The pearl of Africa has a very strong cultural heritage well-endowed with different cultural and historical sites. With more than 50 different indigenous languages belonging to two distinct linguistic groups, and an equally diverse cultural mosaic of music, art and handicrafts, Uganda is a one stop center for a rich African cultural experience, ranging from Bantu in the Central, West, South-west, and East, to Nilotic groups of people in the North, North-East and North-West.
Ugandans are remarkably hospitable and hail from a diversity of rich cultures and lifestyles with each tribe having its own distinct cultural values that describe who they are. All these values are based on tribal traditional activities from all spheres of life; including, food and welfare, traditional dances, clothing and organization of societies. Many regions in Uganda have kingdoms, including Buganda, Busoga, Bunyoro and Tooro. Other regions still value their heritage of chiefdom which is traceable and equally treasured. Experience more with Terrain Safari, one of Uganda’s best cultural tourism hosts.
The Western region is gifted by rich culture, consisting of; Bakonjo/Bamba, Batooro, Banyoro, Banyankore, Bakiga, Bafumbira, Batwa and Bachwezi among others, who are well recognized for their wealthy culture connected with their strong link and love for their long horned cows – thought to have originated from the former rulers of the mighty Bunyoro-Kitara Empire called the Bachwezi – demi-god people who introduced the centralized system of governance and led to the birth of the inter-lacustrine kingdoms that occupy the area between Lakes Kyoga in Central Uganda and Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania.
Currently, the dominant kingdoms in western Uganda include, Tooro and Bunyoro, and the famous Batwa community.
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.
Ekitaguriro is traditional fascinating dance of Banyankole and Bakiga characterized by energetic stamping and tangling rhythms using the feet and aerial arm movements that depicts their relationship with their beautiful long horned cattle.
Eshabwe: A traditional Banyankole dish comprising of ghee, skimmed from milk. This is usually eaten with Akaro. It’s a meal one would certainly get acquainted with on a visit to the western parts of Uganda. Others include; Firinda and Akaro which is millet flour mixed with cassava and then mingled.
Cultural and historical sites:
There are so many cultural and historical sites that you would not love to miss in this region including; Kitagata hot springs, Sempaya hot springs, Karambi Royal Tombs, Igongo Cultural Center in Mbarara, Great Lakes Museum in Kabale, Amabere Caves, Mparo Tombs, and Bigobya Mugyenyi among others.
Cultural tours in Uganda can be done during any season of the year. There are quite a number of festivities that run throughout the year, and you find such a great time to catch up with the celebrations
The central region is dominated by the Baganda, a tribe belonging to the Bantu group, forming the Buganda Kingdom with over 17% of the total population of the country. The Buganda monarchy presents one of the best documentations of Kingship in Uganda, with its highest leader locally known as the Kabaka. The current King of Buganda, His Majesty Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II was crowned the 36th Kabaka of Buganda in July 1993 after his father Sir Edward Muteesa II who was also the first president of Uganda.
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).
Buganda is renowned for the distinct ceremonial occasions organized for observance, commemoration, inauguration, initiation, remembrance or fulfillment 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).
Traditionally, a man could marry as many wives he can and it was normal putting them all under one roof 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.
The Kiganda dance is a unique dance of the Baganda, with many variations for different occasions. Most common are bakisimba, muwogola and amagunju, all perfomed on totally different drum beats to amuse and honour a particular occasion.
Nearly every tribe or region has a distinguished food delicacy. The most popular local dish in the central is matooke (bananas of the plantain type) which is best served with peanut sauce, fresh fish, fresh meat, plain groundnuts, and chicken. The best way Baganda cook it, is by peeling banana fingers and after put into a bundle of banana leaves tied with banana fibers, which is then cooked and left to steam. When ready and tender, the matooke is squeezed into a soft and golden tasty yellow mash. Another delicacy in the sauce locally known as ‘Luwombo’, comes when cooked in a similar way; by tying up fresh pieces of beef, fish, chicken or even ground nuts in a fresh banana leaf. This style of cooking preserves all the flavor, that’s why in the central region, the food production process revolves around banana plants
Cultural and historical sites:
From spiritual to cultural and historical sites, the central region presents a rich experience for visitors traversing the Pearl of Africa. The heritage of this region can be felt at the different cultural and historical sites, some of which were recognized as world heritage sites by UNESCO. Among these sites include; Kasubi Royal Tombs, Kabaka’s palace in Lubiri Mengo, Bulange Mengo (Buganda Parliament), Wamala Tombs, Naggalabi Coronation site, Kabaka’s Lake in Ndeeba, Katereke prison ditch, Walumbe Tanda Archeology center, Ndere Cultural Centre, the National Museum, the Uganda National Cultural Center (former National Theatre).
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.
Marriage 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 necessarily guarantee the success of the marriage.
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.
Other dances in Busoga include Nalufuka, a much faster and youthful version of Tamenhaibunga; Eirongo, a slower dance performance to celebrate the birth of twins; Amayebe, which builds physical stamina, especially for men; Enswezi, used to communicate to super naturals and Ekigwo for wrestlers.
Kamaleewa: These are tender bamboo shoots which are a delicacy among the Bagisu. Usually, after harvest, these shoots are first boiled and later on sundried before cooking. Others include; Atapa, Akaro and Sundried fish.
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.
Marriage and Family life
Traditionally, a young man depends upon his lineage head and elders both for permission to marry and for the material goods required for bride wealth; elders of the bride’s lineage were also much involved in the discussions and negotiations surrounding the marriage.
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.
Akaro: This is made from a combination of sorghum, millet and cassava flour mingled in a proportionate quantity of water.
Malakwang: A sour vegetable usually prepared with groundnut paste to form a typical northern food. Malakwang is best served with sweet potatoes. Others include; Smoked fish and Ugali.