The Matumbi of Tanzania

Population: 183,000

Location and Background: South Eastern Tanzania.The Matumbu live on the South-eastern coastal delta area between the Rufuji River and Kilwa and from the Indian Ocean to the Matumbi Hills.

History: The Matumbi believe they have been in their present area for about 700-800 years. Before that they reportedly made their way northeast from what is now Malawi. They came under the influence of Muslim traders and many converted to Islam. German colonists arrived in Tanganyika in 1885, and forced many to be slaves. In 1905-1906 the Matumbi staged a major rebellion against the German colonial rulers, called the Maji-Mai Rebellion. The Germans eventually put down the rebellion in 1907, at a great loss of life among the African tribal peoples. After the Germans lost World War I, the British colonized Tanzania. With the coming of independence, the first President, Julius Nyerere, strongly emphasized that Tanzania was a unified country. All peoples were to learn and speak Kiswahili with the use of tribal languages discouraged and today, Kiswahili is widely spoken among the Matumbi people.

Culture: They are of Bantu origin, closely related to the Ndengereko and Rufiji. They are described as having an independent spirit and are proud and honest. Many Matumbi are forest dwellers. They use herbal remedies and have knowledge of about 200 medicinal native plants. Most Matumbi people live in small villages, doing subsistence farming and agriculture. Some are fishermen along the Rufiji River. Others own small shops along the main highway. Most build huts of pole and stick frame with mud wattle for the walls. Roofs are made of thatched palm leaf. If finances permit, some will plaster the inside and outside of the house walls with cement and put in a cement floor. The Matumbi Caves in the Matumbi Hills were an important hideaway for local rebel troops during the Maji Maji revolution. The most impressive cave, Nangoma, is revered locally for housing an important deity, and its name probably derives from the Swahili ngoma – dance – suggesting a history of use for ritual celebrations and worship. Matumbi children are expected to attend government primary schools, located in major villages.

Religion: Islam and Folk Islam. Ancestor worship, Islam, spiritism and superstition are all part of present-day Matumbi culture and religion.

Ask the Lord to lift the veil from the eyes of the Matumbi, that they could proclaim, “And we have seen and testify that the Father sent His Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14)

Latest Prayer Updates:

They can kill my body but not my spirit!

On Sunday “Masi” went to the “Pg” village where he is discipling a small group of new believers. Someone attempted to take his life by putting rat poison in his food. He said that as he ate the food he could taste the poison so he stopped eating it and left for home. Soon after he left he started to feel very sick. He came to a place where there was water and started guzzling as fast as he could. He then cried out to God for help and started to throw up. After some time he started to feel a bit better and was able to make it back to his house. Praise God He was totally fine by the next morning! He shared that he is not afraid and though they can kill his body they cannot kill his spirit. He is determined to continue to go back to that village to disciple these new believers. Pray for the Lord’s protection and blessing on Masi, and for conviction of sin on whoever tried to poison him.


“In the last week there have been at least 4 more believers from the unity team in the “Nm” village that have gone out to different areas to find open people to share the gospel with. This team of over 70 has been praying weekly for the last few months asking the Holy Spirit to fill them and lead them where He wants them to go.

Please pray that the Holy Spirit will give them boldness and lead them to the people that He has prepared. Also please remember to be praying for protection for all the new believers and groups and that they would grow in their understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done for them.

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