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Geoparks and Geotourism in Africa. World Heritage Sites

Mwanamalundi: The Rock Stamped Ancient Legend of Tanzania

No it is not a Yeti, Tanzania’s Mwanamalundi left his giant feet permanently imprinted on Rocks just like Buddha

The Circular Grave of Mwanamalundi in Shinyanga, Tanzania

Igulu is the Ancient Legend believed to have left his footmarks permanently imprinted on Rocks

Igulu is said to have had very large legs and feet (Illustration Only)

Few remember the legend that was Igulu, the superman behind the ‘Mwanamalundi’ fame who died almost a century ago, leaving a trail of spell-binding legendary tales.

Around this time, between 90 and 100 years ago somebody very famous (or infamous depending from which side you are looking from) died in a remote village of Shinyanga region.

He may be long dead but his story reads like a mystery or horror novel.

Mwanamalundi the man who started out like a dancer turned medicine man, could have been the most revered and feared person in the country due to his astounding acts.

Tanzania, like many other African countries has tendency to belittle its own legends. As the result, Mwanamalundi a towering historical figure among the large Sukuma tribe is almost forgotten now.

Like the Biblical Jesus, Igulu is believed to have once walked on water, as story goes.

Igulu, named after his rather giant legs, even revived dead animals, caused trees to dry by simply pointing a finger to its trunk and healed hundreds of sick persons, using traditional medicine.

Mwanamalundi’s native village in Shinyanga remains in same condition as it was in the past

Mwanamalundi was also a rain maker, walked through walls and predicted the future, this man was a legend.

Born in 1840 as Igulu Bugomola, Mwanamalundi, who is actually supposed to be Ng’wanamalundi, in his native Sukuma language, started life at Nela Village in Misungwi District of Mwanza nearly 180 years ago.

If he lived today, Mwanamalundi would be 183 years old (or maybe 200 years old, very possible too, with his miracles).

The Medicineman was the son of Mzee Bugomola Jishosha and his wife Ngolo Igulu, Mwanamalundi seem to have inherited his first name ‘Igulu’ from the mother’s side, rather strange for an African.

He died, aged 96 years and as the inscription on his grave reads, that was back in 1930s, which should be some 92 years ago, depending on when exactly you are reading this.

He was survived by two children; Sida and Ngasa both males.

At first when he died in 1936, all was quite that day, but upon being buried, his grave reportedly burst into flames and fire continued to burn bright throughout the night until the following morning when it went out in its own.

A large circular cemented tomb marks the place where this ‘superman’ was laid to rest at the Seke-Bugolo village in the Kishapu District of Shinyanga Region, around the Lake Victoria Zone, the place which later became Mwanamalundi’s home.

Old Versus New: The Circular Igulu Grave on the Left contrasts the Christian Tomb on the right,

His granddaughter, Mama Mhoja Igulu already has granddaughters of her own.

She was shelling maize seeds from cobs while recalling what she knows, or was told about her great grandfather, a man who wielded more strange acts than all prophets told in the alleged holy books that were imported here alongside foreign religions.

“Many people visit the grave even today, bringing offerings like livestock and money, believing that, grandfather will help them in their problems even as he lies in the tomb,” said Mama Mhoja Igulu.

Mhoja was born from Mwanamalundi’s son Ngasa while the other grandchild, Mapela an old man by now, is the son of the other Mwanamalundi’s offspring, Sida.

Mama Mhoja Igulu (Left), the great grand-daughter of Mwanamalundi with her own grand-daughters

According to Mapela, it also the family ritual to pray at the grave and many have had their troubles solved through asking the old man’s help.

In case you are also interested to visit the grave, the feat doesn’t come easily.

First the journey to Mwanamalundi’s village starts from Shinyanga bus station, where one travels for about 30 kilometres along the tarmac road to Mwanza before branching into a dusty track for nearly 50 kilometres in order to reach the Seke Village.

There are no public transport linking Shinyanga and the village, though some vehicles occasionally pass onto the route. Many residents and visitors depend on motorcycles to get there.

It is also a tourist attraction; they may be few but foreign tourists visit the site. Others who go there include pupils and students during their school trips. This therefore means it may cost one a small token to get a trip around the homestead.

The closest neighbor to Mwanamalundi’s home is an old woman known as Holo Bunzali. Mama Bunzali moved into the area from Sumve Mwanza eight years ago. She sees people visiting the grave but otherwise nothing more apart from hearing that sick people can get healed by praying at the grave.

The circular grave sometimes gets filled with money left by visitors as offering. Nobody dares steal the cash, though it is very normal for passers-by to take loose change in exchange with larger banknotes just like any ordinary shop of financial institution.

But just how legendary was Igulu the man known as Mwanamalundi?

He was once reported to have crossed the sea from Zanzibar, by parting the waters of the Indian Ocean like what Mosses did at the Red Sea.

Igulu by then was being imprisoned by German colonialists in the Isles.

The story goes that, he simply lifted his wand up and water paved way for him, as he walked from Zanzibar to Dar-es-salaam on foot, across the ocean.

The legend has that Igulu could make a large tree to wither and dry in a second by simply pointing a finger to it. That was vital when he wanted firewood to cook for the patrons at his village dance concert.

Mwanamalundi reportedly also walked through walls, time-travelled, read thoughts, caused dead plants (in this a case maize plantation) to come back to life, kept milk afresh for months without boiling and many other astounding acts that local history chose to ignore.

Mwanamalundi instilled fear in each village that his entourage passed. This attracted the ire of colonial rulers who arrested the medicine man and took to imprisoned in the Isles, but left them in awe when he passed through walls and walked on water to Dar.

Now, nearly a hundred years after his death, we decided to visit the village where this legendary ‘Superman,’ lived. It is still a remote hamlet, with grass thatched structures dotting the landscape, habited by few, friendly but slightly wary, neighbors and featuring laid-back atmosphere.

Thus, Mwanamalundi’s grave remains the center for attraction in the village. It seems no investor has thought of setting up hotels or at least guest house then highly promote the site to visitors.