Uganda as an Africa safari tour destination is very famous for its attractive landscape and Mountain Gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda Bwindi impenetrable forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Little do people know that Uganda is way far beyond just Uganda gorilla safaris ! Christened the Pearl of Africa by Winston Churchill, Uganda has lots of things that defend its pet name. Uganda as a one stop Africa tour destination has a collection of Uganda safari attractions and Uganda safari tour activities that tourists on a safari Uganda visit as well as engage in during their tour in Uganda. In this piece, I will uncover the Bagishu tribe that has one of the amazing cultures in Uganda.
Uganda has rich culture that is derived from the different ethnic groups making it the 4th ethnically diverse country in the world after New Guinea, Tanzania, and Congo. Uganda is blessed with over 52 tribes with different languages and cultural principles.
Today we are taking a big study about Mbale, the big home of the Bagishu. Mbale is about 240km East of Kampala. During my Uganda tour through Mable town last year, this town had several special billboards bearing writings like “Welcome to 2018.” Why? This is because 2018 was the biennial year for circumcision, a ritual practised by the Bamasaba (Bagishu).
One may be wondering what Bagishu means! Bagishu is one of Uganda’s Bantu tribes that inhabit the gradients of Mount Elgon, one of Uganda’s prominent hiking safari destinations. The Bagishu ancestral origin dates back to more than 500 years ago when Masaba, their forefather emerged from caves of the mountain locally known as Mount Masaba. To them, male circumcision is a cultural rite for initiation into manhood. This practice dates back to the days of their forefathers as described by Professor Timothy Wangusa, in Upon This Mountain. He stated that circumcision (known as ‘Imbalu’ among the Bagishu) is for strength, bravery and manhood.
What is Imbalu?
Imbalu is an essential occasion or ritual in Bagisu society. It is rather a process that all men in this tribe are supposed to go through as a passage to manhood. This ritual involves the whole local community and visitors from far and wide. Boys and young men aged between 16 & 25years qualify for the Imbalu.
Those that decide to be circumcised announce their intention in June or May and spend the following few months preparing for the Imbalu Ceremony. The Public Imbalu circumcision ceremonies are held during even-numbered years (August and December). When your safari Uganda during these months, a Uganda cultural safari can be organized for you to this region before or after your Uganda wildlife tour, Uganda gorilla tour , Uganda chimpanzee trekking safari, Uganda hiking safari, Jinja city tour, Kampala city tour, Uganda cycling safari depending on your what your Uganda tour operator tailored for you.
The Imbalu Process
The Circumcision Ceremony is done early in the morning before 10:00 am. On the day of circumcision, the young men encouraged by a whistling, cheering crowd make their way to the circumcision ground carrying the initiates on their shoulders. These dress in decorated in plantain fronds or animal skins and their faces are covered with ash or flour. They are accompanied by a crew of cheerleading friends, marching and dancing through the streets.
When the time comes, the candidate raises his hands, dancing, proudly exhibiting his blooded member to an ululating crowd. “Crying during the process would mean cowardice, thus, is forbidden,” says John Musira, a traditionalist. They use itinyi, a local herb to induce courage in the candidates. The launching of the operation in Mutoto village; a cultural site where the first Mugisu was circumcised lasts one hour in which the surgeon makes three bold cuts to remove the foreskin of the candidates. During circumcision, the candidates are expected to stand firm as a sign of courage and boldness. A whistle is blown to mark the completion of the exercise. He is then led to a quiet place where he is seated and wrapped in a cloth before bleeding stops. He is taken to his father’s home and hand fed for three consecutive days before he is ritually washed and permitted to eat with his hands marking the end of the ritual.
After this ritual, this is when one is considered as a man. A women’s true identity is also defined by marrying a real man, one who is circumcised.
Unlike in other African areas where circumcision is carried out indoors with few associates present, the Bagisu declared it a public function, which allows tourists interested in cultural safaris Uganda attend. This is one of those Africa safari memories that can still authentically be traced to the African continent.
Funny traditional stories behind this ritual
This practice dates back to the tale that a certain Mugisu man was summoned by the council of elders because of stealing other men’s wives and then he was subjected to circumcision in Mutoto village as a punishment and preventive action for being adulterous. However, this yielded nothing as he became more powerful and admirable to women. The counterparts retaliated by circumcising themselves to compete favourably.
Could it be for health reasons?
Male circumcision today is no longer just a cultural or religious obligation, but rather carried out for safety in order to contribute towards a reduction in the HIV infections among men.
Circumcision being mandatory for all Muslims, Muslim surgeons who are extremely experienced in performing mainly neonatal circumcision find themselves better positioned to perform the procedure than other groups and they carry it out in a sterile setting.
Those, therefore, from any Uganda safari tour like Gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda safari tour such as Gorilla tracking in Rwanda volcanoes national park, don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience Bagisu tribe norms in Uganda.
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