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Ugandan Culture - Rich Fairly Indigenous and Illustrious

Notably at first glance, the impression of Ugandan culture is the rich still fairly indigenous and illustrious, with very little or no foreign influence in some areas.

Its core values are still well maintained and preserved.

Evidently though is that the urban areas particularly in the capital, Kampala are quite different with a lot of foreign influence particularly from the west on the traditional culture of Uganda.

Therefore one needs to visit, see it, and feel it while interacting with the people of Uganda.

Uganda is endowed with a rich and diverse cultural heritage which includes sixty-five indigenous communities with unique characteristics.

This ugandan cultural heritage is deep rooted in the way a society identifies, organises, preserves, sustains and expresses itself.

image placeholder Students learn to play Ugandan Drums

Not withholding the historical roots of these communities, in the pre-colonial times, the social, political and economic organisation of these communities revolved around family, clan and or the institution of the traditional leaders. These were the custodians of the norms and customs of Uganda.

Their daily activities were intrinsically linked to and determined by their culture.

However the exposure to various influences, cultures as well as foreign rule at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century led to the weakening of the traditional socio-political setups.

A lot of aspect of the traditional Ugandan culture; indigenous knowledge, traditional health care systems and beliefs were ignored or belittled and therefore undermined the entire social fabric and the innovativeness of these societies.

In spite all this, many communities continue to attach great value to their cultures and endeavour to conserve, inculcate and sustain it.

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You will be surprised that these values are also still very ingrained in the way of life in the urban cities and towns as well; gender issues, traditional family roots and society's 'dos and don'ts' come out strongly as a respect to their Ugandan cultural roots.

At the core of modern day Uganda are the kingdoms of Uganda; Buganda, Busoga, Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole, Rwenzururu and the other chiefdoms that still exist along side the central government.

These still have very strong influence on the ways of life particularly in protecting, encouraging and sustaining the norms and traditions of their culture and giving guidance to society.

Part of the Ugandan cultural heritage is the:

  • Artistic and cultural expressions- these have greatly contributed to modern art. Come see the pieces in the art galleries- astonishing! They reflect the true image of the origin of Ugandan culture preserved but also are used as a tool to pass on information to the communities.
  • Girl dancing traditional Ugandan dance in traditional dance dress

  • Literary arts and languages (30-plus different indigenous languages belonging to five distinctive linguistic groups).
  • The development of these languages has not been uniform though favouring some and this has not facilitated direct communication amongst communities.

    Many times therefore, information in indigenous languages is translated to English and vice versa if it's to be shared.

    Unfortunately, this comes with distortions and loss of meaning at times....so careful my dear! But generally you will not be so off especially with quick survival phrases and translations to see you through the cultural norms.

    One thing for sure is that the people are lovely and always willing to help visitors... I will not talk about the warm smiles again - have I!

    In relation to literary arts, the available literature is limited because some languages lack orthographies- those guys who check spelling in language especially with reference to its correctness.

    Ugandan Art souvenirs and decorative wall hangings in crafts shop

  • Performing arts - these include; dance, drama, music, theatre, motion pictures, opera, traditional sport (boxing, wrestling, hunting and the board games) and matching arts such as brass bands.
  • These performing arts are used for self-expression, education and sensitisation of communities as well as for entertainment and preserving the Ugandan cultural roots.

  • Visual arts and handcrafts - Some of these are wonderful souvenirs that you can take away for that memorable Ugandan vacation/experience. Why not! Take a piece of Ugandan culture with you.
  • Indigenous knowledge, Ugandan cultural beliefs, traditions, values and myths. For some; out of the weird world as they may be, these play a very vital role in modelling Ugandan societies, propagating social harmony and development.
  • Crucial to say however is that, a few of these Ugandan cultural beliefs and values have sometimes conflicted with modern laws. Say; female inheritance and female genital cutting- such have proclaimed Ugandan culture as retrogressive.

    ....But on the positive, Ugandan Cultures are continuously adopting and adapting because of the external influence- both local and foreign- and this comes with challenges.

  • The Ugandan Cultural sites, monuments and antiquities - Notable are the Kasubi Tombs where the kings of Buganda kingdom are buried- these are also gazetted as one of the United Nations World Heritage sites. And the so many other cultural sites/monuments across the country.
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