A Visit With Mr. Mikkel


Today Mr. Mikkel Johannessen (Smilla’s dad 2L) visited and gave a presentation to all of Grade 2. His work at the Danish Embassy has allowed him to work extensively with the Maasai tribe. Mr. Mikkel shared some great pictures and told stories about Maasai culture. He explained a lot about how Maasai kids are very different than us. He even had a story about an 8 year old boy who killed a lion!

Above is the slide show Mr. Mikkel shared with all of Grade 2.

Asante Sana Mr. Mikkel for sharing your pictures and talking to us about the Maasai people.

IST Grade 2

Maasai Visit


On Tuesday, August 31, 2010 a Maasai came into our classroom and visited. His name was Mr. Ibra. He is from Northern Tanzania but now lives here in an apartment in Dar es Salaam. He taught us  many things about his people. Mr. Ibra explained the importance of cows in his culture. Cows are used as a sign of wealth. All parts of the cow are used for different things. The skin is used for beds. They use the poo to build houses. He taught us is that they drink blood. When they get the blood from the cow, they use a special arrow that stops the arrow from going all the way in and hurting the cow. A container is used to catch the blood that comes from the cow and then they put cow poo on the hole in the neck to act like a bandage. Spears are also very important to help defend themselves and their cows from lions and other predators. Mr. Ibra also taught us that he eats meat.

One of the most interesting things we learned is that sometimes when lions attack cows, the Maasai warriors have to go and kill the lion. They will build a trap by digging a small hole in the ground. Then they put a piece of cow meat in the hole and cover it with branches and leaves. Then the Maasai men hide behind rocks or in bushes and wait for the lion to come. When the lion sniffs the meat and comes close, he will slip on the branches. At the same time, the Maasais shoot arrows as the lion. It is dangerous because if the lion is not hit properly he gets angry and could hurt the Maasai.

After Mr. Ibra was done visiting each of the Grade 2 classrooms, all of us met on the field and made a big circle. Mr. Ibra brought 11 Maasai friends and they danced and jumped. One Maasai jumped so high that his head even touched a leaf in the tree that he was standing under. Mr. Elliot  jumped too! Because the Maasai don’t use drums, they used their voices to mimic the sounds of drum beats. As the Maasais danced, all of us Grade 2 students started to jump too! One student even got picked up by Mr. Ibra and was raised up and down very high as they jumped.

The Maasais have a very different culture from us. They drink different things and dance differntly but we also have many things in common. We all play and have fun. We all love. Our bodies are made the same on the inside. We all smile and we all cry.

Teacher’s Note: The students made the connection between the similarities and differences of the Maasai and IST cultures and a book we read by Mem Fox called Whoever You Are, where there was a repetitive phrase “ whoever we are, wherever we are, all over the world.

Miss Lane’s Grade 2 Lively Ladybugs

Tanzania’s Ethnic Groups – A Visit with IST Graham Mercer


As part of our ongoing investigation of different cultures, Grade 2 invited Mr. Graham Mercer to give a slide presentation on the different ethnic groups of Tanzania.

The Maasai, because of their colourful and interesting culture and the fact that their traditional lands often coincide with major tourist routes, are perhaps, the best-known of Tanzania’s various peoples. Yet they are far from typical, in numbers or in lifestyle. They represent only about 1% of the country’s 120 or so ethnic groups.

The great majority of Tanzanians are Bantu-speaking tribes that moved into what is now Tanzania from the south-west, some hundreds of years ago, whereas the relatively few pastoralists, such as the Maasai and Datoga, came from the north. Bantu tribes include the Sukuma (Tanzania’s largest tribe), the Chagga, the Makonde, the He-He, the Go-Go, the Haya and the Nyamwezi.

Among the other ethnic groups are the Swahili, descendants of Arab settlers from the Gulf who intermarried with African women. Swahili means “coast” and most Swahili still live by the sea, on the mainland and in Zanzibar. They are not a distinct tribe but they have much in common, not least their first language, which of course bears the same name.

Another non-Bantu, non-pastoralist tribe is the Iraqw, who live and farm on the plateau between the Rift Valley and the Crater Highlands. They originated from the Horn of Africa or maybe even the Yemen.

Pastoralists include not only the Maasai but the Datoga (a cluster of clans and former enemies of the Maasai). Until fairly recently the young Datoga men would sometimes prove their manhood by killing a neighbouring tribesman and cutting off his hands or fingers etc as trophies, with which to impress their girl-friends. This habit was of course frowned upon and stopped by the government, though the Datoga “warriors” still kill lions occasionally, as the Maasai do, using only spears.

Like the Maasai they live mainly on milk – cattle are at the very centre of their lifestyle – though their family settlements and huts are very different from those of their former enemies. They live south of Ngorongoro around Mount Hanang.

The real indigenous people of Tanzania are the hunter-gathering Hadzabe, who live, as some Datoga do, along the southern shores of Lake Eyasi, south of Ngorongoro. Small in number, they are one of Tanzania’s most fascinating peoples. Hunting with immensely strong longbows and poisoned arrows, they can kill animals up to and including the size of elephants. They don’t build huts, have no chiefs, and their favourite food is baboon meat, which they say is “sweeter than chicken”. They sleep in the open or even in trees and caves, and have little time for the trappings of civilisation as we see it “We have our bows and arrows and the bush – everything else is taka-taka [rubbish]”. They speak a click language and have a disconcerting habit of changing their names when they feel like it.

Mr. Graham Mercer has been teaching at IST since 1977. He has long been fascinated by Africa’s wildlife and wild places. Born in Lancashire UK, Mr. Mercer first visited East Africa as a sailor in Britain’s Royal Navy. Mr. Mercer spends his leisure time traveling with his wife Anjum through Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

Please feel free to leave comments and questions for Mr. Mercer. He is more than happy to answer questions you may have about Tanzania’s ethnic groups.