While children grow up watching television and getting exposed to foreign dances, there seems to be little being done to promote our cultural dances.
Traditionally, tribes danced to show affection, entertainment, military might and for education among others, but today, it is rare to come across these dances unless there is a big ceremony.
According to 82-year-old Joyce Nantege, each tribe in Uganda treasured their dances as they were part of their identity.
“Years from now, young people will just read about them in books,” she said.
However, there are dance groups determined to keep the art alive. According to Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) executive director Stephen Asiimwe, diverse cultural experiences are some of the attractions of tourists to the country.
Imagine sitting somewhere eating your food and then a group of dancers in traditional attires, walks in with drummers right behind them playing traditional music and dance from different parts of the country.
This is a trend in places such as The Carnival hotel in Ntinda, which has become a go-to area for those looking for cultural experiences. Jude Kakembo organised his colleague’s birthday party at this place and the reason he chose it was because of the cultural music and dances.
“The experience is so different. The dances while eating are just a good feel; so, I wanted to give my friend and his other friends the Ugandan cultural experience,” Kakembo says.
Ndere cultural centre in Kisaasi is another, where visitors are treated to a cultural feel from all over the country.
“I was told Uganda has many tribes and coming [to Ndere] to watch all these dances from different parts of the country is really amazing,” John Krushner, an American, says.
At Ndere, people from different countries walk in to get a feel of what Uganda’s culture is like. The Observer found people from Sierra Leone, Indonesia, America, Kenya, Uganda, and UK, among others.
With the show on a Sunday, visitors were taken through various Ugandan dances and after every performance, a thorough explanation about the dance was given, leaving the guests enriched about Uganda’s cultures.
“I last saw these things at school during the music dance and drama competitions and those days, it was about winning. So, being here and learning actually is a good thing,” James Male says, at Ndere.
Some popular Ugandan dances
Ekitaguriro: This is by the Banyankore from western Uganda, performed to demonstrate their love for cattle.
Ekizino: This is by the Bakiga from Kigezi, performed when the king was going to settle disputes in the kingdom and that is why it is known as a ‘court dance’.
Bakisimba, Muwogola, and Nankasa: These are Baganda dances that originated from the king’s palace. The Kiganda dance is very popular and is performed whenever the Kabaka is going to talk to his people.
Mwaga: Also called the imbalu dance, it is performed by the Bagishu found in the Elgon area of Uganda. This dance is performed to celebrate the coming-of-age circumcision season.
Akebe: This courtship dance is done by the Iteso from the East. Its music is softly played on melodic instruments.
Runyege and Entongoro: This dance by the Batooro from the west is both ceremonial and cultural and is mainly performed by the youth when it’s time to choose their partners.
Adungu: This is performed by the Alur found in the West Nile region. Performed to melodies of the harp-like Adungu, the dance requires one to jump around in pattern to impress a potential mate.
Bwola: This is by the Acholi people in the North. The circular dance that represents the fence of the kingdom is performed by older men and women.