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Ugandan People - The Language, Culture, Religion, Music, Art and Sports...

Ugandan people, generally referred to as Ugandans, are not attention seekers. It's probably for this reason that their rich culture and amazing history go unnoticed more often than not.

The country has some of the most impressive historical, political, sociological and anthropological monarchies in African that date way back in the 16th century and before.

You will be please to know that much as they greatly lie in the historical moments of Ugandan History, these monarchies still exist and much of the Ugandan peoples' lives and societies are still loosely built around them.

Historians say that; the original occupants of present day Uganda were hunter/gatherers until about 2500 years ago when massive immigration brought in groups looking for fertile land to grow crops and graze cattle.

These groups included; the Bantu - speaking people believed to have migrated from Central Africa settled in the southern and central parts of the country and particularly around the lakes and rivers and the Nilotic people including the Luo and the Ateker believed to have migrated from southern Sudan settled in the northern part of the country.

The assimilation, inter-marriage, struggle for power and territorial expansion over time led to the birth of the kingdoms and chiefdoms.

The kingdoms developed into centralised native states headed by kings whose power was vested down to the chiefs and clan leaders to over see and rule over the ordinary Ugandan people. Under this arrangement, land was owned communally, which state of affair was to change with the arrival of the foreigners-colonisation in the 19th century.

Over the years, these kingdoms and chiefdoms have stood the storm through the turbulent political Ugandan history and to date although weaker politically, they still strongly influence the social, communal and to some extent the economic fabric of our societies.

The kingdoms of ;Buganda, Busoga, Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole and Rwezururu still stand out in the central, south, east and western parts of the country and to many Ugandan people, are still used as reference for sense of cultural and ancestral belonging.

The other parts of the country - particularly the north and north east also remain loosely affiliated to their lineage of chiefs that still contribute greatly to societie's guidance and order.

To date, these monarchies and chiefdoms enjoy some degree of mainly cultural autonomy along side the central government and still strongly control their cultural institutions and sites.

That is the foundation. And that said, our societies and generally the lives of Ugandan people are also influenced by other aspects;

Tribes

There are several tribes in Uganda. Ethnic figures will show; Baganda 16.9%, Banyakole 9.5%, Basoga 8.4%, Bakiga 6.9%, Iteso 6.4%, Langi 6.1%, Acholi 4.7%, Bagisu 4.6%, Lugbara 4.2%, Bunyoro 2.7%, other 29.6% (2002 census)

Languages

Uganda's official language is English which also doubles as our language mode of education. It is widely spoken and many Ugandan people - especially those that have attended at least primary education will comprehend the basic English. Have you heard about Ugandan English? Curious?!

Swahili - by law prescribed in the Constitution of Uganda is the second official language.

Much as Uganda is in the East African Community were swahili is widely spoken (in particular Kenya and Tanzania), not many Ugandans are able to comprehend it, let alone being able to speak it.

It is commonly spoken though in some parts of the country - especially the border areas with Kenya and Tanzania and some parts of the north and parts of Bunyoro region.It is also widely used by the army and police.

There are many other tribal languages that are spoken through out the country - call them mother tongues, and learning these Ugandan languages can be quite simple

Religion

Uganda is generally a God fearing country - easily said by its Moto; 'For God and my country'. Majority of Ugandan people belong to a religious sect; with almost 84% of Uganda's population, Christians: (based on the 2002 census) Roman Catholic (41.9%), Anglican Church of Uganda (35.9%), Evangelical and Pentecostal churches (6.2%) and Islam; with the Muslims representing 12%.

A small number of Ugandans still follow the traditional religion (1%), the Baha'i faith (0.1%), other non-Christian faiths (0.7%) and 0.9% that have no religious affiliation.

There is a significant number of the Indian community, many with Ugandan origin that are primarily Ismaili - Shi'a Muslim followers of the Aga Khan.

In the last 10/15 years, Uganda has seen a significant increase in the Evangelical and Pentecostal churches and it will be interesting to see what figures come out of the next census. Read more on Ugandan Religion here ...

Education

Literacy stands at 66.8% of the population (15 years and over can read and write).... click here to see all the other demographic information.

