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A Photo Exhibition in Dar Showcases the Wisdom of a 108-year-old Man

A new exhibition at the Old Boma in Dar es Salaam offers a fascinating insight into the culture and tradition of the people of the Uluguru mountains.

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The older man sits on a chair in the middle of the room. He is elegantly dressed in traditional clothing with a walking stick. One senses a quiet dignity. 

The man could easily be overlooked. Albeit he is the star guest of the evening – the centrepiece of the art exhibition which was about to be presented to the public. 

Such was the setting at the opening of Sauti za Milimani on November 24, 2023, at the Old Boma building in the city centre of Dar es Salaam. 

The MAZI Arts and Culture exhibition showcases pictures by photographer David Masanja. Masanja spent a month-long residency in Choma, a village in the Morogoro region, where MAZI has a centre. The exhibition shows what the photographer did during the residence there.

Masanja was accompanied by Dar es Salaam-based painter Turakella Gyindo, who was also present at the event and showed a visual performance at the beginning.

MAZI is an art and culture initiative started in 2018 in Morogoro by Pius Matunge. The young manager tries to foster the appreciation of nature and indigenous art and culture within our modern society, as he explains on his website

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MAZI’s exchange program offers artists like Masanja and Gyindo the opportunity to engage with nature and indigenous communities. Friday’s exhibition demonstrates how fruitful such an experience can be.

A revered figure

Masanja used his stay in Choma to learn about the culture of the Waluguru people of the Uluguru mountains. He did so by befriending and partaking in the daily life of village elder Iddi Kibwana, better known under the name Mzee Kiko – the very man present at last Friday’s opening event. 

Mzee Kiko led a remarkable life and remains a central and revered figure in his community. At 108 years of age, he is still in excellent health and continues cultivating his farms, where he grows beans, cassava, and other crops.

Mzee Kiko in a photo captured by photographer Masanja. PHOTO | MARC BURGI

“Kiko has a profound history to tell,” the architectural heritage expert Mike Tchawi said in his opening remarks at the event. “He has reached the age of 108 and is among the elders with stories they need to share with us.” 

“They can help us understand the history of their communities,” Tchawi added. “Mzee Kiko is from the Uluguru mountains, so this exhibition is called ‘Sounds of the Mountain.’”

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Mzee Kiko’s life story could turn into a legend told by future generations – because he is why farmers in his region became essential producers of strawberries. 

Mzee Kiko learned about cultivating the fruit working on a German farm in the region in the 1950s. Unbeknownst to his supervisors, he brought some seeds back to his community.

Masanja spent much time with the 108-year-old man and found an artistic expression of this experience in his art. He tells The Chanzo: “I was impressed by how Mzee Kiko still works and cares for his community.”

The exhibition is small but worth visiting. It will run for one month, and the entry is free.

Marc Bürgi reports for The Chanzo from Dar es Salaam. He is available at

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