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Basoga Culture

The Basoga people thrive in the South eastern part of Uganda in the area between the Lake Victoria and Kyoga in the present districts of Kamuli, Iganga and Jinja.

The origins of the Basoga people and their history is complicated than being clear. Basoga are thought to have migrated from the north Katanga region in the present day D.R.Congo between the years of 400-1000 AD.

The migrations of the Basoga people were shaped by 2 great cultural heroes that is Kintu and Mukama.

The settlements around Lake Victoria are attached to the legend Kintu who is believed to have moved from Mountain Elgon area establishing a state in areas near Lake Victoria before moving to Buganda in the west.

Basoga people have an effect of the Luo migrations between 1550-1700 period and these are linked with the Mukama side. Originating from the eastern region, Mukama moved to the western direction making a stop in Busoga region where he produced a number of children before moving to the Bunyoro state.

Before the migrations of Kintu and Mukama, the Basoga people had a considerable cultural co-operation and cemented this through inter-clan marriages and over time it became a group living in harmony with the other neighbors.

Regarding the language the Basoga people speak is “Lusoga” and it is almost related with Luganda. Also there are various dissects of the “Lusoga” language which have made it difficult to reach agreement on the best way pronounce some words.

The Basoga people followed the Luo customs including extraction of the sixth tooth of the lower jaw as adulthood initiation which was also common among the Alur people of the West-Nile and Kenya’s Jaluo people.

Land ownership among the Basoga belonged to a clan and “Mutaka” who was the clan head was responsible for this land. Land couldn’t be owned by any other clan. The non-clan members would be given opportunity to only cultivate crops as tenants (Mugiha) and this land would later on be removed from this tenant if any member of the clan really demanded it. The Basoga people were settled agriculturalists and had plenty of food and cattle in stock.

Regarding the death and burial rituals, when the local chief was sick, few people were allowed to come to him. Death could be held in secrecy until his cattle, wives, ivory, hoes, spears and slaves had been secured.

In the next morning an announcement would be made by the funeral host known as “Mujwa” and it was the chief’s wives, herd’s men and other responsible people who would weep and kiss the dead body. There was no work carried out including even cooking and visiting and if there were other ordinary people who had died during that time, they would wait until the chief’s rituals are finished. It was also considered a taboo for a cock to crow in that period and no individual was allowed to shave until these rituals are finalized.

The eldest wife of the chief would be put in the death hut for 7 days. These people were not supposed to touch food. At the actual burial ceremony, the local chief would be buried in the hut of his first wife along with some of his objects and the body would be placed facing their area of origin, the eastern direction. Before the actual burial, the body of the corpse would be cleansed by all the wives and a new bark cloth would be pinned on the door way of this hut. Butter would be smeared on the dead body and a colored bead would be placed round his neck.

In some other counties like “Bugabula”, a cow hide piece would be laid at the fore head of the dead body. Bracelets and beads would round in the legs and arms of the dead body.

The corpse would then be taken to the burial hut by the “Bwagwa” and would be put in the grave. The function would proceed to inaugurate the heir to the throne.

The burial of head of the family included all children kissing the dead body as they cried loudly. Cooking was also prohibited on that day. His grave yard was dug in his own hut, courtyard or garden.

The Basoga people believe in the existence of a spirit world and referred to their Supreme Being as “Lubaale”. There were human beings who acted as agents of Lubaale, minor gods and ancestors.

The political setting of the Basoga were organized into chiefdoms and paid allegiance to Bunyoro Kingdom and Buganda kingdom. Upon the death of the chief, the King of Bunyoro always sent a funeral bark cloth and the other requirements for the burial rituals.

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