Litembo is a lovely place. I was born here. As a young boy, I walked its paths countless times, visiting homes, going to school and, on Sundays, to church. No matter where I am in the world, my heart is here.
Litembo made me who I am: the way I talk, feel and see the world.
Litembo is well known, in Southern Tanzania and beyond, because of its church and its hospital. For decades, people from far and near have flocked to Litembo Hospital, where the legendary Doctor Weyer worked, from 1961 to 1996, when she retired and returned to her native Germany. A model of devotion to serving others, she was loved by all and will always be remembered.
Several years ago, people of Litembo built a monument on a nearby mountain side, in remembrance of their ancestors killed there during an uprising against German rule. With this bit of history as an added attraction, Litembo beckons visitors, even those traveling the road between Mbinga and Mbamba Bay.
Litembo harbours cultural treasures, such as traditional Matengo ceremonies, dances, songs, games, and artifacts.
This is where, in the seventies, I recorded Matengo Folktales, an open window into the soul of the people who live here.
These tales express the experiences of the Matengo, their sentiments and outlook on life, revealing their thoughts, speculations, and questions about their environment, about themselves, about their relationships, and about the human condition in general. These tales are an important index and repertory of the Matengo artistic heritage.
Several miles from Litembo mission, as we call it, there is the awe-inspiring Mmbuji Rock, the subject of legends and other folklore. Ibuuta, Matengo fairies, live on this rock. People who live nearby report seeing unusual sights on the rock at night. The Matengo behold this rock with awe and reverence.
I recommend a hike up the surrounding mountains. The trails wind through coffee farms, fields of maize, wheat, and beans. Along the way, there are brick houses with corrugated iron roofs. As one pushes higher and higher, the houses vanish, to be replaced by both fields and uncultivated patches, the abode of colourful butterflies and birds of various kinds. Isolated trees and rocks of different shapes and sizes define the landscape.
It is cold up there, and windy. On the rocks, ancient little trees with stunted trunks and gnarled branches defy the cold winds, their roots wedged deep into the rock crevices. From that height, you can see distant places, where the horizon merges with the sky. This is not a place to spend the day, however, because of the cold winds, but it is a great place to enjoy a panoramic view of this beautiful region in Southern Tanzania.
(Litembo photo at the top of the page is from Peramiho Abbey).