UNYAMWEZI, a region of German East Africa, lying S. of Victoria Nyanza and E. of Lake Tanganyika. It is mentioned as early as the 16th century by the Portuguese and by Antonio Pigafetta, under the name Munemugi or "Land of the Moon," which is the exact equivalent of the name—Wu-nya-mwezi—by which the land is known to its own people. It is part of the plateau between the two great rift-valleys of East Africa, is rich in woods and grass, and has many villages surrounded by well cultivated farms and gardens. The western portions, however, are somewhat swampy and unhealthy. The people of Unyamwezi, called Wanyamwezi, are Bantu-negroes of medium size and negroid features, but with long noses and curly rather than woolly hair, suggestive of mixed blood. Dwelling on the main road from Bagamoyo to Tanganyika, the route by which J. H. Speke, Richard Burton, J. A. Grant, H. M. Stanley and others travelled, and having from early times had commercial relations with the Arabs, the Wanyamwezi are more civilized than the neighbouring races. They practise tattooing, file or extract the upper incisor teeth, and load their legs and arms with brass wire rings. The men look after the flocks and poultry, while the women do the field-work. They often keep bees; in some cases the hives are inside the huts, and the bees form an efficient protection against intruders. Inheritance is to the direct issue, not as is often the case among Negro races to the nephew. In some parts, one of twins is always killed. On Stanley’s first visit in 1871, the Zanzibar Arabs were predominant in the country, but later the natives rose and, under Mirambo, who from a common porter rose to be a conquering chief—earning for himself the title of the “Black Bonaparte”—a Negro kingdom was formed. Since 1890 the country has been under German control and the power of the native chiefs greatly curtailed. As a people the Wanyamwezi are extremely vigorous and have shown great capacity for expansion, being energetic and enterprising.
See H. Brode, Tippoo Tib: the Story of his Career in Central Africa (1907); Sir H. H. Johnston, The Uganda Protectorate (1902); Sir Charles Eliot, The East Africa Protectorate (1905).