Culture in Uganda
The original inhabitants of this ancient jungle, the Batwa have long been known as “The Keepers of the Forest”, and the history of these small-statured people is long and rich.
According to the 2002 population census, the Batwa population in Uganda is about 6000 making them an endangered people. The majority live in the districts of Kabale, Kisoro, Kanungu, Bundibugyo and Rukungiri in the Southwest of Uganda.
The size of Batwa individuals is quite different from other tribes in the area, with men and women rising to an average of four feet or less in height.
The Batwa have long survived by traditional means; hunting small game using arrows or nets and gathering plants and fruit in the rain forest. They live in huts constructed of leaves and branches, moving frequently in search of fresh food.
The Batwa live in harmony with the forest and its creatures, including mountain gorillas that are regarded with reverence, for millennia. Some anthropologists estimate that pygmy tribes such as the Batwa have existed in the equatorial forests of Africa for at least 60,000 years.
The Maasai tribe is one of, if not the, best know in Africa. They reside primarily within northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, where they number around 2 million.
Their way of life is predominantly patriarchal with senior and elder males making the decisions for the remainder of the group. Their way of life depends significantly on their cattle, relying upon them for milk, meat and even drinking their blood on occassion.
There have been efforts by the Tanzanian and Kenyan governments to assimilate the Maasai but they have not been able to deter them from their traditional, semi-nomadic lifestyle.
Most of their members are monotheistic, worshiping the entity Enkai/Engai which consists of Engai Narok (Black God) who is benevolent, and Engai Na-nyokie (Red God) who is vengeful.
In recent years, cattle numbers have dwindled somewhat leading the group to look for alternate ways of ensuring their survival. They are now far more reliant upon crops and assistance from the wider world when it comes to subjects like education, selling goods and even external employment.
Many members have left for positions in commerce or government but they resume a traditional lifestyle when they return home.
Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda are collectively home to over 100 tribes, most of these being shared between Kenya and Uganda. Above are just a couple of examples of those that you will find one some of our tours but there is naturally many more, some lesser known or more private. Here are a few others that you may have the opportunity to see:
- The Ik People – This is an ethnic group of about 10,000 individuals. They suffered considerably with the creation of Kidepo Valley National Park as they were displaced from the land within. They live in small clusters of villages called communities, which are separated by a larger outer-wall.
- The Baganda – This is the largest tribe in Uganda at approximately 5.6 million people, comprising 17% of the population. Buganda, their primary area of residence, is the largest of many traditional kingdoms that inhabited the lands. Even the name of Uganda comes from the Swahili pronunciation of Buganda, which was adopted by colonists. They even have significant communities globally, in the U.K., Canada and South Africa where they speak Luganda (‘Ganda’)
- Bakonzo people – These are a considerable group in the hundreds of thousands which are agriculturalists and animal husbandeers. They also partially reside in DRC and Kenya. In 2008, the Rwenzururu Kingdom was recognised as the first which was comprised of two tribes. Their names denote their position within the order of the family and polygamy was traditionally a benefit given to those of more wealthy families.