Kara: Basketry Goat Muzzle
Materials: Grass, straw
This object is a basketry goat muzzle from Ukara Island in northern Tanzania. Ukara Island is a small island (77 km²) located in the southeastern part of Lake Victoria (formerly known as Lake Noubaale). The name Ukara means Land (u) of the Spirit (ka) of the Sun (ra). Because of its small size and population density, most of the land on Ukara Island is privately owned so that every available acre can be farmed. The demands of agricultural production have resulted in Ukarans replacing most of the vegetation indigenous to the island with plants farmed for subsistence purposes. Millet, cassava, rice, and vegetables are staple crops, but many families also raise cattle fodder to feed several head of cattle for manure production. Because of the limited farmland, Ukarans are careful to keep the soil fertile, productive, and nutrient-rich with composted manure. Families can spend up to 12 hours a day transporting manure to fields and working fertilization into the soil.
Basketry muzzles like the one above, are used by Ukarans to keep their herds of sheep and goats from eating grasses or crops owned by someone else. Goats are kept in grass huts when not grazing on private fodder, but while being moved to water sources, they can be muzzled to discourage them from grazing along the way. This basketry muzzle is woven from narrow grass stems and straw. It contains two twisted fiber cords at each end for tying around the head of a goat. Some goats are not required to wear muzzles because they are considered sacred. When a witch doctor places the spirit of a departed ancestor in a goat, the animal is not muzzled. Instead, bells are used to signify their sacredness.