The Uganda Museum
It’s a National Museum and is the oldest in East Africa, established in 1908, and perhaps the best. It has a range of ethnographic collection and these covering agriculture, hunting, war and religion. There are various huts from various tribes of Uganda. There are also archaeological and natural history displays, and a collection of interesting traditional musical instruments. It’s found in the Kampala city surburb of Kamwokya on Kiira road.
The Uganda Society Library is also found here in the main museum building and it contains a comprehensive collection of out of print books conspicuously absent from the Uganda public domain, and other published works relating to Uganda.
They are steeped in Ganda cultural history. In 1882, Kabaka Mutesa relocated his palace to Nabugala hill and renamed it Kasubi Hill after his birth place some 50km away, and when he died in 1884, Kasubi Hill was abandoned in accordance with Ganda custom upon the death of a King who was then buried there. Mwanga who succeeded him established a new capital at Mengo Hill but when he died in 1910 in a break from tradition, Kasubi rather than Mengo was the burial place of Mwanga and after him more kings. The tombs of Daudi Chwa II who ruled from 1879 to 1939 and Edward Mutesa II who died in 1969 in exile in London but whose body was returned to Uganda in 1971 are at Kasubi. Constructed in the original palace of Mutesa, it contains several huts of Ganda traditional architecture built from poles, reed, thatch and bark. The tombs have an enviable collection of relics from a royal past such as artefacts which range from traditional music instruments, weapons, shields and spears. They are maintained traditionally by the various wives of the Kings who were polygamous, but today by descendants of the long dead Queens. Many of the wives of the various Kings, their sisters and relations are also buried here but not in the main palace. The tombs are a UNESCO heritage world site and are found in central Uganda in Kampala at Kasubi a city surbub, and is open to visitors.
Wamala is little known in comparison to Kasubi and not as well tended but is an equally fascinating place for a spot of culture. It is the resting place of of Kabaka Mutesa I’s father and Suuna his predecessor.
The tomb is housed in an attractive, traditional, thatched and domed building. Opposite the main building stands the tomb of Namasole, King Suuna’s mother who is reputed to have been an extraordinarily beautiful woman whom the King was so fond and possessive of. Displayed is an array of royal artefacts which include spears, shields, drums and other musical instruments. It’s found in central Kampala at Nansana.
They contain the tombs of the last two Kings of Ankole, Omugabe Edward Solomon Kahaya II, who died in 1944, and Omugabe Sir Charles Godfrey Rutahaba Gasyonga II who died in 1982 after ruling for 23 years. The tombs are inside a lone almost derelict colonial style house and are two concrete slabs. They are in Mbarara in Nkokonjeru.
Naggalabi Buddo Coronation Site
It is the place where all Buganda Kings including the current Ronald Mwenda Mutebi II are crowned in accordance to Ganda culture and tradtion. There are several huts similar to those at Kasubi Tombs as well as a natural throne from a tree root. It’s a short distance off the road to Masaka.
In pre-colonial times, Uganda was organized into Kingdoms and chiefdoms which were like a curtain that when drawn, divided up Uganda ethnically but when opened revealed an autonomous and cohesive people, so different yet so alike in many ways. These notably were Buganda, Busoga, Toro, Ankole and Bunyoro Kingdoms while chiefdoms and cultural leaders were found among the Eteso, Acholi, Alur, Japadhola, Bagisu among other tribes. In colonial Uganda, the colonial administrators didn’t attempt to abolish these units but in post colonial Uganda, the late first president Sir Apollo Milton Obote did to neutralize the threat he felt Buganda’s monarchy posed to his hold on power. However, just as Obote abolished them to his political advantage, Uganda’s current President reinstated them to his. Today their palaces are cultural treasure troves.
Buildings Of Buganda Kingdom
What is now Kampala city is part of Buganda, and in pre and post colonial times when Kingdoms were supreme, it was the heart of the kingdom, and consequently a number of royal buildings and impressive administrative centres are to be found. Among these are the Kabaka’s Palace in Bulange in Mengo, the Buganda Parliament located at the end of a ceremonial driveway-Kabakanjagala Road leading from the palace, and the Buganda Court of Justice, now the location of the Uganda’s National Court. Of these, the Buganda Parliament is one of the most impressive colonial-era buildings in Uganda.
There are several prominent religious buildings of interest. Notable among these are the huge domed Roman catholic Rubaga Cathedral on Rubaga Hill, the twin-towered Anglican Namirembe Cathedral on Namirembe Hill, the elaborate and ernomous Hindu Temples in the city centre, the beautiful Baha’i Temple outside the city, the gleaming white Kibuli Mosque dominating Kibuli Hill and the exquisite Gaddafi Mosque named after Libyan President Colonel Muhammar Gaddafi because his benevolent funding built the mosque. All of these buildings are captivating but Baha’I Temple is distinct because it’s the only one of it’s kind in the whole of Africa and consequently, the continent’s religious home for all Baha’i faithfuls. It’s located on Kikaaya Hill 6 km from Kampala City on Gayaza road. At Baha’i Temple just like at the other religious buildings, not only will it’s beauty be appreciated but an understanding of this obscure faith is enabled.
It reveals the secret history of the Buganda people. Six sites make up the trail and all are around Kampala which has always been part of Buganda from time immemorial, and these include several tombs, a prison and a water fall. It’s definitely worth following to discover some “secrets” that were so well guarded in the past.
