Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Lugbara Cookery (Nyaka A'diza) - Gastronomic Epicure

Enyasa, Beans and [I]jiri Bi plus Ala (Ground Nut Paste)

Are you feeling hungry like Oliver Twist? Just 'Ask for More', but not for Pepsi (Please forgive me, I love the cola too!) What I'm advertising is something older than Diet Pepsi. Tell the cook, "Please Sir, I want some more (Glorious Lugbara Food)!"

(Au Pa and 'Dri - Chicken Leg and Head)

Okay, even males have culinary skills (they can prepare eggs) but what I'm trying to find out is whether you have tasted traditional Lugbara culinary: tasty, original and simple with the ancestral touch of masterful cookery. Isn't Mum the Best Cook on Earth?

Food in Lugbara is called 'Nyaka' or 'Enya'. You can find Recipes in Arua restaurants or traditional Kampala joints like those around Arua Park (Johnstone Street). Here is a description of some menus. Traditionally, eating is done using hands but with Colonialism and Trade came Spoons (plus other Cutlery). In the 21st Century, you can as well use Chopsticks if you wish...

1.Loperete (Ajira) - Osu ba njo (Beans with the skin removed [Kaiko is the Terego dialect for Beans] ) , baba alenia Funyo/ Ala ci (mixed with Ground nut paste), azi ni Mundrokole (plus greens). Oc(h)a oc(h)a/ Oc(h)akuc(h)a is a kind of sauce prepared with beans aand paste.

2.Anyoya (Alur for dry maize and beans. Sumptuous for breakfast with Pitch Black Tea) Angarawa or Angaraba [Terego dialect] (Skinless Beans, slightly fried or cooked, and mixed with G-nut paste, i.e. njo'ed and funyo'ed). The Kikuyu in Kenya call it "Githeri" and a story is told of one very traditional elder who was invited for a function and after examining the other dishes all round in the buffet, he was glad to find Githeri and filled his plate. You cannot blame him for his taste even if he went overboard. Osu/ Kaka Adiza – Anyoya not soft.

3.Kila Kila (Sauce) - Osu banjo ku (Beans with the skin on), Kaiko Burusu (Peas), Mundrokole ba (Greens added), kanikusi Funyo(or G-nut paste); Osu ni aa olungulungu [Beans not crushed]; Angunduru is a kind of sauce prepared from beans and sauce.

4.Iribi (Greens) like Osubi (Bean leaves that in Lugbara-Italian are called 'Osubiano', ask Radio Pacis's Father Tonino),

Mundrokolo or Mundrokole (Pictured left), Agobi (Pumpkin leaves), Djiribi, Okaka bi, Creeping Alukutubi, Malakwang (popular greens), Biringanya (Eggplant), Nyanya (Tomatoes), Ntula (Luganda for green berries), Awu Bi, Banda Bi (Cassava leaves), Kili wiri, Pala Bi, Jambala (Beans and Greens without G-nut paste), Murukulu (Bamia dani funyo kudani [Okra with G-nut stew]), Alutukubi, Bamia, Jupa, Nakati, Atrebi-Okaka Bi, Orukwa (A certain kind of Dodo greens), Osu nyirikia bi [Leaves]

5.Drika (Mushrooms). Maru are big white mushrooms that grow near anthills...

6.Pandu or Banda Bi (Cassava leaves )... Delicious when mixed with dry fish (Ibi) or minced meat (Eza)

7.Lumboo, a tuber that grows long is now extinct. When it is skinned, it becomes white and very sweet. Very rare tuber, used to be eaten long time ago. Other food crops like sweet potatoes took over and so Lumboo was abandoned...

