Uganda Culture, History and Arts packages
Relish in an enriching aspect to your African experience with Twende Expedition’s Culture and Arts packages. These versatile packages offer our clients insight into ancient historical, artistic and cultural expressions, practices and compositions that have endured for millennia –and that make Uganda uniquely, the “Pearl of Africa.”
Uganda is endowed with a variety of different tribes and regions. Each tribe/ region has its own unique customs and culture. Twende Expeditions offers an experience of different tribal settings whose cultural values have been cherished and practiced for generations. These packages offer visits to, and experiences of:
–Traditional healing practices
– Cultural sites
– Cultural entertainment
– Traditional cultural dressing
– Village walks
– Traditional weddings
– Traditional Art Making
– A Traditional food buffet experience
– An option to learn about traditional rites of passage.
These packages are an all-encompassing experience that also avails our clients an opportunity to explore and learn more about:
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 suburb 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 artifacts that 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 suburb, and are 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 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 artifacts, 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 Muwenda Mutebi II are crowned in accordance to Ganda culture and tradition. 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 Iteso, Acholi, Alur, Japadhola, and Bagisu among other tribes. In colonial Uganda, the colonial administrators didn’t attempt to abolish these units but in postcolonial 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 centers 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 enormous 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 Bahai Temple is distinct because it’s the only one of its kind in the whole of Africa and consequently, the continent’s religious home for all Bahai faithful’s. 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 its beauty be appreciated but also 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 waterfall. It’s definitely worth following to discover some “secrets” that were so well guarded in the past.
Kabaka Kalema who ascended the Buganda throne controversially in 1888 after Kabaka Mwanga was forced into exile constructed it. 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 him or her 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, preceded 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.
Gandhi’s -Shrine in Uganda? It comes as a bit of a surprise, doesn’t is? Well, there really is Gandhi’s Shrine in Uganda, near the Source of the Nile. Upon Gandhi’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 Gandhi, 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. Scraping the surface offered rock while the white paint from a mix of clay, dung and sap created red pigments. 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 that 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 deposits of over 300 years. There are several scraped depressions scattered around the village, the largest being the 20m deep Bwogero depressions that lays 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 walk able 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 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 Hillwhich 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 100 years ago, it’s an active shrine visited by believers and worshippers hoping for Nakayima’s blessings. These make offerings of coins and cowries 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.
Music of Uganda
Each ethnic group has its musical history; songs are passed down from generation to generation. Ndigindi and entongoli (lyres), ennanga (harp), amadinda (xylophone, see Baganda Music) and lukeme (lamellophone (“thumb piano”)) are commonly played instruments. An Acholi, Okot p’Bitek, is one of Uganda’s most famous writers of folklore, satirical poems and songs. His book Song of Lawino (1966) describes the stories told in Acholi songs.
Cuisine of Uganda
The Cuisine of Uganda consists of traditional cooking with English, Arab and Asian (especially Indian) influences. Like the cuisines of most countries, it varies in complexity, from the most basic, a starchy filler with a sauce of beans or meat, to several-course meals served in upper-class homes and high-end restaurants.
Main dishes are usually centered on a sauce or stew of groundnuts, beans or meat. The starch traditionally comes from maize meal or matooke (boiled and mashed green banana), in the South, or an ugali made from pearl millet in the North. Cassava, yam and African sweet potato are also eaten; the more affluent include white (often called “Irish”) potato and rice in their diets. Soybean was promoted as a healthy food staple in the 1970s and this is also used, especially for breakfast. Chapatti, an Asian flatbread, is also part of Ugandan cuisine.
Chicken, fish (usually fresh, but there is also a dried variety, reconstituted for stewing), beef, goat and mutton are all commonly eaten, although among the rural poor there would have to be a good reason for slaughtering a large animal such as a goat or a cow and nyama, (Swahili word for “meat”) would not be eaten every day.
Various leafy greens are grown in Uganda. These may be boiled in the stews, or served as side dishes in fancier homes. Amaranth (dodo), nakati, and borr are examples of regional greens.
Ugali is cooked up into a thick porridge for breakfast. For main means, white flour is added to the saucepan and stirred into the ugali until the consistency is firm. It is then turned out onto a serving plate and cut into individual slices (or served onto individual plates in the kitchen).
Languages of Uganda
Uganda is ethnologically diverse, with at least forty languages in usage. Luganda is the most common language. English is the official language of Uganda, even though only a relatively small proportion of the population speaks it. Access to economic and political power is almost impossible without having mastered that language. The East African lingua franca Swahili is relatively widespread as a trade language and was made an official national language of Uganda in September 2005. Luganda, a language widespread in central Uganda, has been the official vernacular language in education for central Uganda for a long time.
