June 28, 2022
2 Min. Read

Local Heroes, The junior captains of Fumba

Fumba can pride itself on some skillful youngsters building mini dhows, larger than a tiny toy but smaller than real boats. Their role models: village elders. 

One can see them when the sun is about to go down. Young buys treading towards the sea, passing the new Pavilion shopping centre, crossing over to Fumba Town B, heading straight to the ocean. It depends, of course, on the tide, where they can let their big and beautiful self-made replicas of Zanzibar dhows into the water. The coastline here is rocky.

But there is no hesitation for the boys. "Once I have completed crafting my dhow, I must join my friends in a race”, says Hamiar Hassan Ab'Rab. “It makes me happy when my boat can withstand the ocean waves.” The 17-year-old, born and raised in Zanzibar, belongs to a group dubbed 'Tunasubiri Bei' (Swahili for “We wait for the price”) of around twenty youngsters - the junior captains of Fumba.

They all live in and around Ndambani and Nyamanzi, two villages in the immediate neighbourhood of Fumba Town. What makes their play-boats unique on the island is the sheer size. About one to 1,20 m long, a small kid could almost really sail away with them. The boats are much larger than the miniature toy dhows one can find in souvenirs shops.

"It took me one year to learn how to shape wood planks, to cut a mast and some plastic or cotton as a sail. Our village elders were of great support to us”, says Hamiar, who has five siblings and attends Kombeni Secondary school: “But now, in three to four days my dhow is ready.” His best friend Ali Maulid Muhammad, 15, was ten years old, when his grandfather took him sailing. “At first, it was terrifying, but at the end of the day, I felt thrilled.”

Sometimes Hamiar and Ali manage to sell their boats, “mostly to foreigners”. Prices vary by size, the boys have learnt, from TZS 50,000 to 100,000. But with such strong grandfathers as role models they are not willing to sell their dreams: “One day we will be one of the great fishermen in Zanzibar.” 

By Baraka Mosha

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