8.Obangulu (Lugbara Pizza): Onya (White Ants) from Otoko (Anthill) are trapped at Night after rain falls during the Ant Migration Season. A Lamp (Tala) or other Light Source like Galaka (Dry Grass) which is lit, is used to draw them to a hole dug near their anthill. In Maracha, Palm Tree Leaves (Nde nde) are used to cover the Hole where the edible Ants have fallen. After collecting in a container, they are steamed and put to dry. Sieving of captured Insects is done to remove Wings (Biko) and taken to the Market. For the remaining ants at home, Stones (Oni) are picked out and Ants cooked with Salt (Ai) before being eaten straight away or dried in the Sun (Etu) for future consumption. Obangulu (Lugbara Pizza) is made by pounding wingless Onya, adding salt and cooking in leaves (like from banana plants). Alanda/ Amboroko (Lugbara Antcake): Made from small white ants and is like Obangulu. Trapping of ants is usually done during daytime (Morning or Evening). A flat grassless mass of soil, hard like an anthill, is called Amboroko. A hole is dug there, then mud mixed and dome placed on top of the hole. The wanted insects from underground gather in the raised mud while a song is sung, “Kuru, kuru, kuru!” plus Drum beaten. An opening is created in the mud to let the insects out and the drummer sings, “’Ba ki ilulua ilu, ma ilu ku!” [Translation: People are creating an opening, I’m not!”]. When these insects are scooped within the mud, they are pounded with wings still on till soft. Some people put them in leaves and boil, and then dry them until they harden. Otunyo (Yesterday's white ants are pressed into an Otaku pot . When it ferments/smells after two days, it is pressed with a ladle. Then, leaves are put on it in the pot. It can be added to food like Agobi. It is not put in beans or meat.) Periodical during evenings in the white ant season...

8.Waarla (Mundrokole without beans).

9.Anya idi (Anyu si [millet porridge with simsim paste])

10.Milk (Lesu) and Potato Porridge (Maaku idi)

11.Osu olunguolungu (Osubi azini Dodo si [With Dodo greens]), Kebbege (Cabbage came later)

12.Ajira (Skinless Beans with(out) G-nut sauce). Jambala (Greens without beans nor Ala)

13.Mutere (Sweet Potatoes or Cassava cut into smaller pieces, then dried in the sun for a number of days and later boiled or prepared otherwise). Itesots call it "Amukeke"...

14.Ofuta (or Ofutaku) is an ingredient produced by burning dried bean pods, banana peelings, etc and mixing the ash with water before sieveing to produce a brown liquid used to cook greens like Osubi. It maintains their green chlorophyll colour. 'Ai atipa' is got from particular plants. Women will have the whole day collecting various salty leaves even from the valley. Then they make them wiver in the sun for some time before burning them while they are dry. Magadi is got from water like at Kibiro on the Northern shores of Lake Albert; it probably got its name from the salty Lake Magadi in Tanzania.

15.Mengu idi – Mango juice prepared by cooking the mango, then as it is cooling you squeeze the juice and drink with sugar...

(Photo of "Enyasa, Beans and Greens" by Andama, the First Lugbara from Kabale while on tour in Muni)

16.Njarunjaru is greens and beans...

There are two main ways of preparing Greens: Boiling and Frying. The latter lusciously maintains the juicy taste in the leaves. Ask (my Lugbara - Kakwa cousin) Edwin, he will tell you that all you need to do is wash the greens, like Nakati - my favourite, in a small kitchen basin or saucepan, pour out the dirty water and fry the greens for a short time in oil that is flavoured with onions and green pepper (plus tomatoes if you wish), very sumptuous stuff. Do not add more water by the way, it may ruin the freshness! Also, add salt only after the greens have shrunk, that way you will be able to measure reasonably!

As for the first method, even if the sharp juicy taste is taken away by boiling, the Lugbara always find a mouthwatering way to sweeten their Green food. 'Ofutaku', 'Magadi' or 'A'itipa' can be added early to maintain the green colour of the leaves. Meanwhile, there are also sweeteners, for example Black Harmony, a popular LugbaRap en Riddim duo from Arua sing about Ala or Anyu (Groundnut Paste, also known as 'Odii' in Acholiland) in their song "Adiaa". The singing voice tells his woman named "Adiaa" to prepare for him 'Mutere' (Sliced and sun-dried Cassava or Potatoes) plus a side dish of Greens (either Atra bi, Awu bi, Pala bi, Ago bi or Dodo) and sweeten it with a little Ala and Ai [Salt].

Lillian Kelle, whose family is originally from Vurra (Western Arua), is a proud Lugbara living in Las Vegas, Nevada (USA). Although America is a melting pot of different cultures, 'LK' feels she cannot prepare Lugbara food like it is done in Arua but she tries. She says, "You will be surprised what different foods you can find here. The Chinese especially eat a lot of the same things we do. The Mexicans also. I have found Cassava, Entula, Guavas, raw Groundnuts, Millet (Anya) and so many things." Below are photos of some of those similar foods, i.e. Greens (Most likely Chinese Cabbage), Fried Plantains (A'bua), Fried Fish (Ibi), Chicken Feet en Cassava (Gbanda).

I guess in New Zealand the story is the same as an old time best friend informed me.

