Parakuyo people


Parakuyo / Baraguyu / Parakuyu / Kwavi

The Parakuyo people, are a community of about thirty thousand pastoralists who live scattered across Tanzania today. They are the principal speakers of the Kwavi language.

The name Kwavi appears mainly in historical references in the 19th century.  The term is associated with the Maasai culture and language.  Some say it was a Somali word; some say it is Galla (Oromo).  We find the term was used in northern and central Kenya as well.  It does not appear the term Kwavi was ever used by any people of themselves.

Reports indicate the Kwavi are associated with a place name of Kitumbi.  A field source in Northern Tanzania indicates they can find no connection of the Kwavi name with the town of Kitumbi there.  I expect there are several places named Kitumbi in northern Tanzania. The Kwavi are likely "hidden" under a different name in your data.

In northern Tanzania, the name Kwavi is associated with an ethnic group called Baraguyu (Parakuyo). The Registry of Peoples (ROP) has long recognized this, providing a separate code for the Baraguyu as a unique ethnic entity from the first edition of the Registry.  The ROP has indicated the language of the Baraguyu as Maasai (former code MET, now mas).



The Kwavi basically refer to a cultural or occupational group. This term is also used in Kenya and it is used to refer to groups of people related to the Akamba people.

The Kwavi of Tanzania are not basically a separate ethnic group per se but a people within an ethnic group who have a particular occupation. Wakwavi are basically pastoral but do also have elements of agricultural, as such, they are a sedentary people with a heavy bias to pastoralism. Wakwavi of Tanzania were looked upon as being Gogo people with whom they shared the same language.

With time, due to loss of livestock and consequential pauperism, many have changed their preoccupation and have become agriculturist and as such now not discernible from the other Gogo people. They were mistaken as Masaai, whom they were not, for although they had Masaai features of dressing, they had not their ornament, they did not use ochre as the Masaai, nor did plait their hair long like the Masaai. And although the blanket featured just as the Masaai, their nakedness was not exposed as the Masaai.

However, unlike other Gogos, they pierced and elongated their earlobes, this though is not limited to the Masaai

Parakuyo people



Members of the community refer to themselves as Parakuyo when speaking to each other. When interacting with unfamiliar outsiders they will almost always identify themselves as Maasai. Maasai people and other East Africans often refer to the Parakuyo as Kwavi, Loikop or Lumbwa, a practice that Parakuyo do not appreciate.



In older language lists, it was noted that it was unclear what the name Kwavi referred to.  It was thought that Kwavi might be a separate language.  Too few specifics of the language were known to determine this.  A language code had been assigned years ago in the Ethnologue, but the entity or language had been unconfirmed.  The older editions of Ethnologue indicated that an alternate name for Kwavi was Parakuyo.

In the new Ethnologue update in Edition 15, linguists have reclassified the speech of Kwavi after further analysis.  The Ethnologue now reports that it has been determined that what was previously called Kwavi and listed as a separate language is actually the same speech as the Baraguyu dialect of Maasai (MET/mas).

The language update in Ethnologue 15 comments on the Baraguyu or Kwavi people under the Baraguyu or Parakuyo dialect of Maa, which the Ethnologue calls by the people name Maasai.  There is no separate listing for a Baraguyu language in Ethologue edition 14 or 15.  The entry for Parakuyo dialect (with Baraguyu as an alternate name) has been updated to indicate that Kwavi is another alternate name for the Parakuyuo dialect of Maasai.


Dialect vs Ethnicity

The Kwavi are known historically as a Maa-speaking group, but they have long assocation with the Bantu groups east of Mt Kilimanjaro. They are farmers, and have a lifestyle more like the neighbouring Bantu people in the Kilimanjaro area.  You might find that Kwavi people identify themselves by a Bantu clan name, such as Chagga, even though they speak Maa.  Likely names would be Chagga, Sambaa (Shambala) or Pare.  Check under these names to see if this entity is accounted for in your information.  Check related Bantu groups for Kwavi clans or dialects.

 The Kwavi or Baraguyu might be listed in some databases as a sub-group of Maasai or Arusha.  Note that there is an Arusa (Arusha) dialects of Maasai, though the Arusa (Arusha) are also commonly considered a separate ethnicity.


Separate Ethnicity

The Kwavi have been considered as a Maasai-related but separate entity since the 1800s.  These people today, now known more commonly by the name Baraguyu, likewise continue this separate sense of self-identity.  The language information in Ethnologue 15 has some helpful comments on them under the Baraguyu or Parakuyo dialect of Maa, which they call by the people name Maasai.

In the excerpt below from the Ethnologue, note the comment about Baraguyu ethnicity under the Tanzania entry:
The Baraguyu speak Maasai, but they consider themselves to be a separate ethnic group from the Maasai.

The Ethnologue also reports that the "Baraguyu are spread from the Indian Ocean nearly to Malawi."  I notice also that the name Kitumbi mentioned in the question does not appear in either edition of the Ethnologue.  They list Parakuyo dialect under Kenya as well as Tanzania, but the comment of percentage of intelligibility between dialects seems to indicate that Parakuyo is spoken only in Tanzania, as most ethnic databases indicate.  I have no current population for the Baraguyu, but the Ethnologue reports that the 1987 population was 30,000.


Accounting for the Baraguyu

The Baraguyu (Kwavi) consider themselves a distinct people.  I suggest that the ethnic entity be listed as Baraguyu.  In an ethnic database, there would be two appropriate options for accounting for the Baraguyu.
1.  Baraguyu a separate primary ethnic entity, with the language of Maasai, Parakuyo dialect.
2.  Baraguyu as an ethnic segment of the Maasai.

I suggest you have a primary listing for the Baraguyu with alternate name Kwavi as a separate ethnic entity.  Language can be shown as Maasai with the language code mas.  If your database has an entry for the name Kwavi as a segment of the Maasai, I would remove this, or reclassify it as primary entity under the name Baraguyu.

If you already have a Baraguyu entity, the Kwavi entity should be deleted as a duplicate.  Show the name Kwavi as an Alternate Name.  If you do not have a Baraguyu or Parakuyo segment, I would change the name of the Kwavi entity to Baraguyu.  If you wish to indicate in your classification the historical tie to the Maasai, keep the Parakuyo or Baraguyu entity as a segment under the Maasai parent entity.

Whether entered in your database as a primary people entity or as a segment of the Maasai, in order to relate your Baraguyu entry to similar information in other databases, the appropriate people code from the Registry of Peoples is 101035.  The appropriate language Ethnologue code would be mas (Maasai), noting Parakuyo dialect.  The separate codes will indicate that this is considered a separate ethnic entity, but the language is Maasai, and that there is a historical connection with the Maasai.

Parakuyo People

Parakuyo People

Parakuyo People