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					                                   MAMBO !
                  The newsletter of the French Institute for Research in Africa

Volume VII, n° 6; 2008

             Notes and hypotheses from three examples of households in
                              Arusha, Tanzania

    T    his paper is the first in a monograph series, of three typical Tanzanian homes in Arusha (situated in the north of the
         country). The study consisted of a peek into the domestic life of three individuals of different profiles (A, B and C).
    By isolating and then re-linking these dwellings to the dynamics in the town, the aim is to put the issues existing between
    the individual and the macro-social into perspective. An analysis of each of these model profiles is then done such that
    the house reveals self-actualisation, especially in the observation of personal activities, dreams and ideals that emerged
    at the end of the discussions. Drawing from the reflections of habitation socio-anthropologists, the aim is to depart from
    a sedentary and one-way view of normal housing practices, and to consider all inhabitants as producers of highly
    diverse forms of one’s own home.
          In the observations recorded by a re-contextualisation of places and homes, an attempt is made to raise issues on a
    uniform platform, the localized capital and functional livable space that these houses represent. This is followed by the
    symbolic and identification expressions that support them. The final aim is to expose the major peculiarities and
    characteristics of each example and at the same time, to raise relevant questions that will be the subject of later

                                            Monograph 1 : House A.
1. Notes and observations                                             The house in its environment. Road access
   Profile                                                            The access to A.’s residential area is through a tarmac road
                                                                   leading to the Fire Station from the Clock Tower central
   This three-part series on different domestic setups begins
                                                                   roundabout, then into a rough road that is the entry into an
with the example of house ‘A’, situated in a central residential
                                                                   estate surrounded by urban garden crops such as spinach
area in Arusha. A. is a young Tanzanian professional, single
                                                                   and beans. Some old workers’ houses from the colonial era
and about 30 years of age. He is originally from the southern
                                                                   are still in existence, one of which is A.’s. These houses are
part of Tanzania. He considers himself as a member of the
                                                                   built lengthwise with three windows facing the outside, a
country’s middle-class. He holds a University degree and has
                                                                   white-washed surface and corrugated iron roofing. Despite
a disposable income that he basically reserves for personal
                                                                   the advanced dilapidation; the house is divided into three
effects, learning a foreign language, trips within the country
                                                                   housing units—with three entrances—rented out to three
(to Dar es Salaam and his native region) and a professional
                                                                   different people. To gain access to A’s doorway, one must go
exchange programme with Europe. He also finances the
                                                                   across the neighbouring house. The immediate
construction of a new house for his mother, which probably
                                                                   neighbourhood has two semi-detached houses, sheltering
means that he supports relatives in the rural areas. Currently
                                                                   other households as well as an outdoor kitchen for making
a rent-paying tenant, A. is passionate about the dream of
                                                                   maandazi (doughnuts).
building his own house in the suburbs of Arusha.

