“Cultural Values and Believes as the Foundation of Development: Insights from the Bakhulo Clan”

Understanding Understanding cultural values is essential for navigating cross-cultural interactions, fostering cultural sensitivity, and promoting effective communication and collaboration in diverse settings. s is essential for navigating cross-cultural interactions, fostering cultural sensitivity, and promoting effective communication and collaboration in diverse settings. Recognizing and respecting cultural values contribute to mutual understanding, social cohesion, and respectful engagement across cultural boundaries.

Meaning of cultural values

Cultural values refer to the shared beliefs, principles, attitudes, and norms that guide behavior and interactions within a particular cultural group or society. These values deeply ingrain themselves and often influence individuals’ perceptions, judgments, priorities, and decision-making processes.

Elements of cultural values

Ethical and Moral Principles:

Cultural values define what is considered right or wrong, good or bad, moral or immoral within a society. They shape individuals’ sense of ethics and guide their behavior in various contexts.

Social Norms and Customs:

Cultural values establish the accepted standards of behavior, etiquette, and social interactions within a community. They dictate how individuals should interact with one another, show respect, and maintain social harmony.

Family Dynamics and Relationships:

Cultural values influence family structures, roles, and relationships. They define expectations regarding marriage, parenting, caregiving, and intergenerational interactions.

Work Ethic and Success:

Cultural values shape attitudes toward work, achievement, and success. They influence notions of diligence, ambition, entrepreneurship, and the balance between work and personal life.

Respect for Tradition and Authority:

Cultural values often emphasize respect for tradition, elders, and authority figures. They dictate how individuals should show deference, obedience, and loyalty to established institutions and societal norms.

Collectivism vs. Individualism:

Cultural values can vary in terms of their emphasis on collective well-being versus individual autonomy. Some cultures prioritize group harmony, cooperation, and interdependence, while others emphasize personal freedom, self-expression, and individual rights.

Spirituality and Religion:

Cultural values often encompass beliefs and practices related to spirituality, religion, and faith. They influence rituals, ceremonies, and expressions of devotion within religious and spiritual communities.

Importance of cultural values in Development

 Preserving cultural values and beliefs while pursuing development is crucial for maintaining the richness and diversity of societies. Here are several strategies for achieving this balance:

Cultural Sensitivity and Respect:

Development initiatives should begin with a deep understanding and respect for local cultures, traditions, and belief systems. This involves actively listening to community members, engaging with local leaders, and considering cultural perspectives in project design and implementation.

Integration of Indigenous Knowledge:

Indigenous knowledge systems often contain valuable insights and sustainable practices that have been developed over generations. Integrating indigenous knowledge into development projects can enhance their effectiveness and relevance while respecting cultural traditions.

Community Participation and Ownership:

Empowering local communities to participate in decision-making processes and take ownership of development projects is essential. This fosters a sense of ownership and ensures that initiatives align with community priorities, values, and aspirations.

Cultural Heritage Preservation:

Efforts to preserve cultural heritage sites, artifacts, languages, and traditional practices should be integrated into development planning. This may involve supporting cultural institutions, museums, and heritage conservation initiatives.

Cultural Education and Awareness:

Promoting cultural education and awareness helps foster pride in one’s heritage and strengthens intergenerational transmission of cultural values and practices. Educational programs, festivals, and cultural exchanges can play a significant role in promoting cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.

Inclusive Development Policies:

Development policies should be inclusive and responsive to the needs of diverse cultural groups, including indigenous peoples, minorities, and marginalized communities. Policies should promote social equity, cultural diversity, and respect for human rights.

Adaptive Development Approaches:

Development interventions should be flexible and adaptable to local contexts, recognizing that cultural values and priorities may vary across communities. Embracing a participatory, context-specific approach allows for innovation and adaptation while preserving cultural integrity.

Sustainable economic development

Sustainable economic development should respect ecological limits and cultural values. This may involve promoting environmentally-friendly practices, supporting locally-owned businesses, and fostering sustainable livelihoods that are compatible with cultural traditions.

Promotion of Cultural Exchange:

Facilitating cultural exchange and dialogue between different communities promotes mutual understanding and appreciation. Exchange programs, cultural festivals, and cross-cultural collaborations can help bridge cultural divides and foster social cohesion.

Policy Advocacy and Legal Protections:

Advocating for legal protections of cultural rights and identities at the national and international levels is essential. This includes recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples, protecting cultural landscapes, and safeguarding intellectual property rights related to traditional knowledge and cultural expressions.

