Situated at the geographical heart of the African continent, Uganda has long been a cultural melting pot, as evidenced by the existence of 30-plus different indigenous languages belonging to five distinct linguistic groups, and an equally diverse cultural mosaic of music, art and handicrafts. The country’s most ancient inhabitants, confined to the hilly southwest, are the Batwa and Bambuti Pygmies, relics of the hunter-gatherer cultures that once occupied much of East Africa to leave behind a rich legacy of rock paintings, such as at the Nyero Rock Shelter near Kumi.
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).
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.
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).
Matooke (bananas of the plantain type) is a popular local dish among the Baganda. It’s peeled, tied in banana leaves and put in a cooking pan with enough water to steam the leaves. Later on, the bundle is removed and squeezed to get a smooth soft and golden yellow mash. The Banana leaves are used to keep it hot and steamy.
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.
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 of Tamenhaibuga; Eirongo, a slower dance performance to cerebrate 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 flourmingled 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.
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.
Marriage and Family Life
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.
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.
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; Akaro and Firinda.