Kakwa people



The Kakwa people are sedentary agro-pastoralist and Nilotic people of Karo ethnic sub-group residing in the northwestern Uganda, South Sudan, and northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

They are part of the Karo people (East Africa), who also include the Bari, Pojulu Mundari, Kuku and Nyangwara.

Their language is called Kutuk na Kakwa, Eastern Nilotic language.

Kakwa people are known to the world especially through the history of their son, General Idi Amin Dada (1925–2003) who was a repressive dictator of the African country of Uganda.

Kakwa people map

The name 'Kakwa' comes after Yeki's third son, Koza ku kala literally meaning ‘bites with teeth’, a phrase consisting of the verb transitive koza 'to bite', the conjunction ku 'with' and the noun kala 'teeth' (singular keleyi). Later, the entire Kakwa nation, including all the 12 children of Yeki’s sixth and last son, Zaki, also adopted the plural form of the agentive ka-kakwa 'the biters' or ‘those that bite.’ The Kakwa also refer to thorns as kakuwa (singular kokoti). In the other aspects of the Kakwa expressions, semantic idioms or proverbs, the word ‘Kakwa’ translates into 'rebels', 'fulminating', 'harsh' or 'inimical'.From Mount Liru, Yeki had sent Koza ku kala to the present area of Yei County to found the Kakwa people there and those in other Kakwa areas, such as the Kakwa County and also Ko’buko District.  The Kakwa people some times refer to themselves as "Kakwa Saliya Musala", a phrase they commonly use to denote their 'oneness' though they are in three different countries. In Uganda, they known as Bakakwa.


Demography and Geography

The Kakwa live in Yei River County, central Equatoria. However, they extend into west Nile District of Uganda and north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Domiciliation in different countries means that the Kakwa as a people have evolved different customs and social values.


Environment, Economy and Natural Resources

Yei River District, the Kakwa main district lies in the tropical rain forest. This has influenced the lifestyle of the Kakwa, who are now predominantly agrarian; engaging in subsistence as well as commercial farming of maize, cassava, simsim, telebon, coffee and teak plantations.
The Kakwa also engage in hunting large game, for example, elephants, buffalos, giraffe and small game such as the bush rats. The Kakwa economy has transformed from subsistence to monetary economy and small open markets move from location to location on specific days of the week.


Kakwa Society, Politics and Organisation

The political institutions of the Kakwa were segmentary. There never was no centralised system of government. The clan was the basic social and political unit. Each clan was politically independent of others.

At the head of each clan, the chief known as the ''Mattat'' enjoyed sufficient traditional loyalty. Immediately below the chief are the ''Temejik'' or clan elders, who more often than not are heads of sub-clans.

Among the Kakwa, traditional chieftainship is confined to the rainmaking clans and the chief would simultaneously assume two titles as ‘chief of the land’ and ‘chief of the rain’ as well.

The position of the chief is hereditary only among the rainmaking clans. However, clans without rainmakers could borrow them from other clans. A borrowed rainmaker did not have political influence but would instead be paid for his services as a rainmaker. It is worth noting that the Kakwa society is matrilineal.


Choosing and Installing a Chief

Before a person could assume chieftainship, he had to perform some form of traditional ritual. Normally a chief had a secret bead which was passed down to him by his predecessors. The chief would often drop the bead in food without the knowledge of his sons and invite them to eat. The one who discovered the bead and gave it to his father would become the future successor.

From then on his father would make him carry his chiefly stick and stool wherever he went. He was further required to observe carefully what his father was doing in order to become acquainted with his future responsibilities.

The elders, however, had the powers to reject if it was known that he was irresponsible. In the absence of an heir apparent, the responsibility passed over to the maternal relatives of the chief. A regent would be appointed if the chief died while his son was still young.


Judicial System

The elders settled the disputes between individuals and clans/families. The most serious of the cases would then be referred to the chief. Women and children do not attend court cases. However, if required to testify as a witness then they would attend and speak only when requested to do so.
The major and/or serious cases warranting death of the culprit include murder and adultery. If a man was caught committing adultery, he would be killed outright and no one would raise a case against the murderer. Similarly, there was no time for judging a thief. He would be killed, “in way the foxes are killed” something similar to mob justice.

The murder of a person from another clan would bring war between clans and the murdered person was not mourned until sufficient revenge had been effected. The Kakwa would not avenge the killing of one’s clan’s person. However, the murderer would be required pay a compensation of 1 or 2 cows.

Kakwa Population

The average population density (which is population divided by area of land) in much of the Kakwa land is 10 to 20 persons per square kilometre of land area, but densities may vary from place to place and from time to time. Currently, for instance, the areas of heavy concentration of population are Yei Town, Nyarilo, Keri, Ora’ba, Ingbokolo, Morobu, Aru, Aba. The entire Kakwa people can be estimated to be just under 500,000 people.

