Something About Tambo.

June 4, 2014


Golden Symmetry:

tamboTambo River at Tambo Crossing, Victoria.
© All Rights Reserved by Inspector H snaps!!

Tambo University: A little place of virtual learning.

If you look for ‘Tambo University’ on Google maps, you won’t find it. But if you do a Google search for ‘Tambo’, you might be struck as to how the results predominate from three southern hemispheric continents. Namely Africa, Australia & South America. I draw no conclusions from this observation, the history of human migration across the southern hemisphere is as old as humanity itself.
It does however, appeal to my sense of symmetry. Drawing an extremely long bow, perhaps it hints at a certain level of language stasis at the peripheries of ‘civilisation’?

I grew up alongside the Tambo River in eastern Victoria, Australia. The name ‘Tambo’ has always served as somewhat of a totem for me.

Tambo: Etymology & Ethnology.

Usage of the word does occur in some instances in the northern hemisphere, notably as the name of a Japanese martial arts staff with origins in feudal Japan. Pizzo Tambò is a mountain-ski resort on the Swiss-Italian border. Tambour is the French word for ‘drum’, appearing in ‘tambourine’, the instrument which appears to have eponymously lent its name, in strange confluence, to the ‘Tambo’ characterization of North American ‘Black & White’ Minstrel theatre. In Hindi, a tambu is a tent. Nearer the equator, in Trinidad & Tobago, topi-tambo is a name for the tuber of the guinea arrowroot, or sweet corn root (Calathea allouia).

Apart from the Tambo River in eastern Victoria, there is another Tambo in Australia, a small township in Queensland. Both place names are reportedly derived from Aboriginal language and may refer to ‘resting place’, ‘hidden place’ or ‘fish’, amongst other meanings depending upon region and dialect.

In South America, most notably in Peru, Tambo is a widespread place-name, being derived from the Inca name for an Inn or storehouse.

In the Swahili language of eastern Africa, tambo means ‘tallness’ but according to my friend Neelo Molefe, it can also have secondary meaning as an enigma, puzzle or even posses a ‘once-upon-a-time’ quality with reference to myth or fable. As a name, it has gained popular currency in South Africa, following from Oliver Tambo the famous anti-apartheid politician and A.N.C figurehead.

For the absolute last word in serendipity, for the purposes of this blog, I’m going with this Coastal-Swahili definition…
Tambo: noun; ‘secret language’.


2 Responses to “Something About Tambo.”

  1. Joseph Nebus Says:

    I hadn’t previously thought to wonder about the origin of the word ‘tambo’; thank you.


  2. Thanks Joseph, probably with good reason! Lol.
    My daughter points out that ‘tambo’ is a Romanisation of the Japanese word for martial arts staff.
    ‘Tan-bo’ or ‘tan-jō’ would be a more accurate translation?


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