17. Animal Parts which are soft for instance liver and hump are given to Elders. They have reached a stage where they cannot eat hard things but they should be kept comfortable. Experienced and skilful youth weigh pieces of meat (Eza) with both hands until they are equal and start distributing during slaughter. Putuku (also called Mulokoni) is the leg of a Cow, also a celebrated delicacy.

18. Maracha Bread (Mukati) is one of the Most Amazing Foods in Lugbara Cookery. Made entirely from maize, it's eaten during tea time which means at any time 'cause ''Anytime is Tea-time''. The amazing thing about it is that maize grains are ground in a mortar before being tied in a leaf like for a banana plant and boiled, something similar to 'Luwombo' (among the Baganda) but this time instead of chicken, pounded maize is boiled to form a block or oval shape. When ready, the mass is removed and enjoyed, with tea or coffee.
Ebe'de or Ibe'de is Tea without Sugar. The name was coined after the act of scooping tea from a saucepan or large container during a function, it could also mean "Self Service" since everyone was expected to scoop for themselves...

19. (Terego) Maize Milk : Young (raw) maize is pounded, juice squeezed out of it and boiled for drinking, not eaten whole like the Indians.

20. In Vurra - the Orchard of West Nile, Pumpkin (Ago) and Chicken (Au) is a special. You could add some Indian curry to spice it up.

21. After a meal, it is always advisable to take a little wine (alcohol) to speed up digestion plus keep your stomach in good condition. Kpete or Kwete is the name for Lugbara beer. Aku fi (yeast) is used to brew it. Just don't over-drink...

Friday, 12 December 2008

E'yo Obeza (Lugbara Proverbs)

Here is a piece of Lugbara Wisdom that has been passed down to several generations since time immemorial through stories, parables, idioms and simple phrases. Special thanks go to my parents (James and Elizabeth), uncles, aunties and other individuals who generously shared their knowledge...

1.Ebu (Aco) si aza oye ku (LITERALLY TRANSLATED: 'Using the hoe is not madness for nothing'. When you cultivate, you harvest something. So whatever you do, expect a benefit)

2.Ba je obuka mva alea si ku (You cannot buy a baby strap for an unborn baby. Similar to the English proverb: Don't count your chicks before they hatch)

3.Ba yori ni ba je oku ku (You cannot marry for someone who is absent or get something that is for someone who is not there)

4.Odidia nya puro ibi (LITERALLY TRANSLATED WORD FOR WORD: Newness ate raw grasshoppers ie A stranger or somebody new in a place can be made to do anything.)

5.Ba azini ma afasi ba ze oli oli (If you rely on another man's things, you won't enjoy fully nor have peace of mind)

6.Afa dipi ma drikulu (The owner has the say. He decides on his property, how to use it or what to do with it. LITERALLY TRANSLATED: The owner has a head that is big )

7.Aparaka ma tibi agobi / Eka eyo du aparakasi, misu afazi ku (Unseriousness will make you feed on pumpkin leaves and miss out on the good things)

8.Awoko so ti andre (Anger pierced the cow's tongue. Don't get angry or else you will get hurt!)

9.Okuku dra drinjasi (Shyness killed the tortoise)

10.Ya popo nje fa (Go Slow, shaking will get things done wrongly...)/ Apopo nje fa / Pa pa nje fa (You may be in a hurry and still get plans or wishes aborted)

11.Monio ndu mbili oli ti aroni (If you spoil a poor thing or an unhealthy bull, you may pay with something better like a cow)/ Munio ndunbili nya ti kari (‘Ndunbili’ means small bum…A small bull is equal to a heifer. If you borrow a small bull, someone will demand a heifer which is not the case. The lesson here is that if you keep borrowing, someone will ask for something bigger in return...)

12.Omba draa abei mandria mva dri (If you postpone doing things, you might not do them)

13.Izo anji inguleni i angu vo re (If girls are found and married, they don't stay; they are taken but prepare a way for their relatives to go to a new place). Girls are like slashers and can go anywhere. It’s not like digging...

