Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Geography

Mental Maps, Segregation, and Everyday Life in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Geography

Mental Maps, Segregation, and Everyday Life in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Article excerpt

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, has a long history as a segregated city. Starting in 1891 the German and then later the British colonial government enacted a series of building ordinances that outlined the styles of construction allowed within different areas of the city. Although these policies applied only to the structures themselves, ultimately they served to divide the city into European/Expatriate, Asian, and African areas. In spite of official attempts to integrate the city, postcolonial Dar es Salaam remains a racially segregated place. This segregation extends beyond residence location and affects all aspects of everyday life such as shopping and recreation. This article uses mental maps drawn by some of Dar es Salaam's residents to illustrate the lingering effects of colonial segregation on the knowledge, perception, and experiences residents have in and of today's city. Expatriate, Asian, and African maps include vastly different locations within the city. Those places considered important enough to map demonstrate that colonialism has continued impacts on the spaces and realities of everyday life in contemporary Dar es Salaam.

Keywords: mental map; segregation; everyday life; Dar es Salaam; colonialism; postcolonialism


Dares Salaam, Tanzania, has a long history of racial segregation beginning in the German colonial era (1887-1919), continuing through the British mandate period (1919-1961), and persisting in the postcolonial city. The legacies of colonialism linger in all aspects of everyday life in the city, from the locations of homes to the locations of daily activities such as shopping and recreation. These legacies exist in spite of postcolonial efforts to integrate the city, including the 1971 Building Acquisition Act which created a large pool of national housing. This act allowed Tanzania's president to acquire any building valued at over 100,000 Tanzanian shillings along with rental properties from those Tanzanians owning multiple buildings. Under this legislation, owners received minimal compensation only for those buildings constructed after 1961 (Acquisition of Building Act in Tanzania, 1971). These newly acquired buildings went into a pool of national housing to be distributed by the president. This act disproportionately affected the country's Asian population who were the major property owners. Of the 2,908 buildings acquired by the government, all but 97 belonged to the country's Asian population (Nagar 1995).

A major impact of this act was that it allowed for racial integration by providing affordable national housing in all areas of Dares Salaam. It allowed Africans to live in the City Center and on the Msasani Peninsula, predominantly European areas that were largely off limits to them during the colonial era. I discuss the history of these areas and the roles each played in the city's spatial and social segregation later in this article. Yet in spite of these efforts to change the racial distribution of Dares Salaam, the city still resembles its segregated past. Even though the Building Acquisition Act allowed for some integration, within several years many people returned to the areas of Dares Salaam that they knew and preferred. Mascarenhas (1966) suggests that the first African moved to Oysterbay (one of the city's oldest designated European neighborhoods located on the Msasani Peninsula) in 1959, but this man did not open the floodgates of social mobility. Simply having access to new areas does not in itself bring automatic change.

Why did many of Dares Salaam's African residents find the Msasani Peninsula unappealing? The large homes and lot sizes--a legacy of its beginnings as a European settlement--made it more expensive than other areas of the city. Its distance from the City Center made it less convenient than more centrally located historical African areas such as Kariakoo. Even today large parts of Msasani remain unpopular. It remains inconvenient as the road that connects the peninsula to the City Center is often the site of major traffic jams. …

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