LOCATION: Ankole in southwestern Uganda
LANGUAGE: Runyankole; English, KiSwahili (two national languages)
RELIGION: Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Church of Uganda—Anglican, Fundamental Christianity); indigenous Kinyankole religion
RELATED ARTICLES: Vol. 1: Ugandans
The Banyankole, who numbered about 400,000 people at the turn of the century in 2000, are located in southwestern Uganda. This former kingdom is well known for its long-horned cattle, which were objects of economic significance as well as prestige. The Mugabe (King) was an absolute ruler. He claimed all the cattle throughout the country as his own. Chiefs were ranked not by the land that they owned but by the number of cattle that they possessed. Chiefs ruled over pasture lands. Although both chiefs and herdsmen possessed cattle, the ultimate ownership of all cattle was in the hands of the Mugabe. Cows were exchanged by chiefs or herdsmen for wives but could not be killed, except for a small number of bulls for sacrifice or food. The Banyankole conform to a pattern of social stratification famous in Uganda and its neighboring countries of Rwanda and Burundi, which is namely, the division of society into a high-ranked pastoral caste and a lower-ranked agricultural caste. The Bahima are cattle herders who despise farming and do not marry the Bairu farmers who reside on a chief's estates and provide the chief with vegetable foods. The Bairu also care for goats and sheep for themselves and for the Bahima.
The Mugabe regularly held court where he resolved disputes involving more than 50 cows, or cases of wives deserting their husbands. The Nganzi was the favorite chief who decided which disputes would be heard by the Mugabe. The Nganzi alone had the right to enter the Mugabe's rooms at any time. The kingdom was divided into 16 districts headed by a chief appointed directly by the Mugabe. At his appointment, a district chief was given several hundred cows as a gift from the Mugabe. Ordinary cattle herders were free to settle wherever they chose in search of good pastures and wise leadership. Chiefs regularly held courts to resolve minor conflicts. Every year agents from the Mugabe traveled throughout the kingdom in search of taxation in the form of 1 cow per 50 cows in a homestead. Chiefs had no right to levy taxes on those in their districts.
In 1967, the government of Milton Obote, prime minister of Uganda, abolished kingdoms in Uganda, including the Kingdom of Ankole. This policy was intended to promote individualism and socialism in opposition to traditional forms of social stratification. A cash economy and private ownership of land promoted in the colonial era, set in motion by the British in the early 20th century, had earlier served to diminish the authority of chiefs in favor of wealthy farmers or herders. By World War II, the Bairu owned as many cattle as the Bahima. Nevertheless, cattle are still highly valued among the Banyankole, and the Bahima are still held in high regard.
LOCATION AND HOMELAND
Ankole lies to the southwest of Lake Victoria in southwestern Uganda. Its area equal about 15,540 sq km (6,000 sq mi). It appears that sometime during the 17th century or before, cattle-keeping people migrated from the north into central and western Uganda and mingled with indigenous farming peoples. These migrants adopted the language of the farmers but maintained their separate identity and authority, most notably in the Kingdom of Ankole. The Kingdom of Buganda bordered Ankole on the east, and the Kingdom of Bunyoro constituted its northern border. Lake Edward was a natural border to the west.
The country was well suited for pastoralism, given its large areas of rolling plains covered with abundant grass. The land lies about 1,370 m (4,500 ft) above sea level, with some hills rising to as high as 2,740 m (9,000 ft). Valleys sometimes have papyrus grass or are wooded. Today, nomadic herders prefer to move to those areas of Ankole where fresh grazing land and water supplies are available, although these lands are diminishing because of a high rate of population growth.
The Banyankole speak a Bantu language called Runyankole, which is a member of the Niger-Kordofanian group of language families. In many of these languages, nouns are composed of modifiers known as prefixes, infixes, and suffixes. Word stems alone have no grammatical meaning. For example, the prefix ba- signifies plurality; thus, the ethnic group carries the name Ba nyankole. An individual person is a Mu nyankole, with the prefix mu- carrying the idea of singularity. Th ings pertaining to or belonging to the Banyankole are referred to as Kinyankole, taking the prefix ki- The pastoral Banyankole are known as Bahima; an individual of this group is referred to as a Muhima. The agricultural Banyankole are known as Bairu; the individual is a Muiru.
Morality is primarily a communal concern, for which folklore provides a repertoire of legends and tales constructed to impress upon the young standards for proper behavior through contradictions and dilemmas contained in the stories. Storytelling is a common means of entertainment, with both men and women excelling in this verbal art form. Riddles and proverbs are also emphasized among the Banyankole. Of special significance are legends surrounding the institution of the kingship, details of which provide a historical framework for the Banyankole. The perhaps legendary Bachwezi, thought to be forebears to 20th-century kingdoms in central and western Uganda, are credited by the Banyankole for pastoralism, religious cults, and social distinctions found among them. They also established the Banyankole, in Kinyankole terms, as the successors of this large, regional empire. Neighboring societies, such as the Banyoro, have traditions that contest this view in favor of legends more favorable to their own claim to succession.
Folk tales concerning morality contain many examples drawn from royalty, cattle, hunting, and other central concerns of the Banyankole. After work in the evening, parents and grandparents socialize children into the community through stories (ebyevugo), proverbs (efumu), and riddles (ebiito). Animals figure prominently in Kinyankole tales. For example, one well-known tale concerns the Hare and the Leopard. The Hare and the Leopard were once great friends. When the Hare went to his garden for farming, he rubbed his legs with soil and then went home without doing any work, even though he told Leopard that he was always tired from digging. Hare also stole beans from Leopard's plot and said that they were his own. Eventually, Leopard realized that his crops were being stolen, and he set a trap in which Hare was caught in the act of stealing. While stuck in the trap, Hare called to Fox, who came and set him free. Conniving Hare told Fox to put his own leg into the trap to see how it functioned. Hare then called Leopard, who came and killed Fox, the assumed thief, without asking any questions. The Banyankole recite this story to illustrate that you should not trust easily, as Leopard trusted Hare, nor should you act quickly before contemplation, as Leopard did in killing the innocent Fox.
Folk tales are recounted to teenage Banyankole during the time of courtship in order to provide a moral context for gender relations. The story of the King and the Hyena, for example, illustrates what might be told to young girls who are wasting their time chasing boys instead of learning to resist temptations for future rewards, especially the attainment of a successful marriage. In this story, the King sent a chief to find people or animals who were starving so that he could give from his own abundance. The Hyena accepted the invitation to the King's palace in order to get meat, butter, and milk, although he was warned that he must overcome four temptations on the way there. After resisting other tempting foods along the way, Hyena could not resist big bones and fat meat. When told that he could not visit the king, Hyena did not worry since he expected to return to eat the foods that he had resisted previously. Unfortunately, the river of milk, the valley full of soup and fat meat, and another valley full of roast beef had all dried up. Hyena, therefore, sadly returned to his cave, where he starved to death.
Another tale for those young people contemplating marriage, called “The Woman Who Stole Locusts,” involves a man who went to a far-off country to find a wife. He chose a very beautiful girl, even though he was warned by his friends that she had a reputation for bad manners. Sure enough, while back home, food began to disappear mysteriously, especially the delicacy, cooked locusts. After it was discovered that his new bride was the cause, she was returned home, and he reclaimed the bride-wealth he had given for her.
The majority of Banyankole today are Christians who belong to major world denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, or the Church of Uganda that is Anglican. Fundamental Christianity, such as Evangelicalism, is also common. For example, the Balokole are self-identified as “saved” through a rejection of personal sin and an acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Public confessions of such sins as adultery and drunkenness are common, as well as rejection of many traditional secular and religious practices. The Balokole, for instance, no longer practice extensive milking or bloodletting from cows. They believe that this “sin of greed” deprives the calf of its mother's strength and milk. The Bahima Balokole have, therefore, taken up agriculture to supplement their diet. Bride-wealth and the old customs of blood-brotherhood have been rejected in favor of Christian marriage and unity in the blood of Christ. All indigenous forms of religion are rejected outright.
The element of indigenous Kinyankole religion that survives most directly today is the belief in ancestor spirits. It is still believed that many illnesses result from bad behavior to a dead relative, especially paternal relatives. Through divination it is determined which ancestor has been neglected so that presents of meat or milk and/or changes in behavior can appease the ancestor's spirit in order to address the misfortune spiritually. Banyankole respect ancestors, name children after them, and believe that ancestors communicate with the living in dreams.
Prior to the Christian missionary movement in the 19th century, Banyankole believed that God, known as Ruhanga, lived in the sky. Ruhanga created humanity in the form of a man called Rugabe and his wife Nyamate. Rugabe and Nyamate gave birth to a long line of kings who became deified. These gods had special temples and priests often in the royal compound, and tended to be concerned with helping people to solve special problems. There were, for instance, a god of fertility, a god of thunder, a god concerned with earthquakes, and deities for specific clans and their affairs. The present dynasty of kings is believed to be descendants of previous kings who have become gods. There was a strong belief in the spiritual power of the royal drum, which symbolized the benevolent tendencies of the Mugabe (“The Bountiful”). Requests made to the drum for food were never refused, making hunger quite rare in the old economy.