14.Ajobe odru funi (Listen to the correction you are given. Ajobe, an individual was warned about something but did not listen, so a buffalo [which is called Odru in Lugbara] killed him.)/ And(r)era ni odrufu ra (Someone warns you that there is a buffalo coming but you claim to have seen it. Before you can run, it will reach you and kill you)

15.Eri mite era liri etia (It is waiting for you under the granary.If you don't listen now, you will meet issues later on in future. So listen to advice)

16.Eringa mini iti nguku aja le di (You wait and see, what will affect you is still coming round the hill...Even if you are not affected now, thwe bad things are still on the way. [The other side of the hill is still coming for you] Iti is Mt. Wati in the Tara dialect)

17.(Also at Proverb 12) Omba draa abe i mandria mva dri (Ombadraa was going for a cultural war and he slaughtered a goat before going but did not eat it. In stead, he said the head of the goat should remain so that he can eat it when he returns. However, Ombadraa was killed in the cultural war)

18.Ovaa gu vile Ovaa go dri dra dri (Allow the Waterbuck to continue returning to its place and it will meet its death; If you find something bad somewhere, don't go back because you might meet your death there)

19. Nyatu li odji (Too much eating caused death of a baboon. Odji was sitted on a tree branch and ants were flying in circles. He picked ants one by one but greed in his mind made him jump to catch the whole circle and he fell...This teaches that we should do everything sparingly)

20. Andji ma angu vile

21. Odru vile ri mandua ari wiri (The last buffalo will suffer; it will be speared to death. Lesson here is that we should do things with people, don’t be alone)

22. Afa rapi dri idapikuri lu ‘i eni (Create problems with family and you will find yourself coming back to them)

23. “Embeleke ka i'agi ma iti ne, eri gu sibe inve. Eri idri ku di’a, eri igi dri ne...” (Translation: “When a baboon or monkey sees its friend’s behind, it laughs with white teeth showing. Yet, it leaves its own behind here and looks at that of its friend…”). This piece of wisdom was borrowed from CHANDIRU LEILA’s popular song “Embeleke” where she adds in Lugbara, “Someone works and you mock his work; even if he cleans toilets, he eats from that. There are those who work in offices but live in grass-thatched houses; that’s their style. Someone’s business may be growing but it is probably because he has just taken a loan. Others survive on ARVs (Anti-Retro Virals). Wait for your turn. Chandiru gave the leeway that if you are called a ‘muyaye’ (rascal, thug), you can call the mocker an ‘embeleke’. If someone calls you a prostitute or AIDS victim, you can call your accuser an ‘embeleke’…

24. Ika ndri ki ofi drio ku, iki iriaga(ga)/ obu ci (If you don't lead the goats to their shelter early, they will eat worms [on the grass they chew at dusk])

25. Pati ifi ideni re ku (The seed of a tree doesn't fall very far). A parent's behaviour can be reflected in his or her children.

26. Eyo ni mi te angu ka owubo (Issues are waiting for you when the day breaks) or E'yo ni imu abiri le, iere, erimiteria (Problems come like hunger, slowly, they are waiting for you).

27.Odru fu anira ni te (The buffalo killed the man who thought he knew it all).

28. Obibiasi etto ma jo ve ra (Because of Copying, the rabbit's house got burnt).

Other Teachings

1.Don't sit in the road or else your mother will die.

2.Don't sit on the Atuluku (fireplace) or else you will remain short. (Sometimes, it may be hot and burn you)

3.When you eat meat or drink milk, don't let them remain around your mouth so that they don't smell (Clean yourself so that you don't become allergic)

4.Don't sing while eating at the table, you may choke

5.Don't wear the Itisi (Coiled cloth or other material on which a pot is put while being carried on the head) around your foot or hand. In other words, don't play with it so that it doesn't get spoilt or stuck on your hand.

6.If you escort a visitor for a long distance from your home, he may take long to re-visit you.

Introducing the Leopard People...

Open your mind and rediscover the real Lugbara World ...modern, flamboyant, mysterious and truly African.

The Lugbara are the largest ethnic group in West Nile. They came from Rajaf in Juba Region or Baar in Bari Sudan and inhabited the District of Arua in Uganda occupying the counties of Ayivu, Vurra, Maracha, Terego and Aringa. The Lugbara also inhabited the District of Aru in Zaire (presently Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC]) covering counties of Nyio, Ochoo, Luu, Zaki and Adranga. In Nebbi District, there are Lugbara settlements in Kango Division of Okoro County. In some areas, they live side by side with the Alur and Kebu (Ndu-Alube)

The Lugbara language belongs to the Moru-Madi group of the Eastern Sudanic languages. It has several dialectical variations such as the Andrale'ba / Terego,Aringa and Madi-vi (Okolo). The protestant Bible was at first written in the dialect of Vurra at Ovisoni. However today, the dialect of Pajulu around Arua Town is considered as the standard Lugbara for all purposes. It is in harmony with the dialect for general use in Aru District.

