Ndere Center Peace Fest, May 2006
Karamajong Troop.

Ndere Center Peace Fest, May 2006


Ndere Center Peace Fest brings to life Uganda's diverse rich heritage.

By Gideon Munaabi
more from author >>
First published: May 10, 2006


It is not so common to find one event representing Uganda's cultural diversity and especially when it is blended with a message of peace and tranquility. But this is what the just ended Kwetu Fest 2006, under the theme 'Peaceful Co-existence for Development', at the Ndere Center in Kampala is offering. Attending the fest was like traversing the whole of Uganda within one day at the cost of only 2,000 shillings (about US $1) because the peace fete, sponsored by the Austrian Development Agency, brings to light Uganda's hidden treasure in a football pitch sized plot.


Cultural groups from over twenty districts including the peripheral ones like Kanungu and Kisoro from southwestern Uganda to Kotido and Nakapiripirit in the far east, Karamoja region leave you wondering why Uganda's tourism sector is not blossoming amidst such unpolluted folk culture. The showcasing of their cultural menus of dances, music, traditional delicacies, among others, leaves you with little to wonder in terms of how much the country would gain or has lost by not branding such cultural diversities.

The cultural groups may have come from different districts and age groups, but the fete exhibited peaceful co-existence as all the participants both men and women between the ages of 12 and 70 spoke in two main languages; music and dance.

"Anyone who came to Uganda and attended both last weekend's Club Silk Street Jam and this festival can now tell what the real Ugandan culture is," said one of the youthful performers at the fest.

As we paid a visit on Friday May 4th, it was the dancing, the lyrics, the dress code, the reception given to the guests at the different 'cultural villages' (stalls), as well as the merchandise in display at the fest that summarized the hospitality and unfettered cultural richness of Uganda.

Ekitaguriro by the Bakiga:Click to Enlarge
Ekitaguriro by the Bakiga:Click to Enlarge.

About 10 meters from the Ndere center entrance overlooking Ntinda, a Kampala suburb, the Kabale cultural troop performed their Ekitaguriro. The Kabale district representatives left the ground shaking, jumping high, about one foot from ground; the Bakiga showed that there are the masters in terms of strength.

Ekitaguriro- Ankole version :Click to Enlarge
Ekitaguriro- Ankole version :Click to Enlarge.

About 10 meters from the Ndere center entrance overlooking Ntinda, a Kampala suburb, the Kabale cultural troop performed their Ekitaguriro. The Kabale district representatives left the ground shaking, jumping high, about one foot from ground; the Bakiga showed that there are the masters in terms of strength.

The Ankole representatives came from the districts of Kiruhura, Mbarara and Ntungamo. Despite coming from the same tribe, the groups demonstrated diverse cultures both in terms of dance, music, foodstuffs and other cultural assets. Whereas the Kiruhura representatives raised their arms is the shape of their Ankole cows and jumped gently in their Ekitaguriro, the Mbarara and Ntungamo version of the Ekitaguriro was close to that of the Bakiga.

Their movement of the arms was in front as opposed to the Bahima that face up, and the Bakiga dance, where the fists face each others and their jumping of about 2 feet above the ground made the Mbarara and Ntungamo Ekitaguriro exceptional.

From the festival, you could see that the diversity of the two Banyankore groups goes beyond their economic activities. The Bahima, mainly from Kiruhura district, are pastoralists, while the Bairu, mainly from Mbarara and Bushenyi district, are cultivators.

The dressing of the Bahima-Banyankore women could prompt you to think that the festival had turned into a marriage ceremony or that Islamic prayers were going on. The daughters of milkland covered their head with esuuka (sheets of cloth) and ekitambi wrapped in the waists of both men and women and on the shoulders (for grazing).

The key thing that could not miss the eye of anyone in the Bahima Village was the black ebyanzi (the milk gourds) with white spots covered in cloth while millet mixed with cassava on a basket was key ingredient that you could not miss in the Mbarara stall.

Kamwenge Troop with Orunyege and Entogoro: Click to Enlarge
Kamwenge Troop with Orunyege and Entogoro :Click to Enlarge.

The Entogoro and Runyege by the Kamwenge district representatives was dance characterized by the sound of cowry shell-like Binyege tied on the legs to produce musical beats of shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. The Batoro did not only exhibit talent in dance and music but also in innovations that date back to centuries and have been improved by modernization. At the Kamwenge district stall, the participants exhibited a traditional hoe and their blacksmith skills.

Karamoja Troop: Click to Enlarge
Karamoja Troop:Click to Enlarge.

From Karamoja sub region, Kotido district representatives were at peace with all the neighbors, courtesy of the Kwetu fest. The Karimajong exhibited their artistic Manyata hats in their village at the center. Through their courtship dance the Karimajong showed the world that they are good lovers. The women took the stage first before being joined by the men who held the womens breasts as the two jumped. The dancers attire has a tail like elongation behind that keeps swinging as the dancers jumped to touch the sky. One would think that Karamoja has never had famine or faced any long standing problem.

The Baganda preforming their Kiganda dance: Click to Enlarge
The Baganda preforming their Kiganda dance: Click to Enlarge.

The Buganda representatives from Luweero district proved that it is not only the old who understand the Buganda culture and particularly the kiganda dance. The Luweero district was represented by teenagers shook what their waistline in an elaborate style. The youth were clad in Gomesi while the dancers wrapped the lower part of their body, from the waists downwards, with ekitambala leaving the feet almost above the ground. Mpaka mpaka mpaka... they danced.

It was the Laka Laka dance by the Kitgum based group that demonstrated that the head is not only for carrying loads and thinking but also for dancing. A white woman who joined the dance must be nursing her neck after she pulled out in less than a minute. But this is what the Acholis know quite very well. Shaking the head and drumming at the same time is never a punishment, but a dance they have mastered for decades if not centuries.

The two decade war in their home might have caused total suffering, but the Acholis in their music and dance show you that they are happy and peaceful people.

Last but not Least, the festival included a visiting Rwandese cultural troop. The Kigali girls who are students at Rwandas national university, the University of Rwanda, disproved people who think that university students have lost touch with their culture and traditional ways. Their stunning lyrics and performances left many people gasping for more.

Rwanda University Troop: Click to Enlarge
Rwanda University Troop:Click to Enlarge.

By Gideon Munaabi
more from author >>
First published: May 10, 2006
To learn more about Ultimate Media Consult go to www.ultimatemediaconsult.com.

Gideon Munaabi is a journalist and public relations practitioner with Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. He has been and continues writing widely for different publication locally and internationally. He is a founding member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and is currently the chairman of the organisation.