Terje Oestigaard

Senior Researcher and Associate Professor at NAI since 2010

Subject areas:
archaeology and anthropology: rituals and religion, water studies and political uses of cultural heritage
Geographical areas:
Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda
Language skills:
Norwegian, English
+46 (0)18 471 52 94
+46 (0)70 167 96 94
Research areas:
Natural resources

Academic Background

Dr.art in archaeology from the University of Bergen, Norway.

From a culture in transition

Images from Tanzania where Terje conducted research for his project “Rainmaking and Climate Change in Tanzania: Traditions, Rituals and Globalisation”. Terje Oestigaard visited Usagara Ward in Mwanza Region by the shores of Lake Victoria.

The cultivation of cash-crops, such as cotton, has declined in the last decades. In Usagara about 50 per cent of the farmers were growing cotton only 3-4 years ago, compared to only 13 per cent today, following the radical fall in prices for cotton. When life is an endless struggle to make ends meet most farmers prefer subsistence agriculture. In Mwanza Region small-holder agriculture is employing about 85 per cent of the population.

Keeping livestock is an additional source of income and security, particularly during times when harvests fail. There is money to make from selling milk and meat but the availability of land for grazing is limited. Even in the years when rain fails there is sufficient water in the village for the cattle, which are watered at different times during the day at various communal water holes.

A pot belonging to an elderly former rainmaker. The pot is no longer used for any rituals because there in not any support from the villagers or demand for the rainmaker’s services. The local residents are increasingly regarding the old tradition as “primitive” and “backward”.

All agricultural strategies are dependent on seasonal rains. Rainfall is often much localised and dark clouds can often suddenly blow away and produce little if any rain at all. Residents in the area differentiate between two types of rain: male and female rain.

Today's Usagara village was part of the Bukumbi chiefdom. Bukumbi was the earliest of the Catholic Parishes established on the southern side of Lake Victoria by the White Fathers in 1884. The cemetery where the Christian chiefs have been buried is in Kigongo Village, near Usagara. The cemetery is located beneath a rock shelter where there is a Bantu rock-painting - the only rock-art in this area.

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