As the majority of Banyankole are now Christian, they celebrate Christian holidays, such as Christmas and Easter.
RITES OF PASSAGE
After the birth of a child, the placenta and umbilical cord were traditionally treated with elaborate ritual by the midwife who had assisted in the birth. This was thought necessary to protect the mother and her child from harm. The midwife was also skilled in herbal medicines that were used to lessen the pains of birth and to ease difficult deliveries. The birth of twins was considered catastrophic. Members of the family were confined to the homestead and could not leave until rituals, including the slaughter of a sheep, had been performed. Naming also involved a ritual in which relatives gathered together to “call one of them.” Names depended on the alleged wishes of one of the ancestors, the day or season of the child's birth, or other special circumstances.
At about the age of four months, among the Bahima, a boy was placed by his father on the backs of two cows that were dedicated to the boy. After this, a hole was scraped in the floor of the hut into which the child was made to sit while he was given the name of one of his ancestors. Among the Bairu, the naming ritual for boys was similar but did not involve cows. Many East African societies train infants to sit in association with naming ceremonies and may even have special sitting ceremonies once the child has achieved this milestone. The training results in children learning to sit unassisted about one month earlier than Western children do.
In early childhood, children began to learn the colors of cows and how to differentiate their families' cows from those of other homesteads. During this time, boys and girls played together. Young boys built small models of huts; girls made head coverings out of grass. Boys were taught how to make water buckets and knives. Girls were taught how to make milk-pot covers and small clay pots. By later childhood, around seven or eight years of age, boys were expected to be useful and were taught how to water cattle and calves. Girls helped by carrying and feeding babies; they were also expected to learn to wash milk-pots and to churn butter.
Among the Bahima, girls began to prepare for marriage as early as eight years of age. They were kept at home and given large quantities of milk in order to grow fat. They were also encouraged not to exercise and to spend most of their time sitting, talking, and making bead ornaments. Today, heaviness is still valued. Teenage eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, are not evident. Among the Banyankole, the father's sister (paternal aunt) was (and still is) responsible for the sexual morality of the adolescent girl. Girls were expected to be virgins before marriage, and this aunt attended the rituals and was required to verify the virginity of the bride. Today, schools, peer groups, popular magazines, and other mass media are rapidly replacing family members as sources of moral and family education for teenagers.
Traditionally, adulthood was initially recognized through the establishment of a family by marriage, the acquisition of large herds of cows for Bahima, and of abundant crops for Bairu. Happiness, and also full adult status, was achieved by both men and women through the rearing of a large family. Special occupations, crafts, storytelling, and musical expression in song and dance were some of the pastimes enjoyed. Presently, death and burial are experienced largely through the ideology of Christian religions. Nevertheless, public weeping and wailing are still practiced, and members of the extended family are expected to attend the burial. People are expected to shave their heads as a symbol of mourning. Among the Bahima, cows are slaughtered for the funeral meal. In the past, all the full-grown bulls of the dead man's herd were slaughtered for consumption at the funeral. Occasionally, widows of a dead man committed suicide by hanging or by poison to express their grief. The Mugabe, too, ended his life by poison if he thought that his powers were waning. At his death, fires in the royal compound were extinguished, and the royal drum was covered. All work stopped throughout the kingdom, and all people had their heads shaved. The Mugabe's dead body was put on a cowskin and later transported to a forest where the royal tombs are located.
Social relations among the Banyankole cannot be understood apart from rank. In the wider society, the Mugabe and chiefs had authority over less wealthy herders (Bahima). The Bahima had authority over the Bairu. Within the family, husbands had authority over wives, and older children had authority over younger ones. Brothers were held in higher regard than were their sisters, although siblings of the opposite sex were frequently very close.
The death of the Mugabe symbolically illustrates his power over the kingdom. All work ceased, and any couples engaged to be married had to marry on the day of the Mugabe's death or else the man had to look for another wife. All princes and princesses wore bark-cloth clothing instead of their regular cowhide robes. Accession involved a son (usually the eldest) who had been selected by the Mugabe before his death. This prince was given a royal stool upon which he sat for his installation ceremonies. Not infrequently, however, some of his brothers chose to fight him, and civil war resulted. When the new Mugabe was determined through battle, fires would be lit once again throughout the kingdom. New chiefs were then named to oversee his cattle. The new Mugabe's mother was elevated to the rank of queen mother. She appointed her own chiefs and had her own royal homesteads throughout the kingdom. The Mugabe chose his favorite sister to be the “Munyanya Mukama,” and she, too, ruled over royal estates. She frequently married royalty from neighboring kingdoms in order to create political ties with them.
In the ordinary households of both Bahima and Bairu, social relations mirrored the royal social organization. Inheritance typically involved the eldest son of a man's first wife, who succeeded to his office and property. A man might, however, choose a favorite son to be his successor. Th us, relations between fathers and sons and between brothers were formal and not infrequently strained. Mothers and their children, and brothers and their sisters, were often close. Because women could not officially own property, mothers generally expected their sons to care for them in old age. Husbands might have multiple wives, given that polygyny was not uncommon. Daughters were valued because they attracted bride-wealth upon their marriages, and sons were important for carrying on the family name. Brothers respected their sisters who brought wealth into the family when they married and left home. The most marginal person in this system of social relations was the childless woman because she could not inherit property because of her gender, nor did she have any sons to support her in old age.
Social relations in the community centered around exchanges of wealth, such as cows and agricultural produce, through the system of ranked authority and kinship. Marriage and bride-wealth were, and continue to be, significant also. The ideal person was one who was intensely involved in matters of family and community welfare. A person who was a loner and, therefore, did not involve himself or herself in the ongoing social life of the community was held in ill repute. The most significant way that community solidarity was and still is expressed is through the elaborate exchange of formalized greetings. Not to engage in these rituals is a sign of non-membership in the community. Greetings vary by the age of the participants, the time of day, the relative rank of the participants, and many other factors. Anyone, even the Mugabe, meeting an elder has to wait until the elder acknowledges that person first.
The Mugabe's homestead was usually constructed on a hill and measured about 0.40 km (0.25 mi) at its broadest part. It was surrounded by a large fence made from basketry. A large space inside the compound was set aside for cattle. There were special places for the houses of the king's wives, and for his numerous palace officials. There was a main gate through which visitors could enter, with several smaller gates for the entrance of family members. Waiting rooms were housed near the main gate, and visitors were announced by a gatekeeper. Covered passages connected houses inside the compound. Special names were given to the homes of the king's pages and to those of his favorite wives. There was also a special home used by the Mugabe before he went to war. Occasionally, the king's compound had over 100 homes reserved for the royal wives and their attendants. A fence set off space for his wives from areas used by servants, pages, and other residents. The royal palace was set among other dwellings occupied by prominent chiefs, brewers of the royal beer, and specialists such as woodcutters and drummers. The Mugabe moved his palace every other year in order to provide for the cows a clean environment that was free of insects. Bahima maintained homes much smaller than the king's, but modeled after it in appearance.
The Bairu traditionally built homes about 4.25 to 5.5 m (14– 18 ft) in diameter, 2.75 or 3 m (9 or 10 ft) tall, and in the shape of a beehive. Poles of timber had woven over them a framework of basketry made of millet stems and chords of papyrus fiber. A thick layer of grass frequently covered the entire structure. The ground that served as a floor had on it a fireplace made from large stones. Household possessions included cowskin bedding, water pots, iron hoes, and iron knives. Sometimes goats and sheep were tied inside near the walls of the hut.
Today, housing makes use of indigenous materials such as papyrus, grass, and wood, but homes are now primarily rectangular. Such homes usually are made from wattle and daub with thatched roofs. Cement, brick, and corrugated iron are now common in the construction of homes, particularly by those Banyankole who can afford these relatively expensive materials. Currently, household possessions typically include Western-style chairs, tables, couches, and beds. Radios are commonly present, and a growing number of the affluent possess televisions. Photographs are especially valued and can be seen displayed prominently inside the house, along with calendars, magazine cutouts, and posters. Teenagers enjoy keeping personal albums containing photographs of themselves and their friends taken on special occasions and trips. The family photo album is kept by the parents. These albums are often shared with visitors as a means of socializing on an initial visit.
In the past, Banyankole traveled primarily by foot. With the exception of married Bahima women, most Banyankole could and did walk distances of many miles on a regular basis. Today, the bicycle is a popular means of transportation used for visiting and for transporting goods to market. In the past, paths through the countryside were maintained by chiefs for ease of portage of materials to the Mugabe's palace and for military security. Today, in addition to dirt roads, tarmac roads are available for public vehicles and private automobiles. Speed taxis are popular as a means for travel between towns such as Mbarara and the major city of Uganda, Kampala.
The Banyankole have enjoyed a relatively high standard of living with a rich food base. Nevertheless, diseases such as sleeping sickness and malaria have been problematic historically. Currently, HIV has inflicted many families in Ankole, but government-sponsored HIV prevention programs are in place. Teenage girls do not suffer from eating disorders that are common in the West, most likely because the culture values plumpness rather than thinness.
