Uganda, the Pearl of Africa – a journey beyond mountain gorillas
Uganda, the Pearl of Africa is located across the equator in East Africa. The African country of Uganda, is a country with a tropical climate warm and cool all year round. The country has a population of about 45 million people. 80% of the people are below 30 years of age. There are more than 56 indigenous ethnic tribes. Each tribe has its unique customs. The cultural heritage and history is rich and diverse but not fully exploited. Certainly, the tourism industry is still young and based largely on wildlife found in the 10 national parks and 13 wildlife reserves with mountain gorillas being the icing on the cake.
However, with the recent meaning of “Tulambule”, we are going to explore Uganda as a national tourism campaign of the Uganda Tourism Board, suddenly the wind is blowing from a different direction. Love for Uganda is back in fashion and replaces love for politics. So is an atmosphere that welcomes all travelers to the pearl. The local population is now hitting the road in search of the ideas and roots of things that they feel the country lost during the civil wars of the 1970s and 1980s.
However, the campaign has seen development of new cultural trails and initiatives to preserve culture and safeguard the heritage.
The origin of the name Uganda, the Pearl of Africa
One of the new initiatives came after the death of Rafiki. Rafiki was a mountain silverback gorilla killed by poachers in June 2020 in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Rafiki Memorial and Wildlife Conservation Initiative was founded as a way to empower community with alternative economic involvement activities like conservation visual art, fashion, film, crafts and performing arts. As a result, the Children in Conservation Art Gallery and Museum now teaches more than 16 children in Buhoma in local music known as “Mulindi” meaning river, The traditional songs are composed and played with a message of conservation and development.
Coming on into the pearl of Africa the main gate way is at Entebbe international airport. The city of Entebbe (the colonial capital) is on the shores of Lake Victoria, an instant immersion in the greatness of Uganda. From the airport, it is 35km to Kampala the capital city found in Buganda Kingdom. Buganda kingdom has the largest ethnic tribe “the Baganda with 52 clans”. It’s from this kingdom that the name “Uganda” was born.
It’s in the capital Kampala (central Uganda) that Uganda’s art and cultural heritage is at its best. Many sites have been found there such as the Uganda museum, several contemporary art galleries and cultural centers like Ndere that offer live traditional dance performances.
The Buganda Kingdom cultural trail
When you visit the city of Kampala, you will discover the culture and heritage of the Buganda kingdom. With a guided tour that goes through the city of sites such as the royal tombs of Kabaka in the Kasubi hills, to Lake Kabaka and the Royal Mile, walking to the main entrance of the king “kabaka”. The tour ends at the Lubiri Palace and Bulange, the kingdom’s administrative building located on Mengo Hill. A great way to mingle with the locals is the side-by-side walk dotted with sculptures of wild animals that are totems of the different clans. Another way is to taste traditional dishes like Luwombo and the local “silly” banana beer.
The Art of Making African Talking Drums
The traditional art of making bark cloth and African drums originates in Uganda.On a day trip from Kampala, culture lovers can visit the Mpambire Cultural Village. Also in Entanda to enjoy ancient traditions and an organic fruit buffet.
Uganda, the Peral of Africa and its Performing Arts
Music, art, dance and drama is deeply rooted in the culture of Uganda and the best place to enjoy a lively show in Kampala is Ndere cultural. There the Ndere troupe performs different kinds of traditional dance styles across Uganda. Several theatres like theatre La bonita and national theatre offer classical live band music.
Local communities around National Parks
Elsewhere, the southwestern part of Uganda is where the earliest artists and hunter gatherers – the BaTwa pygmies can be found. Known as the Kigezi region the gorilla highlands it includes Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Virunga volcanoes and beautiful lakes such as Lake Bunyonyi and Lake Mutanda.
BaTwa pygmies Trail
These parks are home to mountain gorillas famous for gorilla hiking safaris. However, the experience is beyond achieving close encounters with the great apes. The communities that live around these parks offer cultural trails. These offer a visit to the BaTwa pygmies. These were originally forest-dwelling hunter gatherers. They were expelled from their homes to conserve the mountain gorillas. The BaTwa Development Foundation was created to help them survive. You can visit the BaTwa community in Buhoma, the headquarters of Bwindi or in Mgahinga with the BaTwa trail. There they will take you back to the forest to show you how they used to live. There are social enterprises like Ride 4 a Woman in the Buhoma Bwindi forest that empower women to create opportunities for the local community.
Some culture' s places in Uganda
In the city of Mbarara, the largest after Kampala, we find the Igongo Cultural Center. Here is a heritage and cultural exhibition of the peasant and cattle communities of the kingdom of Ankole. While you are there, you can visit Rwenjeru. You can also spend the night in traditional cabins in the cultural village of Nshenyi. Here you can participate in activities such as milking Ankole longhorn cows. they can also watch the shepherds graze and open the cattle.
Nyero rock paintings
Some places are off the beaten path, while others are right in the heart of the capital of Kampala city. If you decide to go into the national parks, you will be going for art, culture and wildlife adventure. Tourism is an important contributor to the Uganda’s economy, So preserving art and culture plays a vital role in balancing the future of travel into the pearl. That the experience is beyond achieving up close encounters with wildlife such as mountain gorillas and chimpanzees.
Far away in the northeastern part of Uganda, that’s where we can trace ancient history and art in the Nyero cave paintings in the Kumi district. There, six rock shelters displaying artistic paintings of concentric circles. unknown painters painted these works of art around 1250 AD. As traditional art, the painters still use these paintings to beautify huts like in the Ugandan museum and the Nshenyi cultural village.
Further in the northeast, in the Karamoja semi-arid region, you will find the Karamojong people around Kidepo Valley National Park. The Karamojong are traditional nomadic cattle herders similar to the Masai in Kenya and Tanzania. Their way of living is a fascinating one. They live in huts with cattle kraals fenced together known as Manyattas. You can visit their villages or hike to meet the Ik tribe who live in the mountains along the border with South Sudan.
Author: Derrick Muhanguzi