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Strengthening the capacity of community museums

Strengthening the capacity of community museums to promote inscribed intangible cultural heritage elements

The Uganda Community Museums Association (UCOMA) received funding worth $61,360 from UNESCO to implement the above project whose main goal is to strengthen the capacity of community museums as spaces for learning to promote inscribed Intangible Cultural Heritage elements in Uganda.

The implementation of this project will be guided by 3 specific objectives: i) Increase the capacity of community museums managers and selected ICH community bearers to better appreciate the role they can play to popularise and safeguard the ICH elements and creatively share information with local, national and international community members; ii) Increase collaboration between the museums and the communities to collectively document and enhance the visibility of the 5 ICH elements at local, national and international levels through a film and publication; and iii) Increase involvement of the local communities especially the youth in the safeguarding of the ICH elements.

The project will take a period of Twenty four months (24 months) starting 11th May, 2020 and will be directly implemented by five selected museums including the following; Madi Community Museum in Moyo which is linked to the Madi bow-lyre music instrument, the Cultural Assets Centre and Museum at URDT in Kagadi which will be linked to the empaako naming ceremony in Bunyoro, the Kogere Foundation Museum in Kabarole district linked to the Koogere tradition, the Uganda Martyrs University (UMU) Museum at Nkozi linked to barkcloth making, and Kigulu Cultural Museum in Iganga district which will be linked to the Bigwala music instruments.

A glimpse into the 5 elements

  • Barkcloth making in Buganda.

Barkcloth making is an ancient craft of the Baganda people who live in the Buganda kingdom in central Uganda. Traditionally, craftsmen of the Ngonge clan, headed by a Kaboggoza, the hereditary chief craftsman have been manufacturing bark cloth for the Buganda royal family since the reign of King Walusimbi Kimera (1374 – 1404) and the rest of the community (Mr. Sonko Emmanuel)


  • Empaako naming ceremony

Empaako is a naming system practiced by the Batooro, Banyoro, Batuku, Batagwenda and Banyabindi, whereby children are given one of twelve names shared across the communities in addition to their given and family names. Addressing a person by her or his Empaako name is a positive affirmation of social ties. It can be used as a greeting or a declaration of affection, respect, honour or love. Use of Empaako can defuse tension or anger and sends a strong message about social identity and unity, peace and reconciliation (Engabo za Tooro)

  • Koogere tradition

Koogere was a female chief of Busongora about 1,500 years ago. Oral tradition describes her exceptional wisdom and the prosperity of the chiefdom through a series of narratives, which form part of the collective memory of Basongora, Banyabindi and Batooro communities in Kasese. This oral tradition is an essential and inspirational part of social philosophy and folk expression. It encompasses sayings and narrations focusing on images of plenty and abundance as blessings for hard work, highlighting the importance of wisdom and evoking female magic and heroism (Engabo za Tooro)

  • Bigwala, gourd trumpet music and dance of Busoga Kingdom

The Bigwala play a key role in maintaining Busoga collective memory, cultural values and social unity. Involving the performance of five or more gourd trumpet players, each producing a single tone blown in hocket to produce a melody, community members of all ages participate freely, singing, dancing and forming a circular movement around the instrument players. (UNESCO website)

Musician James Lugolole on the left.

  • The Madi bow lyre instrument and dance

The Ma’di bowl lyre music is a cultural practice of the Madi people of Uganda. Passed on by the community’s ancestors, the songs and dances involved in the tradition are performed for various purposes, including weddings, political rallies, to celebrate good harvests, educate children, resolve conflict or mourn the passing of loved ones. Several rituals also take place regarding the production and use of the lyre: preparing a special meal to bless the instrument while it is being made; placing pieces of broom and stone taken from a ‘quarrelsome woman’ inside it and praying to the ancestors so the instrument will resemble a similar sound; naming the instrument; and shaking it before and after playing to show respect for it. The traditional practice is a tool for strengthening family ties and clan unity, as well as educating younger generations about their community’s history, values and culture (UNESCO, CCFU and Madi community museum)