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Uganda - Culture

Uganda Culture

Uganda's population is made up of a complex and diverse range of tribes. 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 Buganda and several other tribes. In the north live the Lango and the Acholi, who speak Nilotic languages. To the east are the Teso and Karamojong, who are related to the Maasai and who also speak Nilotic languages. Pygmies live in the forests of the west.

Each tribe has its musical history; songs are passed down from generation to generation. Ndigindi (lyre), entongoli (harp), amadinda (xylophone) and lukeme (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.

While about two-thirds of the population is Christian, the remaining third still practises animism or follows Islam. There were sizeable numbers of Sikhs and Hindus in the country until Asians were expelled in 1972, although many are now returning following an invitation from the president.

For the most part, Ugandan cuisine consists of a stodge filler with beans or a meat sauce. Main dishes are usually centred on beef, goat or mutton and the starch comes from ugali, or maize meal. Ugali is cooked up into a thick porridge until it sets hard. It's then served up in flat bricks. If that doesn't sound appealing, the country's tropical climate contributes to a healthy choice of fruits. Something you don't come across very often but which makes an excellent snack meal is mkate mayai (bread eggs). Originally an Arab dish, it's wheat dough spread into a thin pancake, filled with minced meat and raw egg, and then folded into a neat parcel and fried on a hotplate. Beer is probably the most widely available commodity across Uganda. Pombe is a locally made fermented banana beer and waragi the local millet-based alcohol. Both can knock you around and give you a mean hangover.

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