for the
protection of historical monuments of Zanzibar. Excavations and
clearings of the vegetation have to be done and parts of the ruins have
to be reconstructed. A further task consists in developing a plan how
the ruins can be used for tourism in a way from which the islanders
will benefit and which at the same time does not have considerable
changes of their lifestyle and culture as a consequence. Also an
educational concept needs to be developed about how the information
found at the archives can best be communicated to visitors.
As the Watumbatu don’t allow foreigners to
stay on their island, volunteers will live in Mkokotoni. Simple
accommodation will be provided there which however disposes of all
basic installations such as toilets and a shower. The trip with a
fishing boat from Mkokotoni to Tumbatu takes around 30 minutes.
Volunteers of this project need a strong personality, because they will
not be kindly received by all Watumbatu. Many islanders take white
people categorically for Christian missionaries which come with the
goal to destroy their Islamic traditions. The NGO "Tumbatu Cultural
Heritage" tries to intermediate in this conflict and will assist
Place: Tumbatu/Zanzibar, Tanzania
Duration: 2 - 12 Months
Special qualification required: Yes
Costs: free of charge (trouble-free package for € 500
Accommodation: Included, in Mkokotoni
Included: Placement in the project; if you opt for the
trouble-free package the whole range of services which is part of the
trouble-free package is included
Not included: Travel, health
insurance, visa, work permit
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