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Alur Culture

Alur people are an ethnic group in Uganda who live mainly in the Ugandan districts of Nebbi, Arua, and Zombo districts in northwestern Uganda though they also live in the northeastern D.R.Congo, north of Albert Lake. The Alur people of northern Uganda are part of the larger original Luo group and their language is also closely related to Acholi. Some of the Alur people speak Lendu language. The Alur Chiefdoms are probably the only ones that were not affected by the Ugandan ban on traditional monarchies in 1966 by the Ugandan government then. In D.R.Congo, Alur people are up to date organized in different chiefdoms and these include: Angal, Juganda, Alur, Jukoth, Junam, Mukambu and in Angal, their current Chief is called Ubimo Djalore Serge II who took over from his late father the late Kamanda who died in 1998.

Their tradition states it that the Alur people of northern Uganda migrated from southern Sudan with other Luo who followed the river Nile banks to Uganda.

The original home of the Luo people is said to have been Rumbek along the confluence of the Nile with Bahr-el- Ghazel Rivers.

The Luo people moved south to the Ugandan side along the Nile River in Pubungu where they dispersed as some of them moved to Bunyoro region, Acholi whereas others moved to the eastern parts of Uganda and others moved on  to the Nyanza province in Kenya, while the Alur people moved westwards to the West Nile.

Historians today claim that the Alur are not purely Luo and that they are products of intermarriages between the Luo, Lendu and Okebu. However since the Alur people maintained the Luo speech and Luo customs they are grouped that way.

The Alur legends of origin say that once there lived a great King known as His Majesty Atira. He was said to have been a direct decent of God and when he died, the son Otira had to succeed him. Otira is also said to have been succeeded by Opobo. He ruled from a place called Nyraka in the Lango County. Opobo also died and he left three sons that is; Gipiri, Tiful and Labongo.

Gipiri one day borrowed Labongo’s spear with an intention to spear an Elephant; unfortunately, the elephant ran away with the spear in its belly. When the news Labongo’s ear, he was so annoyed and insisted on having back his spear despite Gipiri’s pledge to offer him a substitute. Gipiri decided to follow the elephant to get the spear but found the elephant had crossed a big river, he also found himself in a cool and beautiful land. As he was wandering in this land, Gipiri encountered an old woman who is said to have taken him to a place where among other spears, gipiri was able to recognize Labongo’s spear. The old woman gave Gipiri a bead and when he arrived home, he called all of his brothers and presented to them the spear. Everyone in the village was amazed at Gipiri’s story especially with the bead. This bead was handed over for everyone to have a chance and take a look at it, in the process; a young son of Labongo accidentally swallowed it.

Gipiri got to revenge as he also demanded that his bead should be given back. Gipiri refused all the substitutes, left with no alternative Labongo handed over his son to gipiri to open and retrieve his bead. Gipiri killed the son of Labongo and got out the bead. The act is said to have annoyed the two brothers so much that they had to separate.

Tiful having been impressed by Gipiri’s story of a good place beyond the river, he moved with his people including the Lendu and the Okebu to the highlands in the west. The descendants of Tiful are said to also cover the Alur of Zaire. Gipiri followed Tiful as they traveled along the bank of the Victoria Nile in the west and camped with his followers in Pakwach. This Land was not good for grazing their cattle and there being no salt licks the cattle began to graze away from this land.

One day some cows which had disappeared were said to have come back by their own as they had salt licks on their hooves. Gipiri gathered together all his people and they followed the tracks of cows into the highlands of West Nile. Gipiri left behind one of his sons called Dosha to rule Pakwach. Gipiri then established himself in the west Nile highlands.

Marriage

Alur had religious marriage which was shown in the Mukeli gagi rituals and ceremonies. The ceremony took the following steps:-

A married woman was afflicted by ancestral spirits of her own people and in such events; the husband would get cowrie shells and take them to the home of the girl. The shells would be tied to a pole of her father’s ancestral shrine and the husband would pledge to pay two goats that is; male and female in order to rescue the cowrie shells because the shells were not supposed to remain at his father in-law’s home.

When the husband was already imitated into a religious cult, he would go to rescue the shells by him though if he wasn’t yet initiated, he wouldn’t be allowed to leave because a lot was involved which he as a non-initiate was not supposed to know about. However if he was willing to be initiated there, he could go and in fact most husbands loved this alternative mainly because at the end this ritual, the woman would cease to be the wife of this man if  it happened that he was not yet confirmed as a believer.

Sexual relationships with the former husband would end if he was not a confirmed believer and if the initial husband hesitated to get initiated, the woman would ritually get married to another husband who was already confirmed. The ritual husband would consider her to be his own wife and go ahead and have children with her.

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