The Nyamwezi of Tanzania

Population: 1.5 million

Location and Background:   The Nyamwezi tribe (“people of the moon”) is the second largest in Tanzania, living principally south of Lake Victoria in west-central Tanzania. About 30% of Nyamwezi live and work outside of their 35,000 miles of land, in Tanzania’s commercial and agricultural centers.

History:   It is believed the Nyamwezi and their related tribe the Sukuma arrived in their present location in the 16th c. Before Europeans arrived, they had an empire consisting of four clans, each  descended from one ancestor. Their ancient king, Mirambo, was known to be a brilliant military leader. They were traders, and by 1800 they were involved in trade of copper, wax, ivory, and slaves with Arabs at the coast. Elephant hunting was a prestigious occupation due to the wealth from ivory trade. They also acquired guns and were often involved in intra-tribal wars, and conflicts with the Arabs.

Culture:   The nuclear family lives together, and villages are not necessarily based on kinship relationships. Ideally every adult should be married. Various rituals are held for marriage and naming babies, and Westernization has had much influence on how the Nyamwezi function. Children go to the government schools. They are agriculturalists and pastoralists. Goats and sheep are used for sacrifices, and for their meat and skins. Their land is dry woodland, with scarce water, so it is not prime agricultural land. Men work the land, women care for the home.

Religion:   The Nyamwezi embrace African Traditional beliefs, Islam and Christianity. They have much respect for their ancestors (the living dead), to whom they offer sacrifices and rely on for their benevolence. Most claim to be Muslims and follow the five pillars of Islam, but in reality they live by their animistic worldview, believing in a creator God, the spirit world, and the importance of using witchdoctors and other diviners to communicate with the spirits. It is reported there are 80,000  Nyamwezi in the Moravian church. The AIC-T has planted a hundred churches in the area but the majority of attenders could be Sukuma, not Nyamwezi. Some say up to 15% of Nyamwezi could be Christian, most of those are Catholic or nominal Christian.

Learn more about the Nyamwezi at Joshua Project or about Tanzania at Operation World.

Latest Prayer Updates:

Make Your Attributes Evident

This last week many celebrated the birth of the Prophet Mohamed. Ask the Lord God to break the seals of darkness and that instead of praise to man, there would be recitations of praise about God’s faithfulness and His attributes. May those who know God, retell their testimonies of how God has been faithful. Pray that the Nyamwezi will know that the Lord is faithful in demonstrating His perfect love, and it is without limits, immeasurable. May those who doubt find affirmation through the Spirit and knowing God’s perfect love in their lives. Ask God to breakthrough in lives which are shackled, trying to earn their salvation, and instead may those lives be liberated by salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Prayer for Strong Marriages

Please pray for church leaders with marriage struggles throughout this region where the church is under attack not only from without, but also from within the households of Gospel servants. Ask God to heal and restore broken relationships, for good counsel and support to resolve issues. Pray that couples serving in ministry among the Nyamwezi would come to see and appreciate why God put them together, and that they would both know that God wants to use them and their marriage to be a light in their community.

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