The Zinza

Map of ZinzaLocation: The Zinza live in Geita District, northwestern Tanzania, on the islands and on the southwestern shores of Lake Victoria.

Geography and Climate: The land around Lake Victoria is semi-tropical scrubby forest.

Population: 100,000 – 300,000 people (numbers are not exact due to the fact that some nearby peoples speak Zinza but call themselves Longo or Subi and not Zinza). There are about 30,000 Zinza living in urban areas.

Zinza Population Centers:

  • Kome Island – 80,000
  • Juma Island – 2,000 – 3,000
  • Maisome Island – 50,000
  • Izumacheli Island – 10,000
  • Kahunda town – 20,000
  • Butundwe – 80,000
  • Luhama – 10,000

Cultural Information: Most of the Zinza are farmers and fishermen, producing cotton and bananas along with the fish they catch. Some are builders and gold miners. A schoolteacher or other government employee may make $200 – 250 a year. Fishermen make more than that. Those who own ferry boats or are shop owners can make much more. Those who are making a living by subsistence farming and selling their banana beer (traditional Zinza drink) may make under $50 a year. There is about one radio per household of 20 people.

kahundaSatellite view of Zinza area. (Tanzania)
Diet: Their basic diet is rice, fish, millet porridge, and bananas. They also grow cassava, corn, sweet potatoes and a variety of fruits.

Health: The Zinza’s greatest health concerns are malaria, Bilharzia, and dysentery. They don't worry about other sicknesses, like AIDS, because they assume that they will not live long enough to be affected by it. Most people see health problems as spiritual problems, after all, everybody gets mosquito bites, but not everybody gets sick. So whether or not a person gets sick is up to the gods. Health education is a great need as well as literacy work.

Language Group Information: The Zinza language is a Bantu language as are its neighbors. Zinza is closely related to other Bantu peoples on the northern side of the lake in Uganda, specifically the Nyankore and Nyoro. Following the Bantu pattern, the Zinza consider their first language to be Kizinza, meaning "language of the Zinza."

Zinza is spoken at home, in Zinza villages and markets. They also speak Swahili, the national language, and they might speak Sukuma if they live near Sukuma people. Some of the older people speak English (due to the fact that they were educated during Colonial times). Wherever there is a mix of ethnic groups, Swahili is used.

The Zinza people are very proud of their language, and they are also proud to learn their national language – Swahili. The Zinza are characterized by tradition. They value continuity through time. Their religion, stories, and songs are very important to them.

Attitudes: The Zinza are not receptive to outside cultures and would say that they have not been influenced by them. They are afraid of losing their identity. Changing too much would be to renounce Zinza. The Zinza would like to see their language documented, preserved, and given some prestige.

runazi_fishing_camp.jpgThe shores of Lake Victoria
Religion: Traditional Animism. The Zinza religion is secretive, so they would not invite an outsider into one of their religious ceremonies. The Zinza traditional religion is considered one of the strongest traditional religions in Africa. It is a very anthropologically developed religion. They worship and appease actual beings, and they acknowledge that these beings are demonic. Most of the people call themselves Catholics because they were baptized as Catholics, and they call themselves Zinza because they practice Zinza religion. Many of the Catholic Zinza do not attend church, they were just baptized as babies.

The Africa Inland Church (AIC) has initiated an outreach program to reach the people along the shorelines and islands of the southeast region of Lake Victoria. A good many of these people are Zinza, who are receptive to the gospel. Active evangelism has been started on the large island of Maisome, and a small church planted.

There has been some evangelization done previously by AIC, but most have not been reached for Christ. Many believers have backslidden. There is a team of 2-4 missionaries located in Kahunda, and they are making approaches to the people in the area as well as to those on the islands nearby.


Zinza Translator: 

Barthazari K.Barthazari K.

Published Scripture:  Genesis, Luke

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