Monday, January 4, 2010

The Introduction Ceremony

We have had a busy couple of weeks and have neglected blogging. We have some stories to tell and in particular one is about a treat of a weekend a few weeks ago, just before leaving for Tanzania for the Christmas break.

We were invited to an introduction ceremony, a Bugandan tradition in which the girl introduces her new found-love to her father’s family, and asks for her father’s blessing in marriage.

Of course, the day was packed in full Rusha style, starting with a 5K race we ran in the morning at a slum adjacent to where we work that raised money for the local parish (picture a motley crew of about 45 boys and girls, most in bare feet and flip-flops and Rusha and Guy, running through the water-destroyed dirt roads of a dirty slum, much to the enjoyment and bemusement of the locals), to a wedding ceremony of one of the nurses we work with, and ended finally with the introduction ceremony.

We were invited by one of our co-workers, and were told that we would have to dress in traditional bugandan attire, Rusha in a long chigoyi and traditional sash, and I in a Kanzu and suit jacket. We managed to find these in the bustle of the pre-christmas shopping spree down by the old taxi park, the busiest place in town at the busiest time of the year.

Wearing traditional clothes was quite a trip, as we were walking to the ceremony, instead of the usual yells of mzungu! We were greeted with Kabaka!!, a sign that we were going to participate in something old and royal and special. The kabaka is the king of Buganda, the largest tribe in Uganda encompassing the Kampala area. The Kabaka still reigns over the area, and although he is more of a ceremonial figurehead these days, people here take him very seriously. We definitely stood out even more than we usually stand out here.

As we arrived at the ceremony, and told the ushers who we were, we were lead to the front row of the bride’s party, and made to sit in huge comfy lazy boy type chairs. We were the guests of honor! Who would have known? The introduction ceremony is very prescribed as we were soon to understand. Basically, the bride’s family is seated, while the groom’s family is marched in to song and dance. No one is supposed to know who the groom is until he is beckoned forward, however, for this particular ceremony, it was quite easy as the groom was a white guy from Utah. Long story…but it was his first time in Uganda too.

The bride’s and groom’s families hire MCs to speak on their behalf and to run the show, and the next many hours were spent with banter and jokes back and forth between the two, all in Lugandan. During this time, the bride is bringing out her friends and family, so that they can meet the groom’s party and vouch for him. They are dressed in beautiful Chigoyis and Gomezi (another traditional dress with puffy sleeves and a sash) and do a little dance on their way in. The day goes by like this for maybe 6 hours! and finally, after tasting the local banana beer that was made for Tata (dad) by the groom, the dowry begins to roll in, and rolls, and rolls, and rolls. For an hour straight the groom’s party brings in fruit, soap, sugar, salt, flour, clothing, money, meat, cows, chickens, beer, soda, and furniture, laying it our for all to see and for Tata’s approval. When he does, it is all taken up to his house, to be distributed among his family. Then comes the food, and oh so much of the usual posho (maize millet), beans, matoke (plantain pure), meat and everything else that is found on a typical Ugandan dish. (more to come on this, we will have to do a blog entry dedicated solely to the culinary art of Uganda). Of course we got to eat first, as we were among the honored guests, and we even got our names called out during the ceremony and received extra special food in the form of Luombo, which is meat and chicken steamed in banana leaf.

After dinner we adjourned to the host’s house, where close family and friends were continuing their celebration well into the night. We sat around and drank beer and banana beer and talked till well past midnight. I think we were there for close to 12 hours.

This was by far our favorite and most exciting cultural activity in Uganda to date, and even though we understood little of what was said in lugandan, we got the big picture and enjoyed our time immensely. We were off the Tanzania the following Monday for safari and to meet the Pearsons. And that is a whole new tale…..stay tuned.

We will post all the pics from the introduction ceremony and the other pictures from our time in Uganda on picasa web (many are already posted) and welcome you to check this out at any time:


  1. Thanks for the updates. Keep them going.
    Love. Mom

  2. You two have really integrated yourself into the Ugandan culture and obviously have become well respected! Your photos and descriptive writing are out of this world. Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure with me.