It is that time to celebrate the achievements of the year and usher in a new one. It is also the time to celebrate life, friends and family. It is also a time to relax and refresh for the challenges of the next year. It is the Christmas season.
One of the peak seasons in the tourism calendar, it is more about celebrating people and society too. In Uganda, it is in December that families re-unite with their kindred who are always away all year. It is often a month of ceremonies, events and traditional rituals. With a population of over 30 tribes from five different ethnicities, Uganda offers an idea cultural experience adventure especially around this merry period of the year. Here are some of the most interesting cultural events and visits someone should look out for.
Buganda marriage ceremonies
Buganda is the only kingdom in Uganda that has retained most of its traditional values and sovereignty of the erstwhile kingdoms in the country. Its people are ardently loyal the King (Kabaka). One of the most interesting events in Buganda are traditional marriage ceremonies locally known as kwanjula. It is here that the groom’s family leads an entourage to the bride’s home to ask for her hand in marriage. The ceremony is characterized by multitudes of gifts the groom carries to the bride’s home. There is also a light-hearted mock haggle for bride price and pleading for the elders’ blessings of the marriage. It is usually the humility and humor that the groom’s spokesperson expresses that carries the day. The ceremony ends in elders blessing the couple which marks the start of their life as husband and wife. All that follows is merry making.
Batwa community visit
The Batwa people are the most primitive of all tribes in Uganda. Their lifestyle has minimally been affected by modernity. Their short and stout stature makes them unmistakable. They inhabit mountainous areas of Kisoro in South-western Uganda and Bundibugyo on the slopes of Rwenzori Mountains.
The Batwa people are gatherers and hunters like their fore fathers. Some groups still dress in bark cloth and grass. Due to some of their favorable homes and hunting grounds being gazetted for wildlife conservation, the Batwa people have now been arranged in accessible communities for access to services and also tourism purposes.
Bagisu initiation ceremonies (Imbalu)
The Bagisu people live on the foot of Mount Elgon (Mt. Masaba) named after their ancestor. Biannually, they carry out circumcision rituals of initiating boys to manhood. It is mandatory for every Mugisu man to be circumcised lest he is considered a coward and will not find a wife amongst their community. It is a colorful ceremony where by a procession of circumcision candidates and community members dance their way through towns enroute to the ceremonial grounds. The candidates are distinguished by weird smearing of cow dung and flour all over their bodies and less clothing. The event climaxes with instant circumcision of candidates as the rest cheer. The boys are expected to exhibit a high degree of bravery during the ordeal as expected of all men.
Ankole cattle herding experience
The Ankole people of western Uganda are known for their great love for cattle. Almost all their traditional activities revolve around cattle keeping.
Their traditional songs celebrate the importance of cattle while their traditional dance locally known as “ekitaguriro” is heavily inspired by the behavior of cows. During the dance, arms are swayed gracefully like the way indigenous cows sway their long horns, the stamping depicts movement of the animals and flute which sounds close to a cow’s call is played. Here one can have a field day of learning about traditional milk handling and storage, churning and making butter or ghee locally. It is interesting to also learn the traditional medicines used to treat animals back in the days.
Fishing communities on Lake Victoria
Around the largest fresh water lake in Africa are bustling fishing communities. These owe their livelihoods to the lake and its fish. It is interesting to learn the fishing tactics and strategies of these fishermen who use primitive fish nets and canoes. These people have devised strategies of fishing in harmony with man-eaters like crocodiles and fierce hippos that inhabit the lake. A visit to these communities will heighten one’s appreciation for indigenous knowledge.
There are many more visit-worthy communities in a culturally-diverse Uganda such as the Karimojong and rural areas or townships all over the country. No matter the direction you take, a smile is waiting to welcome you.
Appreciate culture, learn the indigenous knowledge, and celebrate people with a visit to Uganda in this festive season.