Political Setup

The political set up of the Lugbara was segmentary. The Most Important Figure was the chief called Ozoo-Opi (King of the Rain). He sometimes had both political and rainmaking powers. But in some cases, the Ozoo-Opi did not possess rainmaking powers. In such an event, another individual was entrusted these powers. Such was called Ozoo-ei. The Ozoo-Opi was the chief custodian of the clan's property. In any case, harvesting could (not) be done without the blessing of the Opi. It was his duty to offer new harvests to the gods and he had to taste the produce before before the producers could taste them. In the event of a clan ceremonial feast, he officially opened it by starting to eat before anybody else. He was given the most delicious meat which always included a piece of liver. The Opi rarely offered sacrifices to the ancestors though their powere to lead was believed to be derived from the ancestors. They however had the duty of offering sacrifices to the god of the clan. Custom demanded that an Opi should be able to recount the adi during funeral rites, serious illness and major social gatherings like marriage ceremonies. The prospective Opi learnt the adi by conversation. The actual practice of recounting the adi was solemn. The Opi would stand up and narrate the history of the clan to stress their oneness. Then he would proceed to recount the background of the occassion for which the adi was being recounted . He would symbolically move forward and backwards while shooting an arrow upwards at each sop.
If he happened to forget a point, or get mixed up during the process, it was normal and acceptable for another elder to correct him. Usually the adi would be followed by the settlement of the issue at hand.

In 2006, the administrative set up in Arua, the Lugbara's largest settlement, had 7 counties namely Ayivu, Maracha, Terego, Koboko, Vurra, Madi Okollo and Arua Municipality making it Uganda's Second Largest District after Mbarara. Arua had 36 Subcounties (including Ludara, Midia, Obule, Nyadri, Olabe, Yivu, Oluvu, Kijomoro, Adumi, Avoi, Pajulu, Oluko, Vurra, Ajia, Arivu, Logiri, Rigbo, Ogoko, Okollo, Offaka, Omugo, Udupi, Ali-Vu, Bileafe, etc) and 2026 villages.

Succession of an Opi

It was a peaceful affair. The date of succession was a very honorable occasion and irt was attended by all notables of the clan. This occasion was punctuated with a lot of beer and food. Amidst all this, the most senior Opi within the lineage presented the new Opi with an anderiku (a chiefly stool which was sometimes simply referred to as Opi Agua). After the new Opi had sat on the stool, he was presented with the rest of the chiefly regalia namely a spear, a bow, arrows and a bracelet. Then a congregation of lineage chiefs would formally brief the new Opi on the qualities and rules of conduct which would be expected of him as a leader and alert him to the heavy responsibility he would have to shoulder.

Judicial System

Any affairs which affected the clan were handled by the lineage and clan heads. Normally minor offences would be settled by the lineage heads but serious ones required the clean heads eg killing a relative, adultery, unpaid loans and more serious forms of wizardry, witchcraft and sorcery. The lineage court comprised all the family heads and it was presided over by the lineage head. The clan court was a higher court comprising all the lineage heads who often co-opted other notables and some wealthy men if they deemed it appropriate. Court proceeding usually took place under a big tree in the compound and trials were conducted in privacy. As a matter of fact, women and children were not allowed to linger around the area unless they were called upon as witnesses. In an intra-clan affair, a murder was fined a bull. The murder of a woman was fined a cow. In cases involving adultery, it was fashionable to give a bull to the affected husband. Incest was also abhorred and in case it took place, the male relative of the girl was fined a sheep which was slaughtered and eaten by the family to cleanse the sin. Inter-clan cases were more serious than intra clan cases. An inter-clan adultery case for instance was serious enough to require capital punishment. If caught red handed, the man would be killed or if lucky his sexual organs would be maimed. In fornication, the boy would be held as ransom until he agreed to marry the girl or paid an appropriate fine. Failure to comply would also lead to maiming of his organs. Unsettled loans would also lead to war between clans.

