28 Mar 2012

A window back in time, Twende Pamoja local newspaper, 1956-1957

Good sources of information on local history in Tanzania are as rare as they are interesting. Which is why I was delighted that after much searching, we have finally found copies of Njombe's Twende Pamoja local newspaper dating from 1956 and 1957.

The paper was published by the Njombe District African Council prior to independence and the Njombe District Council after independence. According to Martin Sturmer's fascinating Media History of Tanzania (pdf), it was published between 1953 and 1964, though the issue numbers of the papers we have found suggest that it started a little later, in 1955. Each issue consists of 8 A4 pages and the paper was published monthly in Swahili.

It's a fascinating glimpse on a past world. I can highly recommend having a look, particularly if you have any interest in Tanzanian history, the lives and concerns of "ordinary" people, outside the world of high politics.There are arguments about high bride prices and discussions on witchcraft as well as how to improve agricultural productivity. There's a surprising amount of news about new initiatives to establish community groups - from the "Domestic and Hotel Workers Union" to the "Mdandu African Traders Association". And there's a huge amount of what would now be called "citizen journalism" - letters to the editor, articles and opinion pieces written by readers.

Rather than keep the copies we've manage to find to ourselves, we've decided to make them available to the world. So we've scanned the whole lot and uploaded them to a very simple website, which is now online. The site has scanned copies of every page of every issue from February 1956 to December 1957. We will try to find a suitable way of labelling this, so that all the articles on a particular topic can be found easily, and we will try to add more papers if and when we can find them.

And we intend to go through the papers and share what we find, using this blog as a platform, and also posting on the paper's dedicated website. But I also encourage you to use the comments section at the bottom of each post to tell us what you've found, and what you've found interesting. And if anyone feels inspired to use the papers for more more detailed research or analysis, please let us know so we can share your insights with a wider audience.

For the moment, though let me give you taste of what can be found in this treasure trove, with just three articles that I found interesting on a first look.

How's this for transparency? (from July 1957)
Details of how much has been collected as tax and how much has been spent by each "Baraza" (a subdivision of the district), in the three months between January and April 1957.

The driving force (from July 1956)
Take a look at the picture and accompanying description at the bottom of this page: "This is Mr Daniel D.S.M. Mello, District Councils Secretary, Editor, Community Centres Organizer, who has worked for the African Council for the last 6 years. Mr Mello is the originator of the idea to set up "Twende Pamoja" newspaper."

Racial tensions, (self-)censorship, or an honest re-appraisal? (From October 1956)
Take a look at the letter in the centre of this page, under the headline "Ulisikitika?" (Were you upset?). The letter starts by explaining how the writer, a J.W. Yohanne Nyagava, was initially upset at the "white people" who has dispossessed his community of their land in Usovi for a Wattle plantation. But more recently he has changed his mind, particularly appreciating the support the plantation offers to community members growing their own Wattle trees. I'm suspicious. Could his change of heart have anything to do with his apparent source of employment? His address is given as CDC Njombe, the owners of the Wattle plantation.