The Bantu Cultural Day

The Annual Bantu Cultural Fair in Fort Portal Tourism City

“Appreciating who we are; celebrating Cultural Diversity”

Several cultural fairs have been run on National, Regional and African continental levels, but none has been meant to recognize and appreciate the unique historical features of Bantu as a cultural section on the globe. The Bantu Cultural Fair to be running under the theme “Appreciating who we are; celebrating Cultural Diversity”; The Fair is an opportunity to showcase the different cultures that make the Bantu speaking groups so diverse and unique on this continent and in Uganda in particular. This will always be an annual event in Fort Portal Tourism City.

“The fair establishes a platform where the different groups of Bantu people can celebrate, appreciate and explore a diversity of cultures alongside their own.”

The event is inspired by key roles culture plays in the development of nations that it cannot be ignored. “Culture is a strong part of people’s lives. It influences our values, hopes and world view.”

At the Bantu Cultural Fair, the young generation are given special focus through the school cultural quiz competitions. Schools both Primary and Secondary are invited to offer an opportunity to the young generation to learn about different cultures and be inspired.

The Bantu Cultural Fair starts in Fort Portal a few months after Fort Portal became the Uganda’s Tourism City and at the time Ministry of Tourism signed a memorandum of understanding with the Province of Hainan from China to partner in Tourism promotion. They (Province of Hainan) want to bring tourists to Uganda and to many of them culture is the key attraction.”

Background: There are several other Bantu groups in other African countries; they occupy a large part of Zaire and southern as well as eastern Africa. There is a large section of Bantu in Somalia who came there as slaves years ago. The Bantu are said to have originated from somewhere in the Congo region or central Africa and spread rapidly to the Southern and eastern Africa.

Bantu peoples is used as a general label for the 300–600 ethnic groups in Africa who speak Bantu languages. They inhabit a geographical area stretching east and southward from Central Africa across the African Great Lakes region down to Southern Africa.

Individual Bantu groups today often include millions of people. Among these are the Luba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with over 13.5 million people; the Zulu of South Africa, with over 10 million people; the Sukuma and many other tribes of Tanzania which are about eight million people, Kikuyu of Kenya, with over six million people. Bantu-speaking people are also found in Rwanda, Angola, Burundi, Zimbabwe, with some among other nations in the Southern part of Africa. With the exception of those in Somalia, brought north as slaves in the nineteenth century and many of whom became refugees as a result of the unrest and civil war since 1991, the Bantu comprise a diverse but stable population spread throughout many countries in Africa. In Uganda Bantu speaking tribes constitute more than a half of Uganda’s population.

Etymology: The word Bantu, and its variations, means “people” or “humans”. The root in Proto-Bantu is reconstructed as *-ntu. Versions of the word Bantu (that is, the root plus the class 2 noun class prefix *ba-) occur in all Bantu languages: for example, as watu in Swahili; bantu in Kikongo; batu in Lingala; bato in Kiluba; bantu in Duala; abanto in Gusii; andũ in Kamba and Kikuyu; abantu in Kirundi, Zulu, Xhosa, Runyakitara, and Ganda; wandru in Shingazidja; abantru in Mpondo; bãtfu in Phuthi; bantfu in Swati; banu in Lala; vanhu in Shona and Tsonga; batho in Sesotho, Tswana and Northern Sotho; antu in Meru; andu in Embu; vandu in some Luhya dialects; vhathu in Venda; and mbaityo in Tiv.

Today in Uganda there are 17 tribes belonging to the Bantu groups.The Bantu are a group of people who speak related languages and have similar social characteristics.

Bantu are said to have settled in Uganda between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1300. Some reasons are given to explain why the Bantu moved from their original homeland to come to settle in Uganda. One reason is that they might have been overpopulated and therefore some groups decided to move away in search of vacant lands on which to practice agriculture. Another reason given is that they might have moved away just in search of fertile lands or due to internal conflicts within their communities or external attacks by their neighbors. Other reasons suggested include diseases and natural disasters which might have made them uncomfortable in their homeland and so they decided to move away. One other reason is that they may have been encouraged to move away in quest of adventure and this was because they had invented iron tools which enabled them to confront wild animals and other obstacles during their movements.