Burial (Dra)

The burial of a chief differed considerably from that of ordinary men. After the announcement of a chief's death, no one was allowed to wail because it was feared that the corpse might turn into a lion or a leopard and attack the people. Therefore, prior to the chief's burial, mourners would weep quietly. A bull was slaughtered for the mourners and its hide was used to wrap the corpse. The burial was in the middle of the night and the body would be placed in the grave with the head pointed northwards towards Mt. Liru where the Lugbara believed they originated. After burial, a sorrowful song would be sung and mourners wailed plus danced. A bark cloth tree (laru) would be planted on the grave. Food would be served during part of the mourning. The parternal relatives of the late Opi (chief) would give avuti (death duty in the form of a bull) to the chief's maternal relatives. The burial procedure for ordinary people was similar to that for a chief except that in the event of the death of an ordinary person, mourners were allowed to wail immediately after the death without fear that the corpse may turn into a lion or leopard. Besides the laru was not usually planted on the grave. At all burials, the adi (testimonies or traditional history) of the deceased was recounted and funeral dances were compulsory. The women used to put ashes and mud on the head as a sign of mourning at the funeral ceremonies.

Lugbara Family

Every married man has authority over his wives and children. Even when his sons got married, he still had power over them and their children. The Lugbara had a clientage system called Amadingo whereby the poor or destitute would be looked after by the wealthy. Such people were treated as family members and could be given land if they desired to stay. Bridewealth would even be paid for them by their hosts if they wished to marry.

If a kid was sent to call someone in the neighbourhood for a meal, the kid would sit next to that person. If it was an old man, he picked up the walking stick and walked away. The kid didn't have to talk. This guy would have to follow him if he wanted to get back his cane.

If you had a problem, you could talk it out with your brother, and then it would work out. Early Lugbara homes had a lot of respect unlike today. Guys don't even greet each other nowadays.


When a child was born, the acting midwife was required to cut a boy's umbilical cord in 4 strokes. If the baby was a girl, the cord was cut in 3 strokes symbolising the numbers for men and women in Lugbara tradition. After birth, the mother stayed in confinement for 3 or 4 days depending on the child's sex. Besides she was required not to eat certain foods and could only receive a few visitors. Following this would be festivities that ended with the naming of the child after a memorable experience.


During puberty, both girls and boys underwent two important rituals of tribal identification. These were face tatooing and the extraction of six frontal teeth from the lower jaw. It was intended both as a way of decoration or initiation into adulthood. They were painful but compulsory; meant for beauty especially for women.

A young male is first given a broom. He has to fetch water, cultivate the farm, and mix them with any other business randomly. If he is wise, he plants tomatoes and onions.

A young female is first taught how to pick rubbish and firewood, then fetch water, light fire, put water to heat, start cooking and look for mundrokole (greens) ofuta koko (without the cooking solution made from ashes from banana peelings). If it is tasty, she will go on cooking. She also must learn how to bathe her youngsters.

A good child (Nva ala or Nva Onyiru) does these things by his or her own initiative (Ima Drisi) and listens to what the elders say.

Eyo Beza (Ika nje lokirisi) - Jokey talk: You pretend or he says you don't know, but you have seen

Agata gazu aka (Ile fu diamba [Eyo nji be]) - Arguing you want to grow up with bad manners

Culturally, we must be 'born again' and revive our traditional songs, riddles, folk tales, proverbs, musical instruments, oral literature and other artistic values. In pre-colonial times, the Lugbara were known as Madi. Under colonialism, they were given the strange name of 'Lugbara' by Arabs who came to their land more than a century ago. Colonial powers further divided them into Belgian and British areas of influence. These vicissitudes have been detrimental to our identity and heritage. However with the formation of the Lugbara Literature Association (LULA) on Saturday 12 November 1994 at Arua, there was a ray of hope that something will be achieved for the benefit of our prosterity. (Data for this website started to be collected 10 years after LULA's formation by two Dramani brothers Vyo and Aiko). At the time of its formation, the first Chairman of the association Mr. Jason Avutia said, "Lugbaras are intelligent, energetic and far sighted but what is surprising about them is that they often don't undertake a task and complete it. They often develop jealousy, envy and an 'I don't care' attitude. Most of the Lugbara will join hands to do a task expecting to eat. Where 'eating' is difficult to come by, they will withdraw and care less." Other pioneers of LULA were Nahor Oyaa Awua (Coordinator) and Abeti S. Ledra (Educationist with a Bachelor in Education and Masters in Education [Makerere University Kampala]).

Historically, the Lugbara have been known to be hard workers fit for military life, plantation labour and tobacco growing (Arua alone produces over 50 percent of Uganda's tobacco). Even a British missionary Archdeacon Vollor (Bwana Vollor who has a road named after him in Mvara residential village) of the African Inland Mission said in praise of the Lugbara that "Mungu le Lugbara ambo" (God likes the Lugbara very much).