Among the Bahima, a young girl was prepared for marriage beginning at about the age of 10, though sometimes as early as 8, when she was prevented from having any interaction with men. She was expected to consume much milk and beef so that she could attain a desired plumpness. She was encouraged to give up all forms of exercise, resulting in her having difficulty walking. In contrast to Bahima men, girls were considered attractive by becoming as fat as possible. Marriages often occurred before a girl was sexually mature, or soon after her initial menstruation. For this reason, teenage pregnancies before marriage were uncommon. Polygyny was associated with rank and wealth. Bahima pastoralists who were chiefs typically had more than one wife, and the Mugabe sometimes had over 100. Marriages were alliances between clans and large extended families. On occasion, poor herdsmen, often brothers, pooled their resources so as to share a wife. This practice known as polyandry, or fraternal polyandry when brothers are involved, enabled a poor man not only to pay cows as a marriage fee for his wife, but with his co-husband's help he was in a position to maintain her after marriage as well. The eldest brother went through the marriage ceremony, and all the children were considered to be his for purposes of inheritance. Levirate marriage occurred when a woman became the wife of her deceased husband's brother. This custom served to keep women who had married into the family, and their children, as integral parts of the extended family.
The Bahima and the Bairu did not, as a rule, intermarry. Among both groups, premarital virginity was valued. A marriage fee was required among the Bairu, but this was not as elaborate as among the Bahima. Commonly, 14 goats were given by the prospective groom to his future father-in-law. The goats were then distributed by the father-in-law to his brothers and to a favorite sister, all members of his extended patrilineal family, as well as to his wife's brother from the extended family from which he had obtained his own wife. The 14 goats were in actuality an exchange for rights to the children who would belong to the prospective husband's family and not to their mother or to her family. Among the Bahima, marriage exchanges were much more elaborate, but the same principals operated. When the bride came to take up residence with her husband, she was received by her future father- and mother-in-law by sitting on their laps. Later, while sitting on a mat, the couple sprinkled each other with grain, then stirred millet flour in boiling water to symbolically illustrate that a new domestic unit had been established. Exchanges of food and gifts occurred thereafter for several days between the two families, to the accompaniment of music, dancing, eating, and beer-drinking.
Today, Christian marriages are common. What has persisted is the value attached to extended families and the importance of having children as a measure of a successful marriage. Polyandry and polygyny have been replaced largely by monogamy, the prescribed form of marriage of Christian religions. Marriages have been delayed, given the attendance at school of both girls and boys. One consequence of this delay has been a rise in teenage pregnancies out of wedlock. Girls who become pregnant are severely punished by being dismissed from school or disciplined by parents; for this reason, infanticide, now more common than in the past, is sometimes practiced by schoolgirls, given that abortion is not legal in Uganda.
Dress differentiates Banyankole by rank and gender. Chiefs traditionally wore long robes of cowskins, compared to ordinary citizens who commonly were attired in a small portion of cowskin over their shoulders. Women of all classes wore cowskins wrapped around their bodies and covered their faces in public also. On a journey or when traveling to visit friends, Bahima women were carried in a cowskin-covered litter for fear that walking would tire them. In more modern times, cotton cloth has come to replace cowskins as a means of draping the body. For special occasions, a man might wear a long white cotton robe with a Western-style sports coat over it. A hat resembling a fez may also be worn. Women cover their bodies, heads, and partially their faces with dark-colored cotton cloth. Today, Banyankole wear Western-style clothing. Dress suitable for agriculture, such as overalls, shirts, and boots, is popular. Teenagers are attracted to international fashions popular in the capital city of Kampala. International business, travel, and education enable the introduction of the latest fashions from abroad, as well as the dissemination of Ugandan clothing, jewelry, handbags, and other crafts to other countries.
Bahima herders consume milk and butter and drink fresh blood from their cattle. Cereals domesticated in Africa—millet, sorghum, and eleusine—dominate the agricultural Bairu sector. Milking is done by men, while butter-making among the Bahima and the majority of the farming among the Bairu are the responsibility of women. The staple food of a herder is milk. Beef is also very important. When milk or meat are scarce, millet porridge is made from grains obtained from the Bairu. Buttermilk is drunk by women and children only. When used as a sauce, butter is mixed with salt, and meat or millet porridge is dipped into it. Children can eat rabbit, but men can eat only the meat of the cow or the buffalo. Women consume mainly milk, preferring it to all other foods. The agricultural Bairu keep sheep and goats, which are used primarily by the pastoralists for trade and sacrifice. Unlike the farmers, herders never eat chickens or eggs.
The Mugabe had established times for consuming milk, which was obtained from royal herds and given to him by his pages. He drank milk four times in the morning and four times in the evening. For example, the Mugabe drank milk before going to bed and also was awakened throughout the night to drink milk. He was regularly smeared with fresh butter, especially in the morning, by one of his wives. A bull or fatted cow was killed daily to serve to visitors at the royal compound. Some of these visitors were chiefs who ate at the same time as the Mugabe after sitting with him in court. On these and other occasions, the Mugabe ate alone. Beer made from millet was regularly consumed by the Mugabe, and he commonly had a meal of beef and beer before his nightcap of milk. Beer was also popular throughout the population as an indispensable part of ceremonies such as weddings and funerals.
Today, land and cattle are privately owned in those areas known formerly as the Kingdom of Ankole. This has resulted in migration and resettlement locally and to areas elsewhere in Uganda. Herders have moved to areas where population density is still low and where grazing lands are available. Population growth has also contributed to migration and changes in traditional patterns of subsistence. A cash economy now complicates further the old system of barter and exchange between farmers and herders.
Formal education was introduced into Uganda in the latter part of the 19th century. Today, Ankole has many primary and secondary schools maintained by missionaries or the government. In Uganda, among those aged 15 years and over, about 50% are illiterate. Illiteracy is noticeably higher among girls than among boys. There is a problem of teenage pregnancy among girls that forces them to leave formal education. Schools in Ankole are a significant source of the transmission of national and international values and skills needed for life in modern-day Uganda. At the same time, schools seek to maintain indigenous Ankole cultural values. Runyankole is taught in primary schools.
In the past, girls and boys learned cultural values, household duties, agricultural and pastoral skills, and craft specialization through the process of observation and participation. Instruction was given where necessary by parents, fathers instructing sons, and mothers instructing daughters. Elders, by means of recitation of stories, tales, and legends, were significant teachers also. A girl was instructed by her father's sister on matters of household responsibility and sexual morality.
All schools have regular performances and competitions involving dances, music, and plays that make use of traditional Ankole materials. Where appropriate, instruction also makes use of Ankole folklore and artistic expression through a longstanding process of Africanization of the curriculum.
Traditionally, among the Bahima, the major occupation was looking after cattle. Every day, the herder traveled great distances in search of pasture. Young boys were responsible for watering the herd. Teenage boys were expected to milk the cows before they were taken to pasture. Women cooked food, predominantly meat, to be taken daily to their husbands. Girls helped by gathering firewood, caring for babies, and doing household work. Men were responsible for building homes for their families and pens for their cattle.
Among the Bairu, both men and women were involved in agricultural labor, although men cleared the land. Since land was very plentiful, a piece of land could be farmed for several years, then abandoned for a time so it could be replenished. Millet was the main food crop. Secondary crops were plantains, sweet potatoes, beans, and groundnuts. Maize was considered a treat by the children. Children participated in agriculture by chasing birds away from the fields. Frequently, they made scarecrows that resembled people from grass and sticks. On some occasions, they shouted or banged flat boards together. At times, husband and wife slept in a small hut in their fields in order to protect their crops from wild animals. Reaping was done by men and women, and winnowing was done by women. The harvest season was a time in which there was little work and a great deal of free time for parties and marriage ceremonies. Surpluses of food were given to the pastoral chief as a form of taxation.
A notable difference in labor distinguished Bahima women from Bairu women. The former did very little physical labor apart from everyday household routines. They took care of the milk-pots and churned butter. They also spent a great deal of time caring for their personal appearance and were expected to be plump as a sign of beauty. Bairu women worked hard and, in many homes, performed the bulk of agricultural labor. They also spent much labor grinding grain into flour using stone implements.
Sports, such as track and field and soccer, are very popular in primary and secondary schools. Children play an assortment of games including hide-and-seek, house, farming, wrestling, and ball games such as soccer. Ugandan national sporting events are followed with great interest in Ankole, as are international sporting events.
ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION
Radio and television are important means of entertainment in Ankole. Most homes contain radios that have broadcasts in English, KiSwahili (the two national languages), and Runyankole. Programming includes educational themes involving topics such as nutrition, livestock management, health, and language instruction. Stories, plays, and news are popular. Teens, especially, enjoy musical shows that offer a variety of sounds from Uganda, elsewhere in Africa, and overseas. Books, newspapers, and magazines also are enjoyed by the people. Birthday parties for children are a regular form of entertainment involving birthday cakes, cards, and gifts.
