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The Sagara (Sagala) People of Tanzania

Religion:        Roman Catholicism
Population:     79,000 (Ethnologue, 1987); 114,000 (Joshua Project, 2006)
Registry of Peoples code:  Sagara  108508
Registry of Language code:  Sagara  sbm


The locales of the Sagara people are described by the Ethnologue as Morogoro Region, Kilosa and Ulanga districts; Dodoma Region, Mpwapwa District and Iringa Region.  I note that the CPPI has the same exact population figure for both the Bondei and the Sagara (123,878).  This would make it seem that one or both of these is in error.

Like most ethnic groups in Tanzania, the Sagara (Sagala) speak a Bantu language.  The Bantu peoples migrated east towards the Indian Ocean coast sometime around the time of Christ, or a little before.

Little information is available about the Sagara people.  General studies in the oral traditions of various Bantu peoples seems to indicate that the original Bantu immigrants probably reached the current home area of the Sagara around AD 200.  Over the centuries, various subsequent movements have occurred, resulting in the currently known tribes and their language forms.

The Ethnologue lists the language as Sagala, and notes that it is a different language from the Sagalla (Taita-related) language in Kenya.  Some sources use the Ethnologue spelling for the ethnic group also.  (In most Bantu languages, there is no separate sound represented by the English letters l and r, so spelling varies, language to language, source to source.)

The Sagala language is a Bantu language, closely related to the neighbouring Bantu languages, in Tazania and Kenya.

The Ethnologue reports that the speakers of the Sagala language are somewhat proficient in the national language Swahili.  Sources report that 93.4% of Tanzania's population speak Swahili as a second language, and it is growing at the expense of local languages.

The Sagala language is classified as a member of the Zigula-Zaramo group of languages.

The Sagara retain their matrilineal familial and inheritance structures, in contrast to some of the coastal groups, who have shifted to a patrilineal pattern or have both patrilineal and matrilineal practices.

Though some sources report there are Sagara Muslims, the CPPI ( reports their religion only as Christianity, Roman Catholicism.

The Joshua Project also reports only Roman Catholicism, but with the with the detail that the adherents are 40% of the population.  JP also reports that evangelical adherents among the Sagara are less than 5%.

The Ethnologue, in contrast, reports that the Sagara practice three types of religion; in order of dominance: Traditional Religion, Islam and Christianity.  African Traditional Religion is sometimes called Animism, although it is different from the classical definition of this in academic World Religions.

The term "animism" is used with african religions because the traditional African worldview is very dynamic, with a high awareness of the spirit world.  This view entails a strong sense of presence of the unseen world. In some peoples this is accompanied by a sense of resignation or fear of the usneens powers.

These societies also maintain the senese of onging relationship with the dead of the family or community.  This persepctive is sometimes characterized as a religious worldview, in contrast to the western secular, detached or objective sense of reality.

The Sagara people are reported to be mostly Roman Catholic.  Different sources report the percentage of evangelcal Christians among the Sagara as from less than 2% to about 5%.  I have found no report of any Christian scripture in the language.

For More on the Sagara (Sagala) People
Sagala (Joshua Project)
Sagala language (Ethnologue)
Sagara (CPPI)

Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
Originally prepared 23 February 2006
First posted on OJTR 23 November 2007
Last edited 10 October 2008

Copyright © 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

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