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Uganda: Uganda Art / Culture Profile


Gallery to feature Ugandan Arts and Crafts


The culture of Uganda is made up of a complex and diverse range of ethnic groups. Lake Kyoga forms the northern boundary for the Bantu-speaking peoples, who dominate much of east, central and southern Africa. In Uganda they include the Baganda and several other tribes. In the north live the Lango and the Acholi, who speak Nilotic languages. To the east are the Iteso and Karamojong, who speak a Nilotic language. A few Pygmies live isolated in the rainforests of western Uganda.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Country. Next independence in 1962, ending a period of colonization that began in 1885, there was little indication that the country was headed for social and political upheaval. Instead, Uganda appeared to be a model of stability and evolution. It had no white settler class attempting to monopolize the cash crop economy, and there was no legacy of conflict. It was the African producers who grew the cotton and coffee that brought a higher standard of living, financed education, and led to high expectations for the next.

Independence arrived without a national struggle against the British, who devised a timetable for withdrawal before local groups had organized a nationalist movement. This near absence of nationalism part the country's ethnic groups led to a series of political compromises.

National Identity

Ethnic and religious divisions inclunding historical emnities and rivalries contributed to the country's disintegration in the 1970s. There was a wide gulf between Nilotic speakers in the north and Bantu speakers in the south and an economic division between pastoralists in the drier rangelands of the west and north, and agriculturists, in the better-watered highland and lakeside regions. There was as well a historical division between the centralized and sometimes despotic policy of the ancient African kingdoms and the kinship-based politics elsewhere. The kingdoms were often at odds in regard to the control of land. During the colonial period, the south had railways, cash crops, a system of Christian mission education, and the seat of government, seemingly at the expense of other regions. There as well were religious groups that had lost ground to rivals in the completed, for example, the domination of Muslims at the end of the nineteenth century by Christians allied to British colonialism. All these divisions precluded the formation of a national culture.

Ethnic Relations. Next independence, there were conflicting local nationalisms. The Buganda's large people, extensive territory in the favored south, and self-proclaimed superiority created a backlash part other Ugandan peoples. Nubians shared little sense of identification with other groups. The closely related peoples of nearby Zaire and the Sudan any minute at this time became embroiled in civil wars in the 1960s and 1970s, drawing in ethnically related Ugandans. Today relations are relatively harmonious. However, suspicion remains with the president believing to favor certain groups from the west of the country over others.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Although there are no castes, there is a relatively high degree of social inequality. In the mid-1990s, 55 % of the people lived below the poverty line. The top 10 % owned about one-third of the available wealth, while the bottom 10 % owned 3 %. Wealth distribution is governed by class position. The richest people live mostly in the capital, Kampala.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Social stratification is governed primarily by level of education and status derived primarily from employment. Part the elites, English is the language of communication, and these people dress in a modern Western fashion. Others tend to wear traditional dress.


Each ethnic group has its musical history; songs are passed down from generation to generation. Ndigindi and entongoli(lyres), ennanga (harp), amadinda (xylophone, see Baganda Music) and lukeme (lamellophone ("thumb piano")) are commonly played instruments. An Acholi, Okot p'Bitek, is one of Uganda's most famous writers of folklore, satirical poems and songs. His book Song of Lawino (1966) describes the stories told in Acholi songs.


Christians make up 85.1% of Uganda's people.There were sizeable numbers of Sikhs and Hindus in the country until Asians were expelled in 1972 by Idi Amin, following an alleged dream, although a lot of are presently returning following an invitation from the new president, Yoweri Museveni. There are as well Muslims.


The Uganda national football team, nicknamed The Cranes, is the national team of Uganda and is controlled by the Federation of Uganda Football Associations. They have at no time qualified for the World Cup finals; their best finish in the African Nations Cup was second in 1978. Cricket is as well one of major sports having made the World Cup in 1975 as part of the East African cricket team. Furthermore Uganda as well engages in basketball however this is not well developed, there is a national league played by college students and a few high school students. Uganda hosted and won a regional tournament in 2006 other nations that participated were Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Growing in populariy in the country is rugby, the National team has been growing stronger as evidenced by additional frequent victories and close games against African powerhouses like Namibia and Morocco.


The Cuisine of Uganda consists of traditional cooking with English, Arab and Asian (particularly Indian) influences. Like the cuisines of most nations, it varies in complexity, from the majority basic, a starchy filler with a sauce of beans or meat, to several-course meals served in upper-class homes and high-end restaurants.

Major dishes are usually centred on a sauce or stew of groundnuts, beans or meat. The starch traditionally comes from ugali (maize meal) or matoke (boiled and mashed green banana), in the South, or an ugali made from pear millet in the North. Cassava, yam and African sweet potato are as well eaten; the additional affluent include white (often called "Irish") potato and rice in their diets. Soybean was promoted as a healthy food staple in the 1970s and this is as well used, particularly for breakfast. Chapati, an Asian flatbread, is as well part of Ugandan cuisine.

Chicken, fish (usually fresh, but there is as well a dried variety, reconstituted for stewing), beef, goat and mutton are all commonly eaten, although part the rural poor there would have to be a good reason for slaughtering a large animal such as a goat or a cow and nyama, (Swahili word for "meat") would not be eaten each day.

Various leafy greens are grown in Uganda. These may be boiled in the stews, or served as side dishes in fancier homes. Amaranth (dodo), nakati, and borr are examples of regional greens.

Ugali is cooked up into a thick porridge for breakfast. For major means, white flour is added to the saucepan and stirred into the ugali until the consistency is firm. It is again turned out onto a serving plate and cut into individual slices (or served onto individual plates in the kitchen).


Uganda is ethnologically diverse, with at least forty languages in usage. Luganda is the majority common language. English is the official language of Uganda, even though only a relatively small proportion of the people speaks it. Access to economic and political power is almost impossible without having mastered that language. The East African lingua franca Swahili is relatively widespread as a trade language and was made an official national language of Uganda in September 2005. Luganda, a language widespread in central Uganda, has been the official vernacular language in education for central Uganda for a long time.