And a good time was had by all…

Posted on: May 27th, 2011 by Amy 2 Comments


When we arrived back from our trip to Karatu we stopped in a local place to brush the dust off. We sat down and a jeep pulled up with three men and three women inside. The women each wore black sheath’s over their heads, but you could tell that they were Datogan. A young man got out of the jeep and the place started humming. This man was wielding power; all the local Datogans were standing to attention, waiting in line to pay respect. Our local friend Momoya explained that this man is the big Chief of all of Datoga for all of Tanzania. His name is Chief Galwala. Chief Galwala didn’t seem to be in an exceptionally good mood. Someone explained to us that he was sick. The local Chief Momoya asked to be excused to take Chief Galwala to be tested for malaria at the hospital and asked if we would mind waiting for him to come back. We said no problem.

As we were sitting there, the three women were looking at us and we were looking at them. They were stunning. They were talking amongst themselves and in Datogan asked who we were. Tonto told them about us and then he told us that they were three of the twelve wives of the Chief. The kept moving their sheaths around and we could see that they were bare chested except for rows and rows of jewelry. I was waiting to ask to take photo’s so in the meantime we bought them a round of sodas, and I slowly started to take out my camera. One of the women ran, one of them was posing already, and the third was just trying to keep the other two in line.

In Datoga it is not unusual for a wife to suggest a friend as another wife so that they can stay together and share the housework as well as bare children. We learned that these three had been friends since they were children and that the one that ran was not officially married yet. She has to wait until she is seventeen and if she is unfaithful to the Chief before their marriage then the agreement is off. The wife that was keeping the other two in order had been married the longest, and the one doing the posing had only been married for less than a year. As we were playing with them and they were asking us questions the poser allowed me to start photographing. THIS WAS UNBELEIVABLE! She started to take her sheath off, so that her upper body was naked except for her jewelry, and as I looked at her and her jewelry she started to laugh — she had a cell phone hanging between her breasts and jewelry. She was very proud of the cell phone and placed it up to her mouth so I could take a photo of her talking on her phone. She cannot read or write so I asked how she handles the phone — and of course I should have known better — voice activation! The shy one who originally ran then started feeling less inhibited and she too took off her sheath, but instead of a cell phone she had a mirror, which she immediately picked up and posed looking in the mirror. At this point the stern one jumped into one of the photos with the other two wives but as she jumped she grabbed a beer out of one of the men’s hands! These royal wives were now in full swing and we all were having a ball.

As the evening went on, we found out that Chief Galwala was put in the hospital for malaria and expected be there for several days. This was great news for me since we got to interview the three wives and learned all kinds of cultural secrets. The Chief has invited us to his Boma for a Datogan “cookout” so more to follow after we see them next week!

2 Responses

  1. oakleigh says:

    I love it!!

  2. Keith says:

    It’s good to be chief! Very good!

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