The Kakwa County which is the main area where the Kakwa inhabitants of the Congo live, has been divided into five sub-counties as follows:

  1. Rumu
  2. Inzi
  3. Kumuru
  4. Diso
  5. Adumi

The largest sub-county is Rumu. These five sub-counties are further divided into still smaller sub-sub-counties. This Kakwa County nicknamed Kakwa Inga, occupies an area of approximately 975 square kilometers within which live approximately 110,000 people (2000 estimate). It shares borders with the Yei County in the Sudan and with Ko’buko District in Uganda to the northeast and east, with the Kaliko County to the west and to the south with the Zaki County.

Kakwa Ima are found in the town of Aba in the Faradje area of the Congo; in 1959, they numbered some 8,344 souls, and occupied a land area of some 476 square kilometers. Kakwa Dropa are found in the town of Aru.


Kakwa Neighbors

Kakwa society occupies the region bordering northwestern Uganda, Southern Sudan, and northeastern Congo. The following are the tribes neighboring the Kakwa territories: Zaki, Logo, Baka, Mundu, Keliko, Nyangbara, Muru, Lugbara, Avukaya, Kuku, Aringa, Maracha, Terego, Kuku, Pojulu, Makaraka etc.


The Kakwa Language

The name of the Kakwa language is also called Kutuk na Kakwa  (Kakwa)— named after its people. A language in Kakwa is called lokuliye (masculine) or kutu (feminine). Hence, Lokuliye lo Kakwa means the same thing as Kutu na kakwa—Kakwa language.

Kakwa’s Etymological Roots.The etymological roots of the Kakwa words usually consist of two or three consonants. The roots themselves may be monosyllabic (in that most words in their simplest form consist of one syllable i.e. a consonant combination and a vowel as in le (feminine) ‘milk’ since there are no codas in Kakwa. When you know a word, you know both its pronunciation and its meaning—and, of course, also its writing or spelling. If you hear someone utter the sounds represented by the string of letters and don’t know that it means sukuri (feminine) ‘a chicken’ in Kakwa, you don’t know that word. Synonyms like si’de (feminine) and gbi’dikiye (feminine) are two words because their identical meanings ‘a chair’ or ‘a seat’ are represented by two different strings of sounds. On the other hand, two words with different sounds may have same string of letters (homograph) as in the personal pronoun nà ‘me’ or ‘I’, and in the intimate genitive (possessive) particle ná ‘of’ (feminine, singular).

Each word is a sound-meaning unit. Each word listed in your mental dictionary must include other information as well, such as whether it is a noun, a pronoun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb, a preposition, a conjunction, etc. This phenomenon is called grammatical category or syntactic class or
parts of speech.

Kakwa language is not superior to any other language in a linguistic sense. Every grammar is equally complex and logical and capable of producing an infinite set of sentences to express any thought. If something can be expressed in one language or dialect, it can be equally expressed in any other language or dialect. It might involve different means and different words, but it can be expressed. No grammar, therefore, no language is either superior or inferior to any other!

The Kakwa Writing System.
Kakwa has no indigenous writing system of its own but bases its writing system on the Roman alphabet. All Kakwa forms cited in this book appear in standard orthography. The language is Niloto-Hamitic indicating that it has elements of the Nilotic and Hamitic languages. But what exactly is meant by Nilotic? Westermann and others have advanced criteria by which certain Sudanic languages are to be regarded as Nilotic, and this Nilotic element in the Kakwa language is to be found almost solely in word stems, and very little in sentence construction. In Kakwa Grammar, the term Nilotic relates to the languages of Dinka, Shiluk, Nuer, Acholi, Alur etc, and all languages and dialects closely related to any of these languages, and its presence in Kakwa is evidenced by the surprising number of monosyllabic word stems, both nouns and verbs, common to Kakwa and to the neighbouring Nilotic languages.
The Kakwa Orthography Orthography is the set of conventions for representing language in written form. Kakwa employs the English alphabetical orthography in which symbols are used to represent individual vowel segments rather than syllables or words. A syllable is a single letter or a group of letters that form one sound Until the advent of the missionaries and the colonialists, the Kakwa had no way for putting their thoughts into writing in the same understanding we have today. These foreigners introduced the Roman alphabet, with some few characters borrowed from Greek or German, and the result was fairly satisfactory for producing the first Bari Bible and Christian songs in Bari. Later, the version of the Bari Bible translated into Kakwa
was called Likilimba or Bayibulu ku Kutu na Kakwa i.e. ‘Bible in the Kakwa Language.’