Having moved away from their original homeland, the Bantu who settled in present Uganda include; the Baganda, the Banyoro, the Batooro, the Banyankole, the Bakiga, the Bafumbira, the Basoga, the Bagwere, the Banyole, the Bagishu and the Basamia-Bagwe. Though there are striking similarities in language and customs among the different Bantu groups, each group has its own peculiarities in customs and other social arrangements.

Uganda is a country of many cultural contrasts. For example if you go west to Mbarara District, you will meet the Bahima, a race of Ankole. This is an egalitarian group of tall beautiful people who live on their cattle, milk and ghee. They move from place to place in search of grass for their herds. The men are agile, temperamental when confronted and wear the elaborate shuka, a long woven cloth of rich colours around the shoulder and a handy stick in hand to shoo cows or fight the enemy. Their fat wives, who walk in the same graceful manner like the cows, live on milk and equally wear colorful clothes. The women are usually of ample girth with beautiful chocolate coloured gums and extremely white teeth.

The Bahima have strengthened their lives around cows and milk. Many of their long-horned, graceful cows are given names to which they respond when called. There is a rich folklore of songs and dance among the Bahima, including some elaborate poems and recitals which give praise to the best cows or narrate some long journeys. All the Bantu groups on Africa continent similarly have their unique set of cultures and customs.

The Bantu in Uganda:

Bantu groups in Uganda have a different set of cultures than the rest of Africa.  In the rest of the continent we read information, we read stories, in Uganda there are books, there is written information but in history there was something else among the Bantu groups in Uganda, we used to sit under the ancient tree and around the fire place as the story-teller used words to weave a tapestry in one’s mind with his or her words, we had arts and cultural dance and music. 

Children loved to hear the adults speak and sing, they related to them, related to the characters in their tales, and loved the gentle rhythm of the songs and the words that allowed children to see the possibilities in life.

Uganda has over ten Bantu cultural backgrounds that make it an area with unique cultural diversity than most Countries in Africa; there is Batooro, Batagwenda, Banyankole, Bakiga, Bafumbira, Banyarwanda, Bakonjo, Bagisu, Baganda, Basoga, the Bagwere, the Banyole, the Bagishu and the Basamia-Bagwe and different other cultures from neighboring countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and Tanzania.

We all live together as one community, we need to establish a platform where all Bantu people of Uganda can celebrate, appreciate and explore a diversity of cultures alongside their own and get inspired to different cultural developments.

Bantu Cultural Festival

The Annual celebration will always take place during the months of December between the Christmas and end of year festivals, and focuses on the rich and diverse cultures of the Bantu people that live in Uganda, blended with traditional art and culture from all over the East Africa region and beyond. It features music, dance, theater, folklore and storytelling, all as live performances, plus a great deal of art and craft.

Event Programme brief.

As the annual Bantu Cultural festival is to showcase the diverse cultures of Bantu people throughout the country through art, music, poetry and dance, with an emphasis on culture and development; this is intended to;

  • Bring together Bantu people who are living in different parts of Uganda for a joyful moment while focusing on different development concerns of the country.
  • Having a theme and inviting guest speakers to pass important and educative Cultural information through story telling will be an important aspect of the festival.
  • Bringing our Children together and coming to know and play with each other while learning a great deal of their cultures.
  • Get time to remember the traditions of our fore fathers who could sit under the ancient tree, around the fire place in a village and simply tell stories, a gift that many Bantu people still have. 
  • Identifying key aspects of a cultural importance that can be integrated into today’s modern, social and economic development

These among many aims will be achieved during the events each year.

