- Published on Monday, 20 August 2012 03:04
- Written by SHARIFA MLOWEZI (SJMC)
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SINCE time in history the term ‘Boma’ has always been synonymous with the ‘Maa’ traditional home enclosure comprising of a number of huts, cattle pens all being fenced in usually an extended family compound under one elder.
Many myths have tried to explain that the word ‘Boma’ was actually coined from the English acronym ‘BOMA’ which was initialized from ‘British Overseas Military Area,’ or ‘British Overseas Management Administration,’ and similar connotations.
Whichever the case, most people agree that ‘Boma’ is a word deeply rooted in colonial era and has since been assimilated into various local African languages where the white's rule had made its mark. The colonial ‘bomas’ used to be administration centres fully fortified with thick fencing, more often than not, a couple of white soldiers will be manning the entrance and the stockade.
In Tanzania Boma was adopted in Swahili and other local languages to mean the ‘government centre where arising matters and other conflicts can be reported for authoritative solution or a place where people pay their taxes.
The Maa (or Maasai) communities in the North still use the term ‘Boma’ the way colonial rulers did and even now, a ‘Maasai Boma’ remains a family stockade with various units fenced together under one elder; usually a father with several wives each with own hut.
Inside the Boma the sons of the family may also have their own huts and those of their wives while also the enclosure will combine livestock pens, food granaries and tool sheds. In the advent of cultural tourism at the turn of the new millennium, many local traditional households in the Northern Zone decided to tap into this new segment of leisure travel by inviting foreign visitors for home stays or at least to visit their traditional houses, farms and villages.
Within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, where the Maasai have been permitted to live alongside wildlife, cultural bomas have become an added treat to tourists who visit the area’s main attraction; the Crater.
‘Cultural Bomas,’ have grown from a ‘by the way’ en-route stop-overs for visitors on their way down into the caldera or those heading to Serengeti via the NCAA upon which they get to enter into the roadside placed Bomas to sample or buy traditional clothing and ornaments or weapons such as spears but in most cases most are content to just enter and watch the Maasai sing and Dance.
There are two such full-fledged cultural bomas within Ngorongoro one being located in Lemala and the other one found in Ndutu. The Maasai are very particular with their homes and thus it is only the two which are open to the visitors. As days go by, the cultural bomas are becoming more relevant even to the locals who now earn adequate money from tourists who pay to enter and leave even more ‘dollars,’ and other foreign exchange when they buy souvenirs at the stockades.
In 2009 the NCAA management banned subsistence farming in Ngorongoro a move which cut of important food source to the locals who used to grow vegetables, grain and legumes to supplement the meat and milk from their livestock.
But prolonged drought spell which followed later that year annihilated most of the cattle in the area and suddenly the Maasai, especially women started to suffer hunger brought about by mass food shortage. Speaking on behalf of other women, Mama Nolmelita Leilya explained that with all their sources of survival gone, they were compelled to involve themselves with petty trading; buying tobacco snuff from Karatu and selling it to local auctions in Ngorongoro.
They would also move from door to door selling beads and decorative ornaments to members of staff at NCAA or teacher who work in local primary school but the ends were far from being made to meet. Cultural Bomas have just become their only saving grace; beads and other artifacts fetches better prices when sold to tourists and trading at central places saves them the toil of moving from one area to another thus saving them time and energy.
The Ngorongoro Cultural Bomas are also serving as pivotal forces in the changing of roles in the male dominated ‘Maa’ traditions. When there are a lot of animals, it is the men who rule because ‘the man of the house,’ happens to be the only person allowed to own and decide over the livestock.
But as drought ravages the landscape, killing animals and crops, the roles change as the once strong ‘man’ is forced to look upon his wife for alternative ways of survival and the cultural bomas are currently seeing to that.