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Quenching Curiosity on Tanzania
Interview with Justa Lujwangana, founder of Curious On Tanzania
The sights, sounds and cultures of Tanzania are alive in New York City with Curious On Tanzania, a new social traveling platform that introduces people to the wonderful regions of Tanzania. What started as an Instagram challenge to post daily photos of Tanzania turned into a full blown organization with a mission to share Tanzanian culture with New Yorkers. Justa Lujwangana, Curious on Tanzania’s founder talks about a few things to look forward too.
What made you decide to start Curious on Tanzania? What is its creation story?
Over twenty years ago, my family migrated from Tanzania to the United States. The move was a promise from my mother, who wanted her five kids to have a better life. At first, settling in New York was a culture stock. I spent my secondary school years learning about and experiencing diverse cultures. Many times, I tried to blend in with others, but my Tanzanian culture remained pronounced. While working toward my master’s degree in International Nutrition, I found myself sharing more and more of my cultural experiences with fellow students. Their positive responses helped me develop an appreciation for my own heritage and culture.
So I started traveling to my homeland every year, which presented me with opportunities to see Tanzania with a new set of eyes. After returning from my trips and talking to others about my experiences, I noticed few people were aware of this beautiful country I called home. The diverse city where I lived inspired me to contribute to the melting pot, while still honoring my Tanzanian heritage and culture.
Curious On Tanzania, a social traveling platform that offers unique experiences, was born within and outside the country.
What does Tanzania have to offer travelers?
Tanzania has a lot to offer, from cultural, culinary tourism to adventure tours, cross country road trips to cultural excursions and yes, safari tours. We have many things to offer travelers, it all depends on what you are looking for.
- The beautiful landscape: Mt. Kilimanjaro; National Parks: Famous Serengeti; Ngorongoro crater; Tarangire; Selous; Mikumi etc.
- History: Kingdom, Slavery, Colonization, Tribes
- The People, Culture and Tribes: Can you image a country with more than 120 tribes and more than 200 languages, and yet is very peaceful?
- Languages: Kiswahili language is the most spoken African language in Africa
- The beautiful white sand beaches of Zanzibar (they’re like the Caribbean islands times 20)
- The nightlife of Dar es Salaam
What can travelers do to support Tanzania and the people that live there?
As a traveler, you can help local tourism by staying in Tanzanian owned accommodations. Eat locally (the best tasting meals are made by locals. Don’t be afraid to try a locally made hot meal); support local artists by buying art, crafts, music, books; attend poetry sessions; and go to local bars, concerts, plays. Another way to be supportive is to share your career path story and tips on how you got to where you are. Share your true story after you listen to ours. Inspire the locals by social networking as we learn from examples. Invest in something small or big in Tanzania.
What have been some of your favorite NYC events for Curious on Tanzania?
One of my favorite events was the “History is to be Shared. Tanzanian History will be told” event. This was an event I thought about while I was editing a video clip from one of my travels. I interviewed a young individual who was a great follower of our 1st president’s (Julius Nyerere) philosophy. It was February, black history month, and I thought “why not host an event to share a story of our 1st president,” so I did. We had a turnout of more than 50 people both Tanzanian and from elsewhere.
When was your last Curious on Tanzania trip? What did it entail?
Last trip was in October and our focus was on beauty. I met a young lady, named Stephanie Flor, during one of my exhibits in NYC and she said she wanted to come to Tanzania to learn about beauty. I was like “what kind of beauty?” So we did research and found out about different tribes in Tanzania with distinct beauty rituals. October came about and we were on our way with other curious travelers to learn all about what beauty was to Tanzanian women. We climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and learned about cultural norms and different beauty practices. We met the Maasai and Zanzibari women to learn all about their rituals. We also went on safari and shopped in local markets in Dar es salaams, collecting ingredients and supporting merchants.
What would be the perfect trip to Tanzania? If there wasn't time or money constraints, what would that trip look like?
A perfect trip would be visiting the different regions in Tanzania and experiencing the different cultures and traditions, learning about the history, going on a cross country road trip, taking the ship/ferry to some places to experience how local people travel, seeing the landscape (the Serengeti plains or the Ngorongoro crater via a private plane, and traveling through the great migration via air balloon. At the end of the trip, there would be relaxing at a private white sand beach in Zanzibar overlooking the sunset while the drums play softly in the background.
Where do you see Curious on Tanzania going in the next five years? What plans do you have for its future?
I see Curious on Tanzania being a platform that people can use to seek and experience a local perspective of the Tanzanian culture from the comfort of a seat, via our events or travels. We have a lot of plans ahead. Our current goal is to create a community here in NYC and then elsewhere to raise awareness of our homeland and its people.
Tell me about your upcoming festival?
It will be the first annual Curious On Tanzania Fest, featuring food, music and live entertainment to showcase some of the country’s many untold wonders. Networking with U.S.-based Tanzanian organizations, information on future travels and goody bags and raffle prizes will allow guests to further experience Tanzania.
What inspired you to host this event?
New York is the melting pot of all cultures, from Chinese to West African cultures, all are well represented. Tanzania seems to have little or no presence in this melting pot, yet a lot of people are either curious to know more, have or want to travel there, want to continue their experience after they return from a trip, or invest in Tanzanian projects. So I thought to myself a month ago, “ I want to do a festival, a Tanzanian Fest.” So, now my team and I are putting together this special festival for audiences who are interested in learning more or experiencing everything Tanzanian here in New York.
What is the best piece of travel advice you have received?
Have an open-mind and enjoy every moment as tomorrow is never promised.
Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
Be curious on Tanzania and visit our Instagram or Facebook channels to learn more about Tanzania through our eyes. Do the same with other African countries as the new African generations have a lot to tell and share with the world.
- When: Saturday, September 5th, 2015 from 4 PM to 9:30 PM
- Where: Punto Space 325 W 38th St, New York, NY 10018
- Dress Code: African or semi-formal attire
- Link to our Fest site: http://www.curiousontanzania.com/curious-on-tz-fest/
- Link to support the fest: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/curious-on-tz-fest-2015-tickets-17613317908
All photos courtesy of Justa Lujwangana and Curious on Tanzania.