In Bugisu, tradition demands that Imbalu initiates (those circumcised in any even year) marry only after performing the Inemba dance.
The dance is performed in the early months of every odd year.
The dance is usually punctuated by celebratory singing, drumming and merrymaking.
Richard Wetaya---- explores what lies beyond the Inemba fanfare
At the assembly point; elders from different clans are gathered with their initiates. Some kneel, while others stand in lines, facing each other.
The initiates are then instructed to run to the venue of the dance.
At the venue, crowds are gathered and drums are reverberating.
The Inemba dance is on.
Wilson Wakinya, 20, of Bunanyuma village, Bushika sub-county in Bududa district and his collegues, fully dressed in their regalia, locally known as tsisumbati, come running with long painted sticks (tsimbani) in hand. Wakinya and his collegues quickly perforate holes in the ground, using the tsimbani, before they set forth to the dance floor.
The tsimbani ostensibly represent weapons that a Mumasaba man should bear at all times to defend his family, clan and society.
Patrick Wabuteya, a clan elder in Bunamasongo, explains that the Isumbati, which is a bull or he-goat skin, is a symbol of the power accorded to one to perform Gisu societal rituals, such as naming offspring, offering sacrifices and performing Imbalu rituals.
“The Isumbati is only worn by Bamasaba elders. Being dressed in an Isumbati, also means that one has been given the right to sit with elders and discuss issues of importance,” he explains.
For Wakinya and colleagues, the event officially marks their induction into the club of Basani - full Bamasaba men.
What happens at the dance?
Wakinya and his fellow initiates lead the crowds in the singing and dancing, marking the official start of the dance. They move back and forth, stamping their feet, shaking their shoulders, twisting their skins and swaying their bodies from left to right. They sing songs of victory, pouring scorn on those who thought they would not brave the pain of the Imbalu knife and those who lacked fortitude to face the knife.
Wakinya and his fellow initiates were circumcised last year.
In comes the Inemba drum
There is no Inemba dance without circumcision. But there is also no Inemba dance without the Inemba drum.
Before the dance starts, the long Inemba drums and the accompanying small drum (Indonyi) have to be fastened to two strong and firmly erected tree poles. The drums are raised in order for the sound to reverberate and reach distant places around the villages. Space is created around the drums because the initiates dance around the drummers.
During the performance of the rituals, only people possessed by the spirit of Inemba are allowed to beat the drums. Initiates who did not perform the Inemba dance in their respective villages are not allowed to witness any Inemba dances.
A smiling Wakinya tells me he is happy to have completed the transformation process from boyhood to manhood, as his culture demands. “I can now marry and have children,” he says excitedly. Wakinya dropped out of school, because his parents could not afford to pay his school fees. He is now engaged in an agro sales business in Bulucheke, Bududa district.
Inemba and marriage
In Bugisu, tradition demands that newly circumcised initiates who cannot continue with school, marry only after performing Inemba. Lawrence Mushiso, an elder in Bunamasongo village, notes that Inemba, also known as the Khura Babana mungubo tsingale rite, is a revered post-Imbalu rite, performed across Bugisu. “It is through the performance of this rite, that circumcised initiates, like Wakinya, are traditionally bestowed upon the honour of manhood. The traditional animal skin cloths or regalia that the initiates are draped in are called Isumbati and it is what they wear as they perform the Inemba dance,” he says. The Inemba dance is a concluding dance. It closes the Imbalu ritual cycle, which begins in January of every even year, with the Isonja dance and continues in August, in the same even year, with the inauguration of Imbalu (circumcision),” Mushiso explains.
At a glance
During the dance, initiates move back and forth, stamping their feet, shaking
their shoulders, twisting their skins and swaying their bodies from left to right, in a show of their new masculine identity and power. They sing songs of victory, denigrating fellow initiates who portrayed fear during circumcision or who postponed their Imbalu.
As they dance, the initiates bend and pass the Isumbati between their legs. The Isumbati is first lifted to the left shoulder, then to the right shoulder and thrown between the legs.
During the dance, the initiates also lift their legs to show potential suitors that their wounds are fully healed and that they can, therefore, copulate. The female dancers, who accompany the initiates, dance and gyrate as they lift their legs.
They also spread out their arms, slightly tilt to the left and then to the right. The lifting of legs by the females in many ways symbolises that they are ready for marriage. “This dance is also meant to help young men and women to make acquaintances with potential suitors,” Fred Nakhokho, an elder in Bulucheke, Bududa, says.
The Story of Wakinya
For Wakinya, Friday, March 14, 2017 was the day he was clothed in the traditional Bamasaba robe of manhood.
The ceremony took place in Bunamasongo village, Bushika sub-county in Bududa. It was performed in full view of excited relatives and friends. At 12:30pm on a hot afternoon in Bunamasongo, a beaming Wakinya was carefully dressed in the Isumbati cloth by Patrick Wabuteya, a clan elder.
The Isumbati is made from the skin of a bull or a he-goat. As he dressed Wakinya, Wabuteya reminded him of his obligations as a Mugisu man as stressed to him by his traditional surgeon on the day of his circumcision. After circumcision, initiates are given guidelines on how men should behave in society. Wakinya was reminded about the virtues of hard work, kindness and marriage. Wabuteya then placed a long drape of libombwe (creeping stem) around Wakinya’s neck. Wakinya stood stock still and attentive, all the while. According to Bugisu folklore, the creeping stem (Libombwe) symbolically brings good luck.
Around the compound where the Inemba dance was going to take place, the sounds of drums kept reverberating. Wabuteya presented Wakinya with a gift — money. The money was placed in the wreath of the creeping stem. Relatives were then instructed to place their own wreaths of libombwe around Wakinya’s neck, before issuing him gifts.
At 1:15pm, Wakinya and his fellow initiates were told to run to a nearby assembling point to meet initiates from other clans who were to perform Inemba, with them in Bunamasongo. Before reaching the designated assembly point, however, Wakinya and other initiates from the Bumiko clan performed a ritual referred to as khubwaa tsingubo tsisumbati.
This ritual involves the candidates tightening their traditional robes, so they do not fall off during the Inemba dance.
Elders speak out
Deo Mabonga, elder in Mutoto-Birthplace of Imbalu
I invite people to come and witness the beauty of Gisu culture. Inemba is confirmation that an initiate can marry and begin his own home.
Lawrence Mushiso, elder in Bushika subcounty
The Inemba dance is performed in an open place. It is through this rite that elders in different areas of Masaba land bestow the cloth of manhood unto circumcised initiates.
I have more than five years’ working experience in the media industry.
I wield a skilful pen as a writer and Iam presently one of the most proficient features writers at the "Features Desk" of the “New Vision”- Uganda’s leading premier Newspaper.
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Playing basketball-Several medals and Certificates recieved for playing the game
This is Avery interesting story and cultural narrative. There is quite a number of more stories to capture from other places too including Busano sub county at Masaba community Foundation (Shilindwa sha Masaba) that brings together 30 nucleus clans where the first Umukuuka I umukoosi weasa Wilson wamimbi originates.
Inemba begins from here in Busano normally in January, this time it was on 5th.Jan.2017 and it was officiated by His highness Umukuuka Sir, Bob mushikori at I'Bufooto, Clan chairman here is Prof. Masilli a lecturer at Makerere University dept.Anatomy and General secretary at MCF, the chairman MCF, Mr. Eddy komoli and a founder at http://www.facebook.com/uds.eastafrica has been tirelessly following traditional activities in view of cultural review to alleviate poverty and fight against ignorance.
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