THE BAGWERE

The Bagwere can be traced to Pallisa district. Their language, lugwere is similar to Lusoga-Lulamogi in many respects.

Origins

The history of the Bagwere is very sketchy and scanty. Some of their traditions assert that they originated in Bunyoro and first moved to Bulamogi and Bugabula before continuing in present Pallisa district. Their traditions say that they moved from Bunyoro following the disintegration that accompanied the arrival of the Luo and the collapse of the Bachwezi dynasty. There language and their supposed connection with Bunyoro presuppose that the Bagwere are a Bantu group. Their area of origin may thus be Katanga region of Central Africa like other Bantu.

Birth.

Whenever a woman was pregnant, she was not supposed to look at the nest of a bird called Nansungi. It was believed that if the woman looked at the nest she would miscarry. After giving birth, the woman was not supposed to leave the home. She was given banana leaves to sleep on. Custom demanded that she could not eat form her husband’s clans until her days of confinement were over. During this time, she could eat form neighbors or in her parents’ home. She was required to eat bananas that were cooked unpeeled and if the piece of banana broke in the process of peeling or eating, she was not supposed to eat it. Besides the woman was not supposed to look at the sky before the umbilical cord broke off.

Naming

The naming of the child would wait until the umbilical cord had broken. After the cord had broken, special food was got from the woman’s family, usually a banana with nyondi still on it. The person going to get the food was not supposed to greet anyone to and from the woman’s home. A ritual followed. The child was removed from the house. If the woman had sex with another man other than her husband during pregnancy, the child was not brought out of the house by the door way. It could be passed through the window or any other opening in the house. The name was given by the grand mother or aunt of the child. Some names had meaning but some did not.

Whenever a woman gave birth to her first born child, some food would be cooked outside the mother’s hut. It was to be eaten by the father and mother of the child. They would in addition eat some seeds brought form the woman’s home. The normal procedure was that if the woman had committed adultery during the time of pregnancy, she could not partake of the food. If the man had committed adultery when the woman was preganat, he was not supposed to eat this ritual food. His brother or a friend would represent him.

Death

If one died, people would weep and wail loudly. If some one did not cry or cried lightly, he could be easily suspected of having had a hand in the death. If the deceased man was an old man, the people could move singing and mourning and tour the immediate neighbors and on to the well, to take away the spirit of the dead. Normally, the body could not spend two days in the house before being buried. Corpses used to be buried with a needle or mweroko, a small stone used for grinding, to fortify the corpse against body hunters. It was believed that if the body hunters called upon the corpse to come out of the grave it would reply that it was busy either sewing or grinding, whatever the case may be.

The normal days of mourning were three. They would be ended by a ritual ceremony called okunaba. Herbs would be pounded and mixed in water. This mixture was then sprinkled on every body present and on the doorway of the deceased’s house. To crown it all, a goat would be slaughtered and eaten. The night before okunaba, the Bayiwa (nieces and nephews) would be given a chicken to slaughter and eat because of their significant role during the funeral rites. They would also remove whatever rubbish was scattered around and they were customarily paid for it.

The burial of a suicide case differed significantly from that of a normal death. There was no weeping and no prayers offered. A sheep was slaughtered to be eaten by the bayiwa alone perhaps because of the unlucky task of cutting the rope which the bayiwa perform. The tree on which the suicide hanged himself had to be uprooted and burnt. If the deceased hanged himself in the house, it was destroyed and burnt however big or good it was. This was because such a house was believed to be contaminated.

Marriage

In the very early times, parents arranged marriages for their children. However, later, it became customary for a boy to look for a girl. Upon consent, the girl would introduce the boy to her parents. On being introduced, the boy would pay some thing to the girl’s parents not as part of bride wealth, but as a gift. This practice was known as okutona. The process that followed involved the boy inviting the girl’s parents to come to his family to assess the bride wealth. They would normally go and assess his wealthy but they could not leave with the cows. This occasion involved a lot of feasting and dancing. The boy’s parents would arrange to deliver the bride wealth to the girl’s family. The occasion of delivering the bride wealth was another joyous one accompanied, as it was, wit feasting, dancing and merry making.

After this was completed, the boy’s mother often accompanied by another person would go to fetch the girl form her parents. She would go singing all the way and reach the girl’s family round about 8.00pm. She would accordingly be given the girl and she would return home singing all the way. On reaching the groom’s home, the girl was not supposed to sleep with the husband before being washed in the ritual ceremony of okunabbya omugole. The girl and the boy being married would stand under a tree and bathe in the same water furnished with appropriate herbs. Then singing, they would prepare to come to the courtyard. The girl was mad to stand before the mother-in laws door. The mother –in law would bring a basin of water and pour on the girls back. The girl would spread her fingernails out as custom demanded and older men would inspect he r for any sign s of pregnancy. Thereafter, the girl’s brother would officially hand over the girl to her husband and the girl and her husband would move to their house. The woman could not eat form her husband’s family until she had first eaten food sent form her parents.

Economy

The Bagwere were agriculturalists and their main crops were millet, matooke, potatoes, sorghum/cassava, now they also grow rice. They grew a large assortment of beans, pea’s groundnuts and pumpkins. They also rear cows, goats, sheep and chickens. Their women were not supposed to eat mamba (lung fish), chicken, eggs and a certain kite-like bird called wansaka.In the event of death, any brother of the deceased would inherit his (the deceased’s) wife and property. Naturally it was up to the woman which in-law her. The real heir of the dead man was his first son or one of his sons who proved to be responsible. The Bagwere danced during funerals, especially when the deceased was very old or very important; during wedding ceremonies particularly before the ritual ceremony of okunaba; during instances of merry making such as visits and beer parties; and during a ritual dance called eyonga. If the woman gave birth to twins, she would go with some people to dance eyonga as one of the rituals of inviting the twins into society. The common musical instruments were dingidi, the tongoli, drums and kongo (thumb piano). The Balangira clan had special drums for particular functions.

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