Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Luguru are a Bantu-speaking people living in the Uluguru Mountains in Tanzania whose traditional economy relied on small-plot hoe cultivation of cereals and pulses. The society is organized into several exogamous matriclans and localized matrilineages. Lineage heads wielded immense customary power, including administering land rights and enforcing community norms, while clan elders linked the living with deceased ancestors by presiding over rituals.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Africa --Eastern Africa



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication, and title where necessary.

While a majority of the documents in the collection focus on the British colonial period (1919-1961) and the first few decades after Tanzanian independence, one document covers Luguru experiences with a series of policy changes the Tanzanian government has pursued since the mid-1990s, including market-based reforms (Kusiluka et al. 2011).

Documents covering the colonial era include broad ethnographic overviews (Scheerder and Tastevin 1950; Beidelman 1967), a survey of clan names (McVicar 1935), land politics and other impacts of the policy of Indirect Rule (Young and Fosbrooke 1960), and meaning and social function of joking relationships (Christensen 1963).

A majority of post-independence era studies describe specific aspects of traditional culture, including: links between matrilineal descent and marital instability (Brain 1969); initiation and other life cycle rites (Brain 1978, 1980; Hamdani 2001); an analysis of characters and motifs in popular folklore (Brain 1971); change and continuity in traditional religious practices and collectively-sanctioned community norms (Mluanda 1971); and the dynamics of Tanzanian politics (Pels 1996).

Relatively recent studies include: Gemignani (2002), focusing on ways the Luguru have articulated the gender dimensions of publically-funded rural development programs at the levels of farming households, matrilineal lineage groups, and multi-lineage/clan communities; and Kusiluka et al. (2011) who discuss some of the socio-economic and environmental impacts of the government appropriation of arable land in order to accommodate growing demands for the construction of residential and commercial buildings.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Indirect Rule – colonial governments’ exercise of power through native authorities (traditional leaders and institutions); see also “Native Authorities” – use "EXTERNAL RELATIONS (648)" and/or "FORM AND RULES OF GOVERNMENT (642)"

Lukolo – clan, sub-clan, lineage – use "CLANS (614)" and/or "LINEAGES (613)"

Mtala – father’s clan; personal name derived from father’s clan – use "CLANS (614)" and/or "NAMING (553)"

Mwenye issi – head of matrilineal landholding corporate group – use "REAL PROPERTY (423)" with "LINEAGES (613)" and/or "COMMUNITY HEADS (622)" =

Native authorities – local agents of indirect rule of colonial governments; see also “Indirect rule” – use "ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES (647)" or use "FORM AND RULES OF GOVERNMENT (642)" with "ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES (647)"

Native Courts – use "SPECIAL COURTS (698)"

Ngoto – payment for access to lineage land – use "RENTING AND LEASING (427)"

Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) – use "POLITICAL PARTIES (665)" with "POLITICAL MOVEMENTS (668)"

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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