Bwisi / Babwisi

Bwisi / Babwisi

The Bwisi totals 171,500 in 2 countries: Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo

The Bwisi of Uganda are numbering 120,000.


Name of People: Babwisi

Name of Area: Bwamba

bwisi people map


In Uganda and crossing into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In Uganda: Bwamba County, Bundibugyo District, West and North of Rwenzori Mountains, west of Fort Portal, south of Lake Albert, at the border with DRC. Altitude: 900-1300 metres. Geographic Co-ordinates: 0.45°N, 30 °E



Bwisi (Democratic Republic of Congo), Babwisi (Uganda); Language is Talinga in Democratic Republic of Congo and Bwisi in Uganda; Niger-Congo Bantu language family


Bwisi information

Brief history: Bwisi of Demoratic Republic of Congo: Formerly part of Tooro Kingdown, won independence in the 1960s and became a separate district called Bundibugyo.

Ecology (natural environment): Uganda: Heavy forest and plains; Democratic Republic of Congo: Tropical forest and jungle, including the Congo Rainforest; high precipitation.

Diet: Cassava, Rice, Plantains, Sweet Potatoes, soybeans, beans, fish, meat, cassava leaves, palm oil.

Geography and Climate: Tropical forest

Cultural Information: Subsistence farmers who also grow cocoa and vanilla.

Economic Status: Approx. $500 (US) p.a. per family unit, on average.

Alternate language names: Kitalinga, Lubwisi, Olubwisi, Mawissi.

History: Part of the Tooro Kingdom, fought with Tooro for Independence in 1960’s resulting in becoming a separate district (Bundibugyo) from Tooro.

Age at menarche (f): In Uganda: no specific age gathered, but expected in early teen and pre-teen years; females regularly have children at age

Age at first birth (m and f): In Uganda: early teens, ~15 years

Completed family size (m and f): In Uganda: Babwisi tribe has a high percentage of women with more than 15 children

Inter-birth-interval (f): In Uganda: every 2 years, starting around age 15 and continuing into the 40s

Age first marriage (m and f): In Uganda: early marriage for females– ages 13, 14, 15; in the age group 20-24 years, only a quarter of Ugandan females were listed as never married, compared to 60 percent of males who have never married; there is no specific data for just the Babwisi; between ages of 15-19, 30 percent of females were married

Proportion of marriages ending in divorce: In Uganda: 5.8% of Ugandan marriages end in divorce, but no data specifically for Babwisi

Percent marriages polygynous: In Uganda: Nine percent of men 30-34 years old were listed as in polygamous marriages, compared to 10 percent of women of the same age group (data for Uganda and not specifically Bwisi)

Bride purchase (price): In Uganda: Couples regularly elope and buy a chicken together to establish themselves as a couple, though the family has to formally accept the marriage; during wedding ceremony, groom’s family provides bride’s family with gifts of mineral oil, fertile goat

Homosexual activities, social attitudes towards homosexuals: In Uganda: marriage and relations between homosexuals is strictly prohibited

Pattern of exogamy (endogamy): In Democratic Republic of Congo: instances of marriage within neighboring communities and language groups, not necessarily isolated to other Bwisi

Mother’s role: In Uganda girls are expected to bare children in marriage around early teens and should continue producing children until no longer capable physically

Sexual freedoms: In Uganda: inside marriage, yes, but much expectation is placed on bearing more children; contraception is used sporadically and some women believe it will cause deformities in offspring

Formal marriage ceremony: In Uganda, the event is elaborate, important; bride and groom appoint a “spokesperson” and the families of the bride and groom get seated across from each other; goats are presented to the bride’s family from the groom’s family, and the bride’s family accepts or rejects the gift based on whether or not they think the animal is fertile (as evidenced by its physical health); if it is deemed to be too small, the groom’s family provides money for feeding the goat to make it grow more healthy and fertile; in addition to the animal, the bride’s family demands mineral oil; there is also a portion of the wedding where the two families discuss any conflicts between them and try to reach compromise or offer forgiveness for transgressions so that they can go forward in peace after the two families are joined in marriage.

Are marriages arranged? : In Uganda: couples are free to elope, but it is important for families to agree on the union together

Ritual/Ceremony/Religion: Specialization (shamans and medicine): Uganda: 10% of Babwisi are animists; in terms of medicine, there is a “neutral diviner” who is charged with finding the cause of an ailment by deciphering dreams, determining if a person is experiencing a spirit possession, by communicating with the dead or through astrology; a shaman is charged with lifting the curse causing that ailment; under animist belief, ailments can potentially be cured by counter-curse or sacrifice made to ancestors

Stimulants: Ugandan animists: stimulants can produce the hallucinations necessary for communicating with the dead and to tap into trance states that help shamans/diviners determine ailments and courses of treatments; hallucinogens produce visions

Passage rituals (birth, death, puberty, seasonal): In Uganda: After death, it is tradition for the family of the deceased to sleep outside of the former home of the dead relative for four days while on the ground

Other rituals: Under animist belief, communicating with spirits may reveal suggestions for choosing a wedding day, entering into business partnerships, choosing where to live and build a home

Cultural material (art, music, games): In Uganda, animist Babwisi hold that drumming can produce a trance state; the Muleddu is a popular dance around a fire with movements portraying farming activities.

Death and afterlife beliefs: Uganda: animists believe that spirits live on after earthly death, can become malevolent or benevolent; bad spirits can be exorcised and good spirits are to be appeased for protection/favor; In Uganda: burials are one of the more important ceremonies; they are events for the entire community; in remembering the deceased at the funeral ceremony, emphasis is placed on the person’s lineage, their offspring and their property.

Religion: Uganda: Christian 75% (Church of Uganda and Catholicism, Anglican), Muslim < 10% Animist 10%, < 10 % other traditional religions; animists believe in power of curses, astrology, communicating with the dead, existence of spirits and the possibility of spirit possession; totems: certain plants (specifics unknown) utilized for hallucinogenic purposes