THE ‘ungo’ is made to dance as deft hands whoosh away rice pellets onto the air, the embers of its husks flutter off, miraculously landing the raw rice safely onto this woven plate.
It’s another humid evening she’s sitting by the verandah, picking out the pebbles and debris in her rice. The verandah can witness many a sensuous moments, like ‘kupepeta mchele’. “Ungo’s, are mostly madefrom Mtwara basically the southern regions of Tanzania. They weave it from the branches of a type of bamboo ‘mianzi’ grown in the region.”
Geoffrey Tomatoowner of an afro-décor/curio shop at Slipway Rd, Shop No 2 (on the right, when coming from Chole Rd). A little history… Our biggest purveyor of Tanz- Politan interaction, which bore the language ‘Kiswahili’, is on bedrock of a house that served not only as a home but as a guest house.
“This house is mostly seen on the East African coast by Pwani, Lamu, Mombasa, Tanga, Bagamoyo, Dar es Salaam, Lindi, Kilwa, Mtwara, Zanzibar and Pemba...having up to 6-12 rooms.”-Introductory notes written in the middle of the 20th C for the ‘Swahili house’ at the village museum in Makumbusho, DSM. Echoes of this ‘Swahili house’ live in many of our homes today in Tanzania, with the corridor that has rooms on each side, the eastern influenced patterns on brick fences.
That back then were prominent on the door, today they’ve gone on to the headboard, the cupboards and or the small fences of our verandahs. As the ‘Swahili house’ was the first home of its kind.
To arch into the integration of East Africa beyond tribal and national lines, perhaps nowhere else is this merger of culture better fuelled than on its verandah-‘barazani’.
We experience many a hot afternoons in our climate in Tanzania, spending time on the periphery of inside and outside offered by the verandah is thus very ideal. Perking up the space… As you go about making your verandah comfortable. The first thing to consider is the story your balcony will witness.
Is this the place where you hands clasp a cup of tea, while you eyes wonder onto the streets noticing the children playing? Is this the place where you listen to the radio as the football game fares on, where you’ve invited your neighbour and your daughter has just served you two cold beers?
Once you know what experience you like having here, you can enhance the same by complementing the activity. It doesn’t matter that your verandah looks onto the street and so can be visited by anyone when you’re not looking. They’re still features you can add that won’t get stolen.
Like painting the walls, here you can play with the same by painting patterns. You can place two ‘ungo’ on either side as wall art or here’s a thought. You know our grass hand brooms, you can take them to the local afro-curio shops like Mr. Geoffrey’s and have them die them in your preferred colours.
Then you can mount them onto the walls as art. That said one of the quickest ways to spruce up the balcony is by having a pot plant, a good seating like say our ‘ukili’ or Iringa grass mats. I think these are just a must have for your ‘barazani’ experience, add this with a couple of pillows & your good to go. Plus these can easily be carried back inside after using.
For the big square pillows, the cotton filled ones are good for sitting on as they are heavy. Whilst the ones filled with ‘samarin fiber’ like the one in the photo here, is good for leaning your back onto. With smaller pillows its best to go for the ones filled with ‘sufi’, they last years and years while still maintaining form.
Again look to your experience and complement it, by say having an interesting stool that houses the radio, a spice rack that houses your garlic & other cooking condiments. As you like to pick your rice and pound your spices here. Remember it’s your space, you’re allowed to let it reflect your best…