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Bakiga Culture

Bakiga people live in the Kigezi hilly region in the counties of Rubanda, Kabale, Ndorwa, Rukiga, Rubanda, Rukungiri and Kinkizi districts. As a result of land high demand for land due to ever increasing populations, the Bakiga people have migrated to several other places in Uganda: districts of Kabarole, Kasese, Hoima, Rubirizi, Mubende, Ibanda and Masindi. Bakiga people have also settled in the districts of Masaka and Rakai. Bakiga people belong to Bantu ethnic group and they are known to be naturally strong and energetic people.

Origins of Bakiga are covered in many traditions and these traditions assert that the Bakiga initially lived in Karagwe area after migrating from Bunyoro region following the Luo invasion from the north and they are related with Tanzania’s Banyambo.

After their leaving Rwanda, they moved through areas of Bugoyi, Bwisa and Rutchru in the D.R.Congo before settling in Kigezi region.

The social setting of the Bakiga people lived in clans and the biggest clan was the Basiga clan. All the clans had different lineages with each lineage having its head locally referred to as “Omukuru W’ Omuryango” and a man was not supposed to marry from his own clan.

According to the Bakiga, no marriage was allowed when a man had not cleared the bride’s wealth. The groom’s father or uncle would organize marriage for the groom and bride wealth would be paid by the parents.

Bride wealth covered cows, goats and hoes and the amount of these differed from family to family. Bakiga considered it bad to sell the cows given to them as bride wealth; as it would be used as bride wealth for the brothers to the bride. Bakiga people are known to be originally polygamous people and could marry as many wives as they can manage as long as bride wealth, land and food are available.

Part of the bride wealth was given to relatives that are close to the bride and these included uncle and aunt. It was believed that if any of them went away so sad, he/she could make the girl go into bareness by including the wrath of the spirits of the ancestor spirits.

Regarding divorce in marriage, it was common among the Bakiga and the main causes were bareness or laziness along with other family misunderstandings. The divorced woman was free to get married again but would one would bring low bride price as she was no longer virgin lady.

Religiously the Bakiga people believed in “Ruhanga” who they believed to be the creator of heaven and earth and its belongings. They also believed in a traditional god called “Nyabingi” and this cult is said to have originated from Karagwe kingdom and had its base in Kigarama near Lake Bunyonyi. The “Endaro” were special shrines for the Nyabingi god and this cult’s representatives were called the “Abagirwa” who worshiped and offered sacrifices of roasted meat and local brew to Nyabingi.

The Bakiga people grew crops like beans, millet and sorghum. They also reared goats, sheep and cows and bee keeping. The Bakiga were also Black-Smiths who made hoes, spears and knives.

Bakiga people were also porters and made a wide range of pottery items. The local brew Omuramba had a significant role among the Bakiga. They gathered around the local brew with long tubes and discuss community affairs as they drink their brew. These elders would also use the same scene to settle local disputes, recite deeds which are heroic along with their history and dance around the Omuramba brew pot.

The equipment used by the Bakiga include pots, baskets, winnowing trays, millet and sorghum grinding stones, wooden pestles and mingling ladles and mortars.

The other household items included bows and arrows, spears for animal hunting and Defence. The entrainment items were drums, harps and grass mats for sleeping known as “Ebirago” and “Emishambi” for sleeping. Bakiga women used to dress cow hides and skins called “Enkanda” or “ebishato”. They also wore bangles in their arms and legs especially the women.

Regarding punishments: the Bakiga people were very tough. Bad acts like stealing, blocking paths, night dancing and sorcery would be punished for incase caught. Murder cases would see the killer being buried alive with the victim in the same grave. Early pregnancies were prohibited among the Bakiga girls, pregnant girls were taken to the forest and tied to a tree and then would be thrown over that cliff of Kisizi falls.

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