August 8, 2010

Peasants' Day – Tanzania

This holiday is called Nane Nane in Swahili (literally, “eight eight,” for August the eighth). Originally meant to honor the farmers and peasants who feed the nation, this holiday was traditionally held on July 7, called Saba Saba, in honor of the day that the Tanzanian African National Union was started. This is the political party that basically rules the country. In 1992, when Tanzania held its first multi-party elections, the opposition parties pointed out that using July 7th as the date of an important national holiday unfairly favors the ruling party...Hence the change to August 8th.

However, the change wasn't smooth and easy. There was confusion among people, and some people refused to work on July 7th – some even refused to work on either day!

The holiday has apparently gone done drastically in importance since this controversy. Instead of huge gatherings of farmers from all over the country, bringing their products together and exchanging information and ideas, get-togethers and dances and cooking traditional foods—these days there are much smaller gathering with more industrial products than agricultural ones and smaller, more subdued celebrations.

Learn about Swahili

Swahili in a Bantu language spoken as the native language by 5 to 10 million people but spoken as a second language by many, many more people in Africa. It is an official language of four nations (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo), it is a common language spoken by people who don't share a native language all through Eastern Africa, and it is the only language with African origin among the official languages of the African Union.

  • Here is a website with some simple Swahili words—and some Swahili words that have been brought into the English language.
  • And here is a Swahili Folktale.

For more on Tanzania, see this earlier post.

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