In The Beginning: Banyoro, Batooro, Banyankole

The story of the beginning is similar in the kingdoms of Bunyoro, Toro and Ankole. This is because they were once united under one kingdom:Bunyoro Kitara and just split later to form smaller denominations of the once mighty and epansive Kitara. Legend might defer a little between each tribe but below is the general myth of the story of creation carried by these tribes.

In the beginning, Ruhanga, the creator lived in space with his brother Nkya. Nkya who was younger and restless complained he was bored with everything being so normal and mundane. Ruhanga created heaven and earth for his brother. He threw a stone in the air and it became the sun. Nkya was happy with this but soon started to complain again about the constant sun and no shade. Ruhanga moved the sun to the West and covered it with a cloud. He then threw another stone in the air and created the moon. He ordered Nkya to sleep and created the cock to crow to wake Nkya up when night had passed. He also created grasses and trees for more shade. He then ordered Nkya to stay on Earth while he returned to attend to matters in Heaven.

In heaven Ruhanga realized his hands were dirty and washed his hands which proceeded to pour down to Earth as rain. Nkya got drenched and complained to Ruhanga. He told Nkya to break off branches cut the grass and make shelter but Nkya had no tools. Ruhanga got a rock and threw it to the ground and it broke to make a knife, an axe and a hammer. Nkya went ahead to make a hut.

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Beloved Cow Ruhanga gave to Nkya to kill his boredom on earth

He soon got bored again and demanded for something to look at. Ruhanga then created flowers, shrubs, goats and sheep. He also created cattle which pleased Nkya immensely. He made a bowl and showed Nkya how to milk the cows. He also created a creeper that provided more food for Nkya. This time Nkya has so many things to occupy him in the new world and he was impressed. He enjoyed his time on earth but tending to everything was a lot of work. Ruhanga gave him a son who Nkya called Kantu.

In time the work was still a bit hectic for Nkya and Kantu, so Ruhanga gave him 3 other sons.  There was confusion because all of them were called Kantu. So Ruhanga devised means to test Nkya’s sons and name them according to how they performed. For the first test, Nkya hid three items at a junction on a path far from home. He put a basket of sweet potatoes, strips of ox hide and the head of the ox. He then sent his sons on the same path.

On reaching the junction, the eldest son saw the basket of potatoes and immediately bullied his brothers and ate the food alone. The second born saw the stripes of hide and thought they would be important for tying the cows when milking. The youngest one didn’t want to be left out so he carried the ox-head back home. When Nkya saw them return he gathered them and asked them what had happened. He was so angry at the first borne for eating all the food and not sharing with his brothers. He made arrangements for the second test.

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The elder brother rushed for the sweet potatoes and refused to share with his brothers

At night, he gave them pots of milk and ordered them to carry them through the night and not to spill any of it. They then retired for the night. The youngest boy fell asleep first and spilled all his milk. He woke up to the horror of the situation and pleaded with his brothers to help him. They each contributed a bit of their milk and the young boy filled his pot again. This time he stayed awake since he had rested enough and was alert.

Towards the morning, the older brother couldn’t hold back the sleep and dozed of and spilled most of his milk. He pleaded with his brothers to help him too but since they had already shared with the younger brother, it was not enough to fill a pot and his brothers refused to give him more milk. Their father awoke and went to check on the boys.

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A girl carrying a traditional milk pot, similar to those the boys were given for their test

He was so pleased with the youngest brother that he had managed to stay awake all night and present to him his pot of milk. The other brothers were filled with jealousy and told their father that he had spilled his milk first and they had shared some of theirs to help him refill his pot. Nkya was impressed how the youngest son had managed to convince his brothers to share the milk despite the repercussions. He recalled the way the young boy had carried back the heavy ox-head from their earlier journey, despite not knowing what he would use it for. He immediately named him Kakama and gave him authority to rule over his brothers and everything on earth.

