PEOPLE AND CULTURE IN UGANDA
Uganda’s culture is very diverse because Uganda is home to 14 distinct ethnic groups with the most populous being the Baganda, making up roughly 20% of the total population, they are centred around Kampala. The others, in order of estimated population, are: Banyakole (Mbarara town), Basoga (Jinja-Iganga), Bakiga (Kabale/Bwindi), Itseo (Soroti), Langi (Lira), Acholi (Gulu), Bagisu (Mount Elgon), Batoro (Fort Portal), Alur, Lugbara (West Nile), Bunyoro (Masindi), Bakonzo (Rwenzori), Batwa (Semuliki, Kisoro).
Culture everywhere is described by dance and drama as the most components of cultural ceremonies along with songs and this is exactly what you can expect to witness on your cultural trip in Uganda. There are other ceremonies and passage rites like birth rites, marriage, and initiation which are held with high regard in the different cultures and may be different in many ways.
HIGHLIGHTS ON UGANDA’S CULTURE
The country has more than 360 tribes; it is definitely a place to die for if you are looking for a diverse cultural experience.
Entogoro: Entogoro is danced by Banyoro and Batooro of western Uganda. The dance takes its name from the pod rattles (locally known as ebinyege) that the boys tie on their legs to make different rhythms as they dance.
Ekitagururo: This is characterized by energetic stamping and tangling rhythms using the feet and aerial arm movements; it is performed by both Banyankole and Bakiga in the south western region.
The eastern region is another diverse area comprised of a number of different tribal groups including; Bagisu, Basamia/Bagwe, Basoga, Bagwere, Iteso, Japadhola, and the Sebei among others. Apart from other groups, the Basoga present a distinctive kingship in eastern Uganda with their King locally known as Kyabazinga. Marrige and Family Life In this region as well as the rest of the country, dowries are highly valued and are usually in form of cattle, sheep and goats. The amount paid is negotiated among the parents of the new couple to be. The higher the dowry, the more valued is the bride, although this does not necessary guarantee the success of the marriage. Ceremonies Tamenhaibunga; This kind of dance is practiced by the Basoga tribe. Tamenhaibunga literally means “good friends drink together but they do not fight each other lest they break the guard (eibuga) that contains the drink.” The guard is symbolically used to express the value and fragility of love and friendship.
The western region is also rich in tribal culture, it consists of; Bakonjo/Bamba, Batooro, Banyoro, Banyankore, Bakiga, Bafumbira and Bachwezi among others. The Batooro and Banyoro have a centralized system of government headed by the Omukama. Initially, Toro was part of Bunyoro, but later broke away. The first King was Kaboyo Kasusunkwazi the actual founder of the kingdom and currently the kingdom is headed by King Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV.
Ankole in the west is the most popular tribe in terms of prestige and population. The King owned all the cattle and theoretically owned all women. Hima fathers were anxious to call attention to their daughters because the King gave generous wedding gifts. Slim girls were unfit for royalty so those girls whom the king found to be of interest to marry one of his sons were force-fed on milk.
The central region is dominated by the Bantu group specifically the Baganda. The Buganda monarchy presents one of the best documentations of kingship in Uganda. The head of state is the King locally known as Kabaka. The current king of Buganda, His Highness Ronald Mutebi II was crowned the 36th Kabaka of Buganda in 1993 after his father Sir Edward Mutesa II died in exile. The kingdom also constitutes a Parliament (Lukiiko), comprising mainly of elderly heads of its 52 clans. Other people, who occupy important positions in the kingdom, include the Queen (Nabagereka), the Prime Minister (Katikiiro), the royal sister (Nalinya) and the Queen Mother (Namasole).
Livelihood and Marriage
Traditionally, a man could marry five wives or more provided he could cater for them. It was easier to become polygamous in Buganda than in other parts of Uganda because the bride wealth obligations we’re not prohibitive unlike formerly when marriage used to be conducted by parents, for instance where the father of the girl could choose for her a husband without availing her any alternatives.
Traditional Dances Buganda is renowned for her distinct ceremonial occassions organized for observance, commemoration, inauguration, remembrance or fullfilment of cultural rituals and norms.Some of the common (highly recognized) ceremonies in Buganda include;the initiation of twins (okwalula abalongo), the introduction (okwanjula) and last funeral rite (okwabya olumbe). Dining Matooke (bananas of the plantain type) is a popular local dish among the Baganda.
The northern region is also a melting pot of quite a number of tribes including; Acholi, Langi, Alur, Kakwa, and Lugbara among others. This region comprises of the Acholi and Langi in the north, Alur, Lugbara and Madi in west Nile region. Like most of the regions, Langi and Acholi regions predominantly depend on agriculture as their economic activity, with millet and sorghum serving as staple foods.
Naleyo dance is performed by the Karimajongs where women line up and men strike their breasts using fingers as they dance. The Karimajongs are a pastor community in the north eastern part of Uganda.
Popular Tribes in Uganda
The Bantu, specifically the Baganda, inhabit the central region and their history is more synonymous with that of Uganda. The other Bantu tribes include Banyankore, Batooro, Bakiga, Banyoro – all in the west and Basoga in Eastern Uganda.