Understanding the Samia culture: The Norms, Beliefs, Taboos and Rituals

Birth (Okhwibula);

Among the Samia community Normal births occurred when a mother gave birth to a one healthy child. She would then confine herself alone in the hut/house for 3 days in case of a boy child (Omusiani) or 4 days in case of a girl child (Omukhana).The boy child symbolizes men who don’t waste time as they are always on the hunt to fend for their own families, and thus, he is accorded a few days. However the reverse is true within some clan’s like the Abalundu clan. After the birth of a child, the ritual of shaving off hair (Okhwebeka) by both the child’s mother and father followed.

Birth of Twins (Amakhwana);.

The Basamia people accord several ritual ceremonies to twin births. A sheep would be brought and jumped/treaded on (Okhusenakira) by all people present until it was killed. People performed this ritual as a way of washing away any bad omen (Ekhabi mbi/kisirani) accompanying the birth of twins and also to cleanse the newborns. The father to the twins would go to his  in-laws (Ebukhwe)  with a spear (Efumo) in his hand. The in-laws (Abakhwe) would then accompany him back with porridge (Obusera) in the calabash (Ebuka).

On reaching home, a ritual of forcing open the door of the hut in which the twins had been kept using a special forked stick called “Olubibo”. Other people present sang and danced to obscene songs, or  “Okhuwemula” . This ritual is called  “Okhwalula Amakhwana.”  A special calabash or Ebuka with double openings (Eryeminwa chibiri) was used and the cheerleader would spit inside (Okhufucha Mubuka) and on the baby twins (Okhufucha Khumakwana).

The naming practice (Okhukurikha);

The Basamia name their children immediately after birth. The mother usually gives names depending on the circumstances under which she bore her child. . In most cases Samia names reflect the weather, season and time under which the child was born in. Wabwire, (a boy) or Nabwire (a girl) are born at night (Mubwire esiro). Ojiambo (a boy) or Ajiambo (a girl) are born in the afternoon (Musijiambo/Esijiambo). Egessa (a boy) or Nekesa (a girl) are born during harvest season (Mukesa/Nekesa). Wafula (a boy) or Nafula (a girl) are born when it’s raining or during the rainy season (Mufula/Efula).

 Child development (Okhukhusa Abaana);

The community raised both boys and girls in their ways. The elders took responsibility for raising a respectable young generation. Young girls stayed in their grandmother’s house, which served as a dormitory (Esibinje), where they learned the ways of responsible women. They taught the children to avoid premature sex and other social immoralities. Girls had to abstain from early sexual activity and could also receive guidance on avoiding early pregnancies if abstinence wasn’t possible. .Fathers and grandfathers nurtured boys, initiating them into the Samia male ways of life, which included farming, fishing, and other aspects of family life.

 Child education (Okwekesa Abaana);

Indigenous Samia learning prepared youths for adulthood within the society. The education divided its goals into two: Normative goals and expressive goals. They taught youths to accept the standards and beliefs that governed correct behavior for normative goals, while they directed expressive goals at building societal unity and consensus. Basamia youths acquired knowledge from the kraals (Ebidwori) or grazing fields (Mukhwaya) or from the Ebichi/Esibichi (the family resting hut or tent) where elders instructed them.

While girls, as already discussed above, acquired knowledge and skills from Musibinje, through stories (Eng’ano), riddles (Eminaye), proverbs (Engado), and songs (Enyembo).People didn’t tell Engado and Eminaye during the daytime because they believed one would become a dwarf or stop growing. In reality, this practice aimed to prevent dodging home chores in favor of unnecessary talking. Basamia tales featured wild animals like the Ogres (Amanani) and common people.

Education was also imparted through folk songs and traditional dances. Music is part of Samia life and it accompanied every feasting ceremonies and festivals like marriage (Esidyalo/Obugole), veneration of departed ancestors (Ebikuda Amukutu/Eng’anyo) and wrestling (Amalengo). Traditional music instruments like Adungu (a large wooden-like violin), Engalabe (a drum covered with a monitor lizard skin or ” Esero ly’Embulu” from one end), Erere (a flute) and sikudi. Traditional dance performances included “Owaro” and “Esikudi” both for happy celebrations whereas “Ekworo” and “Eboodi” were love dances performed especially during weddings.

Marriage (Esidyalo);

A grown up boy (Omusoliri/Omuraga) would seduce a girlfriend/lover/suitor (Omudia). In rare cases, the boy’s parents helped him in wooing a wife, just in case they were friendly to the girl. But also sometimes the boy’s parents and girl’s parents were friendly and could arrange marriage for their children even when the children themselves did not participate in the process of wooing each other.