School-going age is roughly 4 years when one attends nursery school (Pre-school) but not many attend this especially in rural Uganda. It's not compulsory and hardly any schools in the rural areas.

Therefore, many Ugandan people start school at the age of 5/6 or even much later in life (due to different reasons) when they join primary school. Seven years of primary education should see one through to joining secondary. At this point, many drop out due to primarily financial reason among others.

A good number go on to Ordinary secondary level for 4 years before joining technical institutions or continuing with the Advanced secondary level for 2 years and go on to universities and other tertiary institutions.

There is universal primary education and very recently, universal secondary education was introduced. Majority of Ugandan people especially in the rural areas embraced this arrangement and there has significantly been an increase in the school-going numbers. Read more here ...

Sports

Ugandan people love sports. Sports are a unifying factor and an extracurricular for many. The level of participation varies but at least one will be involved in one sport or another.

I will say; football is the number one sport. Majority of the people of Uganda have an affiliation to a local club but there is also a massive following of the European leagues - which is fast becoming a world trend. You will be amazed at how much information they know about these European clubs and players. A few Ugandan international players play in Europe and other leagues.

There is a big following of motor sport - in particular rallying that has local heroes and legends. The other sports of interest are; rugby, boxing, tennis, netball, running, basket ball, golf and cricket.

Ugandan cuisine

Ugandan people love food and more so their traditionally cooked food. Each region has a conventional food and one that they will especially prepare for a visitor.

The typical dish will usually have a starch - Cornmeal bread; ugali, kawunga or posho - that is some of the different word variation of the same or milletmeal; kalo - commonly prepared in the southwest and the north, or Matooke (steamed/boiled and mashed green bananas)- which is common in the central region.

The other starch foods will include; rice, sweet potatoes, cassava, yam and/ or the affluent white potatoes commonly known as the 'Irish potatoes'

Served along with the starch will be a meat stew/sauce; peanut sauce is common. Beans are very common part of Ugandan cuisine together with greens; spinach and lots more local species. Chicken is very much still part of an affluent meal and many times a treat that would be prepared for a special visitor.

The beauty is that all this food is organic and many times prepared straight from the garden. I have put together a few Ugandan recipes here for you to try out.

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Over time of course, there has been massive influence on the cooking, the content and size of the meal- especially the English, Arab, Asian and Indian influence. Chapati and Asian flat bread is very common together with English tea (I still can't make the difference!)

You will certainly love the food let alone the abundance of organic fruit to choose from.Uganda is known for its sweet, juicy and mouth watering pineapples - hmmm yummy! You will love them. Here is more on Ugandan Cuisine.

Music

You will be surprised - majority of Ugandan people listen to and love the modern western music but let's talk Ugandan Music here.

Popular Ugandan music takes in a wide range of styles of both local and international origin. The local languages are crucial in defining the music; filled with lots of message rather than the beats at times, majority of the music is synonymous with the afro beat.

You will be amazed at how Ugandan people highly regard their local superstars rather than the international ones.And the amount of talent out there is massive.

Uganda has also got an excellent collection of traditional music and dances which you will not fail to notice while you are there. Lots of tribal dances and costumes and the traditional instruments are amazing; the drums, xylophones, the rattles and shakers, the fiddles and more.

Art and Crafts

These are brilliant! - You will like them. And now that Uganda is fast becoming one of Africa's travel destinations, most of the art and craft is produced for the lucrative tourist market.

You will certainly have that souvenir to take home, that reminds you of that memorable Ugandan vacation/visit.

The bracelets, the bead jewellery, the art pieces (these are brilliant wall hangings), the wooden carvings, the batik clothes, the wraparound skirts with beautiful patterns, lots of sarongs to choose from, the music instruments, the list is endless.

There are arts and crafts shops and markets throughout most tourist centres and in Kampala in particular close to the National theatre - each with a glorious lot and quality to choose from. On the international scene, you could now quite easily find Ugandan Art in art galleries worldwide.

Fun fact

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The Uganda National football team is called the Uganda Cranes.

Did you know that?

...One of the world's Seven Baha'i faith houses of Worship is in Uganda; on the outskirts of Kampala.

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