Social events, such as weddings, funerals, and birthday parties, typically involve music and dance. This form of entertainment includes not only modern music, but also traditional forms of songs, dances, and instruments. Drums used to accompany dances are water-pots filled with different levels of water. Drumsticks are made of reeds and fiber. Men commonly beat on the drums, and women use rattles about 30 cm (1 ft) long, made from hollow reeds filled with seeds. In one popular dance form, the dancers hold their arms high above their heads in imitation of cattle horns, while hissing and stomping their feet in a rhythmic fashion. Both men and women, particularly among the Bairu, enjoy dancing. It is not uncommon for older Banyankole to congregate together at ceremonies to engage in traditional dance and song. Younger people often gravitate towards the radio or “boom box” to listen to popular, often international, music.
The drinking of alcoholic and nonalcoholic bottled beverages is common at festivities. In the past, the brewing of beer was a major home industry in Ankole, which provided beer for drinking in ceremonies, especially at harvest time. Traditional beer was made from millet, and wine was made from plan-tains. A large wooden trough was used for fermenting.
FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES
The Mugabe assembled at his palace, or arranged for their residence elsewhere, the best artisans in his kingdom. Carpenters, ironworkers, potters, musicians, and others were permanent features of the royal homestead or were in constant contact with it. Carpenters came from the Bairu who had inherited knowledge of their crafts from their fathers. Wooden artifacts commonly used were: stools, milk-pots, meat-dishes, water-pots, and troughs for fermenting beer. Among the commoners, it took as many as six carpenters and dozens of friends to fell a tree and to prepare it for making beer. Ironsmiths also belonged to the Bairu. Smiths obtained their materials locally for the manufacture of spears, knives, and hammers.
Potters obtained clay from swamps that were abundantly distributed throughout the region. The clay was coiled into shape, then fired to become permanent. Every family had a member who specialized in making pots. Some pots were considered very beautiful, particularly those with long, slender necks. Pipes for smoking, however, displayed the finest artistic creativity. All Banyankole of both sexes enjoyed smoking tobacco, and young women particularly enjoyed chewing it. Most homes grew tobacco somewhere near the house. The tobacco leaves were dried in the sun, then rubbed into small pieces for smoking. Small colored beads were used to decorate clay pipes, which came in various shapes and sizes, and walking sticks. There were special guardians at the Mugabe's palace who watched over his tobacco pipes, along with other royal possessions such as spears, stools, and drums. Only the king had wooden drums made from cowhide; others used clay water-pots as a percussion instrument. Graphic art was not common, although rectangular designs did appear on the interior walls of some homes, especially those of royalty.
Traditional industries are not nearly as significant as in the past. Household possessions and artifacts show the many social changes that have occurred in Ankole; nevertheless, one can still observe the use of traditional pipes, water-pots for music, decorated walking sticks exchanged at marriage, and the use of gourds and pottery.
The political culture of Uganda continues to balance tribal, regional, and national interests. The prime minister of Uganda in 1962 at independence from England was Milton Obote from Northern Uganda. He was hostile to kingdoms in Uganda, considering them to be outdated and incompatible with socialism. In 1966, all kingdoms, including Ankole and the Mugabe, were outlawed. Obote was overthrown by dictator Idi Amin in 1971. During Amin's reign in the 1970s, all Ugandans suffered from political oppression and the loss of life and property. Obote took over once again in 1980 after the overthrow of Amin and ruled oppressively. Currently, Yoweri Museveni, who was elected president in 1986, is credited with leading Uganda in an economic recovery and toward democratic reform. Banyankole take special pride in Museveni's birthplace, which is in Ankole. Nevertheless, resistance to Amin and Obote has resulted in the destruction of towns and villages in Ankole and neighboring villages.
Since the mid-1980s, AIDS has been a source of great sorrow for numerous families who have lost relatives, friends, and other loved ones to this dreaded disease. In Uganda, there has been a strong national effort to educate the public through mass media about AIDS prevention. Orphaned children continue, however, to be a serious problem for those families stricken by AIDS, as well as for the greater society.
Population pressure, in spite of AIDS, remains a threat to adequate pasturage and a pastoral way of life. Warfare in neighboring countries such as Rwanda has contributed to population growth, as refugees have regularly come into the region. Many Rwandans are now fully integrated into the Ankole society and are full citizens of the nation of Uganda.
As in all patriarchal societies, gender roles were strictly defined among the Banyankole. These roles were defined to reinforce and perpetuate the relationship of male dominance and female subordination. While women were supposed to do all the agricultural and domestic household chores, they were not allowed to sell the produce of their labor, reserving that right for men. Women were also not allowed to own cattle or land. Even today, through socialization within the family, in educational institutions, and in other social spheres, boys and girls are conditioned to behave in certain ways and to play different roles in society.
In male-headed households, men determine the amount of land to access for farming and type of crops to be grown. Women are not supposed to speak in public. They are supposed to take care of domestic issues, such as raising children and preparing and cooking food, while men dominate the public sphere. Men control the major sources of household income, such as livestock, land, and the sale of crops produced by women. Men control the household budget, dictating what can be bought and how money is to be spent. Rules of inheritance are guided by the cultural context in which land, livestock, and important assets are passed down to men from one generation to the next. However, the fact that the Banyankole continue to recognize sisters and mothers as important people within the family, is an indication that originally they had a matrilineal succession, in which women wielded considerable political and economic power. Also, the importance of princesses among the Banyankole attests to the fact that their societies might have initially been matrilineal.
In recent times, the Museveni government has encouraged women to participate in politics and other aspects of public life. Today, each of Uganda's districts has a female member of parliament, and one-third of all local council seats are reserved for women. As a result, women make up about 24% of the legislature. There are active women's rights groups, including the Uganda Women Lawyers Association (FIDA-U), Action for Development, and the National Association of Women Judges. However, in spite of these advancements, women are often targets of violence and sexual abuse. Women who reveal their HIV positive status to their spouses are often beaten and sometimes murdered by their husbands.
In terms of human rights, Uganda's past has been checkered with torture and human rights abuses, and, according to some human rights organizations, these abuses continue in present day Uganda. The army has been accused of committing atrocities against the populations in northern Uganda, and security forces allegedly torture suspects and members of the opposition on a routine basis. Homosexuality is illegal under Victorian-era legislation still in force in Uganda and many other English-speaking countries in Africa. The laws reflect a deep aversion among many Africans to homosexuality. But, the truth remains that gays and lesbians exist in Uganda, although they pay a high price for their sexual orientation often facing discrimination, and even torture and imprisonment.
Bahemuka, Judith Mbula. Our Religious Heritage. Nairobi, Kenya: Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd., 1984.
Hansen, Holger Bernt, and Michael Twaddle, ed. Uganda Now: Between Decay and Development. London: James Currey, Ltd., 1988.
Kiwanuka, M. S. M. The Empire of Bunyoro Kitara: Myth or Reality. Kampala: Longmans of Uganda, Ltd., 1968.
Mushanga, Musa T. Folk Tales from Ankole. Kampala: Uganda Press Trust, Ltd., n. d.
Njongu, K. & Orchadson-Mazrui, E. “Gender Inequality and Women's Rights in the Great Lakes: Can Culture Contribute to Women's Empowerment.” http://portal.unesco.org/shs/en/files/9186/11387168911Presentation_-_Liz_Orchardson.pdf/Presentation%2B-%2BLiz%2BOrchardson.pdf. (October 2008).Roscoe, Rev. John. The Banyankole: The Second Part of the Report of the Mackie Ethnological Expedition to Central Africa. London: Cambridge University Press, 1923.
— — —. Twenty-Five Years in East Africa. London: Cambridge University Press, 1921.
—revised by E. Kalipeni
ETHNONYMS: Banyankore, Bahima, Bairu, Hima, Muhima, Iru, Munyankole, Nkore, Nkole, Mwiru, Bahera
Identification and Location. The Banyankole are among the half dozen major ethnic groups in Uganda. They live in southwestern Uganda, where there is a common border with Rwanda and Tanzania. To the east of Ankole District is Lake Victoria, and to the west are Mount Rwenzori and a number of lakes, including Lake Albert and Lake Tanganyika. The land, over 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) above sea level, is hilly with rolling plains covered with fine grass. The Banyankole consist of two major ethnic groups: the Bahima, who are pastoralists, and the Bairu, who are agriculturists. The Bairu are numerically larger, and the Bahima are politically and socially dominant.
Demography. One of the most important of the lake kingdoms in prestige and population was Ankole. While the date when it was first established remains unknown, it is speculated that it may have started as early as during the fourteenth or fifteenth century. Ankole became a focus of study only in the 1920s and 1930s as reported by anthropologist K. Oberg and historian F. Morris.
The Ankole District is 6,131 square miles (15,879 square kilometers). There was a time when the population of Bahima was reported to have been close to 50 percent of the entire population. This, however, for various reasons declined to a mere 10 percent of the whole population.
In 1919 there were 149,469 Banyankole; this rose to 224,000 Bairu and 25,000 Bahima by 1931. By 1959 the population rose to over half a million thus making the Banyankole the second largest Bantu-speaking ethnic group in Uganda. In the twentieth century the Banyankole registered over a million.
Linguistic Affiliation. Both the Bahima and the Bairu speak a language called Runyankole, which is one of the Bantu languages spoken in Uganda. Bantu languages are part of the large Niger-Congo language family. It is widely believed that at one time the Bahima had their own language, which they abandoned in favor of the Runyankole, spoken by the majority of the Banyankole.
