Bakiga Culture

BAKIGA CULTURE

The Bakiga people inhabit the Kigezi region in the counties of Rubanda, Ndorwa, Kabale, Rukiga, Rubanda, parts of Rukungiri and Kinkizi district. As a result of land fragmentation, the Bakiga have migrated to several other laces in Uganda especially in the districts of Kabarole, Hoima, Kasese, Rubirizi, Mubende, Masindi and Ibanda. The Bakiga have also settled in the districts of Rakai and Masaka. The Bakiga belong to the Bantu ethnic group and they are naturally strong and energetic people.

The origins of the Bakiga are embedded in a range of traditions and some of the traditions assert that the Bakiga initially lived in Karagwe after their migration from Bunyoro following the Luo invasion and they are associated with the Tanzania’s Banyambo. Another tradition which is popularly believed asserts that they originated from Buganza in the neighboring Rwanda and their migration was influenced for the search of fertile land. After their departure from Rwanda, they passed through Bwisa, Bugoyi and Rutchru in Congo before settling in Kigezi.

Regarding their social setting, the Bakiga lived in clans and the biggest was the Basiga clan. Every clan had various lineages and each lineage had its head locally known as Omukuru W’ Omuryango and a man was not supposed to marry from his clan.

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Regarding marriage, Bakiga held a lot of attachment to the marriage. According to them, there was no marriage that could be honored when the man has not cleared the bride wealth. The boy’s father or the uncle would organize the marriage for the boy and the bride wealth would be paid by his parents. The bride wealth included cows, goats and hoe and the amount differed from family to family and group to group. The Bakiga considered it a taboo to sell the cows given as bride wealth; it would be used as bride wealth for the brothers of the bride. The Bakiga are polygamous people and they could marry as many wives as they can so long as the bride wealth and land are available. The part of the bride wealth would be given to the close relatives and the notable ones included maternal uncle (Nyinarimi) an paternal aunt (Ishenkazi) and it was believed that of any of them went away sad, he could render the girl into bareness by including the ill wrath of the spirits of the ancestors.

Regarding divorce, it was a bit common among the Bakiga and the major causes were bareness and laziness on either sides along with other misunderstandings. Following divorce, the divorced woman was free to get married afresh but would bring less bride wealth as she was no longer virgin. The issues that caused divorce would be given attention by elders and the couple would at times be rejoined if the matters were amicably sorted out. If the divorce continued, the man would get his bride wealth that he paid to the parents of the girl.

Regarding religion, the Bakiga believed in Ruhanga the creator of heaven and earth with all its belongings. At the lower levels, they believed in a traditional cult called Nyabingi and this cult is said to have emanated from Karagwe and had its base in Kigarama close to Lake Bunyonyi. Endaro were special shrines for the Nyabingi cult and the cult’s representatives were called Abagirwa who would worship and offer sacrifices of roasted meat and beer to Nyabingi.

Regarding production, the Bakiga grew crops especially sorghum, beans and millet. They also reward goats, sheep and cattle not forgetting bee keeping. Some of the Bakiga were Black Smiths and made hoes, spears and knives. The Bakiga were also porters and had a wide range of pottery items. They also practiced carpentry, art and crafts. They lived in communal settlements and bush clearing, grazing, cultivating and harvesting were done on a communal basis. They also practiced barter trade between themselves and their neighbors. In fact, regarding their sharing practice, it was considered a good practice for a visitor to come and wash his hands and join the people of a given family eating without waiting to be invited.

The local brew Omuramba had a significant role among the Bakiga. They could gather around it with their long tubes and would discuss the community affairs as they drink. The elders would also use the scene to settle disputes, recite their deeds which are heroic along with their history and then sing and dance around the Omuramba pot. They were very good zither players and would play it whether alone or in groups.

Regarding the equipment, the Bakiga had pots, winnowing trays, baskets, grinding stones, stools, wooden pestles, mingling ladles and mortars. The other households included bows, spears and arrows for hunting and defense, entrainment items like drums and harps not forgetting the grass mats for sleeping locally known as Ebirago and the Emishambi for sleeping. The Bakiga women used to put on cow hides called Enkanda or ebishato and also wore bangles on their arms and legs.

Regarding punishments, the Bakiga were very tough people. Activities like Sorcery, stealing, blocking paths and night dancing would be punished for if caught. The case of murder would see the killer being buried alive with the deceased in the same grave. For young pregnancies, the girls be taken to the forest tied to the tree feet and then would be thrown over the cliff. But he most notable as the Kisizi falls where the girls would be taken and then thrown down.                                                                     The survivors would be cursed and disowned by their people.