For the second born, he recalled the love for cattle the boy had. He’s the one who had carried back the ox-hide stripes so he could tie the cow’s legs while he was milking. Nkya named him Kahima, the cattle herder and gave him authority over all the cattle. He was least pleased by the eldest son. First he had shown his greed by eating all the sweet potatoes, then had also spilled all his mikl and had nothing to present to his father in the morning. He called him Kairu and gave him the hardest responsibility of titling the land to provide food for his brothers and their descendants.

Till recent history this is how people of this region lived. The descendants of Kakama (Omukama) were royals who ruled over the people and inherited kingship from their great grandfather the smart and clever younger brother. The Bahima were cattle herders by lifestyle and descendants up-to date still have hundreds of herds of cattle which they pride in and treasure. The Bairu were agriculturalists and peasants who did all the hard labour of providing for the kingdoms. They traded alot of food for little pieces of meat and pots of milk provided by the Bahima.

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A descendant of Kahima proudly plies his trade.

Today this caste system is irrelevant but in some places deep in these regions people still refer to the system to assert their authority over others.

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African Stories of Creation: Baganda Part II

The story of the first man is sometimes confused with the story of the First King because they bear the same name, Kintu. However as the story of Kintu-the first man may be considered as a myth or legend, the story of the first king is widely believed to be true and occurred in a place called Naggalabi, Buddo.

Prior to the establishment of Kintu’s dynasty, the people who lived in the area that came to be known as Baganda had not been united into a single political entity. The people were organized into groups that had a common ancestry and constituted the most important unit in Buganda’s culture – the clan. Despite a common language and culture, the clans were loosely autonomous. The clan leaders (Abataka) ruled over their respective clans. There was no caste system and, all clans were equal. This did not preclude the fact that from time to time, the leader of one clan might be militarily stronger than the others. In such a case, the leader could establish hegemony or authority over the other clans for a time.

During that time a ruthless King called Bemba forcefully established his authority over these clans. Bemba was very unpopular because it was believed he was from a place called Kiziba (now in northern Tanzania) where the traditions there deferred from those of the Baganda and because he was a war monger and a cruel ruthless leader.  His palace was in Naggalabi, Buddo from where he organized raidings and grabbed territory from other clans forcing them to submit to him. This dismayed many of the Abataka and they planned to rebel and dispose off Bemba.

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Palace in Buddo where the Wicked King Bemba ruled Buganda .

One of the main ringleaders of the revolt was one Mukiibi of the Lugave clan. He was successful in rallying the clans against the evil king. On hearing word of the revolt planned against him, Bemba and his army hunted for Mukiibi in purpose of killing him before he led the revolt that would overthrow Bemba. Fortunately for Mukiibi many clan leaders were his allies and helped him escape to Ssese Islands on Lake Victoria. The Ssese islands were referred to as the islands of the gods. All the original clans, as well as those that came with Kintu, have important shrines in Ssese. For this reason, some have suggested that wherever Kintu came from, he must have come through Ssese at some point to get to Buganda. That is also why till 1900 Agreement the Ssese Islands were not recognized as a countyand the Kings never established their rule over them.

Ssese

 

A lady enjoying a bike ride on the Ssese Islands- Islands of the gods

While there, Mukiibi continued to seek ways to dispose of the wicked Bemba. This was when he got in touch with a young charismatic and strong man called Kato Kintu. Mukiibi told Kintu about the problems the people in the mainland were incurring due to the ruthless rule of Bemba. Kintu was very annoyed on hearing the great details of turmoil and insecurity in the region and vowed to overthrow Bemba.They organnized a huge army that they would use to overpower Bemba.  Together with Mukiibi  and the army,they were able to sneak back into the mainland and reorder the other Abataka and their loyal subjects growing the size of the rebels.

They then stormed Naggalabi and the Great War over Buganda occurred. Bemba could not manage the fitness and skill of the young energetic Kintu who defeated him and he was beheaded. When Bemba was defeated in battle, Kintu slept in Bemba’s house as a sign of his victory. Thus Kintu became the ‘ruler’ of Bemba’s house and his territory.

