After we were welcomed to Chamwino by St. Peter’s, I accompanied Quest Elder Barbara Lundquist; Dr. Kati Szego, a former pupil of Barb’s and current professor of Music at Memorial University in Canada; Karl Dreschler, a Seattlite who will be living for a year in Chamwino while working on behalf of Chamwino Connect; Lewis Kashiri, a man from Zimbabwe who also plans on assisting the project in Chamwino; and Zachary Gerald to our next stop. The musical folks in our party had arranged a visit with a remarkable group of women singers, the Muh Eme singers. As we traveled, we were accompanied by Pastor Daniel Meshach, the amazing Nassan Mazengo and Rev. Eubert Nyembela. After a few years of reading names printed on paper, it was great to meet many of these folks in real life.
Much of the next few days of our journey were a blur of introductions and music. As we were visiting Chamwino, we also met with the village chairman Joseph Seganji, as a matter of respect, and to learn more of the village’s unique history in Tanzania.
We’re standing at the heart of the village, with the memorial to former president Nyerere’s philosophy on our right in the background. As the village was created by Nyerere as an example of what it could mean for the people of Tanzania to work together, the president lived in the village for a few months. Even today, state houses remain in the village for a time when the current president decides to visit.
While we witnessed and enjoyed many musical performances, my favorite memories continue to be those of relationships and friendships started. To know Zach, who is graduating this week from the University of Dar es Salaam and looking to start his own business. Lewis, who has been working alongside Professor Mitch Strumpf to get the efforts of those in Seattle connected to the team in Chamwino, whose family is still in Zimbabwe, and whom he misses greatly. I think of Nassan and all the work he has done to carry out the projects at St. Peter’s.
Today, I leave you with a video of the women singing. Would it help to know that these songs were once used in female circumcision rituals, and now have found new meaning? That the woman leading the songs used to perform the rituals herself, and that these women are some who have come of age under her leadership and guidance? It adds meaning to the untrained ear knowing that there are layers upon layers of context here, layers that the women are now singing for themselves.