History and Cultural Relations
Some scholars believe that Ankole originally was occupied by Bantu-speaking agricultural Bairu. Later, Ankole provided a passage for Hamitic peoples, possibly the Bahima, migrating from Ethiopia southward. These pastoralists conquered the Bairu and proclaimed themselves the rulers of the land. According to some scholars, the more numerous Bairu were serfs and the Bahima were the dominant ruling class. For the most part the two ethnic groups coexisted peacefully.
When the British created Uganda as a protectorate in 1888, Ankole was a relatively small kingdom ruled by a king (Mugabe) with supreme power. In 1901 the British enlarged the kingdom by merging it with the similarly small kingdoms of Mpororo, Igara, Buhweju, and Busongora. The power of the Omugabe was curtailed considerably once his kingdom was legally and constitutionally controlled. However, as the Omugabe of Ankole, the king was entitled to all the titles, dignities, and preeminence that were attached to his office under the laws and customs of Ankole. A political relationship based on serfdom, slavery, and clientship ceased to exist under British rule, and the Bairu became less marginalized and despised.
Four years after the independence of Uganda in 1962 serious conflicts arose between the Ugandan central government and the Buganda kingdom that led to the suspension of the constitution of Uganda; this effectively abolished the kingdoms in that country, including the Ankole kingdom. In 1993, by popular and persistent demand, monarchism was restored in Buganda, Bunyoro, and Toro. However, the Banyankole were not united in their quest for the restoration of the Ankole kingdom, and the matter remains unresolved into the twenty-first century.
In the early history of Ankole most of the nomadic pastoralists had no settled dwellings. Even the king had only a small dwelling with a stockade forming an enclosure for his cows at night. There was no courthouse, and his council met outdoors. In later years that changed considerably. Today settlements are scattered all over the hills, slopes, and valleys of Ankole, consisting of both traditional grass-thatched and Western-style (brick and corrugated iron-roofed) homesteads. Each family owns a fairly large plot of land around its homestead, but usually the homesteads are close to one another. From the top of one of the more than a thousand hills of Ankole, the view of the banana groves appears to be leveled at the top and the surface is entirely green.
Subsistence. The land available to each homestead is used for livestock or subsistence farming. The animals kept are predominantly cattle, along with a few goats, sheep, dogs, and chickens. The Banyankole possess large herds of a native long-horned breed of cattle that are valued for their milk and meat and are of great importance as indicators of power, wealth, and prestige. The crops grown are millet, the staple and favored food, sorghum, potatoes, bananas, coffee, tea, beans, and vegetables.
Commercial Activities. The Banyankole who engage in agriculture sell some produce and beer to get cash to buy clothes, utensils, and furniture and pay for the education of their children. Similarly, those who raise livestock sell some of their animals or animal products in the form of meat, milk, butter, skins, hides, and eggs to raise cash. Craftspeople also sell or exchange what they produce. After the British arrived, commercial activities expanded immensely as there was a flood of manufactured goods (sweets, utensils, clothes, fertilizers, electronic goods, lamps, bicycles) that were in high demand.
Industrial Arts. The king employed expert craftsmen such as blacksmiths who made spears, knives, axes, and ankle bands and armbands out of iron; carvers who made milk pots, drums, wooden spoons, and carved decorations out of wood, ivory, and bone; skinner-dressers; bark cloth makers; sandal makers; and beer brewers. Chiefs engaged the services of the Bairu to supply them with spears, watering pails, axes, and milk pots. The Bairu also engaged in weaving, making mats and baskets, and carving.
Trade. Trade took place between the Bahima and the Bairu in the goods that each group produced. There also was considerable trade between the Banyankole and people from kingdoms such as Buganda, Bunyoro, and Toro as well as people in neighboring countries such as Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Congo. Those who traded with the Banyankole traveled to Ankole to purchase whatever they considered of commercial value, and the Banyankole also traveled to sell and buy goods. This form of trade has continued to the present day.
Division of Labor. From about age eight a boy is expected to be useful in and around the house as well as go to school. He goes out with the men who take the cattle to the pasture and learns to herd cows, milk them, treat their ailments, and protect them from wild animals, especially lions. Both girls and boys learn agricultural activities such as cultivating, sowing, harvesting, and guarding crops against birds and animals. Girls are taught the household chores they will perform when they are married. The mother plays a significant role in rearing children; she disciplines and sends them on errands and supervises their grazing calves. Her duties include cleaning the house, cooking, and looking after children. Children are taught to show respect for their elders and relatives. Mothers teach girls to wash milk pots, churn milk, and prepare food. Girls also engage in making bead ornaments, weaving, making mats, fetching water and firewood, sweeping, babysitting, and going on errands.
Among the Bahima herding cattle was the principal occupation for men. In addition they were expected to build homes for their families and pens for cattle. Among the Bairu both men and women were principally engaged in agricultural activities. In the main men were responsible for clearing the land, while women engaged in household chores. Both men and women did harvesting, but women did winnowing, grinding, and thrashing of millet. Comparatively, Bairu women engage in much physical work; Bahima women spend more time caring for their beauty and personal appearance.
Land Tenure. According to the customary law of Ankole, all land was vested in the Omugabe, who controlled it on behalf of every Munyankole who could use it and benefit from it. Similarly, all animals, particularly cattle, belonged to the Omugabe, although people could do what they wished with their livestock as long as they did not sell the animals to people from outside Ankole without express permission from the Omugabe. This has remained the practice, with the limitation that there is no longer free land available for anyone to claim. People now receive land from their parents or relatives or obtain it commercially.
Kin Groups and Descent. The Banyankole are divided into three major patrilineal clans: Abahinda (royal people), Abasambo, and Abagahe. Each clan traditionally had one or more totems. The Abahinda had two totems: Nkima —a small black-faced monkey—and bulo —millet that is unhusked and uncooked. The Abahinda were not allowed to engage in magic or medicine or eat unhusked and uncooked millet. Clan exogamy was widely practiced. The three clans are broken down into numerous subdivisions, each of which has a function. Among the Abahinda there were warriors, herdsmen, guards, princes, those who purified and painted the king with white clay, royal shoemakers, carriers of the royal spear, milkers, and those who bathed the king during coronation ceremonies. However, marriage within the clan was acceptable if the couple had second or third totems that were different from each other. Those who belonged to the same totem contributed to the well-being of one another by helping those who were sick, burying the dead, bailing out those in debt, and hunting down those who murdered a clan member.
Marriage. By the time girls turned eight or nine, particularly among the Bahima, preparation for marriage began. They were no longer free to run and play without some form of control. Girls were mostly kept indoors, where they ate beef and millet porridge and were forced to drink milk in large quantity so that they would become fat. Being fat is associated with beauty, and the drinking of milk is said to contribute to one's beauty. As soon as a girl's breasts emerge, she is warned by her parents to abstain from sexual activities, which may lead to pregnancy and disgrace the family. In the past pregnancy outside marriage was punished by death or expulsion from the home.
A Munyankole father, occasionally assisted by his relatives, is obliged to get a wife for his son by paying the required bride-wealth. This consists of two cows, three goats, and some pots of beer among the Bairu; among the Bahima it may range from two to twenty cows, depending on how wealthy a person is.
A marriage may be arranged by the couple's parents, or the boy may propose to the girl during adolescence. Once the bride-price has been paid, preparations for the wedding begin. On the wedding day the bride's father slaughters a bull for food. Other forms of food and a considerable amount of beer are prepared for feasting at the bride's home. This is followed by another feast at the bridegroom's home, where the marriage is consummated. At the wedding ceremony the girl's aunt confirms that the groom is potent and that the bride defended her virginity before the marriage was consummated.
A social distinction between the Bahima and the Bairu was established by prohibiting intermarriage between them. The Bahima would find it repugnant to marry a Mwiru. Moreover, it was illegal for a Muhima to give cattle to a Mwiru. A Mwiru would have no cattle for bridewealth for a Muhima wife since all he had was unproductive cows and bull calves. Cattle were essential not only for the legitimacy of marriage but also for the legitimacy of the children born out of a marital relationship.
A woman with no children has no status among the Banyankole, and most women wish to marry and raise many children. If a woman is unable to bear children, her husband is likely to contemplate taking a second wife. Monogamy was the standard practice, though polygyny was not prohibited. Both the Mugabe and wealthy Banyankole practiced polygyny. Today monogamy remains the predominant form of marriage, influenced by Westernization, Christianity, education, and the traditional Banyankole model.
Domestic Unit. A household consists of a nuclear family or an extended family if some family members, such as aged parents or brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, and others, decide to live with the nuclear family on a temporary or permanent basis. In some cases, immediately after marriage the married couple may live with the husband's family, sharing the same compound, or not far from their parents and continue sharing a number of activities, including cooking and eating together.
Inheritance. The Banyankole consider a son to be of special significance because he is an heir to his father's name and wealth and will be responsible for the well-being of his mother when his father dies. If a person is unlikely to recover from illness, he is asked to identify one of his sons as an heir. In general, the oldest son is named, though in some cases this may not apply and the father may identify any of his sons to assume that office. If clan members feel that the father has not made the right choice, they may advise him accordingly or override his choice in favor of the son they think is more suitable. In the past failure to name an heir resulted in the king claiming a person's possessions and assigning them to anyone else he wished.
