The Datoga People of Tanzania

Datoga blacksmith and apprentice. Photo by kiwiexplorer. Used with permission through a Creative Commons license.

Ujuzi’s safaris to Tanzania often include visiting the Datoga people near Lake Eyasi, who are famous for their blacksmithing skills. Men do metal work over open fires, crafting arrowheads, spears, knives and jewelry for themselves and their friends, as well as to sell to other tribes, such as the Hadza. Visitors get to watch as craftsmen transform rough metal into a useful object using just hot coals, bellows, and a few tools.

The bronze and gold bracelets that the blacksmiths make are worn by Datoga women, who use them not only for decoration, but also to make music! They hit them together to accompany group singing.

Datoga woman. Photo by Tim Knight. Used with permission through a Creative Commons license.

One thing that stands out to many visitors is that many Datoga have beautiful circular patterns tattooed around their eyes and on their cheeks. Handmade clothes of beaded red leather are traditional, but nowadays it’s more common to wear black or patterned cloth and modern Tanzanian clothing.

In addition to blacksmithing, the Datoga culture centers on herding cattle. They may also raise goats, chicken and other livestock; over the past decades they have started planting grains and vegetables, as well. Men do the herding while women do most of the childcare and cooking, cleaning, and collecting firewood and water. One man may have multiple wives.

Most Datoga speak only their own language, with just 5 percent bilingual in Swahili. Translators will make sure you  understand what’s going on—and that your Datoga hosts understand you—so that you get the most out of your visit.

Would you like to know more about the Datoga and other Tanzanian cultural groups who adhere to their traditional lifestyles? The Warriors Organization is a great resource for learning more.

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