Friday, 12 December 2008

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).