Journal of African Studies
Online ISSN : 1884-5533
Print ISSN : 0065-4140
ISSN-L : 0065-4140
Recent Cultural Developments in Zanzibar Island as Seen in Zanzibar Door Designs
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2009 Volume 2009 Issue 74 Pages 19-36


The purpose of this article is to depict the dynamics of recent cultural developments in Zanzibar Island after it has experienced the revolution, development in tourism, and so on. Zanzibar in the 19th century was a major port in the western Indian Ocean as a center of Swahili region, and “Stone Town” was founded by many immigrants from Arab and India. At that time, rich merchants and noblemen attached luxurious wood-carved doors to their houses. However in 1964, the outbreak of the Zanzibar Revolution changed the social structure and the ethnic composition of the island significantly, which brought an outflow of affluent residents and craftsmen from the island, causing the declination of the door making. After that, the efforts of the government have prompted the revival of the tradition and the emergence of new generation craftsmen. With such background, I surveyed the remaining doors and interviewed to artisans, and analyzed the differences of designs between the doors made before the revolution and after the revolution. This research revealed primarily that there has been a cultural interaction between Stone Town culture which is thought as Arabic-Indian and the rural culture which is rather African; secondly that the door craftsmen are generating a new culture through making choices and freely fusing various traditional designs of Arab, India and Africa.

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