Introduction / History
Tavetas inhabit the area at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. Their homeland covers the swampy area from Lake Jipe along the Tanzania border and Lake Chala across the Maktau plains. Lake Chala is a crater lake, whose waters are crystal clear. Tsavo National Park is found in the Maktau plains. Lake Chala has crocodiles and Lake Jipe has hippos. The area has plenty of wildlife, which is now protected by the Park. The Tavetas are only linguistically related to the Taita and have no relation whatsoever with the Mijikenda. They appear to have elements of Kamba and Maasai cultures but maintain a separate identity.
Among them are other subgroups, namely, Kasigau, Sagalla and Dawida. Tavetas are popularly known as agriculturists and for their skills as smithies and craftsmen. Those near the waters practice some fishing. Plantations of pineapples, tea, coffee and sisal are common sights. On a subsistence scale, they grow vegetables, bananas and mangoes. Houses are either round or square huts, wooden poles and mud-plastered walls. The roof is thatched with banana palm leaves.
The most important types of traditional property were land and livestock, which provided the means to sustain life. Individual ownership rights were vested in the family head, who allocated usage rights as required. Females could not own land, even through married sons until the father's death. Plots are allocated to women for them to cultivate, sometimes including allocation to unmarried daughters.
A lot of reverence for spirits of ancestors pervades the society. Family and community prayers are conducted in shrines as they chant incantations to the spirits. The skulls of ancestors are kept in the clan caves. Prayers are made over the skulls for they are believed to bring good favor. Tribal spirits are revered but they guard and affect their territory, only. Today only a few Taveta follow these traditions, because many have integrated with the national culture.
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