Uganda a Strong Cultural Heritage

Cultural heritage:

Uganda is very rich in Culture and has a very strong cultural heritage, with various cultural sites spread all over different regions of the country. Almost each and every tribe in Uganda has either a Kingdom or Chiefdom which has been the tradition for many years. Kingdoms and Chiefdoms existed until over 40 years but got interrupted during the colonial rule in the 1960s. The fact that Uganda has always had a strong cultural heritage has left it with so many cultural attractions. There are many and diverse cultural groupings in Uganda with four major ones that include; the Bantu, the Nilotics, the Nilo Hamites and the Hamites. All these different multi-cultural groups in Uganda have unique cultures that differ in terms of the way of dressing, traditions and norms, food preparation, naming ceremonies, initiation rites, traditional dances, marriage ceremonies, religion and many aspects of culture.

Ethnic communities:

Ethnic groups in Uganda and worldwide are defined as a group of people who share a common heritage, language or cultural background. In Uganda, different ethnic groups are believed to have migrated from different origins and settled in different locations around the country as well as in the neighboring countries. Uganda however, has several other smaller communities and in total has over 56 tribes which include; the Banyankole in Western Uganda famous for their long horned cattle, the Karimojong in North Eastern Uganda bordering Kenya and South Sudan who basically keep the Zebu type of cows, the Batwa pygmies in Bwindi forest, the Basoga in Eastern Uganda and many others. In all these groupings, only four are acclaimed main ethnic groups which include; the Bantu, Nilotics, Nilo Hamites and the Hamites and the official languages spoken are Swahili and English (the official language).

The Bantu:

The Bantu are a group of people who speak a language with a common root ‘ntu’. They are believed to have originated from South Western parts of Africa and they migrated to the Southern, Eastern and Central parts of Africa. This ethnic group of people introduced Iron smelting, bark cloth and cultivating using different hand tools made from Ironworks and stones. The Baganda live in Central Uganda in areas such as; Kampala, Mpigi, Mukono, Kalangala, Masaka, Luwero, Mubende, and many other districts. The cultural dress worn in Buganda is the kanzu worn by men while the gomesi is worn by women. When it comes to food, these Ugandan Cultures also have various unique cuisines that are indeed amazing to explore for example in Buganda; Matooke or the banana plantain is the main staple food, Luwombo (Steamed meat, chicken, Ground nuts etc) is a traditional dish, Ground nut sauce mixed with green vegetables, yams, Nsenene (grass hoppers) are a major delicacy, beans, sweet potatoes, cassava and many other dishes are also eaten in Buganda.  Meanwhile on the side of music, each ethnic group in Uganda has its musical history and songs passed on from generation to generation. Music is a source of informal education in Uganda where messages and ideas, are communicated through dance and drama. The Baganda dance bakasimba with use of drums, small gourds with handles as the main musical instruments. The drum being the most common instrument in Africa, dominates in symbolism to African culture and is made from curved wood which is the covered with animal skin for example; goats and cows skin. The drum is also used for communication when sending particular messages to the intended audience for example; for last funeral rites, circumcision, King installation, traditional worship among others.



The Nilotes are believed to have originated from Ruhubek in South Sudan in an area known as Barh el Gharzal and settled around northern Uganda while other Nilotics moved Northwards to Shiluk and to the Eastern direction towards Ethiopia. The ones who settled in Uganda moved along the Nile and settled in Pubungu. Due to conflicts, the Nilotic group that settled in Pubungu divided into two groups as explained by the famous story of the ‘Bead’ and the ‘Spear’ between two brothers ‘Gipir and Labong’. The group which followed ‘Gipir’ crossed the Nile and settled in the land of Okebu and Lendu who intermarried and formed the Alur people.

