Busoga is not the Poverty Headquarter and a Saturday with Bwambale in Namwendwa

For all my many years on earth (and they are very many), I had not been part of the groom’s entourage at traditional introduction ceremonies till August 8, 2015. It is a curious fact because I have been a groomsman once (don’t laugh), taken readings at two wedding ceremonies and I have been involved in organizing introduction (the word give-away is problematic) ceremonies in a few occasions. I will not go into details about the briefing involved in preparing to welcome guests to your home, who soon become in-laws. For all that we associate with abakwe (abako in Luganda), you will forgive me for wanting to experience an introduction ceremony from that point of view. All my brothers, by blood, by tea, by alcohol and by water are hereby notified that I am ready to join them as they are introduced to their future in-laws.

Daniel Bwambale Busathiro, a fellow alumna of Makerere University where we met takes the flowers for offering me the first experience of an introduction ceremony from the bakos’ tent. The dress code for the bako was the now Africanised kanzu of Arab roots. There was transport for everyone. There was a meeting point. Despite all the preparation, poor Bwesigye arrived a few minutes late at the meeting point. And just on arrival, realized he had to ride back home for something. The first group left him behind. He had to join the groom himself, and his brother Baluku Rogers for the journey to Kamuli. Let’s talk about Baluku a bit.

The briefing

The briefing

This author joined Kabale Trinity College at some point in 2004 for a few months. In those few months, he made friends with a number of people, most of whom were studying the same subjects as he was. Literature especially. And Baluku Rogers happened to be among those. Baluku was the always smiling, never picks grudges with anyone student in class. A bit shy actually. But this author was shy, too. So this morning as we head to Namwendwa, it is discovered that Bwambale and Baluku are brothers. Baluku went to Mbarara University of Science and Technology and eventually settled in Kasese. So, for all the years of knowing Bwambale, poor Bwesigye did not know that the former was a younger brother to Baluku! Doesn’t it say something about a family for one to separately be-friend two brothers without knowing that they are connected? Maybe we can write a script that now ties in the sister/s (*Hides).

We reach Jinja and find the groups that left earlier. Our final destination is Namwendwa in Kamuli. There will be a dressing stop-over in Kamuli town, and then we proceed to the home from which Bwambale has made close friendship. A few bites at Jinja. The road from Jinja to Kamuli is smooth. There is a spokesperson who has to brief all the members of the entourage. We are over fifty people in the entourage. I am excited that there are a number of females in the group. Not because of what you are thinking. It is not that. Because of pseudo-feminist reasons. I know that is not what you were thinking.

There are over ten cars snaking their way to the home. Bwambale’s other home from today. I am in the car with Bwambale himself and his brother Baluku. I am closely monitoring the groom’s mood. He is relaxed, calm much of the time. There are bouts of anxiety but he brings them under control soon. Baluku is his ever jolly jocular self. Making everyone laugh. We arrive. It is threatening to rain. By the way, those theories about rainmakers, are they real? Is there some scientific backing to them? Or is it magic?

We make a queue. One for males, one for females. There are a good number of females. The queues are almost the same height. Orange things are attached to our coats and we are given small hand-held fans. Sura yakko is playing. Some Wiz Kid tunes will be played. There is this young man who is very jolly and dancing ahead of the first group of people from whom we are supposed to choose the real reason for our visit. The young women in green gomesis do not have the friend Bwambale has made in this family. Boys follow. Each group takes gifts from us. And envelopes. A group of old women come. The spokesperson from the home says that these old women were busy digging before they were brought. We are fined for disturbing their productivity with our visit. An envelope. Another group of women comes. Still, the person whose hand in marriage Bwambale is seeking is not seen. I have not seen her myself, ever, actually. I want to ask Bwambale how they met, but of course not in this tent. Later maybe. On our way back.

Bwambale and Baluku and all of us in the bako tent

Bwambale and Baluku and all of us in the bako tent

There is an interesting linguistic mix happening. Bwambale is from the Bakhonzo people of mid-western Uganda, the people of the Rwenzori mountains and the friend whose hand in marriage we are seeking is from the Basoga people of Eastern Uganda, the people around Lake Kyoga. At the beginning we sang the Busoga and Rwenzururu kingdom anthems. There are important people here. This home is connected to Kamuli LC V Chairperson, Salaam Musumba and High Court judge Egonda-Ntende. I love the rhythm of Lusoga.

The last group of the girls in the home appears and the smile on Bwambale’s face is telling. Bwambale had never wore that smile before, in my presence at least. The man is happiness itself. Wiikendi, the song by the now defunct all-girls group Dream Girls plays. It is an oldie by the way. We are old. The spokesperson says that those who want to kugeya the bride are given a special warning. There are lewd remarks made about the bride. I am shifting uncomfortably in my chair when the spokesperson asks her to show us her behind. Things become more awkward for my ears when they ask the bride to tell us what tent she would love saved if the Al shabaab militants were to attack this homestead this minute. Of course you know the tent she pointed at.

The flower with many items

The flower with many items

Then the bride’s aunt is sent to look for Bwambale. Juliana Kanyomozi’s Kyanoonya is playing. And Dindu the folk song follows the awkward moments of Bwambale and Baluku being fished out from the tent where we all are sitting and people drinking wine, Bwesigye drinking juice, others water, eating fruits. The stomachs are having a good time.

The bride returns to the house to take items that Bwambale has brought, all contained in a big flower. I am not sure I like the meanings of many. They reinforce the thinking that a wife is a servant of the husband. Things are being said about Bwambale getting tired of restaurant food, of taking his clothes for washing at the dobbi’s etc. I take things too seriously. When the women in the tent in which we are sitting are to speak, they kneel. I am being told to not over-think these things. It is just culture. Ceremonial. I know for sure that some women have said that they can kneel in public, indeed Shifa Mwesigye in her Crossroads essay says the man better be ready to kneel for her in the bedroom as well.

The rain falls just before we handle the eating matters. So we postpone till it reduces. My female neighbors are hungry actually. We eat when the rain stops. Bwambale’s face is shining. He is one of the happiest human beings at this point in time. The talk in the tent is that his friend is beautiful. People are talking about her curves. God! Even women in the tent are talking about how ‘sexy’ she looks. I am not saying anything, to be honest. I am listening. Observing. Recording, someone is accusing me with her eyes. There is a side conversation about love and marrying outside one’s class. I do not know how it starts, where it starts from, I think I remember, it starts from the fact that these introduction ceremonies follow the partners’ agreement about marrying each other anyway. I would love the tension in a ceremony where we do not know if the girl, or her parents will say yes. The uncertainty. There are perspectives on the whole issue that I am loving. Okay, a perspective that I am loving.

Bwambale's widest smile ever

Bwambale’s widest smile ever

It is dark. We have to return to our homes. The wedding ceremony will follow. The launch is on August 30, 2015. Why do people call Busoga poor? At least not Kamuli. At least not Namwendwa. We were many kilometres deep into the interior of the region and I can bet the television set that I do not own that there was nothing close to poverty that I saw, smelled, heard, felt nor tasted.

Congratulations Bwambale on being introduced and wishing you all the best in your marriage. Even though I will miss the wedding because of travel things, I am glad that I was with you as yours introduced you to her people. Some people say that the bachelors in the groom’s entourage should ordinarily socialize well enough to find their own partners in the process, I think they need to provide a guide. Or maybe poor Bwesigye did not realize that some people were busy socializing properly because well, he thinks he has his prayers somewhere. We shall see.

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