If the boy wooed his own suitor, and after she had consented to his suggestion, the boy would go to the girl’s home with a spear, which he would plant on arrival in front of her mother’s hut. Since she would be already aware of the boy’s intentions, the girl would remove the spear and take it inside her mother’s hut. Thereafter would be bride price/wealth (Emali) negotiations, which would be around 4 to 8 cattle (Eng’ombe) and several goats (Embutsi) and chicken (Engokho), each for a special purpose.

 Health (Obujianjiabi);

The Basamia suffered several ailments, among which was the “Ekhiro”, similar to modern day HIV/Aids. This condition attacked anyone who went against the norms and beliefs of infidelity. Whenever a woman had sexual intercourse outside marriage (Okhuria embeba), and before performiAfter the payment of bride price (Okhukwa), the girl prepared to leave for her new home, accompanied by her sisters to her husband (Bamulamu). If she was found to be a virgin, another goat would be sent to her mother as a gift for preserving her daughter’s virginity.

Virginity held significant importance in Samia culture for a successful marriage life. The boy would also present the girl’s father with a fat male goat (Ekhole) to be slaughtered. This goat, known as “Esidiso,” symbolized the sealing of the new marriage and served as a common bond between the two now-related families. The girl’s father would stand beside the “Esidiso” and be smeared with simsim oil (Amafuta k’Enuni).ng cleansing rituals, had sex with her husband, the husband would start losing weight (Okhung’aya) not until a concoction known as “Amanyasi” would be administered to both of them as a sign of re-union (Okhusasana).

Different herbs (Emisala) treated various diseases among the Basamia; they used “Amasafu k’Omuogo or (cassava leaves),” “Amayombayombe or (water lilies’ leaves),” and “Nasiunya” herbs to treat measles (Esiyerekete). They treated snake bites with “Obunywekesi” herbs. “Amaberiaberie” herbs addressed ears oozing pus, caused by breastfeeding milk dropping into the baby’s ears. They ground the leaves, mixed them with water to form a paste, and administered it to a victim. For broken/dislocated bones, they ground “Omuhuaige” and “Navirundu” leaves to form a jelly-like substance and applied it to the affected part, tying it with banana fibers (Amakhola) to prevent it from falling away.

 Religion and taboos (Obuwangwa n’Emisiro);

The Basamia revered a Supreme Being, “Nyasae or Nyasae Omulongi (God the creator)” or “Were Khakaba (god the giver),” who resided in heaven (Mukulu). Additionally, they believed in ancestral spirits (Emisambwa ky’Esikha) that could cause harm, death, and misfortune if not appeased. Each homestead had family/clan shrines (Emyera) where ancestors were fed and appeased with animal sacrifices (Okhubalakasa). Once appeased, people would call upon these spirits to intervene and save them from sickness or misfortunes, or for good harvests, women’s fertility, and good health.

The Basamia also believed in “Emyooyo ky’Abafu” or the spirits of the dead, which resided in “Emakombe” or graveyards. Traditional healers derived mystical and magical powers from specific ancestral spirits and held considerable influence in the community. Disregarding their advice was punishable as gross insubordination.

Taboos varied among clans. Eating one’s totem (Omusiro kw’Esikha) was forbidden. The society was patrilineal; women adopted their husbands’ clans. Parents and in-laws did not share the same roof, and separate huts were built for in-laws. Children over 10 years old moved to grandparents’ huts or their own “Esimba.” Women were prohibited from eating lungfish (Emonye), chicken, or pork.

The Basamia believed in witchcraft (Obukhingi) and curses (Amalamo) for theft and immorality. They respected rainmakers (Abakimba) for their community’s welfare. These beliefs and practices underscored the Basamia’s deeply rooted spiritual and cultural heritage.

 Conflict settlement (Okhutabaganya);

The Basamia do not allow conflicts as they perceive them as a threat to the community’s peace. Many conflicts among the Basamia resulted from competition over limited resources, injustices, hunger, poverty, and bad leadership. Deeds and issues that could cause harm to others were handled carefully among the Basamia. “Esibudi” or a traditional brew was used in the conflict resolution. Elders gathered at one of the aggrieved person’s home. In his “Esidwori” or “Esibichi” , the “Esibudi” would be placed in the center of the panelists sitting in a  circle form each with a siphon (Oluchehe) dipped into the clay pot (endamu y’Amalwa). This is where the Samia proverb, “Enjehe nyingi sichikayira olwao okhuleta” come from, or (many siphons do not stop someone’s from sucking).