After the battle to oust Bemba, there was a general conclave of the clans and clan elders that was held at Magonga in Busujju country, on a hill called Nnono. This meeting was of great historic significance, for it was at this meeting that Buganda’s form of governance, and the relationship between the clans and the King was formally agreed upon. Although it was unwritten, this constituted an understanding between the clans that has been followed since then. In essence, it set down Buganda’s Constitution.

It is here that Kintu appointed his first government and awarded chieftaincies to his prominent followers. For this reason, Nnono is one of the most important cultural and historical sites in Buganda. It is also for this reason that when the people of Buganda talk about issues of deep cultural significance, they refer to them as being of or from Nnono (ebyennono).

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Kabaka Daudi Chwa is carried shoulder high during his coronation to signify defeat over the evil Bemba.

Unlike Bemba, Kintu was an intelligent young man who saw the advantages of uniting the clans instead of dividing them. Kintu cleverly allied himself with the leaders of the original clans and decided to share his authority with the other clan leaders. In organizing the kingdom, Kintu conceded to the clan leader’s authority over their respective clans in matters of culture. Kintu then became mediator between the clans in case of disputes, thus cementing his role as Ssaabataka, head of all the clans. This played a key role in getting him accepted as the king of Buganda.

Rumor has it that in a bid to solidify his kingship Kintu totally dropped the name Kato and even urged his wife to change her name to Nambi knowing the reverence and adornment the people of Buganda had over the first man Kintu. This is why sometimes people mistake the first King of Buganda to be the First man on earth.

Today Naggalabi, Buddo is of great cultural importance to the Kingdom and after the death of a king, the new king is taken here for traditional rituals including enactment of the Great War between Kintu and Bemba. The area has a big traditional thatched palace where the King also has to spend the night in an enactment of when Kintu took over Bemba’s house and slept in it. The caretakers of the site take tourists around the expansive hill and will gladly relay the story of how Kintu became the First King of Buganda!

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Kabaka Mutebi, the current King of Buganda during his coronation in 1993

We organize informative Cultural tours to Naggalabi, Buddo and Ssese Islands for those who would like to relive this part of our rich history!

African Stories of Creation: Baganda I

Long long ago, Kintu was the only person on Earth. He lived alone with his cow, which he tended lovingly. Ggulu, the creator of all things, lived up in heaven with his many children and other property. From time to time, Ggulu’s children would come down to earth to play. On one such occasion, Ggulu’s daughter Nambi and some of her brothers encountered Kintu who was with his cow in Buganda. Nambi was very fascinated by Kintu, and she felt pity for him because he was living alone. She resolved to marry him and stay with him despite the opposition from her brothers. But because of her brothers’ pleading, she decided to return to heaven with Kintu and ask for her father’s permission for the union.

Ggulu was not pleased that his daughter wanted to get married to a human being and live with him on Earth. But Nambi pleaded with her father until she persuaded him to bless the union. After Ggulu had decided to allow the marriage to proceed, he advised Kintu and Nambi to leave heaven secretly. He advised them to pack lightly, and that on no condition were they to return to heaven even if they forgot anything. This admonition was so that Walumbe, one of Nambi’s brothers, should not find out about the marriage until they had left, otherwise he would insist on going with them and bring them misery (Walumbe means that which causes sickness and death). Kintu was very pleased to have been given a wife, and together they followed Ggulu’s instructions. Among the few things that Nambi packed was her chicken.

The first man and woman in Buganda

The first man and woman in Buganda

They set out for earth early the next morning. But while they were descending, Nambi remembered that she had forgotten to bring the millet to feed her chicken. “I have left my chickens’ millet on the porch, let me return and fetch it,” she begged Kintu. But Kintu refused and said, “Don’t go back. If you do, you will meet Walumbe and he will surely insist on coming with you.” Nambi, however, did not listen to her husband, and leaving him on the way she returned to fetch the millet. When she reached the house, she took the millet from the porch, but on her way back she suddenly met Walumbe who asked: “My sister, where are you going so early in the morning?” Nambi did not know what to say.