The first Bari alphabet was revised and slightly changed at the Rejaff Language Conference of 1928. The resultant code, through open to criticism, seems to fulfill the necessary conditions for practical orthography for Bari speakers, including the Kakwa people. Elements of this Rejaff Language Conference alphabet are used in Kakwa Grammar with additions in order to enable foreigners to get a better understanding of Kakwa


Kakwa Mythology of Creation

Their great-great-grandfather was Mungura, and his wife was called Muri. Together, they created the first living beings: wild animals and domestic animals, etc. Mungura and Muri became parents of twins: this was, however, considered a bad omen at that time, and hence the children were handed over to a certain Jongbo, who ws tas told to throw the children away into the bush. Jongbo, however, realised that these were the twins who would one day be our fathers. So, he hid the children at his home and nurtured them there until they had grown up.



What the Kakwa call ’dolowe means 'the starting point' or 'the origin' or 'the source.' This point is variously believed to be around the present Ethiopia-Sudan border, around the Red Sea, or at Kapoeta (at the eastern shore of Lake Turkana). Here, the Nilotic Luo had arrived in sufficient numbers dispersing the ancestors of the Kakwa and other Nilo-Hamitics. These Luo movements were spread over time—perhaps over three centuries pushing the entire Kakwa westwards, across the River Nile, around the 16th century, and eventually they settled at Koro’be [Koru’be] Hill in the Yei County. From Koro’be, the Kakwa then spread over all the areas which they now occupy in Ko’buko District, in the Kakwa County and in the Yei County. Kakwa Contact with Foreigners. Virtually, nothing was known or written about the Kakwa before the advent of Europeans in the 19th century.

The first foreigners the Kakwa encountered were the slavers, explorers, hunters, missionaries, soldiers, administrators, and social anthropologists. The Arab slavers came from the north while the Europeans and North Americans came through the Sudan (from the north), and from the southeast—through Uganda. Some Europeans (Belgians and French) came from the Congo (to the west). These people had multitudes of roles in the Kakwa territories: the occupier of one role frequently turned into another. For much of the period between the 1800s and the 1900s, there had been everlasting successions of destruction from slave raids, droughts, locust outbreaks, famines, population movements, rinderpest, meningitis, human and livestock epidemics that afflicted the Kakwa people. This was also the period of the Kakwa contact with peoples of radically different social, economic and technological systems. The following is a brief historical presentation of some of the origins of the contacts with these foreigners.


Kakwa Settlement Patterns

The name for a house in Kakwa is kadi (feminine, plural kadi-zi). The name for home is ’ba (masculine, plural, ’beŋi) or gbiliŋe (feminine).
Kakwa’s traditional patterns of housing vary with contrasts in terrain, ecology, climate, weather, slope of the land, kinships, descent, political stability, etc. The most prevalent pattern has been that of dispersed villages which, together with their extended families, are large enough for various indigenous participation but are rarely lasting because of the use of short-lived building materials and sometimes specifications for shifting cultivation and grazing. Until recently, each Kakwa family lived in a kind of community within a growing stockade known as mari (feminine). The stockade had a gate which could be closed by night or when there was danger from hyenas, lions or enemies. Today, however, families are clustered together thus constituting a different kind of homestead.

There are separate houses for humans and for animals. Human houses include:

• koku (feminine) or ‘the kitchen’
• kadi-zi naga a totoye (feminine) ‘houses for sleeping’; these are usually separate for teenagers, parents and grandparents.

In addition, there is a unique house known as lomore (feminine) that is exclusively used as a guest house.

Other structures typically found in a Kakwa homestead are:

• apa (feminine) (the food storage structure)
• gugu (masculine) (granary)
• kadi nati (feminine) (the name for pit latrine)
• miŋe (feminine) (a special structure built to milk a cow so that the cow does not kick away the milk or the milker during the milking process;
• koko or mololo (feminine) (roofed chicken pen);
• mari (feminine) (kraal);
• kadi na lidi (feminine) (roofed and sometimes walled goats' pen);
• kadi na kebiilizi (feminine) (roofed and sometimes walled sheep’s house);
• ayiyi (masculine) (a food storage facility);
• salo (feminine) (a low-walled house with a roof usually sited in the middle of the compound. It is used as a kind of "common living room", especially valued by the Kakwa of Congo;
• roboŋo (masculine) (shrine stones).

A Kakwa homestead is also always located near a large evergreen tree that serves as parine (feminine) under which family members can enjoy tilimo (feminine) or shade. In the evenings, family members spend their time around the communal open fire which is known as pudo (feminine) where the elders tell stories to the younger group and where the day's activities are discussed and future plans and specific assignments are made. Another very important consideration in locating human dwellings is proximity to a clean, permanent and fairly close well in addition to consideration of the distance to a communal grinding rock surface or to the major farms.


