Basamia-Bagwe people



The Basamia - Bagwe can be traced in Tororo and Iganga districts (Uganda). Some Basamia-bagwe clans claim connection to the Joluo of Kenya while the Bagwe claim that they are related to the Banyala.
This is further evidenced by the direction in which they face their dead bodies during burial. Many Basamia face their dead to the east.


Basamia-Bagwe traditional perception on birth

Regarding births, the Basamia Bagwe mother is held in confinement for a period of 3 Days for the sake of a boy child and 4 days in case of girl child. The birth of a boy would be accorded few days as the man was meant to get out early and hassle with the world unlike the girl. However, the Balundu clan reversed this order. Usually following the birth of the child the mother and the father could shave off the hair.

Regarding the births of twins, the sheep was slain by treading on it until it died and every one present had to particípate. This practice was made to cleanse taboos that were associated with the births of twins and children cleansing. The father of his brother would move with a spear to the in laws and collect porridge and a calabash. A special calabash or pot with two openings was provided and the lead person would spit in it and then spit on the twins. Thus practice would be done after having forcing to open the hut's door in which the twins were with forked sticks (olubibo). During this ritual of door opening, people would be dancing and singing obscene songs. After the door opening, both the inside and the outside hut people would spit porridge in each other.

Regarding naming, the Basamia would do the naming immediately after the child is born and the names would be determined by the circumstances that are prevailing at the time of births or ordinary daily verbs among others.


Traditional Marriage among the Basamia-Bagwe

The parents would arrange the marriage without the input of the children if they were friendly though such cases were not all that common. The normal method is that the boy would seduce the girl first and though the girl could not show direct response, an indirect form of acceptance would be expressed.

The boy would seduce the girl first. The girl could not show a concrete response although her response might appear positive
Thereafter, the boy would come with a spear and plant it in front of the hut of the girl’s mother. If the girl had accepted the marriage, she would remove the spear and take it to the mothers hut.
Thereafter, bride wealth negotiations would be entered into. There was no fixed bride wealth for each girl. One was charged depending on one’s status, wealth and titles.
This meant in effect, that the rich were charged more than the poor. The general price ranged form between four and eight cows plus a large assortment of goats each of which had a specific role.
Upon payment of bride wealth, further arrangements were made to take the girl to her husband. If it was discovered that the girl was a virgin, a goat or its equivalent was sent to the girl’s mother as a sign of appreciation for the good role she had played in seeping the girl intact and safe.
It was also customary for a boy to take a fat male goat to be slaughtered at the girl’s father’s home. On this occasion; the girl’s father would stand on it and be smeared with simsim oil. This male goat was meant o cement the marriage and it acted, in addition as a common bond between the two families.


Traditional religion and taboos

The Basamia-Bagwe had an idea of a supreme being called Were or Nsaye.
Were said to dwell in heaven and to be responsible for creating the earth and heavenly bodies. They also believed in ancestral spirits. Ancestral spirits were believed to intervene in human affairs and were known to cause harm, death and misfortune if not properly attended to.
For this reason, each home stead had a family shrine on which to feed and appease the ancestral spirits. These spirits could be called upon in the event of sickness or misfortune and they were normally appealed to for good health, fertility of women and good harvests.
The Basamia- Bagwe believed in the existence of omwoyo, the heart of a living thing. They believed that when some one died, then omwoyo would take flight in the form of a shadow or wind. Such a departed spirit becomes omusambwa.
It resides in graveyards and shrines.
Emisambwa are believed to have power to interfere with the living. They also act as a link between Nsaye and the living. Emisambwa had their abode in Emagombe, ie in the underworld.
Their Taboos varied from clan to clan and no one would eat his toterm.
The society was patrilineal and women took up the clans and taboos of their husbands. This was a taboo for a parent to sleep in the same hut as his son-in-law and once children had grown to a certain age, roughly ten years, they would not sleep in the same hut as their parents.
Women were not supposed to eat chicken, pork and lung fish. The Basamia-Bagwe also believed in witch craft and curses.
Theft and immorally would result into being bewitched or cursed.Basamia-Bagwe also valued rain makers, abakimba.


Dress code

The men used to wear goat skins while the women wore sketchy coverings made of tree leaves. The children walked around completely naked. The people used to sleep on a bare floor by fire. If, however, some one was rich enough to afford it, he could sleep on a skin.


Political set up

They did not have chieftainships. Every village was under the jurisdiction of an elder called the Nalundiho. Besides being a political figure, the Nalundiho was also a rain maker.
He administered law and order and he was responsible for settlement of disputes. He was the most influential person into the village and his position was hereditary.
His powers were widened by his role as a rain make. It is said, for instance that if any one refused to settle his debt the Nalundiho would deny that debtor’s location rain until the debts were duly settled.
Because of his capacity as a rainmaker, nobody could taste any of the new harvests before the Nalundiho did so. Wizardry was decried and if caught, a wizard could be killed.


Basamia economy

Their economy was simple. It was based on subsistence agriculture. They grew millet, sorghum, cassava and a variety of beans. Besides, they reared cattle, goats and chickens.
Land was communally owned on a clan basis and there was enough land for all.



The common foods for the Basamia were sorghum, millet and cassava. The girls and women shared the same píate while the father and the boys also shared the same píate. Unnecessary talking wasn't allowed while having meáis and it was considered a good behavior to respond positively when called upon to join the people having a meal.