Introduction / History
"Tama" is a collective term used to describe a cluster of languages and ethnic groups that live on the borders of Chad and Sudan. The various languages spoken are all dialects of the Tama language. One of the tribes, the Kimr, has also spoken Arabic for a long time. The Tama-speaking peoples are divided into a number of subgroups, which include the Abu Sharib, the Kibet, the Mararit, the Kimr, the Sungor, the Erenga, and the Tama.
Of the six tribes listed above, only the Tama and the Kimr have ever formed independent governments. Today, the Tama are citizens of the independent nations of Chad and Sudan. They all inhabit sandy, hilly regions with similar climates, grow the same crops, make their homes in the same manner, and have similar lifestyles.
The ancient Tama capital, Niere, was located in Chad. The ruins of this city can still be seen, and sultans are still being enthroned there. During the 1800's, the Tama were dominated by Turko-Egyptian Sudan. The Turkish authority was replaced by French and British power in the late 1800's and early 1900's.
What are their lives like?
The Tama rely on farming and breeding cattle for their livelihood. The Sungor, the Abu Sharib and the Mararit, however, are mostly settled shepherds, and plant only small-scale gardens. Since these groups own the most livestock, they have the most manure fertilizer, which makes their annual crop yield higher than the other groups. Their main crops include millet, sorghum, sesame, peanuts, okra, onions, chilies, watermelons, and various other vegetables.
Because of the sandy, hilly topography and the shortage of rainwater and ground moisture in Sudan, the only agriculture possible for those groups is dry farming. Their livestock includes camels, cattle, goats, and sheep. These provide milk and other dairy products, along with wool and leather. These tribes also hunt guinea, fowl, and gazelles for meat. One of their main dishes is millet served with various sauces, especially goat meat, okra, and onions.
The women gather products from the forests on a regular basis, particularly during the rainy season. The products include wild grasses, berries, and honey, along with useful tool-making or building materials. Women also help work in the field; engage in basketry, pottery, and other crafts; and brew beer from millet, both for consumption and sell or trade. The men do most of the field work and trade at the local markets. They may also work as craftsmen or merchants.
Due to the poor natural resources and economic conditions of the region, some of the Tama migrate from their home territories, searching for work elsewhere, usually in the Nile Valley. Some modern occupations include jobs as clerks, teachers, tailors, drivers, automobile mechanics, and middlemen in trade.
The Tama live in village compounds. Their houses are round, with diameters of 15-20 feet. The walls are made of coarse reed mats, and the cone-shaped roofs are made of thatched reeds. Some homes, however, have lower, more narrow entrances to keep out the lions and hyenas that roam throughout the region. Each village settlement is ruled by its own chief. The chief gives advice to the villagers, handles disputes, and makes important decisions. Each village chief answers to a territorial chief, who, in turn, answers to a higher government official.
Modern schools are not available in most Tama regions. Education is limited to the Islamic schools attended by the Tama boys. Therefore, only a small percentage of the Tama are literate. Some elite families send their children to schools in France, Britain, or other countries. These highly educated Tama hold administrative positions in society.
What are their beliefs?
All of the Tama tribes are Muslim. They adhere to Islamic teachings and hold the traditional Muslim ceremonies and festivals. Many of the tribes also mix animism (belief that non-living objects have spirits) and witchcraft with their Islamic practices.
What are their needs?
The Tama desperately need dedicated Christian laborers to live among them and share with them the love of Jesus. Since most of them cannot read or write, non-print resources are especially needed. Perhaps Christian teachers will have open doors into these tribes.
Prayer PointsView Sinyar, Shamya in all countries.
* Ask the Lord to send forth laborers into Sudan and Chad to share the love of Jesus with the Tama.
* Pray that Christian teachers will have open doors into these tribes.
* Pray that God will grant the small number of Kimr and Tama believers (of Sudan) boldness to share the Gospel with their own people.
* Pray that strong local churches will be planted among each of the Tama tribes.
* Pray for translation of the Bible to begin in this people group's primary language.
* Pray for the availability of the Jesus Film in the primary language of this people.