From a Kakwa Family to Kakwa Society

Each of the nearly two hundred or so different Kakwa clans, is built on a pyramidal model with the family as the lowest entity. Next in this social hierarchy is the extended family which forms another social organization known as ketimi (feminine, plural, ketimi-to) or gurube (feminine). A ketimi may comprise of two to a dozen related villages. The final organizational unit is the whole ethnic Kakwa group that the colonialists named a "tribe" but which is really an "ethnic" or a language group." Therefore, Kakwa the ethnic group is composed of different clans which, in turn, are composed of assorted sub-clans which, in turn, are composed of disparate villages and families, which in turn, are composed of a few dozen to hundreds of individuals.


The economy of Kakwa people

The economy of the Kakwa was mainly subsistence agriculture but some families also practiced mixed farming. They kept cattle, goats, and sheep besides agriculture. Millet has always been their principal food crop followed by sorghum and a type of bean called burusu.

These were the staple foods of the Kakwa. They have been supplemented by pawpaws, maize and cassava. Cassava is said to have come with the advent of the Belgians and the intrusion of the logo, an ethnic group from Zaire.Pawpaws are said to have been introduced by the British.Millet, sorghum and burusu were traditionally sown in a large field dug on a communal basis, known as vya or litika.

Women figured less prominently in the economy of the Kakwa. Men dug the fields, sowed the seeds, tended the animals, built and repaired the houses. Women would remove the rubbish from the cultivated fields, would also clean and store the crops away in the granaries.The women engaged actively in basket weaving, salt making and pottery.

Salt was made from indigenous plants known as morubo and bukuli. These plants wound be burnt and then the ashes we re put in a container with many holes at the bottom; water would be poured on the ashes. The salty liquid would filter through the holes and out into another container at the bottom.
The Nyangaila clan specialized in iron smelting, making spears, knives, hoes and a variety of other iron implements.

Wealth among the Kakwa was measured in terms of “how many granaries full of foodstuff” one had in one’s compound and the number of the livestock in one’s kraal.In the event of famine, and this was common, people would migrate to another area where there was plenty of food.


Kakwa Child Naming Ceremonies

Kakwa people do not usually name their children until the last piece of the remaining umbilical cord has fallen off through the natural process. The naming ceremony usually occurs after three days if the child is a girl, and after four days if the child is a boy. The naming ceremony requires first, the boiling of shelled laputu (masculine) or Black-eyed peas in salt-free water and the addition of the traditional solution of the local salt, kombo (feminine), mixed only in kemo na konyu (feminine) or simsim paste. Moreover, no frying whatsoever, is entertained while millet serves for the staple bread, ’dilo (feminine).

The baby to be ceremoniously named is brought outside for the first time in the fresh, mild morning sun known as a-igo (feminine). The elders then formally receive the baby after each one of them has assembled a number of names that he or she has kept secret till the ceremonial time. Every name proposed is carefully weighed and discussed in the context of the circumstances surrounding the birth, the parents' marriage history, and what is happening in and around the village, Kakwa society, and son on, or when that child was born. Separate names are given for boys and girls each with a unique meaning. After choosing the appropriate name, one elder (usually the eldest elder man) then formally presents the child to Mount Liru by pointing him or her toward the legendary mountain with the pronouncement: Liru, ŋiro lolu ilo! (meaning, "Liru, here is a child for you" -- if the baby is a boy), and Liru, ŋiro nonu ina! (meaning, "Liru, here is a child for you" --- if the baby is a girl). Invoking the name of this famous Kakwa mountain serves three major purposes: (1) it formally reminds the child and those assembled that he or she is a Kakwa, and (2) it makes the child strong, and (3) it enables the child to live as long as Mount Liru. After this ceremony, the infant is given back to his or biological mother. From this point onwards, he or she is called by the chosen name but other informal names (including nicknames) can still be used in reference to him or her.


Kakwa Mourning Customs and Rites

The Kakwa people refer to bereavement as gbiye (feminine) (literally, "crying"), and sometimes as mute (masculine) and deliya (feminine). Until there is death of a close agnate or affine, Kakwa adults do not normally cry but do so profusely and instantaneously when that occurs. This process is exacerbated by the presence of certain individuals in the society and village who have distinguished themselves and shriek in very peculiar and mournful ways to announce that death has taken place in the village. Such a traditional shrieking sound is known as sire (sira) (feminine) and is normally performed by an adult male. Adult women may also have their own way of shrieking which is referred to as gbililiza (feminine).


