Tanzania needs to decolonise, detoxify land and symbols

Wednesday November 7 2018

Nkwazi Mhango is a Tanzanian writer based in

Nkwazi Mhango is a Tanzanian writer based in Canada 

Tanzania, just like any post-colonial African country, still has some colonial baggage. In today’s bottom line, I’ll delve into the concept of decolonisation and detoxification that, for a while now, has defined me academically.

Despite the fact that Tanzania, theoretically, regards itself; and is regarded as a free country, practically, it still isn’t. To grasp what I mean, let’s explore and interrogate some aspects of our nation.

Arguably, since we got our independence, over fifty years ago, there are some crucial things we overlooked, trivialised or failed to accentuate such as the importance of identity either for our people or our land which are naturally interwove. We’re called or referred to as Tanzanians because of our land, Tanzania.

Thus, we’re the creatures of our land from and around which our national identity evolves and revolves. Hence, our identity isn’t only significant but also makes us who we’re and crucially and uniquely distinguishes us from others.

After underscoring the centrality of our identity and its connection to our land, we need to ask ourselves if it’s decolonised. Admittedly, when I look at some symbols of our nation such as icons, mountains, national parks, lakes and whatnot, I find that we’ve a lot to do in regards to decolonise them as the means of decolonising ourselves.

For, without totally decolonising ourselves and our land, -first, we’ll traumatise and dwarf ourselves that are bad, especially when such incongruity’s committed nationally,

-secondly, will continually lead into misleading ourselves, particularly the new and coming generations,

-and thirdly, we’ll be promoting our former colonial monsters pointlessly by giving them too much game not to forget deifying them and colonialism in general. However, they’re things that we can’t avoid but negotiate such as the use of colonial languages. I’ll address this next time.

In the attempts to decolonise and detoxify our country, land, nation and people, there are things that are currently flouted or trivialised such as allowing some of our areas or asserts to be named after either our colonisers or their agents. For example, the city of Dar es Salaam, the largest one in the country still bears an Arabic name as if it is in the Middle East. Historically, the so-called Dar es Salaam was known as Mzizima (healthy town). What’s wrong with rejuvenating its natural African name? Is it because some of our people are at home with colonial and foreign and unrelatable names gotten through religion? Is Tanzania such poor in regards to its own names? Ponder about that.

Apart from Dar es Salaam, one of our famous Game reserves, Selous still bears a colonial name after being named after Federick Courteney Selous.

Why Selous not Mkwawa, Nyerere, Kingu or whatever that isn’t colonial and toxic? Furthermore, the iconic rock in the shore of Lake Nyanza in Mwanza is named after former German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck notoriously known to have convened the Berlin Conference 1884-1885 that divided and partition Africa paving the way for its fully colonisation. Don’t we’ve heroes after whom we can name such iconic features? Call it Nkwazi Mhango.

Currently, Tanzania’s become known internationally after President John Pombe Magufuli revived the construction of the dam at Stiegler’s gorge. Who is this Stiegler; and what importance does he have to our country? Further, even the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro aka the roof of Africa still bears colonial stamps. Its glacier is known as Rebmann after Johann Rebmann simple because he was the first white man to explore the mountain.

Here the natives who helped and showed him the way are not commemorated by what’s referred to as their own country.

Again, there are some answers as to why many African landmarks and hallmarks have European names while, to the contrary, European ones do not have. Factsforkids.com, for example writes on its website that “Karl Klaus von der Decken and R. Thornton were probably the first persons who attempted to climb Kibo in August 1861.” To any xenophobe, Africans are nonhumans or subhuman.

Atypically, thanks to colonial education and systems that have always governed the post-colonial Africa and toxic education, Africans still subscribe to such dehumanisation either consciously or unconsciously.

To show how small we sometimes make ourselves, we still treasure colonial dregs such as the Livingstone Museum in Ujiji commemorating a colonial agent who penetrated Africa and paved the way for colonisation. What’s its significance? It is simple.

We are unfailingly keeping such garbage in order to enable white tourists come and pay us a few dollars and get away with the pride of informing their kids how superior they are as opposed to how inferior we’re.

Further, under the toxicity of attracting tourism for a few dollars, apart from furthering and internalising colonial mentality to our people, we are allowing ourselves to be treated like automatons, cyborgs and yahoos that can’t think creatively and independently.

In sum, I am not trying to be a smart alec, in my meek opinion, to do away with such colonial carryovers and garbage under whatever pretexts economic, political or social, Africa needs to decolonise itself by starting with its land and identity among others.