The history of Urithi Wetu is connected to Ichu’s (the project coordinator) upbringing and family history and whose many ideas in the project are his brain child. Ichu was born in a polygamous family. The father had seven wives, Ichu’s mother being the last wife. Although every wife had her own house, they all lived in the nearby compound and shared many of the facilities. The late Ichumbaki maintained peace and harmony among his seven wives and thirty-seven children. As part of this accomplishment, he gave an opportunity to his wives and children to openly explain their likes and dislikes. Meetings to discuss family issues took place under a tree that still exists today in Ichu’s family farm. According to Ichu’s father, the tree heard and recorded all the meetings’ proceedings. He insisted that whoever would go against the meeting deliberations would face life problems. Due to such cultural construction, Ichu’s father managed to maintain peace among his wives and children.
The above scenario indicates that Ichu’s father used customs and traditions to discipline children and maintain peace and harmony among his wives. Consequently, the family members continued to live harmoniously not only because they feared the punishment they could get from the spirits but also because they had an opportunity to express what they liked and disliked the time between one meeting and another. Being a son of the last wife—a disadvantaged member of the family—Ichu benefited much from this technique. He got an opportunity to interact with both step-mothers and senior brothers. More importantly, he got a chance to be listened to and be guided when he wanted to know more about our family history. It is this freedom he enjoyed during childhood and as a teenager that motivated him to pursue a bachelor degree in cultural heritage to further understand how a ‘tree’ listened and recorded meeting proceedings.
Although the syllabus at the University of Dar es Salaam did not exactly cover what Ichu expected, undergraduate practical training gave him an opportunity to learn further the contributions of cultural heritage resources including the intangible heritage. The interests to learn and research on the world’s cultural heritage continued to grow in 2008 when he got opportunity to join other 25 youths from across the world during the youth forum–a component of the 32nd Session of the World Heritage Committee held in Quebec City, Canada. With these exposures, Ichu came to realize that what his father did at the family level could also be done to all societies leading to global peace. All this motivated him to join a teaching profession at the University of Dar es Salaam with the view to display knowledge on the value of heritage to a wider public.
To achieve that major goal, Ichu thought of implementing projects guided by five specific objectives: 1) to explore the knowledge and practices of cultural heritage management by local communities and ways in which such communities value their cultural heritage; 2) to investigate how local communities appreciate their cultural heritage values, protect them, and sustainably invest in them to develop a sense of belonging and well-being; 3) to identify economic opportunities that local communities can utilize to improve their livelihoods; 4) to produce results to inform policies on cultural heritage and landscape management in Tanzania, and beyond; and, 5) to enhance heritage assessment capacity by equipping students and the general public with cultural heritage competencies.