The following story of the history of the Alagwa (also called Wasi) was told to the survey team during the group interview in Mwembeni. Most of the story was told by various elders of the community. It was told in the Alagwa language, and later translated into Swahili and again into English. Not all the stories that were told in Alagwa were translated into Swahili, because they were said to be ‘bad’ stories and the Alagwa refused to translate them. It is also probable that some details were lost in the translation. What is written here is as close to what was originally said as possible…

The Travelers

A large percentage of the Alagwa people are Hamitic. People who are Hamitic like to “hamahama” (travel around) very much. They are direct descendants of Habesh, a son of the 10th generation of Ham, son of Noah. They are related to the people of Habesh who live in Ethiopia and Somalia.

The place from which the Alagwa came originally is called Iramba. Iramba is near Singida. A very long time ago, they traveled from Iramba to Mecca. Mecca is the place where Mohammed was born. When they arrived in Mecca, they were rejected by the people of Mecca because they had no religion. They were not yet Muslim and still worshipped in the way of their ancestors. In returning from Mecca, they came to a country called Halas’o. This place is half way between Mt. Hanang and Kondoa. Here they lived for a while, and it is at this location that there was a giant drum and ‘kinu’. A kinu is like a mortar and pestle with two pestles. At night the sounds of the drum and kinu beating and people singing and dancing could be heard, but no one was there. These can still be found there today, and they still have the same powers. If you approach the place where the sounds are coming from you will see no people.

When the Alagwa left this area of Hanang, they arrived in Cairo, Egypt. From Cairo they traveled south to Kolo, and later further south to Bolisa. It was here that one woman wanted her girl children to be circumcised. After the circumcision, they held a big celebration so that every one could celebrate the circumcision together. This was the first circumcision of Alagwa women and it has been the custom ever since.

How the Famine Began

Soon after this, there was a great famine in the land. During this time, there was one woman who had no children. She loved to go and dance at the celebrations that her neighbors had for their children. One day, while she was dancing, a woman asked her, “You love so much to dance at your friend’s celebrations, when will we go and dance at yours?” The woman without children felt very sad indeed at these words. She loved children very much and yet had none. She thought to herself, “God is the one who gives children to others, and He is the One who has kept them from me. It is nothing that I have done.” She felt very angry at the other women for resenting her dancing. She thought to herself, “What shall I do to get revenge on these women?” She got an idea to go to the village witch doctor. She wanted to get some medicine to call all the birds of the wilderness to her aid. She desired that when the women went to plant, the birds would come and steal the seeds from the ground before they had a chance to enter into the soil. Through this way the famine would continue and all the children of the other women would die.

The birds came just as she had asked and began to eat the seeds out of the ground. The birds returned in this same way every year for four years to devour all the seeds from the gardens. The name of these birds is hapanga’ch. The rain fell very abundantly for those four years, but because of the birds there was no harvest for the women. They had to beg food from their neighbors. Soon even the neighbors had no food, so they had to go into the wilderness to look for food. There they ate the roots of trees and any other fruit of the wilderness whether it was good or bad.

Because of the great famine in the land, there was a splitting of the people. The Alagwa went to Isabe and the Burunge went to Goima. Now the Alagwa live in the East and the Burunge live in the South.