Labong’s group moved Northeastern direction from Pubungu to where the Acholi are currently settled. The Nilotic people lie in the Northern part of Uganda and the tribes involved in this ethnic group include; the Acholi, the Langis, Alurs, Japadhola, Luhya and the Jonam. They are also known as the Luo people of Uganda. This group is divided into Plain Nilotes, River Lake Nilotes and Highland Nilotes. The Acholi live in the Northern part of the country in the districts of Gulu and Kitgum, while the Alur live in the Northwestern part of Lake Albert in the districts of Nebbi, Zombo and many other places and are also found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

When it comes to dressing, Uganda’s different ethnic groups have come up with their own dress styles for identity purposes. The Northerners or the Acholis, Alurs and Langis, also use the kanzu for the men and the gomesi for the women as their national dresses. As for the dances, the Alur people from West Nile have their traditional Agwal dance, the Acholi have many dances and include; the Bwola which is the royal dance, Otole dance, Ding ding and the Larakaraka which is the courtship dance. When it comes to food, the Northerners have a variety of dishes from which to choose, with Malakwang a sour vegetable eaten by the Acholis as their main dish.  


The Nilo Hamites:

The origin of the Nilo Hamites is said to be in the North Eastern part of Ethiopia and they migrated to areas of Karamoja while others settled and moved Southwards to other areas. Nilo Hamites include; The Iteso, Karimojong, Kumam, Sabins, Pokot, Labwor and the Tepeth. These groups of people can be seen in the Eastern parts of Uganda and they possess more Hamitic characteristics than the Nilotic Characteristics. In this particular story we shall talk about the Iteso and Karimojong. History believes the Iteso are direct descendants of Karimojong but has also been disputed because they do not share much in terms of how they dress, what they eat, their cultural practices and the language that they speak. Although some words spoken in Ateso have a similarity with Nga’ Karimojong dialect, the two have distinct features that identify each group of people.
When it comes to dressing, the Iteso traditionally wore colored pieces of materials, adorned beads and other forms of jewelry. But this soon changed after colonial era and influence of Kabaka Mutesa’s reign when Buganda realized some form of economic independence. Features like the dress code was improved and the famous kanzu and gomesi were designed. Later various tribes including the Iteso adopted the kanzu and the gomesi as their national wear. As for the food, the iteso have a variey of vegan sauces that they enjoy that include; eboo (green vegetable sauce), emalakany, Atap or millet bread, pasted meat, pasted fish and many others. When it comes to dances, the Karamojong have (Edonga) while the Iteso have the Ajosi dance, the Lamellophone thumb piano (Akogo), harp xylophone are some of the commonly played instruments.

The Hamites:

The western Lacustrine Bantu includes the; Banyoro, Batooro and Banyankole of western Uganda. Their complex Kingdoms are believed to be the product of acculturation between two different ethnic groups that is the ‘Hima and the ‘Iru’. In each of these three communities, two distinct groups came to be referred to as ‘Bahima and Beiru’. The Bahima are said to be descendants of pastoralists who migrated into the region from the North East. While the ‘Beiru, ’are said to descendants of the agricultural populations that preceded the ‘Bahima’ as cultivators in the region.
Meanwhile, Bunyoro lies in the plateau of western Uganda constituting about 3% of the population. The Batooro evolved out of a break away segment of Bunyoro that split off quite early before the Nineteenth Century. The Batooro and Banyoro speak closely related languages (Lutooro and Lunyoro) and share many other cultural traits. The Batooro live on Uganda’s western border, South of Lake Albert and Constitute about 3.2% of the population. In pre-colonial times, they lived in a highly centralized Kingdom like Buganda, which was stratified like the society of Bunyoro. With aspects of cultural identity, women from western Uganda wear a full dress and a long cloth that covers the waist and over one or both shoulders called mshanana. While women from Southwest wear a long baggy plain skirt usually different from a short flowered cloth across the shoulders called suuka. Their food is a variety from natures harvest but the most profound is the Eshabwe. As for the dances the Banyoro have the Runyege while the Banyankole perform their ekitaguriro dance. 

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