In Uganda, the Kanzu is the national dress of men in the country. Women wear a dress with a sash tied around the waist called a Gomesi.
Cultural Tours Uganda
The culture of Uganda is made up of a diverse range of ethnic groups. Lake Kyoga forms the northern boundary for the Bantu-speaking peoples, who dominate much of east, central and southern Africa. In Uganda they include the Baganda and several other tribes. In the north live the Lango and the Acholi, who speak Nilotic languages. To the east are the Iteso and Karamojong, who speak a Nilotic language. A few Pygmies live isolated in the rainforests of western Uganda.
erved Banyaruguru hut, filled with valued local artifacts that were once the tools of everyday life.This community also offers three fully furnished private bandas and a campsite. All visitors are invited to use our restaurant and bar, and enjoy our evening traditional dance performances. A generous portion of your activity and accommodation fees goes directly to community development, conservation and educational projects. Dinner & Overnight at Simba Lodge or within the community bandas
Community Walk (Buniga Forest Walk)
Participate in the Buniga forest trail. The Forest itself is rich in floral diversity with species including Afro-Montane Plants such as the Giant Lobelia, there are Tree Ferns such as you have never seen before, the forest is filled with magical natural wonders.
The Buniga Forest Walk provides the means for the Batwa to preserve and earn an income from their culture and heritage. The forest walks provided Batwa guide with employment while the Sanuriro visit enable the women to sell crafts. Thus the initiative benefits the Batwa themselves and you the visitor and the forest.
The 1 km walk is an easy to moderate hike with frequent stops to experience the forest from the perspective of the Batwa. You will learn how to the forest sustain the “First People”, providing them with food, medicine, clothing, shelter, crafts, tools, tradition and folklore.
The Batwa who guide visitors on the walk know Buniga Forest well, having learned from their fathers and mothers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents how subsist on what the forest provided. It is with great joy that they share this knowledge and the experience with you. A community guide will also accompany you on the Buniga Forest Walk serving as your translator, so that you can ask questions of your Batwa guide.
Buniga Forest is known for its diversity of birdlife, with over 100 species of birds identified within and near to the forest. The trail within Buniga Forest allows victors the chance to sit and listen and spot different species of birds. The forest is also important habitat for many mammal species including small antelopes called duikers and primates like the black and white colobus, red tailed, blue and L’hoesti monkeys. Keep your eyes out and ears open for signs of Chimpanzees that occasionally visit Buniga Forest.
Buniga Forest walk is $50 per person for all nationalities. 40% of the fee goes out to Nkuringo Conservation and development (NCCD) which employees your guide and operates the local community conservation and development projects. The other 30% goes out to Kisoro Local government that owns the Buniga Forest.
Optional 1: 3-Day Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Optional 2: 3 Day Visit at Queen Elizabeth National Park
Ritual Manhood /Initiation of the Gisu of Eastern Uganda (circumcision) (5 days)
Ritual Manhood /Initiation of the Gisu of Eastern Uganda (circumcision) (5 days)
For the more adventurous and curious, the dramatic ritual of circumcision (Imbalu – in the local Gisu dialect) takes place every two years. It is the initiation of young men into adulthood. The Gisu boys are usually circumcised between the age of 18 and 25 years old and are required to stand upright for the operation, betraying no sign of fear, pain or reluctance. The circumcision season happens during the leap years and it begins with the blowing of the horns in January through May to July when the boys announce their intentions to be circumcised. Vigorously dancing around the villages for three days with their sisters and other relatives attunes them to what lies ahead. The desire to be circumcised is believed to be spiritually inspired. The boys believe they are influenced and inspired by the ancestral spirit of Embalu. The involuntary trembling of the circumcisers’ hand when they hear the drums and bells manifest the power of the knife. People look on as the boy gets circumcised. This leg of the trip would also be an opportunity to visit the Misty Mountains of Elgon, rolling hills, water-falls, and other beautiful natural sights and phenomena.
Introduction Ceremony /traditional weddings (3days)
Like the institution of marriage, traditional marriages in Uganda are an age-old practice. Although a few things have changed due to religion and the influence of western Education and culture, many Ugandans still embrace and are beholden to traditional marriages and the ceremonies that are part of their enaction. Among the Banyankole tribe, this “traditional wedding” is referred to as “Okuhingira” while among the Baganda tribe, it is known as “kwanjula.” The translation basically means “an introduction (of the bride and groom to their respective families.)” It is also called the “give-away ceremony;” a day when the bride-to-be introduces her future husband. On this occasion, the groom’s family must take token payments and gifts (pay the bride-price) to the bride’s family symbolizing the groom’s ability to take care of her.
Uniquely a Twende Expeditions experience!