Lugbara Marriage (Oku 'Biza)

(A Lugbara couple during their memorable Wedding at St. Andrews Church Makerere in 1999. A different photo appeared in the Wedding Page of The New Vision on 1st November 2000)

"Oku Biza" literally translated means 'the Ceremony of Catching a Woman' though not like the Karimojong (whose marriage culture involves courtship rape). Modern Lugbara are peaceful and sanctify their relationships in churches or mosques. For the non Lugbara males interested in the Chandirus, Ayikorus and Amagurus of this world, be informed that Bride Price may be a priority in some families. Sometimes, you may actually have to pay at least a cow for each kid your Lugbara partner conceives. In the very distant past, at a time when tribal warfare characterised Lugbara Society, courtship is said to have been impossible. In those days, parents used to arrange marriages for their children. Marriage reservations could be made by the parents even when children were of tender age. When warfare subsided considerably, courtship became possible. The boy's father would transfer bridewealth to the girl's home and thereafter, the couple was customarily married. Divorce was very rare in deed. It could only occur if the woman failed to have children or she was found in possession of poisonous charms or any other substance that could be used to kill people.

During the 1960s, John Middleton wrote extensively about "The Lugbara of Uganda". In the Chapter on 'Marriage and Exogamy', Middleton wrote, "Marriage in Lugbara was marked by the transfer of bridewealth from the minimal lineage of the bridegroom to that of the bride. By the rules of exogamy that regulated the choice of a wife, a man might not marry a woman of his own clan. Nor might he marry into the major lineage of his mother, this prohibition was inherited for three generations. The range of permitted marriage was not the same as that of permitted sexual relations ... The word for 'to marry' is 'je', the same word used to mean 'buy', 'exchange' or 'barter'. It shouldn't be translated as 'to buy' in this context for the simple reason that this translation refers only to the modern economic activity of purchase with money which was not traditional ... There were then about seven head of cattle which represented the procreative power of the woman. The 'cattle' might in fact be goats and even money, bicycles and other goods were known to be transferred instead although this was unusual and thought improper ... Arrows were also transferred. They were a form of currency for use in certain situations of which this was one. Several hundred arrows were collected from both the father's and mother's kin of the bridegroom and handed over to the bride's father who in turn distributed them among her kin. The transfer of arrows marked the establishment of the ties of affinity between the two lineages. Finally, there were gifts of beer given to the girl's mother to recompense her for the loss of her daughter, to heal her grief and also to enable her to get a substitute for a few days to help in the home ..."

There is so much he wrote I should not copy here for rights infringement reasons. Otherwise, you can buy the whole book and read.

Handicraft and Property

FILE PHOTO below shows: Pot (Invu), Mat leaning against pot(Mukeka), Colourful Nubian Kota on top of a Kibo. In the centre is a Kobi. In front of it is a small Lugbara Kota, a finger of Sorghum (Ondu), small Drum (Ari) and Broom (Yofe). On the left side is a grinding stone and a small basket (Kibo) leaning against the mat. On top of the mat in the foreground is a Lugbara Koyia, Saucepan containing millet (Anya) and a bow. The other bow with arrows attached is standing upright.

Women produced various pots and baskets. The most common were Ivua (food basket), Leuta (food cover), Kubi (sauce pot), and Ajiko (Pot for preparing millet flour). The Lugbara also did some iron smelting and the ondoo (clever ones) made iron implements for the rest of the population. Among the Lugbara, there was also another ethnic group known as Okebu which specialised in iron smelting.

Evu (Pronounced Ehh Vu) are all made from sorghum shoots or stems and used for gathering harvests

Evua and Kobia are used as plates or for cooking food. Walaka is used for eating

Bizua is for carrying bean and millet seedlings when sowing. A big one is called Ovua.

Sekua (a three sided Gobea) is used for eating nuts or food

Before metallic saucepans were imported from India and other places, food utensils were made from mud. Drinking cups were made from Egaa (Pronounced as Ehh Gah) cut from a plant called Ireje which grows like a gourd. After it ferments in the soil, it is split into two. Ega Bere (calabash) is used for alcohol.

The Otaku pot is used primarily for cooking food. An Otakwa pot with a wider opening is used for eating. The biggest Lugbara pot Obi (pronounced Oh Bee) is for alcohol. According to Sara Avumaru (Andrwa), an auntie from Aliba Village in Ayivu county, fermented maize or millet was dried and then cooked to brew alcohol.