Succession and the nomination of the heir to the throne were based on two rules. First, the heir had to be a member of the royal line. Second, he had to be the strongest of the king's sons. To determine who was the strongest, the sons had to fight among themselves. The fighting resulted in death or exile until one son emerged as the victor, entitling him to claim the drum (Bagyendanwa) and the right to ascend to the throne.
Socialization. Generally, children are welcomed and warmly treated by all their relatives. The naming of a child is carried out immediately after birth or after the seclusion period. A number of factors influence the type of name that is given to a child: the experience of the mother and father, the time of day when the child is born, the day of the week, the place of birth, and the name of the ancestors (this applies only to the Bahima since the Bairu do not use ancestors' names). The father plays the predominant role in naming the child. At the end of about four months, if the child is a son, the father holds the child, dedicates two cows to the boy's use, makes him sit for the first time, and gives him the name of one of his ancestors. A baby girl is made to sit by her mother and is given the name of an ancestor. She is carried outside the house, directed to look over the plains to other kraals, and told that her fortune and wealth will come from there. This declaration was made in reference to the husband who would marry her when she reached the appropriate age.
A specific rate of development is considered normal, and if a child appears to be a slow developer, small bells are tied to the child's ankles and wrists to encourage him or her to walk according to their rhythm. The child remains close to the mother day and night. During the day the mother plays with and feeds the child. She may put the child to sleep in his or her crib or carry the child with her as she does her daily household or garden chores. At night the baby sleeps with the mother until the arrival of the next baby (usually after two or three years). Then the child may share a bed with his or her brothers or sisters or with other relatives staying with the family. If the mother is too busy to do so, relatives may take care of the child. The relatives who may help in this way are the child's grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.
For the first seven years of life boys and girls play together, guard calves, and engage in games and activities related to warfare; marriage; herding; building; wrestling; shooting at a target with arrows and making toys out of clay, wires, and other materials; boxing; swimming; playing hide and seek; dancing; and throwing objects. Milk is part of the children's diet, and they are expected to drink it in large quantities; failure to do so leads to some form of reprimand or punishment.
When a girl experiences menarche, she tells her mother, who may decide to inform her husband and others immediately or to conceal it for a while. A mother will conceal the event only if she does not wish her daughter to marry right away or to be persuaded to have sex and run the risk of pregnancy. Although the Banyankole have no special ceremony to mark the attainment of puberty by a boy, he is expected to be able to support himself, marry, and be able to support both his family and his parents in their old age.
Social Organization. Perhaps because of their military advantages, the Bahima maintained domination over the Bairu. They imposed an inferior legal and social status and insisted that they pay tribute to the Bahima through the king, who was invariably a Muhima. The Bairu were not permitted to possess productive cows. If a Mwiru worked for a Muhima, he was given barren cows and bull calves as remuneration. If a Mwiru owned productive cows, a Muhima could dispossess him of that livestock. While the Bahima participated in military activities, the Bairu were not allowed to do this. Similarly, Bairu could not hold high office. They were restricted in the exercise of blood revenge against the Bahima. In terms of blood revenge, they were prohibited from killing a Muhima, whereas a Muhima could kill a Mwiru as a matter of course.
The Mugabe, together with the chiefs and wealthy Bahima, owned slaves, mainly Bairu captured during raids on neighboring kingdoms. It was a common practice for slave owners to give slaves to friends as presents. Slaves had no legal status, and a slave owner could deal with them as he wished. Slaves were not entrusted with herding cattle since they were considered untrustworthy; supervision of slaves was done by a Mwiru headman.
Political Organization. The kingdom of Ankole was controlled by the Mugabe, whose rule was absolute and whose decisions were final. In him were vested physical, magical, and religious powers. The king made decisions regarding peace and war and was responsible for all major political appointments in the kingdom. Appointees could be dismissed for incompetence or personal incompatibility or because they brought bad luck to the king. However, it was impossible for the Mugabe to run the government by himself, and there were some elements of democracy in the running of the government. The king was assisted by his mother, sister, the enganzi, chiefs, office holders, military bands, and a host of servants and specialists.
Next to the king in importance were the kings's mother and sister, who could veto his decisions. Nobody could be ordered to be executed without the consent of the mother and the sister. After the mother and sister came the enganzi, who was the king's chief of chiefs, carrying titles such as prime minister, head chief, beloved one, favorite chief, executive chief, and chief adviser. The enganzi was selected for office with input from the king's mother and sister. It was a policy that the enganzi not be a member of the king's Abahinda clan. For this reason, it was not possible for the enganzi to ascend to the throne. The enganzi was the king's confidant and the only person aside from the pages who could enter the palace at any time. He had his kraal in front of that of the king so that he was available any time the king needed to consult him on state matters.
While an enganzi had to be chosen among the Bahima, over fifty years after the arrival of the British this changed so that a number of Bairu were elected to the eminent office of the enganzi a number of times. Initially the Bahima resisted, but there was not much they could do to change the course of events as political changes swept across the Kingdom.
The kingdom of Ankole had sixteen districts, each of which was under a chief (Mukungu ) appointed by the Mugabe. The sixteen chiefs were invariably cattle keepers who had agricultural people as serfs. The authority of a chief was limited. A chief did not control the movement of subordinate chiefs and other people who might decide to move into his district and graze their animals there. All the land was free to cattle owners, who could settle where they wished and could move elsewhere at their convenience.
Under the chief in the district, there were junior chiefs who reported to the district chief particularly when there were matters that needed his attention. Otherwise they operated more or less independently. Among these junior chiefs were Bairu who assisted with the collection of tax. Despite Bairu junior chiefs playing this role, the Bahima had problems recognizing them as such.
Social Control. Judicial authority was vested in the king, with certain judicial powers exercised by Bahima and Bairu extended families. The king could administer punishment to his subjects in the form of death, exile, beating, torturing, and cursing. He had the right to confiscate the cattle of his subjects, could override the judicial decisions of chiefs and kinship groups, and was the only one who could grant the right of blood revenge. However, no one could be executed without the consent of the mother or the sister of the king.
Whenever one of the subjects appealed to the Mugabe regarding a decision made by one of the chiefs, the matter was referred to the enganzi or one of the favorite pages to try the case. However, disputes of a serious nature, such as those involving more than fifty cattle or women deserting husbands, were brought directly to the attention of the Mugabe for resolution. The Mugabe's court was not in session all the time, but when there were cases, the enganzi brought them to the attention of the Mugabe. The court session took place in the open, where the Mugabe sat in the shade of a tree as he listened to the case. Those in attendance were the enganzi, the Mugabe's pages, private guards, chiefs, and common people.
Benevolently the king would see that a subject whose livestock was raided got the necessary assistance in regard to defense. If a client lost his livestock or property, the king would help him acquire new property or livestock. If one of his relatives was murdered, the king would grant the right of blood revenge.
Conflict. As in any other society, Ankole experienced a range of conflicts at an individual, family, regional, and national level. There were ethnic group as well as political and religious conflicts. Starting at the end of World War II, the Bairu challenged the premises of hierarchy and subordination inherent in the Ankole structural setup. This led to formation of movements such as Kunyamana, which means "to know each other," whose principal purpose was to protest against inequality that the Bahima had imposed on Bairu. As a result, there were changes introduced to cater to the concerns raised by Kunyamana. It is important to note that despite the levels of animosity between the Bairu and Bahima, ethnic conflict in Ankole did not lead to open violence.
The majority of Bairu are Protestants. Most positions of power were held by Protestants with very few Roman Catholics and Muslims holding such positions. This was a source of conflict which had be to be addressed for peaceful coexistence.
There were also conflicts between the king and the colonial government, the former feeling that he was being bullied and marginalized, while the latter felt that the king was not doing what was expected of him as king. Meetings were held and written communication was exchanged with the colonial officers threatening to remove the king from office if his behavior did not change for better. However, there is no record to show that such threats were ever implemented.
Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. The Banyankole believed that there was a powerful creator whom they referred to as Ruhanga (God) with permanent residence in heaven. Though there were no prayers directed to him, prayerlike expressions were used. At the birth of a child, people would express their joy by clapping the hands and saying tata Ruhanga ("Father God"). In the event of sickness they would say Ruhanga akutambire ("may God heal you").
According to Banyankole, Ruhanga created the first man—Rugabe—and first woman—Nyamate—who were to fill the earth with their offspring. From these first human beings were born kings who, after their death, were deified and assumed the role of gods of fertility, earthquakes, thunder, and other such occurrences, to whom they presented their requests.
Apart from kings, who became gods after death, the Banyankole attached special importance to ghosts. Some of the functions of the ghosts were hovering around the living, helping them, or displaying their displeasure if they were not properly treated by surviving relatives and friends, as well as punishing those who failed to adhere to clan law and customs. It was believed that while ghosts were invisible, their presence was unmistakably felt in the wind that blew in the trees and grassy areas for the cattle keepers. For peasants, the presence of ghosts was felt as audible rustling in the grain and the plantain trees. People turned to ghosts more than to the gods for help and made offerings and supplications. Every family in Ankole had a shrine for ghosts, and cows were dedicated to them. Milk was provided for ghosts on a regular basis, and in some instances meat was made available.