Kakwa Burial Rites

When death occurs, the dead person becomes known as opu (masculine) and the burial process is known as nuga (feminine) or more fully, nuka na ŋutu (feminine) (that is, "burying of a person"), and this normally occurs in the evenings for ordinary people. However, for people known as Bura or Mata-ki ‘Chiefs’, the burial ritual is complex and it occurs at dawn. Before that, the dawn time, the Chief’s body is nursed in a ritual known as muyu na mata (feminine). The burial procedure is always the work of the men who dig gulo (feminine, plural gulo-mo) (the grave) to a depth of at least two meter and breath of a meter and a half, in a chosen location. A special hole (some kind of a mini-grave), the size of the actual body, is then dug 180
degrees inside the deepest end of the grave where the body will be placed. Usually three days after the burial, a special mourning feast called abujo (masculine) or adosu (masculine) is organized. This feast involves the killing of an animal, usually a bull, ram or a he-goat, depending on the
status of the deceased or and his or her family. The animal thus killed is cooked and distributed randomly without any special consideration being given to what part of the animal should be consumed by which clan or lineage. Prior to this feast, the relatives of the dead person and well-wishers continuously supply the people who turn up for the funeral with free food and drink.


Traditional Kakwa Concept of Religion

The Kakwa people have no temples for worship nor any written doctrines such as the Bible or the Qur’an (Koran), or the Geeta (the Hindu Holy Book), nor full-time preachers, nor organized religion. However, they do have shrines or oracles that are collectively called uriya (masculine) and these symbolize the spirits of the dead. These uriya are usually symbolized either by distinctive stones known as roboŋo (masculine) or by fig trees known as laru (masculine) where periodic sacrifices are made. The ritual of appeasing the dead through the stones or the fig tree is known as i-ila na roboŋo (feminine) or i-ila na laru (feminine) respectively.

The overall concept of religion, as expressed by the uriya (masculine), is that the dead or ancestors can communicate with the living. Accordingly, if these ancestors "notice" anything going astray among their living kin, they have the obligation to react by bringing signs that warn of eminent disaster and even punish them and that something should be done to avoid the event of further punishment. The spirits of the ancestors also act like angels that follow and guide a living person at all times and places. Therefore, such a spirit can and should rescue one from a potential or a real problem.

The Kakwa idea of a "supreme being" is what the people know or refer to as Mulete (masculine) whom they see as being the ultimate source of all power and morale order. They conceive of him as having two aspects, one transcendent and the other immanent evil, an inversion. He is responsible for all forms of death for death cannot be avoided. His will is immutable.



An elderly man in Kakwa is known as temezitiyo or Ŋutu logo. He carries a very important and envious position of power, influence, responsibilities and wisdom. Every Kakwa ketimi (feminine) or gurube (feminine) or clan, is usually headed by an elder— usually the most senior person— in the clan by virtue of being the son of the most senior woman ever married into that clan and by virtue of his longevity. He does not automatically assume this title but, he must earn it by through active participation in clan activities. Such activities include looking after the affairs of marriage of the clan's daughters, expressing concerns in case these daughters or any of their children are ill, barren or facing very jealousy co-wives. It is usually also reserved to those men who by virtue of genealogical position in the lineage, have the custodianship of certain rites, such as: blessing hunters, blessing the first harvest, becoming Bura (rain-predictor), negotiating tough issues, arriving at consensual agreements, etc. He also has another mark of office, the aruwe-ta
(masculine), the hereditary ceremonial stick that only the elders in his age bracket are supposed to handle.


Authority and Respect in Kakwa Society

There is no universal authority over the way individuals should conduct themselves in the Kakwa society. Unfortunately, modern governments, through puppet chiefs and sub-chiefs, have meddled in their subjects' affairs. These chiefs are mainly concerned with collecting taxes, labour, and other services that were once outside the traditional everyday life for most Kakwa. Kakwa tradition holds that open violence is wrong between agnates and close uterine. Women should respect their husbands and children their parents.

Disputes over rights of land, women and livestock occasionally occur at all levels of the lineage but are settled differently, beginning with the elder of each disputant. Inter-clan sexual relations, adultery and fighting an elder person are considered incest which may be punished by nyoka (feminine) or endless mystical sanctions.

Where the relationship is a little distant, a show of overt force or violence may be necessitated but this will ultimately be settled peacefully because of the concept of lemi (masculine) and agnatic relationships. For Kakwa, the essence of the exercise of authority, whether between agnates, cognates, affines or neighbours, is for the relationship to be one in which the junior obeys, fears or respects the senior. All these societal rules are contained in the general term kuga (feminine) (or respect).


Kakwa Rain Predictors

In Ko’buko District, the Kakwa clans of Bura, Ranju, Okube etc, are renown for being rain-predictors. These people also fall in the category of ’buni or mentalist, shaman, traditional healer, traditional doctor, witchdoctor, magician, psychic, exorcist, yakanye (feminine) spirit, medicine-men etc. As such they are both revered and respected in Kakwa society.