Filled with curiosity, Walumbe insisted on going with her. Therefore Kintu and Nambi were forced to go to Earth together with Walumbe. It did not take long for Kintu and Nambi to get children. One day, Walumbe went to Kintu’s home and asked his brother-in-law to give him a child to help him with the chores in his (Walumbe’s) house. But remembering Ggulu’s warning, Kintu would not hear of it. Walumbe became very angry with Kintu for refusing him the simple favour he had asked. That very night, he went and killed Kintu’s son. Naturally, this caused a deep rift between them. Kintu went back to heaven to report Walumbe’s actions to Ggulu.

Ggulu rebuked Kintu, reminding him of the original warning he had disregarded. Kintu blamed Nambi for returning to get the millet. Ggulu then sent another of his sons, Kayikuuzi, to go back to earth with Kintu and try to persuade Walumbe to return to heaven or, if necessary, return him by force. On reaching Earth, Kayikuuzi tried to persuade Walumbe to go back to heaven but Walumbe would not hear of it. “I like it here on Earth and I am not coming back with you”, he said. Kayikuuzi decided to capture Walumbe by force, and a great fight broke out between them. But as Walumbe was about to be overpowered, he escaped and disappeared into the ground. Kayikuuzi went after him, digging huge holes in the ground to try to find his brother. When Kayikuuzi got to where he was hiding, Walumbe run back out to the earth. Further struggle between the brothers ensued but once again Walumbe escaped into the ground.

Holes in Ttanda Ssingo where Walumbe disappeared through to hide Underground

Holes in Ttanda Ssingo where Walumbe disappeared through to hide Underground

The famous caves that are found today at Ttanda in Ssingo are said to be the ones that were dug by Kayikuuzi in the fight with his brother Walumbe. (Kayikuuzi means he who digs holes). The struggle went on for several days and by now, Kayikuuzi was close to exhaustion. So he went and talked to Kintu and Nambi as follows: “I am going back into the ground one more time to get Walumbe. You and your children must stay indoors. You must strictly command your children not to make a sound if they see Walumbe. I know he is also getting tired so when he comes out of the ground, I will come upon him secretly and grab him.” Kintu and Nambi went into their house, but some of the kids did not go in.

Kayikuuzi once again went underground to find Walumbe. After a struggle, Walumbe came back out to the surface with Kayikuuzi in pursuit. Kintu’s children who were outside at the time saw Walumbe coming and screamed in terror. On hearing the screams, Walumbe went underground once again. Kayikuuzi was furious with Kintu and Nambi for not having followed his instructions. He told them that if they did not care to do the simple thing he had asked of them, he was also giving up the fight. Kintu in his embarrassment had nothing more to say. So he told Kayikuuzi “You return to heaven. If Walumbe wants to kill my children, let him do so, I will keep having more. The more he kills, the more I will get and he will never be able to kill all my children”. Ttanda, where the fight between Walumbe and Kayikuuzi allegedly took place, is figuratively referred to as the place of death (i.e. Walumbe’s place).

Walumbe's Spears used to fight his brother

Walumbe’s Spears used to fight his brother

So that is the legend of creation according to the Baganda, and how sickness and death started. Nonetheless, Kintu’s descendants will always exsist as Kintu said in his last words to Kayikuuzi. Hence the Kiganda saying “Abaana ba Kintu tebalifa kuggwaawo“. Which means that Kintu’s children (i.e. the Baganda) will never be wiped off the face of the earth.

We organize Cultural Tours to the mentioned places above for a real feel of this part of history!

In the Begining…..: African Stories of Creation

The story of creation or how man came to live on earth has many versions. From the religious point of view of God’s Creation to the scientists’ Big Bang Theory, many stories have been told and shared. As humans we are curious about what was before our time and what will come after our time.

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Black Adam and Eve

Ugandans too have tried to explain the mystery of the First Man. With oral tradition stories passed from one generation to the next, these folktales are rich with suspense and sometimes humor. Different tribes tell their stories of the first man in their own versions. In the upcoming series I will try tell these beautiful tales from different parts of Uganda.

Enjoy!adam-and-eve-