                           Ambank House, Utalii Lane; P.O. Box 58480 - 00200 Nairobi, Kenya
                                   Tel : 254 20 222 19 22 ; Fax : 254 20 24 13 59
                             E-mail:; Web site:
    The layout of the house                 mainly on the walls by the desk. There        courtyard. Formerly a bathroom, it still
                                            is a poster of Bruce Lee, framed              has a shower area, directly built into the
   The rooms are laid out as follows: a     photographs of A., two 2008 calendars         cement floor. This has been converted
small entry                                                                               into a dish-washing area. As there is
with          an                                                                          no longer running water in the house,
adjoining room                                                                            A. chose to change the room allocated
on one side,                                                                              for the shower into a kitchen, and to
and on the                                                                                shower in the toilet, using a bucket. The
other, a former                                                                           kitchen has a table on which is a two-
bathroom                                                                                  plate gas stove, several buckets used as
converted into                                                                            water reserves and plastic boxes to store
a kitchen, next                                                                           perishable foodstuff. Several aluminum
to which is the                                                                           pots and plastic containers complete the
toilet. All the                                                                           tableau. The toilet is the Indian type—
windows in the                                                                            an enamel bidet sunk into the cement
house        are                                                                          floor. Wet washing is hung from the
burglar-proofed with metal bars and         and several greeting cards. Two lace          door.
each room has a door except for the         doilies are placed on the sofa.
space between the living room and
                                               Separated from the living room by a        2. Living practices and strategies
bedroom. The electricity installation is
                                            net curtain, the bedroom is also well-
old-fashioned and the supply irregular.                                                   · Links to the town and its dynamics
                                            furnished. It is better-lit than the living
There is no piped water inside the                                                           A. goes to work on foot, Monday to
                                            room as it has a large window, with a
house, rather, the residents are supplied                                                 Saturday, to his office situated at the
                                            view to the outside. On one side of the
from a communal tap outside.                                                              other end of town, towards the parks.
                                            room, there are two double mattresses
   The entrance to A’s house has pairs      on the floor, one atop the other while        It takes him about 45 minutes to get
of shoes strewn across the floor. Only      several clothes are spread out in disarray    there. Sometimes he takes a taxi to town
an old electricity meter, perpetually       on a clothes hangar, a portable rail,         when he is in a hurry. He generally
active, has a fixed position. The living    several boxes and suitcases. A suit that      avoids going out in the evening due to
room is arranged around an immense          has just been brought back from the           security concerns. He never has lunch
office desk on which there is a                                                                                    at home during
flat-screen computer (with a                                                                                       the week but
WiFi internet connection), a                                                                                       instead eats at
music stereo, headphones and                                                                                       canteens in the
several speakers. A television                                                                                     town centre. He
set, a DVD player and a                                                                                            does his shopping
refrigerator, all bought brand                                                                                     at the central
new, are placed in the two                                                                                         market of Arusha
corners of the room which                                                                                          and in the small
also has a sideboard                                                                                               neighbourhood.
(containing plates, a coffee                                                                                       shops (maduka).
service, several glasses and a                                                                                        By living in this
flask), two identical low tables,                                                                                  part of town
an office chair and a sofa. The                                                                                    situated at the
room is lit through a small                                                                                        border between
lateral opening (shielded with a sheer      drycleaners is also hung there, still in      the planned urban zone and the
curtain and with a view to the doorway)     its plastic bag. Additionally, there is a     haphazardly populated industrial area
as well as by a light bulb, hanging from    large portable mirror and several piles       (Unga Limited), A. benefits from
the ceiling. The floor is covered in a      of newspapers and magazines placed            several advantages—a retreat from the
square-patterned linoleum while the         at the foot of the bed.                       main road (Sokoine Road) and its
walls are painted dark green. This                                                        activities while still being close to it; the
                                                The room that is now a kitchen has
darkens the entire room. The décor is                                                     tranquility and vegetation of the area,
                                            a window facing into the neighbouring