Since the arrival of the British and other people from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, many of the Banyankole have embraced Christianity and Islam as a way of expressing their spirituality and belief in God as their creator. It is reported that there was a time when the king of Ankole, Kahaya, became a Christian. This meant he had to divorce six of the seven wives he had and retain only one in keeping with the church requirement. There are times when conflicts arise between the new form of religion and Banyankole cultural values and traditional forms of worship.
Religious Practitioners. The Banyankole did not have a formal religion and clergy. Traditionally, sacrifices were carried out by mediums and medicine men.
Ceremonies. Various ceremonies are carried out among Banyankole some of which involve joyous occasions, while others may be sad occasions. The joyous ceremonies involve weddings, birth of children, dedication of children, commemoration of important events, rites of passage, coronation of the king and receipt of visitors bringing bridewealth. Sad ceremonies would involve death in the family or the death of the king, sickness, and displeasure of the ancestors. For most of these ceremonies, there is eating, drinking, speech making, singing, and dancing.
Arts. The Banyankole engage in numerous artistic activities involving music, literature, sports, weaving, and dancing. Historian Morris is reported to have collected and translated Ankole's epic poetry. Many missionaries and Banyankole have written books in Runyankole which are widely read at home and at school. Many events taking place in society are expressed in the form of poetry. In the evenings and other times children and parents share stories depicting events and episodes in society.
Epic poetry was composed to celebrate raids of various kingdoms. Songs would be composed to praise the warriors, their valor, and the invincibility of their weapons. There were also songs for praising cattle to the effect that they were objects of beauty and joy forever. In doing this they would use various parts of the body as well as instruments such as flutes, lyres, and drums.
Banyankole are also known for engaging in activities such as making agricultural implements including hoes, sickles, axes, and knives; weapons such as spears, bows and arrows, and clubs of hardwood; making pottery, weaving mats and baskets, using iron, copper, and brass to make jewelry including necklaces, bracelets, headrings, and anklets.
Medicine. The Banyankole generally believe that illness is caused by God, ghosts, or magic. God is said to cause illness and ultimately death because his desires and rights have not been fulfilled and adhered to. A ghost causes illness if cows dedicated to the family are sold or bartered without the consent of the ghost, if offerings due to him are not made, and if clan laws are violated. A hostile ghost from another clan can cause illness. If a person has a grudge against another person, a magic rite may be performed over beer, which is then offered to that person to drink. Once a person discovers that he has drunk such beer, he or she dies of fear.
If an illness is not serious, a man is taken care of by his wife, and a woman by her mother, with traditional (often herbal) medicine. If the illness is serious, a medicine man is called in to discover the cause. Then an appropriate traditional doctor provides treatment. For a fee, female traditional doctors treat women patients; male traditional doctors treat both women and men patients.
With the availability of health facilities in the form of hospitals and clinics, many Banyankole have availed themselves of Western treatments without necessarily forsaking the traditional model of healing.
Death and Afterlife. Among the Banyankole illness is not considered a natural cause of death; therefore, such deaths require an investigation to find the responsible party. By contrast, old age is accepted as a sufficient cause for death. It is held that God allows old people to die after the completion of their time on earth. The Banyankole view death as a passage to another world.
When a man dies, every relative, along with friends and neighbors, is informed. A person who fails to attend the funeral without a good reason may be suspected of being associated with the death. Before burial, the body is washed and the eyes are closed. As the deceased is placed in the grave, the right hand is placed under the head while the left hand rests on the chest. The body lies on the right side. One or more cows are slaughtered to feed everyone present. Beer is provided as part of the mourning. The mourning goes on for four days. A deceased woman is treated in a similar manner except that in the grave she is made to lie on the left side as if she were facing her husband. Her left hand is placed under her head, while her right hand rests on her chest.
For other cultures in Uganda, see List of Cultures by Country in Volume 10 and under specific culture names in Volume 9, Africa and the Middle East.
Doornbos, M. R. (1978) Not all the Kings's Men: Inequality as a Political Instrument in Ankole, Uganda. New York: Mouton Publishers.
Marshall, H. S. and C. D. Martin (1976). Political Identity: A Case Study from Uganda. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
Mwamwenda, T. S. (1995). Educational Psychology: An African Perspective. Johannesburg: Heinemann.
Ntozi, J. P. (1995). High Fertility in Rural Uganda: The Role of Socioeconomic and Biological Factors. Kampala: Fountain Publishers.
Nzita, R., and Mbaga-Niwapa (1995). People and Cultures of Uganda. Kampala: Fountain Publishers.
Oberg, K. (1940). "The Kingdom of Ankole in Uganda." In African Political Systems, edited by M. Fortes and E. E. Evans-Pritchard. London: Institute of African Languages and Cultures.
Roscoe, J. (1923, 1968). The Banyankole. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
TUNTUFYE SELEMANI MWAMWENDA
LOCATION: Ankole in southwestern Uganda
LANGUAGE: Runyankole; English; KiSwahili
1 • INTRODUCTION
The Banyankole are located in southwestern Uganda. At the turn of the nineteenth century they numbered about 400,000 people. This former kingdom is well known for its long-horned cattle, which were objects of economic significance as well as prestige. The Mugabe (King) was an absolute ruler. He claimed all the cattle throughout the country as his own. Chiefs were ranked not by the land that they owned but by the number of cattle that they possessed. Banyankole society is divided into a high-ranked caste (social class) of pastoralists (nomadic herders) and a lower-ranked caste of farmers. The Bahima are cattle herders and the Bairu are farmers who also care for goats and sheep.
In 1967, the government of Milton Obote, prime minister of Uganda, abolished kingdoms in Uganda, including the Kingdom of Ankole. This policy was intended to promote individualism and socialism in opposition to traditional social classes. Nevertheless, cattle are still highly valued among the Banyankole, and the Bahima are still held in high regard.
2 • LOCATION
Ankole lies to the southwest of Lake Victoria in southwestern Uganda. Sometime during or before the seventeenth century, cattle-keeping people migrated from the north into central and western Uganda and mingled with indigenous farming peoples. They adopted the language of the farmers but maintained their separate identity and authority, most notably in the Kingdom of Ankole. The country was well suited for pastoralism (nomadic herding). Its rolling plains were covered with abundant grass. Today, ideal grazing land is diminishing due to a high rate of population growth.
3 • LANGUAGE
The Banyankole speak a Bantu language called Runyankole. It is a member of the Niger-Kordofanian group of language families. In many of these languages, nouns are composed of modifiers known as prefixes, infixes, and suffixes. Word stems alone have no grammatical meaning. For example, the prefix ba -signifies plurality; thus, the ethnic group carries the name Ba nyankole. An individual person is a Mu nyankole, with the prefix mu -carrying the idea of singularity. Things pertaining to or belonging to the Banyankole are referred to as Ki nyankole, taking the prefix ki -. The pastoral Banyankole are known as Ba hima; an individual of this group is referred to as a Mu hima. The agricultural Banyankole are known as Ba iru; the individual is a Mu iru.
4 • FOLKLORE
Legends and tales teach proper moral behavior to the young. Storytelling is a common means of entertainment. Both men and women excel in this verbal art form. Riddles and proverbs are also emphasized. Of special significance are legends surrounding the institution of the kingship, which provide a historical framework for the Banyankole.
Folktales draw on themes such as royalty, cattle, hunting, and other central concerns of the Banyankole. Animals figure prominently in the tales. One well-known tale concerns the Hare and the Leopard. The Hare and the Leopard were once great friends. When the Hare went to his garden for farming, he rubbed his legs with soil and then went home without doing any work, even though he told Leopard that he was always tired from digging. Hare also stole beans from Leopard's plot and said that they were his own. Eventually, Leopard realized that his crops were being stolen, and he set a trap in which Hare was caught in the act of stealing. While stuck in the trap, Hare called to Fox, who came and set him free. Conniving Hare told Fox to put his own leg into the trap to see how it functioned. Hare then called Leopard, who came and killed Fox, the assumed thief, without asking any questions. The Banyankole recite this story to illustrate that one should not trust easily, as Leopard trusted Hare. One should also not act too quickly, as Leopard did in killing the innocent Fox.
5 • RELIGION
The majority of Banyankole today are Christians. They belong to major world denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, or the Church of Uganda, which is Anglican. Fundamental Christianity, such as Evangelicalism, is also common. Public confessions of such sins as adultery and drunkenness are common, as well as rejection of many traditional secular and religious practices.
The element of indigenous Kinyankole religion that survives most directly today is the belief in ancestor spirits. It is still believed that many illnesses result from neglect of a dead relative, especially a paternal relative. Through divination it is determined which ancestor has been neglected. Presents of meat or milk and/or changes in behavior can appease the ancestor's spirit.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
Traditionally, in early childhood, children began to learn the colors of cows and how to differentiate their families' cows from those of other homesteads. Boys were taught how to make water buckets and knives. Girls were taught how to make milk-pot covers and small clay pots. By seven or eight years of age, boys were taught how to water cattle and calves. Girls helped by carrying and feeding babies. They were also expected to wash milk-pots and churn butter.