Adiyo: Ethnohistory or Events of the Past

Adiyo (masculine, singular adi), the events of the past, is a fairly long dictated genealogical discussion of relationship with others. This process of conducting the discussion is referred to as ’doto na adiyo (feminine) or tayi na adiyo (feminine) or kepo na adiyo (feminine). It is also a ritual address, a loud recital of the main facts of different cases and genealogical and marriage relationships, and is conducted during funeral rites, marriage ceremonies and in communal feats. It is made to both the living and the dead ancestors of the group. These ritual addresses are always much the same although each clan and lineage has its own details, and they all provide a focus for the solidarity of the assembled elders and youngsters.


Kakwa Art

Art always represents something—communicates information—but this something is never represented in its literal shape, sound, colour, movement, or feeling. Among the Kakwa, designs, stories, and artifacts have definite use in day-to-day subsistence activities that are produced primarily for practical purposes or rarely for commercial use. These forms of art are produced and performed in complete harmony with utilitarian objectives. The Kakwa derive pleasure from playfully embellishing and transforming the contours and surfaces of pots, fabrics, wood and metal products. They also recognize and honour the fact that certain individuals are more skilled than are others in making utilitarian objects and in embellishing them with pleasurable designs. Therefore, skilled wood carvers, basket-makers, granary-makers, potters, singers, negotiators, weavers or arrow-makers are all artists.


Kakwa Music, Song, and Dance

The general name for dancing in Kakwa is gboja (or gboza) (feminine, plural gboja-zi) or yali (masculine).
Singing is termed as welo (feminine), and the songs themselves are known as wiri-to or wiri-ta (singular, masculine wiri).
In Kakwa society, the social functions of music, song, and dance are viewed in ways such as
• bringing prosperity (in harvesting and hunting);
• celebrating a wedding;
• celebrating a triumphant hunting or defensive/offensive expedition;
• averting a calamity (famine, war, disease epidemic, locusts);
• honouring Mulete or God;
• passing the time, especially when engaging in such routine activities as digging, building, weeding, grinding grains etc;
• honouring an ancestor
• honouring a first harvest
• honouring a dead Mata lo ka (Rain-chief)
• recreation.


Kakwa Dancing Drums

The Kakwa names for their dancing drums include: buli (feminine) the bass drum’, liliru (feminine) the drum with the highest pitch or the solo drum, and the pipire (feminine) also known as pilipitimbi (feminine). In addition to the drums, there is another Kakwa dancing instrument known as yuge (masculine). This wooden structure provides rhythm to the beat of the drums in any dance. It is the main wooden trumpet which is curved in one piece from a tree, and is about 140 cm in length and about 25 cm across the open lower end.

Its tip is crowned by a knob in the shape of a truncated pyramid. The embourcument consists of a plain hole close to the tip but there is no stop in the tip.

When a Kakwa boy passes the laminal youth stage, he develops sire or sira (feminine, plural, sire-si) which is a possessed personal call which is really "a long falsetto whooping cry, the melody of which corresponds to the tonal pattern of a word phrase associated with the possessor. It is made in time of danger, in fighting, and on formal occasions to show the caller's identity. Men also call their sire when returning home drunk, lest they be mistaken for strangers and shot with arrows, and to show pride in themselves. It is always made only by the possessor at even at the times of death or danger. To call another man's sira is to insult and belittle him. Another form of personal identity is called u’duta (masculine) which is possessed by both men and women. This is usually made during dances in which the individuals praise themselves, their parents, clan (lineage) or their grandparents and ancestors. In its simplest form, u’duta is a series of talks done in a funny and philosophical, controversial or proverbial way without being personally directed against anybody or offending anyone. During dances, women ulate at the tops of their voices but in a jovial excitement. This excitement is known as gbililiza (feminine).


Kakwa Men’s Costumes

• lo’bu (feminine, plural lo’bu-wa) is the name given to animal skin which traditionally is worn only by the men;
• bolo (feminine, plural buluzi or bolo-zika) is the quiver which is used both for dancing and for storing arrows. A typical Kakwa dancing bolo is made out of the hairy skin of the he-goat. This hairiness is known as punda;
• keye (masculine) is a kind of jazz which consists of a dried gourd which is then filled with seeds or
stones and shaken to enhance the rhythm of the drums and songs;
• diyeri (feminine) is a costume made out of an animal tail;
• agbarala (masculine) and ngbirila (masculine) are similar, and they are metallic dancing costumes worn at the ankles.


Kakwa Women’s Costumes

The word koropo (feminine, singular kuruputi) stands for leaves. Leaves are traditionally worn by women as clothing, usually around the waist and covering the front and back below the waist with the sides of the thighs virtually bare. Despite these uses of organic clothing (leaves and skins), the Kakwa people have been clean and sanitary in their habits and habitats.

