"Famous chagga stories" were originally written by H.E Onesiphorus Henry Tesha in English. The late H.E O.H. Tesha worked as a Tanzanian diplomat from 1962-1992 within Europe, Africa and Asia.
During his last job as Tanzanian high commissioner for India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Srilanka, Nepal and Singapore, he discovered his passion for writing short stories. After retirement, he took up writing as a hobby. He passed away in 2004, leaving behind a number of published and unpublished materials.
INTRODUCTIONHalf a century ago, it was my pleasure to be a keen student in the systematic education for the youth imparted through stories narrated by the adults particularly the aged. This was in Chagga society on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. Two words in use – Ilosha, literally to teach, indicated that children from their infancy must learn from and be moulded by their peers. Then there was ipfunda, a deeper education as the youth developed into adulthood and prepared for married life. A complete education was thus imparted under the keen eye of the entire society.Through the stories children were given a model to emulate, and their character was moulded stage by stage under the supervision of parents and close relatives. The elders would say then as today that character is formed gradually as children are guided to grow up straight with correct ambitions and understanding of life. They learned that in society there were taboos which might make a difference between life and death, success and failure. The elders drew a parallel with the farmer who prunes and directs his trees – mchiiyo to develop long straight poles for the construction of durable houses.
This community in Kilimanjaro had a rich culture developed over the centuries in a stable environment. The adults, male and female, gave themselves plenty of time to discuss matters and form opinions. They developed the lessons and drew conclusions while the youth were there as a humble audience to listen and to absorb. Time was available in the many hours of rest between darkness and bedtime. Likewise the two rainy seasons in the year were occasions for everybody to remain indoors most of the time. Then there were idle months after the harvests when people relaxed, drinking the local brew, mbege. With so much free time available the living school in the society provided the youth ample learning, exhortation and proper sense of direction. Tradition and their deeper meaning and customs handed from one generation to another sank into young mouths. The elders as guardians fulfilled their responsibility and felt gratified.
For the adults, elders, male and female, there was another value in the stories. In many leisurely hours and days of chatting and lively discussions they indeed entertained themselves through stories of all kinds. The audience was everybody from the infant to the aged. They exchanged ideas and charmed one another at a time of no reading materials – no books, no newspapers, no radio, no telephone, no computers. People were expressive, and the ability of an individual to weave a good story was appreciated in the society. In brief apart from the entertainment the stories were a vessel for the community to transmit its own values and the traditions which held together and gave it solidarity. In the new age perhaps a few of these stories in print would enhance continuity with the past as well as promote cohesion in contemporary society in its new environment.
Why not! Children have still to be brought up and acquire a solid purpose and worthy ambition in their lives. Japan, a modern leading power has a people steeped in culture and traditions. Their cultural heritage has been their spiritual strength as the nation has leapt from the ruins of war in the 1940s to record economic prosperity today. We cannot but admire her socio-economic achievements.
To respected readers, these stories conveyed in a foreign language have a tinge of expression native to Kilimanjaro and the people. Please feel at home with them and, if you wish, do me the favour of your views.
O. Mtuweta H. Tesha
May he rest in peace
Famous chagga stories second edition is a combination of the original English text as well as a translation into Dutch by Mr. Tesha's Grand daughter Melissa Yvonne Tesha.