This event is planned in a way of promoting togetherness of stakeholders in development, leadership, business, religion and recreation. This shall bring close our development partners together hence creating and cementing linkages with each other.

The Four-month event shall always begin in September with identifying participating groups and sponsors of the event by key stake holders in the country.

 Identifying and giving the festival tips to groups and designing the nature of the festival will follow.

The festival will always take place with implementation of a corporate social activity in case of revenues realized during the festival. This probably will go to construction of a cultural centre in the host district of Fort Portal Tourism City.

Why Fort Portal City: Fort Portal City district is the one district in Uganda that has almost all the Bantu tribes that are known in Uganda and beyond such as Congo. It therefore gives a fair representation of the different Bantu cultures. Secondly, we consider culture in Uganda as a great arm of tourism in the country. Since Fort Portal City is the Nation’s tourism City and is located in a region that attracts more than 75% of tourist attractions in Uganda, holding this historical cultural event and establishing this cultural centre will be of great economic importance in this region.

Festival Activities and Exhibitions will always include

  • Story tellers
  • Cultural dancers
  • Cultural Musicians/artists
  • Craft makers
  • Herbalists
  • Museum
  • Cultural foods and drinks
  • Cultural fashions
  • Portraits
  • Cultural agricultural practices
  • Schools cultural quiz competition

The Competition

The competition will always be on a set of items to attract talented stewards of different cultural attributes in their original form. It is expected that after a good mobilization drive, different cultural groups/tribes in the region will have representatives registered to present as individuals or groups in six items below: –

  1. Traditional dance. In troupe, presenters will stage a dance taking 5-8 minutes. This item will showcase original dance. Adjudicators will identify the best, based on originality, expression of purpose, clarity of the message, authenticity of props and costumes, artistry of instruments, vocal endowments, organized presentation and other quality issues. A dance that is so forgotten and well presented will attract more marks.
  • Folk song. The competition will accept songs presented as solo or in group (4-6 minutes). The solo accompanied with traditional musical instrument such as omukuri/umuduri, enanga, endingiri, akakyenkye, engoma will attract more marks; however unaccompanied solo (vocal) will be accepted. All group songs should be accompanied and dramatic. Adjudicators will observe vocal and instrumental originality and quality of symphony; the purpose and clarity of message, variations and pitch, stage use, props and costumes will be graded and rated. Folk solo can be ebizaano by’ente/amahamba y’inka, ebyeshongoro/ebizina byokuramya/indirimbo y’ogusenga, kusingiza/gusingiza, kutabaara/gutabaza, kutonganirira, kusharuura/gusaruura, other social activities will be accepted. No solo without clear meaning should pass stage 1.
  • Rhetoric.  For the purpose of the competition, rhetoric means and includes ebyevugo/ibyivugo or emigunju/imivugo (poems). Rhetoric expressing love (like imitooma in rufumbira), victory over enemy or challenge, supplications and others will be considered.
  • Puzzles. Participants will compete in challenging puzzles in form of riddles (ebishakuzo/ibisakuzo) and structured challenging puzzles (amahurizo in rufumbira). Representatives of groups or individuals will come up to challenge each other at the stage. Candidates will be those trusted to pose or/and answer most challenging puzzles. Those who pose unfamiliar but original puzzles will earn more marks. Those whose puzzles are hard to pass will gain more marks.
  • Modeling. Participants will showcase traditional dressing in form of attire and hair style according to their own traditions. Original beauty enhancement (neck, arms, legs, markings) will attract more marks. Clarity of models as children, adolescents, singles, married men/women and elderly will be sought.
  • Exhibition. Participants will be requested to exhibit collections of traditional items used in warfare, worship, marriage, political set-up agriculture, household utensils and other areas. Originality, correct explanation about the purpose, the art of display, skills of communication of the exhibition narrator will attract more marks

Special consideration will always be given to participants with ability to trace back their genealogy for great grandfathers. The one with longest genealogy (subjective authentication) will be awarded.

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