• nyoori (feminine) collectively, refers to traditional beads worn by the women.
• ŋaliya (masculine) the ‘modern’ beads worn by the women
• riye (feminine) various kinds of metallic rings worn around the arms and legs.
• meze (feminine) variant meje, is the solution of iron oxide smeared to protect the body against the elements and to maintain beauty.


Kakwa Ornaments

Most of the Kakwa people do not generally adore ornaments except those used by women to enhance their beauty. Girls perforate both lobes of their ears at a younger and tiny metals in the holes. Where there are no rings, they insert well-prepared grasses to keep the holes intact and to prevent infection. This process perforating the ear is known as rumo na suwo (feminine) (literally, "piercing the ears"). In the olden days, women used also to insert small bracelets through the lower lip and had the cartilage of their noses pierced for a ring. However, the most common ornaments for women, have been the colourful and different

• ŋaliya (masculine, singular ŋalita) or are beads worn around the waists, ankles, wrists and necks. In addition to the beads, there were the following riye (feminine), most of which were metallic ones worn on the ankles and wrists:
• riye nakpe (feminiine) is a collective name for ‘white rings’, such as silver ornaments which were considered of a higher quality and standard;.
• riye natoru (feminine) or ‘red metals’ include metals such as bronze, copper and gold, all of are rare in the Kakwa territories.


Kakwa Traditional Games and Sports

There are different ways by which the Kakwa keep themselves fit, strong, healthy or entertained, including farming, dancing, hunting or tree-cutting. However, there are other common recreational activities which are also initiational processes to adult life.

Concussion Rattle. A Kakwa concussion rattle consists of two tiny and round fruit shells filled with dry seeds and joined by a chain or a piece of twisted cloth of about 10 cm in length. One shell is placed in one palm of the hand and the other is allowed to hang down loosely between the thumb and forefinger or between the latter and the middle finger. The suspended shell is swung to make rapid rhythmical movement of the arm and hand and to strike against the fruit in the palm of the hand. The basic motion can be varied and the instrument becomes capable of expressing intricate rhythmical patterns. Only girls use the concussion rattle while in the open markets waiting for customers, or when on the journey to and from the market, or when going to draw water from the wells

Togoda (feminine) means hunting, and it involves special talents and skills. No distinct class of huntsmen exist among the Kakwa but there are usually individuals in every clan who distinguish themselves out as excellent hunters. In general, small game such as alu (masculine, plural alu-wo) (bush rat), muri (feminine, plural muri-ŋo) (dikdik), ka’bo (feminine, plural ka’bu-zi) (waterbuck), nyamata (feminine, plural nyamaki) (feminine) (a brown antelope) and other types of antelopes, are hunted for the sake of meat by any man who wishes to do so at any time of the year. However, a more general communal hunting area is usually designated: it is large, unsettled, ungrazed, and isolated. These areas are known as menu (feminine, plural menu-wa). Each menu is designated by name; in Ko’buko District, they include Menu na Abundiri, Menu na Moroto, and Menu na Nyangbiri. These most popular ones are located at the remote corners of the Uganda-Sudan border, in Yei County and in Amadi County.

Mbiyu (feminine) or the sling is a boy's game made from strings obtainable out of the barks of certain special plants. These strings are then twisted into convenient lengths and roughly 5 mm in diameter. In the middle of the sling is left a slot large enough to take a given size of rock. In order to aim at a target which may be an animal or a distant spot, the boy climbs on top of a rock or hillside or on top of a raised and open ground.
Then he brings both ends of the string together and spins the sling over and round his head with the stone, which acts as the bullet, located in its centre. The name mbiyu actually comes out of the whistling mbiyuuuuu sound that the bullet makes as it is released and travels in the air to its target. This is a very competitive sport for young boys, and this competition starts from making the mbiyu itself to practicing with the targets.

Turo (feminine) is the name given to the sport of distant shooting. In this sport, boys usually arm themselves with bows and arrows and, upon climbing up a hill or an anthill, shoot these arrows as far as possible. The person whose arrow reaches the furthest is the winner.
There are also target practices whereby arrows are shot at the smallest stem of a shrub or a tree from a designated distance. The object is to see whose arrow reaches into, or closest to, the target or bull's eye.
This target can always be proven by visual inspection or from some missing arrows which might have gone right through such a target. Sometimes, instead of the true arrows, the younger boys use indiripi (masculine), which are arrows made from the stems of the Elephant grass. Other arrows known as undurube (masculine) are made from the fresh stems of the sorghum plant.

