Cultural Encounters in Uganda
The culture of Uganda is made up of a diverse range of ethnic groups. The Bantu-speaking people dominate much of East, Central, and Southern Africa are also In Uganda and they include the Baganda, Bakiga, Banyakole, Batooro, Basoga, Bagisu and several other tribes. Over 30 different African languages are spoken by people belonging to different ethnic groups in Uganda. The most widely recognized traditional dance is the ‘Kiganda’ where the performers move their lower body to a drum-beat. Most cultural encounters in Uganda will include traditional music & dance on the itinerary.
Kampala, Uganda’s Capital city – offers a great choice for many cultural encounters and has many places where one would get to learn Uganda’s tradition like Ndere Center, Kasubi tombs etc. The city has several faces, there’s the impossibly chaotic jam of central Kampala with streets thronging with shoppers, hawkers & packed bus and taxi parks and then the fancy places with Kampala’s most expensive hotels and the urban core fades into something of a garden city.
The Uganda Museum in Kampala displays and exhibits ethnological, natural-historical and traditional life collections of Uganda’s cultural heritage. This is East Africa’s oldest museum and it was founded in 1908, after Governor George Wilson called for “all articles of interest” on Uganda to be procured. Also among the collections in the Uganda Museum are playable musical instruments, hunting equipment, weaponry, archaeology and entomology.
The Kasubi Tombs site is a burial ground for the previous four Kabaka’s of Buganda Kingdom. It’s also recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site and thousands of people come here every year to learn more about the history of Buganda Kingdom.
One of the best stop-overs you will meet while on your journey through Uganda is the Equator with a number of craft shops & art galleries. With products that have been locally made by individuals and organizations that are around the equator area. Most of the tourists have found it as an awesome opportunity to get a souvenir to take back home and tell their people how they crossed the Equator in Uganda.
Batwa People & Experiences
Enjoy cultural encounters with the local people in Bwindi forest i.e. Bakiga and Batwa communities with village walks, blacksmith visits, craft shops and vibrant dances. Some of the Communities with Cultural encounters in Bwindi include; Buhoma Community, Nkuringo Community Conservation and Development Foundation (NCCDF), Nkuringo Cultural Centre (NCC). The Batwa are also found in Mgahinga National Park and clearly demonstrate hunting techniques, gather honey, point out medicinal plants and demonstrate how to make bamboo cups. Guests are invited to the sacred Garama Cave, once a refuge for the Batwa, where the women of the community perform a sorrowful song which echoes eerily around the depths of the dark cave, and leaves guests with a moving sense of the richness of this fading culture. Part of the tour fee goes directly to the guides and musicians and the rest goes to the Batwa community fund to cover school fees and books, and improve their livelihoods.
In Northern Uganda, you will find the the notorious, cattle-herding Karamojong people. Cultural encounters to this region will let you discover the unique culture of this remote tribe with the Lorukul Cultural Group, located just outside Kidepo Valley National Park. Their main livelihood is herding livestock, and the social and cultural importance will be explained as you walk with the guides to the traditional Karamojong manyattas (homesteads), granaries and cattle enclosures.
Cultural Encounters in Western Uganda
In western Uganda, there is a community based organization called KAFRED, which promotes local livelihoods and biodiversity conservation through ecotourism. In the Rwenzori mountain foothills, you will find the Bakonzo people living in homesteads, and are good at demonstrating their daily lives through cultural dances, traditional costumes and hear their fascinating folklore. At Queen Elizabeth Park, you will find the Kikorongo Women Community with vibrant performances that take place at some of the safari lodges around the park. A lot of traditional dances, drama, music and fire-making. They also demonstrate how to recycle magazines into colorful paper beads, which can be made into unique necklaces. Many beautiful items are made by the women´s group, such as baskets, bowls, purses and woven belts and also available to purchase.
Cultural Encounters in Rwanda
While it might have been the gorillas that entice you to Rwanda, it’s the people who will keep you coming back. Ancient traditions of honor and hospitality run strong here, and anybody who takes the time to discover Rwandan culture for themselves will find a proud and unique people, happy to welcome you into their lives and introduce you to their traditions. Music and dance play an indispensable role in everyday life here, and performances range from dashing demonstrations of bravery and prowess to humorous songs, light-hearted dances, and rural artistry with roots in traditional agriculture. Traditional songs are often accompanied by a solitary lulunga—a harp-like instrument with eight strings—while more celebratory dances are backed by a drum orchestra, which typically comprises seven to nine members who collectively produce a hypnotic and exciting explosion set of intertwining rhythms.
The finest displays of Rwanda’s Cultural encounters i.e. traditional musical and dance styles are performed by the famous Intore Dance Troupes. Founded several centuries ago, the Intore – (The Chosen Ones) who performed exclusively for the Royal Court, were given military training and taught the technique of jumping which forms a significant part of the dance. Performed wearing grass wigs and clutching spears this dance is a true spectacle of Rwanda. Live cultural encounters, dance performances can be seen at cultural villages, museums and as entertainment at many lodges and hotels across Rwanda. The Iby’ Iwacu cultural village in Musanze, and the National Museum of Rwanda have regular performances and daily dances occur at the RDB office at Kinigi, Volcanoes National Park.
Locally made Crafts
A distinctively Rwandan craft is the Imigongo or cow dung paintings that are produced by a local co-operative in the village of Nyakarambi near the border with Tanzania. Dominated by black, brown and white whirls and other geometric shapes, these unique and earthy works can be bought in craft markets throughout the country. Weaving and basket making is a traditional art still used today to make dry containers for storing food and medicines. These are also known as peace pots and had traditional values such as to commemorate weddings or as a welcome gift. Pottery is one of the oldest forms of art in Rwanda and can still be seen in many towns today using traditional Batwa techniques. Known for its good quality clay these potteries are still widely used for cooking and storing liquids.
Genocide Memorial Centers
The genocide memorial in Kigali is included on every city tour and is a must-see. Rwanda’s painful past has haunted the country for years but however, their impressive recovery story has turned them into an inspiration. The genocide memorial acts as a humbling reminder to those present and honors those lost. This is a worthwhile visit for travelers who want to gain insight into the history of genocide in Rwanda, it will also help travelers appreciate how far Rwanda has come.
Umuganda Saturdays in Rwanda
Umuganda means “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome”, and it’s a time when Rwandan citizens come together to work for the good of their neighborhoods and their nation as a whole. Usually the last Saturday of every month is dedicated to public works and projects countrywide and people set aside their personal business and make time for this
A great number of museums are found in Rwanda, and today there are six sites all across the country administered by the Institute of National Museums (www.museum.gov.rw). From ethnography to environment and art to architecture, the national museums of Rwanda are among the finest in East Africa, and with locations around the country, it’s easy to fit at least one of these fascinating spots into any Rwanda Safari.