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Bugisu Culture

Today we focus on Bagisu Culture,  because Dagiz travel has so much to offer beyond wildlife and Gorillas.

Ugandans are one of the friendliest people on earth. They are accepting and easily get along with foreigners. One of the reasons for this is that the country’s ethnic groups have learnt to live in harmony with each other. This has made it easy for Ugandans to accept foreigners without any suspicions whatsoever. Uganda is also a country with a strong cultural heritage. This is demonstrated by the numerous cultural sites and tribes in the country.

To be more specific, there are 65 tribes in Uganda including the Acholi, Alur, Bafumbira, Baganda, Bagishu, Bagwere, Bakiga, Bamba, Banyoro, Banyuli, Bateso, Batooro, Batwa, Jonam, Karamajong, Kumam, Langi, Lugbra, Madi, Jopadhola and Tepeth. Each group has its own unique language, cultural practices and norms. Most have a traditional King or chief as head. There was a time when these Kingdoms and Chiefdoms wielded so much power and influence that the presidents then decided to abolish them. It was only about 30 years ago that the president revived them.  On a cultural tour, visitors have an opportunity to understand the culture of these indigenous groups by visiting a family or attending their cultural performances.

Origin of the name Bagisu 

Maswahaba’s first son with Nabarwa was Mwambu who was nicknamed Nkisu by his Maasai uncles who had stolen his fathers cows from him. Masawahaba failed to pronounce the nickname of Nkisu meaning a bull in Maasai language, given to his son his uncle and he pronounced it as Mugisu. The name Bagisu originated from the nickname Nkisu given to Mwambu by Maswababa’s Maasai Brother-in-law.

The Bamasaba speak a dialect of the Lumasaba language called Lumasaba, which is fully understandable by other dialects, and is also understood by the Bukusu. The Bamasaba share a lot of things with the Bukusu from Kenya. They share culture and according to the Bukusu the Bamasaba are their real brothers its only the border that divides them.

The Masaba, Bukusu and Luhya people believed that their ancestors were Mundu and Sera. The people of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Highlands have no name for Kundu, except that it is a mountain peak in Oromiya.

The Bamasaba ancestor, Maswahaba migrated from the Ethiopian Mountains traveling via Lake Turkana to Sironko and settled around Bududa where he fell in love with a Maasai girl who was known as Nabarwa. The family of Nabarwa demanded that in order for Maswahaba to marry their daughter he had to undergo their rite of circumcision. He agreed to do so.

The Bagisu Culture

The Bamasaaba ancestors lived on bamboo shoots also known as maleya in the Lumasaba language. These bamboo shoots are collected from bamboo trees on top of Mt. Elgon.

Bugisu Culture

The Bugisu tribe is famous for their ancient circumcision rituals and dances known as “Kadodi”. Once a young man reaches of age in the Bagisu, he is initiated into manhood by undergoing circumcision in front of the public and with no pain killers. Circumcision in hospitals are not recognized or accepted and will be considered an act of cowardice. During the The Bagishu Culture circumcision ceremony, the young man has to move to each of his relatives for about a week to seek their blessings. These movements to his relatives involves dancing and merry making in which he is escorted by friends and relatives.  Tourists can join in the “Kadodi” dance to escort one of the young men briefly or go straight to the circumcision ground and watch as many young men are circumcised in front of everyone. A more controversial circumcision ceremony is practiced by the Sabiny tribe. The Sabiny only circumcise girls on reaching maturity. This practice has been opposed by women and other human rights activities but the still goes on quietly.

Uganda culture toursCircumcision in Africa is an old  Bagisu Culture practiced by the Bamasaaba in Eastern Uganda. The culture of circumcision was adopted by the Bamasaba from their in-laws the Maasai people. The men among the Bagisu tribe undergo initiation ceremonies known as Imbalu. The initiation ceremonies among the Bamasaaba are held every two years during August.

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