Among the Bahima (the herders), girls began to prepare for marriage as early as eight years of age. They were kept at home and given large quantities of milk in order to grow fat. Today, heaviness is still valued. Among the Banyankole, the father's sister was (and still is) responsible for the sexual morality of the adolescent girl. Nowadays schools, peer groups, popular magazines, and other mass media are rapidly replacing family members as sources of moral education for teenagers.
Traditionally, adulthood was recognized through the establishment of a family by marriage. The acquisition of large herds of cows for Bahima and of abundant crops for Bairu (farmers) were other markers of adulthood. Full adult status was achieved through the rearing of a large family.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
Social relations among the Banyankole cannot be understood apart from rank. In the wider society, the Mugabe (king) and chiefs had authority over herders (Bahima). The Bahima had authority over the Bairu (farmers). Within the family, husbands had authority over wives, and older children had authority over younger ones. Inheritance typically involved the eldest son of a man's first wife, who succeeded to his office and property. Relations between fathers and sons and between brothers were formal and often strained. Mothers and their children, and brothers and their sisters, were often close.
Social relations in the community centered around exchanges of wealth, such as cows and agricultural produce. The most significant way that community solidarity was and still is expressed is through the elaborate exchange of formalized greetings. Greetings vary by the age of the participants, the time of day, the relative rank of the participants, and many other factors. Anyone meeting an elder has to wait until the elder acknowledges that person first.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
The Mugabe's (king's) homestead was usually constructed on a hill. It was surrounded by a large fence made from basketry. A large space inside the compound was set aside for cattle. Special places were set aside for the houses of the king's wives, and for his numerous palace officials. There was a main gate through which visitors could enter, with several smaller gates for the entrance of family members.
Traditionally, Bahima (herders) maintained homes modeled after the king's but much smaller. The Bairu (farmers) traditionally built homes in the shape of a beehive. Poles of timber were covered with a framework of woven straw. A thick layer of grass frequently covered the entire structure.
Today, housing makes use of indigenous materials such as papyrus, grass, and wood. Homes are primarily rectangular. They are usually made from wattle and daub (woven rods and twigs plastered with clay and mud) with thatched roofs. Cement, brick, and corrugated iron are used by those who can afford them.
10 • FAMILY LIFE
Among the Bahima, a young girl was prepared for marriage beginning at about age ten, though sometimes as early as eight. Marriages often occurred before a girl was sexually mature, or soon after her initial menstruation. For this reason, teenage pregnancies before marriage were uncommon. Polygyny (multiple wives) was associated with rank and wealth. Bahima herders who were chiefs typically had more than one wife, and the Mugabe (king) sometimes had over one hundred. Marriages were alliances between clans and large extended families. Among both the Bahima and the Bairu, pre-marital virginity was valued.
Today, Christian marriages are common. The value attached to extended families and the importance of having children have persisted as measures of a successful marriage. Monogamy is now the norm. Marriages occur at a later age than in the past, due to the attendance at school of both girls and boys. As a consequence, teenage pregnancies out of wedlock have risen. Girls who become pregnant are severely punished by being dismissed from school or disciplined by parents. For this reason, infanticide is now more common than in the past, given that abortion is not legal in Uganda.
11 • CLOTHING
Dress differentiates Banyankole by rank and gender. Chiefs traditionally wore long robes of cowskins. Ordinary citizens commonly were attired in a small portion of cowskin over their shoulders. Women of all classes wore cowskins wrapped around their bodies. They also covered their faces in public. In modern times, cotton cloth has come to replace cowskins as a means of draping the body. For special occasions, a man might wear a long, white cotton robe with a Western-style sports coat over it. A hat resembling a fez may also be worn. Today, Banyankole wear Western-style clothing. Dress suitable for agriculture such as overalls, shirts, and boots is popular. Teenagers are attracted to international fashions popular in the capital city of Kampala.
12 • FOOD
Bahima herders consume milk and butter and drink fresh blood from their cattle. The staple food of a herder is milk. Beef is also very important. When milk or meat are scarce, millet porridge is made from grains obtained from the Bairu. Buttermilk is drunk by women and children only. When used as a sauce, butter is mixed with salt, and meat or millet porridge is dipped into it. Children can eat rabbit, but men can eat only the meat of the cow or the buffalo. Herders never eat chicken or eggs. Women consume mainly milk, preferring it to all other foods. Cereals domesticated in Africa—millet, sorghum, and eleusine—dominate the agricultural Bairu sector. The Bairu keep sheep and goats. Unlike the herders, the farmers do consume chickens and eggs.
13 • EDUCATION
In the past, girls and boys learned cultural values, household duties, agricultural and herding skills, and crafts through observation and participation. Instruction was given where necessary by parents; fathers instructed sons, and mothers instructed daughters. Elders, by means of recitation of stories, tales, and legends, were also significant teachers.
Formal education was introduced in Uganda in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Today, Ankole has many primary and secondary schools maintained by missionaries or the government. In Uganda, among those aged fifteen years and over, about 50 percent are illiterate (unable to read or write). Illiteracy is noticeably higher among girls than among boys. Teenage pregnancy often forces girls to end their formal education. Schools in Ankole teach the values and skills needed for life in modern-day Uganda. At the same time, schools seek to preserve indigenous (native) Ankole cultural values. The Runyankole language is taught in primary schools.
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
All schools have regular performances and competitions. They involve dances, music, and plays. Where appropriate, instruction also makes use of Ankole folklore and artistic expression.
15 • EMPLOYMENT
Among the Bahima, the major occupation was tending cattle. Every day the herder traveled great distances in search of pasture. Young boys were responsible for watering the herd. Teenage boys were expected to milk the cows before they were taken to pasture. Women cooked food, predominantly meat, to be taken daily to their husbands. Girls helped by gathering firewood, caring for babies, and doing household work. Men were responsible for building homes for their families and pens for their cattle.
Among the Bairu, both men and women were involved in agricultural labor, although men cleared the land. Millet was the main food crop. Secondary crops were plantains, sweet potatoes, beans, and groundnuts (peanuts). Maize (corn) was considered a treat by the children. Children participated in agriculture by chasing birds away from the fields.
16 • SPORTS
Sports, such as track and field and soccer, are very popular in primary and secondary schools. Children play an assortment of games including hide-and-seek, house, farming, wrestling, and ball games such as soccer. Ugandan national sporting events are followed with great interest in the Ankole region, as are international sporting events.
17 • RECREATION
Radio and television are important means of entertainment in Ankole. Most homes contain radios that have broadcasts in English, KiSwahili (the two national languages), and Runyankole. Books, newspapers, and magazines also are popular.
Social events such as weddings, funerals, and birthday parties typically involve music and dance. This form of entertainment includes not only modern music, but also traditional forms of songs, dances, and instruments. The drinking of alcoholic and nonalcoholic bottled beverages is common at festivities. In the past, the brewing of beer was a major home industry in Ankole.
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
Carpenters, ironworkers, potters, musicians, and others were once permanent features of the Mugabe's (king's) homestead or were in constant contact with it. Carpenters fashioned stools, milk-pots, meat-dishes, waterpots, and troughs for fermenting beer. Iron-smiths manufactured spears, knives, and hammers. Every family had a member who specialized in pottery. Pipes for smoking displayed the finest artistic creativity. Small colored beads were used to decorate clay pipes, which came in various shapes and sizes, and walking sticks.
Traditional industries are not nearly as significant as in the past. Nevertheless, one can still observe the use of traditional pipes, water-pots for music, decorated walking sticks exchanged at marriage, and the use of gourds and pottery.
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
Milton Obote ruled Uganda from 1962 until 1971, when he was overthrown by Idi Amin. Obote prohibited the formation of ethnic kingdoms within Uganda. During Idi Amin's dictatorship in the 1970s, all Ugandans suffered from political oppression and the loss of life and property. Obote once again took over in 1980 after the overthrow of Amin and ruled oppressively. Resistance to Amin and Obote resulted in the destruction of towns and villages. Uganda is currently working toward economic recovery and democratic reform.
Since the mid-1980s, AIDS has been a serious problem. As adult Ugandans die of AIDS, many children become orphans. There has been a strong national effort to educate the public through mass media about AIDS prevention.
A growing population, in spite of AIDS, remains a threat to a pastoral way of life. Warfare in neighboring countries such as Rwanda has contributed to population growth, as refugees have regularly come into the region.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY
Hansen, Holger Bernt, and Michael Twaddle, ed. Uganda Now: Between Decay and Development. London, England: James Currey, Ltd., 1988.
Kiwanuka, M. S. M. The Empire of Bunyoro Kitara: Myth or Reality. Kampala, Uganda: Longmans of Uganda, Ltd., 1968.
Mushanga, Musa T. Folk Tales from Ankole. Kampala, Uganda: Uganda Press Trust, Ltd., n. d.
Embassy of Uganda, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available http://www.ugandaweb.com/ugaembassy/, 1998.
Government of Uganda. Uganda Home Page. [Online] Available http://www.uganda.co.ug/, 1998.
World Travel Guide. Uganda. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/ug/gen.html, 1998.