The proverb means that society conflicts have to be dealt with socially. Every member had to participate in solution finding. Some brew would be poured on the floor as a share to the ancestors, whom it was believed assisted them in the resolution. People believed that the ancestors chaired the conflict resolution meetings, despite being invisible. They played active roles of omnipotence and omnipresence. The resolution of conflicts occurred without showing favoritism towards any individual. The authorities required the guilty parties to pay specific fines attached to the offenses they committed.

 Dressing and food (Okhwambala n’Ebyokhulya

People wore traditional dress to identify their culture, tribe, or in most cases, their country.. The modern Basamia borrow their respectable form of dressing from their brothers the Baganda i.e “Kanzu”  and suit for men and “Gomesi” for women. The “Gomesi” is attire made from a 12 meters piece of cloth material that only has stitched sleeves with the rest of the cloth open, worn by wrapping it around the body and overlapping it around the waist where it’s then fastened using a 3 meters cloth material belt also known as “Esikoyi.” The “Kanzu” is a long attire mainly white in colour. People typically wear these attires during honorable functions (Emikholo ky’Oluyali).

However, the ancient wealthy Basamia people (Abayinda) wore hides from wild animals like the leopards or the cheetahs. They also wore huts from baboon (Enguke) or monkeys (Ekhembo) skins. The poor ones wore goat and sheep skins while the young ones strolled naked. Women wore sketchy coverings made from tree/sissal threads. People slept on the bare floor by the fire circles (Amakenga). The rich ones slept on animal hides (Amasero).

The Basamia staple foods included cassava (Amuogo), millet (Amabere), sorghum (Obule), maize (Amadimwa), beans (Amaragwe) etc. Women ate with their daughters while boys ate with their fathers. Talking while eating was prohibited whereas a stranger turning down the invite to eat food was immoral. Many Basamia traditional foods had associations with numerous rituals. . Such foods maintained linkages between the dead and the living. For instance many Bantu tribes of Uganda, including Samia, bury their dead in banana plantations, hence bananas were both food to the living and home to the dead.

 Disaster management;

The Basamia suffered many natural disasters like drought, floods, landslides, windstorms, thunderstorms, lightening strikes (Ekhuba) and other epidemics. There were many early warnings that indicated disasters ahead. These would be identified by elders who keenly observed animals and insects behavioral change, vegetations, tree canopies, winds, and water temperatures, clouds, earth quakes etc. Snakes and other reptiles crawling around human homesteads in search for food and water indicated prolonged drought.

Political set up (Oby’obutuki);

The Basamia inhabited “Engongo” (villages) which constituted “Engoba” and were fortified to protect residents from outside aggression.Residents communally shared the land inside “Engongo” and “Engoba,” ensuring there was enough for everyone. Basamia constructed houses and surrounded them with fences made of planted euphorbia (Amakhoni).

The ancient Basamia, both in Uganda and Kenya, recognized a king known as “Omwami w’Efumo” or “the king of the spear.” “Omwami w’Efumo” received assistance from elders called “Aben’Engo” or “the owners of the homes.” Clan members elected the “Aben’Engo,” who served as subordinates to “Omwami w’Efumo.” However, following the division caused by the Uganda-Kenya border, the Basamia seemed to have lost their chieftainship, and their political structure became segmented.

Each village came under the leadership of an elder called “Nalulindikho” who would be a rainmaker (Omukimba Fula). “Nalulindikho” presided over law and order and also settled disputes. His position was hereditary. He would deny an area of rain in case some one who owed him came from there but had refused to settle with him the debt. No native tasted of his new harvest (Ekesa) before giving it to “Nalulindikho” to do the first tasting as he was the rainmaker. Wizardry (Obulosi) was decried and a night runner would be severely punished if caught.

The Economy

The Basamia main economic activities included subsistence farming of crop farming (Obulimi) and animal keeping (Obutuki). As said earlier, the Basamia grew millet (Amabere), sorghum (Obule) cassava (Amwoogo) etc. They reared cattle, goats, sheep, and chicken. The Basamia did not involve themselves so much in trade with neighboring communities. However, there were some kinds of barter trade among the Basamia themselves. They heavily practiced blacksmithing. And their land was owned communally among the clansmen.

Agricultural innovations were introduced in Uganda during the second half of the 19th century. Production of indigenous crops was relatively easy. The people needed soil, rain, seed, and labour. Crop rotation and inter-cropping was common among the Basamia people. Land could be left to fallow for a long time before cultivation after which it would be so fertile for crop growth.

Traditional cooking method
A traditional hut
caring for the elderly

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