that create a semi-village ambiance, a        whole, A.’s home is an indication of the     photographs of his ‘native land’ and his
15-minute walk from the Clock Tower;          preser vation of                                                   childhood haunts.
an excellent road and sewerage system         intimacy reserved                                                  He has saved these
all the way up to his house.                  for       personal                                                 as his computer
                                              activities with the                                                screen background,
                                              added value of a                                                   on the computer in
    Décor as a projection of self
                                              workspace, virtual                                                 his living room. The
    A.’s house is surprising in its highly
                                              communication,                                                     many pictures of his
contrasting nature, both time-worn and
                                              reading, listening                                                 parents, relatives
modern. The age of the building is in
                                              to          music,                                                 and the area in
complete opposition to the latest
                                              acquisition of an                                                  which he lived are a
electronic equipment, comfortable
                                              impressive                                                         daily reminder of
furniture and bits of bric-a-brac; which
                                              wardrobe etc.                                                      his roots and adorn
give the whole house a sense of
                                              These elements of                                                  his current life with
modernity. The abundance of
                                              personal comfort                                                   a strong sense of
possessions spread out within his home
                                              translate to an                                                    identity. The photos
not only reflects his financial capacity,
                                              aspiration to enjoy                                                from this visit also
but also his ambition to progressively
                                              being at home in                                                   depict him in the
add to his belongings, which will furnish
                                              compensation for                                                   company of his
his future home. The accumulation of
                                              the time spent                                                     family. (A. at the
goods also seems to correspond to
                                              outside, either at work or in urban social   door of his grandparents’ house; A.
stages in the modernization of his
                                              settings.                                    with his brother’s animals; in the fields
lifestyle and home. This modernity is
                                                                                           or at panoramic viewpoints…), like a
prominently displayed despite a
                                                                                           researcher in his area of fieldwork.
restricted sanitation due to the lack of         The dream of a home
                                                                                           Apart from the nostalgic and certainly
piped water and the general insalubrity          The personal space that A. attempts
                                                                                           beneficial effect that such images offer
of the building. The evident domestic         to preserve at his home summons up
                                                                                           in his expatriation state, these also seem
planning seems to be the result of a          two other psychological aspects linked
                                                                                           to bear witness to life in the village such
compromise between functional areas           to memory and imagination. It is, on
                                                                                           as he had experienced it and to show
and incongruous settings, such as the         the one hand, a permanent reminder
                                                                                           his visitors the most typical aspects.
dishes in the shower.                         of his origins and on the other, dreams
                                                                                           Other photographs, mainly of the
    The décor of A.’s house therefore         of his future home.
                                                                                           infrastructure observed along the route
has several functions corresponding to           His recent visit to his family in the     to his native land from Arusha (bus
different residential behaviour. The          south of Tanzania after a four-year          stops, railway station, roadside scenes,
objects are mainly utilitarian with a daily   absence resulted in a series of              regional specificities etc), add an
domestic function,                                                                                        analytical               and
oriented towards                                                                                          observational dimension
enter taining—A.                                                                                          to this report, which
affirms that he likes                                                                                     seems to show the state
to receive friends at                                                                                     he is in today.
home and cook for
                                                                                                              Added to the thoughts
meals them. The
                                                                                                          and search for identity
other function of
                                                                                                          that A. undergoes by
the       items       is
                                                                                                          creating a heritage
ornamental and
                                                                                                          illustrated by his origins,
testifies to A.’s
                                                                                                          there is an active
desire to show what
                                                                                                          reflection on the house
his life is like, doing
                                                                                                          of his dreams. The
so by displaying
                                                                                                          possibilities of building
images of his
                                                                                                          this house are perpetually
personal success. As

on mind. Constantly seeking plans and models of buildings,       of A. and bears witness to the insufficiency of this single
he has several photos of model houses downloaded from            analysis based on consumption. By skimming through A.’s
the Internet either by him or his relatives, and architectural   residence and its use, it is clear to what extent the use of the
drawings, which also scroll out on his computer and feed his     home is part of a productive and self-protective step towards
fancy. He has some photos of the interior of new houses,         f self-actualisation based on a specific ambition: settling down
which he got by paying guards working for wealthy home-          through ownership.
owners in a residential area in Arusha. These houses have            Creativity strategies indicate a form of ‘living’ that draws
only recently been occupied.                                     its originality from links, equally with the outside world and
                                                                 from its personal resources. In a home that is not his own,
    Conclusion                                                   caught between dreams of past experiences and the future,
    The detailed                                                                                A. unconsciously obser ves
description of the                                                                              identification (re)construction
house, its interior                                                                             challenges concerning the home
and function gives                                                                              and on the abounding
an understanding                                                                                localizations. Going by the
of the residential                                                                              acknowledgement that self-
behaviour of those                                                                              renewing spaces are not easy to
who live in it. An                                                                              access in contemporary
observation of this                                                                             Tanzania, isn't the dream of
first profile clarifies                                                                         owning a house already a sign
the practical habits                                                                            of maturity?

                                                                                                          Mathilde de Blignières
                                                                                                              IFRA Grantholder

                                                                                                  Mathilde de Blignières is an
                                                                                                  IFRA grantholder and PhD
                                                                                                  candidate at EHESS, Paris. She
                                                                                                  is curently carrying out
                                                                                                  fieldwork in Tanzania as part of
                                                                                                  her social anthropology thesis
                                                                                                  on the study of homes.
                                                                                                  E-mail :

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