It was constructed by Kabaka Kalema who ascended the Buganda throne controversially in 1888 after Kabaka Mwanga was forced into exile. It is part of the Kabaka’s trail. Insecure, Kalema rounded up every potential person he imagined was a threat to his reign and sent them to Katereke. Royals and peasants alike were incarcerated. Among the unfortunates was Kiwewa who was an interim King and ruled briefly from the time of Mwanga’s exile to Kalema;s ascent to the throne. Together with his wives, two of Mwanga’s infant sons and even Kalema’s own brothers and sisters were killed at Katereke. These killings wrought his down fall and brutal death which was not only to avenge the deaths but was also to stop him for he was starved for seven days and shot in the head.
Namugongo Martyrs’ Shrine
Namugongo was an execution site in pre-colonial Buganda and death was by hacking. Before incursions of foreigners Buganda and other societies practiced African religion and steeped in myth, superstition, witchcraft and the supernatural. But with the coming of foreigners, other religions were introduced converts soon grew. The first foreigners were the Arabs who were Islam and Mwanga converted to the new faith. Next came the Europeans of the Christian faith- Roman Catholics and protestants, shortly after each other but also got new followers. Mwanga zealous to protect his new faith rounded up a number of his subjects- men and women, young and old, among whom were a good number of his pages, and marched them naked to Namugongo where he asked them to renounce their faith in exchange for clemency. One final opportunity to renounce their new faith was given on the morning of 3rd june whether this opportunity was taken remains unknown for there are no records. However, for the 26, evenly distributed between Protestant and catholic who obstinately refused, the end was a gruesome one, preceeded by the on spot hacking and burning of Charles Lwanga the leader of the Catholics. And the remaining were burnt later in the day, tightly bound and thrown into a pyre alive. The shrine was built in their memory and yearly Christians from all over the world make a pilgrimage to the site and those from East Africa – Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania trek .It’s found in Namugongo a few minutes drive from Kampala.
Ghandi’s Shrine in Uganda? It comes as a bit of a surprise, doesn’t is? Well, there really is Ghandi’s Shrine in Uganda, near the Source of the Nile. Upon Ghandi’s death in 1948, his ashes were divided up and sent to many locations around the world to be scattered, and some ended up in the Nile River at Jinja. Near the source of the Nile plaque is a small memorial garden commemorating Mahatma Ghandi, the centerpiece is a bronze bust donated by the Indian government. The place is becoming a pilgrimage site for Ugandan Indians.
Rock Art Of Teso
Prehistoric rock art typically in red or white is found in eastern Uganda, in the Teso Districts of Kumi and Soroti. They are found in Nyero, Kakoro, Obwin Rock, Ngora and Lolui Island on Lake Kyoga. Little is known about the artists but in order to paint, they sourced from natural materials. Red pigments were created by scraping the surface ofred rock while the white paint from a mix of clay, dung and sap. Of these paintings, the ones at Nyero are more expressive but all are worth a visit for their archaeological and prehistoric import and interest.
Nsongezi Rock Shelter
It’s one of the most important Stone-Age Sites in Uganda. Excavations have yielded a large number of stratified pottery shards dating as far back as 1000 AD into the 19th century which collectively represents the various style ranges characteristic of the period. Found 75km south of Mbarara near Kikagati a former mining centre along the Tanzanian border, it’s worth visiting if interest in archaeology is more than a passing one.
Ntusi and Bigo Bya Mugenyi Earthworks
Ntusi is the site of what was the most ancient large human settlement which even predates the Bachwezi known as the first people. Although evidence of iron smelting, ivory and wood carving and large amounts of pottery have been found, one of the most unusual findings at Ntusi is a small fired clay cylinder covered in knobs- thought to have been used for ritual divination, and the Ntusi Mounds which are two immense mounds locally known as the male and female mound. Excavations have shown them to be deposites of over 300 years. There are several scraped depressions scattered around the village, the largest being the 20m deep Bwogero depression which lies 150m from the male mound.
Bigo Bya Mugenyi is the largest and most archaeologically important. Bigo Bya Mugenyi literally tanslates to mean “ Fort of the Stranger” but according to tradition, the earthworks were excavated to protect the Chwezi Empire from incursion from the foreign Luo from Sudan. Most of the earthworks are deep and excavated from solid rock. Found in Fort Portal, Ntusi is a walkable distance from the District Head quarters whereas Bigo is much further and can be got to in a 4X4, although a bicycle is the best way to get there. Ntusi and Bigo are worth visiting for their historical and archaeological importance.
Munsa Earthworks are the second largest in Uganda. Their name is derived from the Runyoro expression Mu-esa, which means ‘place of trenches’. The earthworks consist of a network of trenches. The earthworks are 7m wide and 3 feet deep and V shaped and were definitely excavated to safeguard the Bachwezi from possible outside attacks. The Bikekete Hill which is surrounded by the Earthworks is of particular interest because recent archaeological studies have revealed discoveries of an intact clay furnace used smelting iron, glass beads suggesting trade with coastal Swahili and a royal burial chamber deduced as such from the evidence of human skeletons with one underneath the other- a burial accorded kings in which a subject was buried with the King to look after him in the afterlife. At Bikekete Hill there is also a cave once inhabited by a Chwezi Prince- Kateboha. The earthworks are found in Mubende, about 40km north.
It is an unusual tree steeped in spirituality. The tree is a towering 40m in height, many centuries old and supported by buttressed roots that from the base create numerous hollows and in these the spirit of Nakayima, a sorceress is believed to be resident. Although the last sorceress died almost a 100 years ago, it’s an active shrine visited by believers and worshippers hoping for Nakayima’s blessings. These make offerings of coins and cowerie shells while her followers occasionally spend nights by the tree and sacrifice a goat or pig as offering to the sorceress. The tree is found on the top of Mubende hill.
These are not all of Uganda’s cultural attractions for Uganda is a country that brims with richness culturally.