The Mbulu or Iraqw are principally farmers who live in Northern and Central Tanzania, in the Manyara Lake and Eyasi Lake district, in a sort of linguistic isolation, because in this region the prevailing spoken language is Kiswahili, while their language finds origin in ancient Ethiopia, though very little is known of the origin of this people and their migrations; some archeological finds in Northern Kenya bear witness of their passage also across that area some time in history.
They live in villages consisting of houses scattered here and there; villages are grouped in counties that are ruled by a council of elders in charge of settling all kinds of social life problems.
Their history is an enigma: on one hand, their language is linked to ancient Ethiopian languages and belongs to the Southern Cushitic lineage, on the other according to some archeological finds the Mbulu came from Northern Kenya; they probably came down from Ethiopia, stopped in Kenya and gradually moved Southwards until they reached the site where they live now, that stretches from the Rift Valley to the savannahs.
The Mbulu have thin faces like those of Ethiopian populations, that is further proof of their Ethiopian and Northern Kenyan origin and their subsequent migration Southwards due to conflicts with other populations; they have never been warriors and in their history they have always preferred to move away rather than fighting against other populations.
The Mbulu currently live in a linguistic isolation, as their language is very different from those spoken by neighbouring people, especially after the progressive diffusion of Kiswahili; the population is estimated around 450,000 individuals, who typically live in huts consisting of vertical sticks and mud or they seek shelter in mountain caves, that are part of the village, regardless of how remote they are; the villagers usually help one another in the cultivation of fields and solving everyday life problems.
The Mbulu or Iraqw are mainly farmers who practice intensive agriculture, thanks to irrigation and terracing techniques, they manage to harvest crops twice a year; they usually own livestock, the number of which reflects the social status and wealth of the family, but it is also a source of meat and milk; they celebrate a series of rituals, the most important one being the male circumcision that represents the transition to adulthood and involves children from 3 to 10 years of age.
Life, tradition and culture of Mbulu or Iraqw people