Ogea is used for harvests. Zukulu is for storing and drinking milk.

Luku (or Luru), is used for carrying kids...Cow vaseline (Odu) Nyure was smeared on the baby. It was mixed with Kumra (Plant Oil) and cooked before being applied. The Baka (Rope end) in the Luku was smeared with Eraka, the red soil that gets caught on your foot when you step into a pond or at the edge of a river, so that the baby looks nice.

Iyi Atrebi never grows on dry land. Leaves blossom in water. The Lugbara were naked in the past. Women wore leaves, but the waistband was made with hides. Walls on houses were constructed with wet mud or pati. Bolo Bara (a type of wood) was tied to other pieces of its kind using grass. The door was called Tiko. Some Lugbara would sleep on the soily floor in the house, but the very inventive ones wove reeds (Ozu) to make a bed (Kitanda).

There are no totems (holy symbols) among the Lugbara but there are taboos on eating certain foods such as mushrooms (Drika) and guinea fowls (Ope). The taboos refer to legends that used to explain why certain clans broke away after quarelling over food. Traditionally, the Lugbara put 'Oce', rainbow shaped tatoos (permanent scars or tribal marks) on the face. For the women alone, marks were made around the navel. Both sexes used to remove six of the lower teeth (incisors). A British administrator Major Stigand who came from Sudan and visited the Lugbara country in 1911 observed that practically all the Lugbara had drills in both lips and wore in them one or more brass rings. A number of holes were also drilled around the edge of the ear and in these a number of small brass rings looking like a chain were affixed. Red earth (Eraka) was mixed with oil or fat and commonly used for smearing the body, giving the skin a reddish look. Unlike the Lendu, the Lugbara did not practice circumcision as part of their custom.

Property Ownership

Land was categorised into virgin, fallow and cultivated land. All land within a clan was communal.

Cattle were said to belong to the whole clan and the Opi in particular as chief custodian. The wealthy people Barukuza had a lot of food, cattle and wives. For this reason, they wielded power next to the Opi. A married woman could not claim independent ownership of property. A woman could only control food. Here she was free and could deliberately starve her husband. He would not put up a fight. Children like women could not own property as there was no need for the lineage or clan heads (Opi) to take over.

Lugbara Cultural Adrenaline

When a society is strong and proud of its culture, it is not easy for an individual to convert to another culture. The sense of group identity and solidarity tends to weld the community together as a coherent whole. Lugbara Culture is a set of enduring behaviours, values, ideas, traditions and attitudes that are accepted by a homogenous group of Lugbara people and transmitted from one generation to the next.

While others speak Japanese, let's speak Lugbara and keep it local. Cultural alienation continues up to today through radio, print, TV and video, typical symbols of neo-imperialism. Youths have abandoned traditional morals and are behaving like wild animals. They love the use of foreign languages while downgrading their vernacular or mixing it with unnnecessary foreign phrases. They admire foreign music to the exclusion of local music. The women (Amvusia) bleach their skin, paint the lips and fingers while wearing trousers. They even go as far as refusing their cultural identity and heritage.

Culture can be defined as the total commonly shared way of life in any society. Activities are simply elements within the totality of culture; They constitute subcultures which include shared customs, language, dress, games, food, fighting techniques, technology and architecture. Culture is an expression of the diversity in life and revolves around learned behaviours as well as beliefs, attitudes, values and ideals that characterise society. It is a celebration of people's way of life. Without culture, we would not have myths, taboos, legends, superstitions and of course music. The Lugbara People are the Largest Ethnic group in West Nile. They came from Rajaf in the Juba Region or Baar in Bari Sudan and their diaspora spreads into Kampala, Busoga, Bunyoro, DR Congo, United Kingdom and the States. Music is a very binding characteristic of the Lugbara culture and their folk songs are being fused with modern styles and instruments to produce a breed of characteristic (Lugbara) music we love to call Ongo Music. This kind of music championed by artistes such as J Hope Gospel Band, Leku Culture of the 'Angaika' fame, Moses "Razor" Ezale who sang the 'Tereza' hit about a heart-breaking love experience, the thematically talented Betty Atiku and Gladys Ayakaka (based in the United Kingdom), deejay Ronnie (inspirational Producer at Arua One FM), New Breed Deejays, Bada Culture and Nyakuta (who died in May 2007) is slowly becoming today's mainstream and universal Symbol of Lugbara Culture.