Collection of Ankole, Kigezi cultural heritage at Igongo cultural centre excites Buganda’s Katikiro
Over a century ago some Baganda begun leaving their ancestral home in the central region migrating to other parts of the country.
Some fled due to social and political upheavals, others were moving voluntarily while others were sent to other areas by colonialists to serve as administrators because Buganda Kingdom had a good and superior system of administration.
Ankole or Nkore as it was then called and Kigezi became one of their popular destinations. Today there are about a million Baganda in the South-western Uganda. Though they have coexisted harmoniously with the natives; Banyankore and Bakiga, Baganda ethnic largely remain rooted in Ganda values and traditions.
They have kept close ties with the home. Every time something bad befalls Buganda Kingdom, like their counterparts in the ancestral area-those living hundreds of miles away equally get touched.
Kabaka Ronald Mwenda Mutebi in 2013 appointed business tycoon Mutasa Kafeero who hails from Ntungamo district to represent those Southwestern in the Lukiiko. An association was consequently established to mobilize Baganda in the region. This culminated into the visit of Katikkiro Peter Mayiga last Saturday.
At the colourful get together function held at Mbarara University Inn Baganda and their friends raised Shs 84 million towards the reconstruction of Kasubi Tombs.
Prince David Wassajja, Namasole Sizomu, Margret Nagawa and Ministers: Ben Kiwanuka Mukwaya for health, Charles Bwenvu for Buganda Affairs outside Buganda, Hope Mukasa of Kabaka Foundation, members of Lukiiko Mr Gastava Lule and Hajji Mutaasa Kafeero were part of the Katikiro’s entourage.
Before heading to Mbarara University Inn they visited Igongo Cultural Centre in Biharwe Sub County and were fascinated by the state of art antiquity core for Ankole and Kigezi heritage.
The Katikkiro wore a navy blue coat with a white and immaculately white robe traditionally known as “Ekanzu”, a prestigious cultural attire in Ganda culture.
He was received with Enkongooro (Milk Pot), like a special guest in modern days is welcomed with a banquet of flowers. Enkongooro (also call it Ekyanzi) represents Ankole culture. This wooden black conical container is where milk among the cattle keeping communities of Ankole is served. However, for security/safety reasons this milk pot did not have milk in it and Mr Mayiga took it home as a gift.
Mr James Tumusiime the proprietor of the cultural site who is also Chairman Uganda Tourism Board was there to host them. Cultural performances by the Igongo Cultural Group followed before the Katikiro and his entourage were guided through a tour of the place.
Igongo is such a place that depicts history of the man and life right from the Stone Age era. They visited the Museum (Erijukiro), the main attraction at the centre featuring the historical and cultural aspects of South Western Uganda. It left every visitor mesmerized. The cultural village with huts depicting typical Banyankore homesteads; one for Banyankore cattle keepers and another for Banyankore crop farmers was another wonder.
An overwhelmed Prince Wasajja commented; “I’ve never seen a beautiful, history enriched place like this one.” He added that it’s a challenge not to Buganda alone but all kingdoms to protect their heritage for posterity so that future generations can be able to not only read but also see what the past meant.
The Katikiro then commissioned the Buganda Cottage where antiquities significant to the Buganda Kingdom will be kept for purposes of tourism and research. There is as well Bunyoro, Burundi, Bwera, Karagwe, Kigezi, Rwanda and Tooro Cottages which are yet to be commissioned.
The visitors enjoyed traditionally cooked dishes from “Kahwa Kanuzire” restaurant that sits right next to the Arts and Crafts room where items ranging from traditional jewellery, books, wallets, decorations, table items, armlets, bangles, frames can be found. Besides the archaic literature of the “Ishe Katabazi” type, even contemporary material like magazines and novels are available.
Mr Tumusiime said Igongo Cultural Centre is a civil society initiative set to link traditional society and the contemporary modern culture. “After realizing that Namugongo Shrines and Kasubi Tombs attract more visitors in a year than either Lake Mburo or Queen Elizabeth National Park, I saw immediately the need for a cultural site as a stimulant for domestic tourism,” he said.
He added, “We should not wait for Europeans to visit so that we call them tourists. Igongo was set up to promote tourism within. So one doesn’t have to be a European to do research or bring their family on a weekend to visit a museum,” he said.
Besides contributing Shs 5million towards reconstruction of Kasubi Tombs, Mr Tumusiime also handed the Katikkiro a shield with a motto “Obwebgye Bugira Emizi” meaning that ‘wisdom has roots’ and a book ‘What Makes an African Laugh’ he has authored urging him to protect the culture jealously.
Mr Mayiga acknowledged Mr Tumusiime’s “sincere” gifts commending the enormous work he has done for culture at Igongo Cultural Centre. “I had visited this place with my family before I became Prime Minister when I had come to attend a friend’s wedding in Rwanyamahembe and I brought my family here but no one recognized me then,” he said.
“When you move through that Museum, you realize how much Buganda and Ankole have in common. The language, ways of life and all this doesn’t have to be destroyed to achieve development. The only place I have been to with rich cultural and traditional information like this is in Rwanda but Igongo was one of a kind in Uganda and Africa at large,” Mr Mayiga said.
He said there is need to respect history and cultures of people but it can only be possible after understanding the histories.
About Igongo Cultural Centre:
It was opened in 2011.
It has a museum divided into various sections: Skills, family and community, clans and social organization, legends, politics and leadership and famous people of the South Western Uganda. These are relayed inform of artifacts, information panels (illustrations and information) and sculptures.
2. Cultural village
Cultural village show cases traditional building styles of Southwestern Uganda and the utensils that were used in homes.
3. Kahwa Kanuzire Restaurant
It serves both traditional and international dishes.
4. Craft and Bookshop
Stocks souvenirs and different handicrafts depicting Southwestern Uganda’s skills and craftsman ship in household items, musical instruments, ornaments, decorative and fashion objects and books.
5. Mburo Gardens. Have extensive lush gardens convenient for leisure activities and ceremonies. There is state of the art Igongo Country Hotel that is opening soon at the site.
BY ALEX TAREMWA