Kupe, also known as unyaka (masculine) is a reference to wrestling where Kakwa boys train to become fighters and to defend themselves. Such training is usually closely supervised and monitored by the olders boys and no boxing is allowed. Also boys of roughly the same age, weight and height are allowed to wrestle among themselves. As the training progresses, one person from the lower age and weight bracket might be allowed to tackle a heavier and older individual in the other group. The object of wrestling is to hold each other chest to chest and to squeeze these chests until one individual becomes too weak to stand it any further. As soon as the weaker person falls to the ground, the victor might lie on the defeated person’s chest
and hold his hands to prevent him from ever rising again. If he does maneuver his way to get up again, the same procedure is performed and by luck, the person who fell down earlier might prevail in the subsequent chances. A tip to avoid being squeezed too hard is never to allow one’s chest to be too near that of the opponent's, and to always, to stand with the legs well-spread out to secure some balance.
Another form of wrestling is the one called unyaka (masculine) in which one person attempts to entanglement the other's legs so that balance is difficult. Again, one can avoid this entanglement by having the legs stretched away from those of the opposite person. Some boys who feel too young and too light to wrestle their opponents in the normal fashion, sometimes attempt to charge at their opponents from behind and without warning. This is not usually accepted.

Wowoki (feminine) is the general name for all types of competitive races or relays which can happen in sandy places, in wooded areas, in nyamu-nyamu (masculine) (short, flat and fluffy grass), on the way to and from school, in school play grounds or inside water. To make the sport more vibrant and varied, youngsters may do the following:
• run backwards
• run on one leg
• run while holding a certain object (water, fruits or rocks) in their hands;
• run with their eyes closed.

Golo (masculine) is the name for soccer or football as it is popularly known locally. Various wild and exotic fruits serve for balls which are played bare foot and on any dry surface (usually the compound, school yards, roads, abandoned gardens, paths, on the nyamu-nyamu (masculine), and so on. One of the most popular balls is made out of the dried fibres of banana stems which are then twisted round and round in several layers inside a shallow and circular hole; this eventually forms a ball capable of rolling and being kicked about. However, the most popular but rare organic ball is kulayi (masculine) (the bladder) which may be obtainable from a slaughtered cow, bull or even a goat or sheep. This organ is first carefully cut off without puncturing it, then it is rubbed on the ground with the feet to soften it. Finally, the kulayi is blown with the mouth until it reaches a certain pressure, shape, and size when its mouth is tightly closed with a strong string or a piece of plastic. This importance of kulayi has makes most Kakwa boys to always hang around a killed animal (such as during feasts) just so that they can gain access to the bladder which would otherwise be thrown to the dogs since it is not edible any way. Various fruits of plants also serve as balls Puu (feminine) is a sport in which bundles of fresh leaves are obtained, and then placed on a slanting rock surface. A person or a group of person sits on them and slides down the slanting rock surface. As the leaves wear down from the friction, more and more fresh ones are added to avoid being hurt or abraded during the sliding process.

Bego (masculine) resembles field hockey, and it is where a round wild fruit is rolled on the ground and directed with sticks into the opponent's goal in order to score points.

Bito na pane (feminine) is an interesting sport like cricket or baseball but the details of how it is played are sketchy.
The term ’dana (feminine) means "to hide" or hiding, and so, hide and seek activity is a sport of mainly the children. It is done in the bushes, grasses, houses and in the fields of crops by all sexes. Hiding and seeking activity is particularly common among the cattle-keeping boys and girls looking for mushrooms, firewood, and wild vegetables.
The excellent Kakwa woodlands and forests are dotted with certain very lowly-branched, cool and leafy trees or shrubs whose immediate surrounding is usually bare and clean. Boys and girls gather the stems of some creeping plants and tie these above a certain height from the ground onto tree branches to enable them to swing. This pendulum-like technique of using a string or a rope for swinging is known as kiyo-kiyo (masculine).
Kakwa boys who aspire to become expert drummers in their adulthood, usually learn the art of drumming termed woko na leri (feminine) by practicing on dry, hollow and sonorous tree stems and branches using rocks. Except for the absence of drums and songs, the rhythms of these resonant objects or surfaces are the same as those of the true drums made of elephant skin, goat skin, sheep skin or cow hide.

Swimming, known as muza (feminine), is important to learn. Except for the Congo and the Sudan Kakwa, there are few large, safe, and permanent water bodies of rivers prevalent in the Kakwa territories which could offer opportunities for swimming. The spots, referred to as ko’bulu, are usually the deepest parts of the river, but these may be too dangerous for swimming. Furthermore, some of the few available rivers are either too rocky, too swift, or too remote to reach. Nevertheless, cattle-keeping boys have devised ways of swimming even in the shallowest and muddiest of the waters to cool themselves off while the cattle rest nearby.
Learning ethnohistory, learning songs, fables, and learning relationships (through marriage or by decent), are very strongly emphasized and encouraged as a part of the growing and learning process.