Lugbara Culture

The Lugbara are Sudanic speaking people and their language is part of the languages of East Sudan of the Kerich, Lugbara and the Madi not forgetting the Avukaya. The Lugbara are believed to have come from Sudan from a place called Rajaf in the region of Juba or Baar in Bari. They are thought to have occupied Baar and Laloyi region. Initially, there also referred to as the Madi but with the intrusion of the Arab slaves from Khartoum in the second part of the 19th Century, the Lugbara term came into existence.

The Lugbara believe that God created the universe locally known as Meme and the womb of Meme was filled with all worlds’ living things and one day a gazelle ruptured the stomach of the Meme with its hoof and all the creatures in the world came out and the man was the last thing to come out of the womb.

The legend also notes that the first humans were superhuman named Gboro-Gboro and Meme who gave birth to twins named Arube who was a boy and O’duu who was a girl. Meme passed on after giving birth to the mentioned twins. When these children grew up, they got married to one another and gave birth to children who through generations multiplied giving birth to Lebenyere, Jokodra, Telebye and Mutalem clans. However, the Lugbara in the North West assert that they are descendants of Jaki whose sons got lost from Liru Mountain in Sudan at the onset of the 19th Century. The group also alleges descent from Aroba who is noted to have migrated from the Liru Mountain to form the clans of Rubu – Yiya and Otrabu-Rubu. Thu from these traditions, it can be shown that the Lugabra may be a fusion of the Bari and the Madi.

lugbara at mountain liru and a Lugbara man

Regarding the social traditions, the Lugbra’s biggest social organization was the clan. The clan was headed by the clan leader called Opi and the members of each clan claimed to have had the same ancestor. All the elders of the clan held a lot of power influence and would even punish the subordinates. The married man had all the authority over his children and wives and when his children got married, he still had authority among them and their children. The Lugbara would support the poor and would be treated as members of the community and would even marry and the people would pay for them bride price.

Regarding Birth, when the child was born among the Lugbara, the umbilical cord cutting ritual would be considered first. If he was a baby boy, the mid wife would cut the cord in four (4) strokes and if she was a baby girl, the cord would be cut in three (3) strokes. Traditionally among the Lugbara, the four and three numbers mean a boy and a girls respectively. The mother would stay in confinement for three (3) to four (4) days depending on the child’s sex. She would be stopped from consume certain food stuffs and few visitors were only allowed to visit her as the family was afraid that someone with evil intentions might harm the child. After the confinement, a range of festivities would follow that came to an end with the child naming.

Regarding initiation, during the puberty stage, the boys and girls had to undertake rituals of tribe identification and among these included the six frontal teeth extraction from the lower jaw and the face tattooing. This was an initiation to man hood and a form of decoration. Though the practices were painful, they were mandatory.

Regarding Marriage, the parents used to organize marriage for their children even when the children were at young ages. The bride wealth would be paid and the divorce was very rare among the Lugbara. The divorce would occur if the woman failed to produce or if she had poisonous charms or any other content that would kill people.

Regarding burial, the burial of the chief differed from the burial of an ordinary person. Following the death of the chief, no person would weep as it was believed that of any person wept before the chief’s burial, the corpse would turn into a leopard or a lion and attack people in return. People would weep quietly before the chief’s burial. The bull would be slaughtered would be slaughtered for the mourners and the hide of the slaughtered bull would be used to wrap the corpse. The burial would be made in the middle of the night and would be put in the grave facing the north in the Mount Liru direction where the Lugbara are thought to have emanated. Following the burial, the sorrowful song would be sung and the wailing among the mourners would occur while dancing. The tree for bark cloth locally known as Laru could be planted on the grave. During the part of the mourning, food would be served. The relatives of the deceased chief from the paternal side could give a death duty in a bull form named Avuti to the relatives of the deceased from the maternal; side. The burial of ordinary Lugbara was the same as that of the chief though the mourners were free to wail immediately after the death without fear that the corpse would turn into an animal. Also Laru was not usually planted for ordinary men. For all burials, the traditional history of the deceased would be recounted and the funeral dances were compulsory.

Regarding the political arrangement, the Lugbara were segmentary and the most significant person was the Chief named Ozoo-Opi. The chief at times had political and the powers for rain making. If he didn’t have powers for rain making, the person with such powers would be entrusted and was called Ozoo-ei. The chief was the chief custodian of the property of the clan. The harvesting could not take place until Opi had blessed it and because of this, he had to taste the harvests before others had tasted them. The chief would also be the first to eat at any ceremonial feast before others followed suit. The delicious food was accorded to him including the piece of liver. Though the chief was thought to be deriving the powers to lead from the ancestors, he rarely offered sacrifices. However, they would offer sacrifices to the god of the clan.

mountainliru of the lugbara

The Lugbara Custom required the chief (Opi) to recount testimonies (adi) during the funeral rite functions, marriage ceremonies and serious illness. The Adi was learnt through Observation and he would consider the back ground of the event that the day is being recounted. The chief would move forward and backwards while shooting the arrow up wards on various stops. When the chief, missed a point on the citation, another elder was free to correct him. This would be followed by settlement of the issue at hand.

Regarding the chief succession, the date would be set and notables in the clan would attend. The senior Opi in clan would present the chiefly stool (anderiku) after which the new chief would then be presented a bow, spear and a bracelet. The assembly of the lineage chiefs would brief the new chief about the qualities and the responsibilities that are aligned along the new post.

Regarding the Judicial system, the Lugbara had clan leaders and lineage heads that would settle conflicts. The small offences were seethed by lineage heads while major offences were settled by clan leaders. The serious issues included killing of a relative, unpaid loans, adultery, witch craft and the sorcery. The lineage courts comprised of all heads of families and had a lineage head. The clan court had all lineage heads along with other notables and the rich if they proved appropriate. The proceedings of the court would be conducted under the big tree in the compound and the trials were carried out in privacy. The children and women were not allowed to attend or even loiter around except if they are called upon as witnesses. If it was an intra-clan affair, the killer would be fined a bull for the murder of a man but it would be a cow if it was murder of a woman. In case of adultery, the affected husband would be given a bull. In case of incest, a male relative would be fined a sheep which was slaughtered and eaten by the family to cleanse the sin.

The inter clan affairs were more serious than the intra clan. The cases of adultery would even result into capital punishment. If the man was caught red handed, he would be killed or his sexual organs would be maimed. Cases of fornication would result into the boy marrying the girl or pay the appropriate fine. If he failed to comply, his sexual organs would be maimed. The loans that were not settled would at times result into wars between the two clans.

Regarding the economy, the Lugbara practiced agriculture. Their traditions assert that they owned cattle but were killed by Rinder pest. They also kept goats and sheep and cultivated sorghum and millet. The Lugbara also practiced hunting, fruit & root gathering and fishing along with trapping birds. Their land was owned communally. The married women had no independent ownership of the property as they were regarded as husbands property themselves and thus anything that they owned meant that thy belonged to their husbands. The women only had control over food and would even starve the husband if she wished so. The children were also not allowed to own any property. However, a boy of marriage age would inherit his father’s property in case of his father’s death. The Lugbara women also produced a range of hand crafts including baskets, pots and the iron smelting was done among some men.