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Front Cover 1
Front Cover 2
Table of Contents
Some aspects of Baganda customs
Notes on the Iteso social organization
Back Cover 1
Back Cover 2
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Lbi HE UaAND VG
THE BIRDS OF KENYA COLONY AND THE
By Sir FREDERICK JACKSON, K.C.M.G., C.B.
Completed and Edited by WILLIAM LUTLEY SCATER, M.A.
These three volumes represent the life's study of a great African
Explorer and Administrator, and the "father" of East African natural
history. The late Sir Frederick J. Jackson spent thirty-four years in East
Africa, and during all these years all his spare time was occupied in the
study of the Wild Life of this region, and particularly in the observation of
the habits of the birds.
Volume I. Struthionidae to Psittacidae, pp. 1-544. Illustrated with Io plates
in colour and I15 text-figures.
Volume II. Coraciidaee to Sylviidae, pp. 545-1-36. Illustrated wilh 8 plates
in colour and 65 text-figures.
Volume III. Hirundinidae to Emberizidae, pp. 1137-1558. Illustrated with 6
plates in colour, 61 text-figures and I map.
Extra Royal 8v. Pages LXVIII + 1590.
Three volumes. Price 4: io:- net per set.
Postage: Home i/-, Abroad 5/3.
"...To the ornithologist accustomed mainly to the birds of a temperate
climate the extraordinary number and the beauty of the species of this
region will make a tremendous appeal."
"...The illustrations by two well-known bird artists, Mr. G. E. Lodge
and Mr. Gronvold, alone are enough to make the book a noteworthy
one." Manchester Guardian.
"...The appearance of the late Sir Frederick Jackson's long awaited
work on the birds of Kenya and Uganda is an important event in the
ornithological history of East Africa."
GURNEY & JACKSON
LONDON: 98 GREAT RUSSELL STREET, W.C.
EDINBURGH: TWEEDDALE COURT.
KENYA & UGANDA RAILWAYS & HARBOURS.
HIRE CHARGES FOR THE M.L. "MURCHISON"
TO THE MURCHISON FALLS.
The MO [OR-LAUNCH "MURCHISON", a new diesel-engine craft
with cabin accommodation for eight passengers, has been put into commis-
sion on Lake Albert in place of the STEAM-LAUNCH "LIVINGSTONE",
and is available for hire at the following rates to parties (not exceeding eight)
wishing to visit the Murchison Falls:-
For parties not exceeding four passengers.
Shs. 300 for the first twenty-four consecutive
hours or part thereof.
Shs. 75 for each succeeding six consecutive
hours or part thereof.
For each additional passenger-Shs. 55.
CATERING will be provided if required on payment of extra charges.
At least FORTY-EIGHT HOURS NOTICE should be given.
Charges for trips other than to the MURCHISON FALLS will be
quoted on application.
Any further particulars required will gladly be supplied by the Superin-
tendent of the Line, P. O. Box 306, Nairobi, the District Traffic Superint-
endent, Kampala, or the Commander, Marine, Butiaba.
The Brightest Spot
VITHALDAS HARIDAS & Co., Limited.
General Managers for
Uganda (Kakira) Sugar Works Limited.
INCORPORATEDD IN UGANDA)
KENYA SUGAR LIMITED.
(INCORPORATED IN KENYA)
Nile Industrial & Tobacco Co., Ltd.
(INCORPORATED IN UGANDA)
Sugar, Cigarettes, and Tobacco Manufacturers, Ginners
and Cotton Merchants, Importers and Exporters.
Kakira Sugar Works :-
Holding about 14,000 acres of land mostly under cultivation.
At Mile 8 Jinja-Iganga Road. Employing about 6,000 Africans,
300 Indians, Europeans, Mauritians. About 30 miles of Light Railway.
Water supply to the Factory by means of pumping plant on Lake
Telephone: Kakira Factory 125.
P.O. Box 54, JINJA (UGANDA).
Kenya Sugar Limited-Works and Plantations:-
At Ramisi Estate (Digo District) near Mombasa,
P.O. Box 158, MOMBASA.
Gazi Sisal Estates.
TOBACCO FACTORY at Kakira- (Jinja).
COTTON GINNERIES- (Uganda).
i. Bukoboli 5. Mbulamuti 9. Kabiramaido 13. Chagweri
3. Busowa 6. Kakira 1o. Pilitoki 14. Batta
3. Bubinga 7. Kabiaza i. Amaich 15. Jaber
4. Kamuli 8. Butiru 12. Aboki 16. Kalaki
Ruvu and Kiberege.
Other Plantations totalling about 4000
acres Freehold land.
i. Bukoboli z. Busowa 3. Bukona 4. Bubinga
tgan a journal.
iHE ORGAN OF I'HE UIGAlDVi SO\CIE1.II V.
Vol. IX. MAY, 1942. No. 2.
Some Aspects of Baganda Customs. OWEKITIBWA S.W. KULUBYA, M.B.E.
Notes on the Iteso Social Organisation. ... ... A. C. A. WRIGHT.
The Amazing Muscular Reflexes of
a Dead. Crocodile. ... ... CAPTAIN C. R. S. PITMAN., D.S.O., M.C.
Progress in Africa. ... ... ... ... ... T. R. F. Cox.
CORRIGENDA AND ADDENDA.
THE UGANDA SOCIETY.
THE HONOURABLE SIR CHARLES DUNDAS, K.C.M.G., O.B.E.
MR. S. W. KULUBYA, M.B.E.
MR. E.A. TEMPLE PERKINS.
SIR ALBERT R. COOK, KT., C.M.G.
MR. E.J. WAYLAND, C.B.E.
DR. H. H. HUNTER, C.B.E.
MR. H. JOWITT.
MR. H. R. HONE, M.C., K.C.
MR. JOHN SYKES.
MR. N. V. BRASNETT.
THE RT. REV. BISHOP E. MICHAUD, M.I.E.
MR. H. B. THOMAS, O.B.E.
MR. E. F. TWINING, M.B.E.
R. A. TITO WINYI II, C.B.E.,
OMUKAMA OF BUNYORO-KITARA.
MR. E. B. HADDON.
MRS. G. EDNEY,
MR. E. B. HADDON,
MR. E. HOPKINS,
MR. C. M. S. KISOSONKOLE,
REV. FR. J. MINDEROP, M.B.E.,
MR. B. MULYANTI,
DR. M. M. PATEL,
MR. S. H. H. WRIGHT.
MR. S. G. MARSH.
MR. R. A. SNOXALL.
MR. B. E. SEBLEY.
MR. A. V. P. ELLIOTT.
MR. O.S. KEEBLE.
First of all an apology is due to our readers for the unfortunate printer's
error which made our last number into Volume VIII, Number 3, instead of
Volume IX, Number 1. An amendment slip was however sent tound without
delay by the Honorary Secretary and it is hoped that members' bound copies will
not be irretrievably confused. This mistake also had its effect on the Index of the
first eight volumes which was issued as a supplement to the last number, for this
claimed to be, (as indeed it was), an up-to-date index of the first eight volumes,
but was headed as a supplement to Volume VIII, Number 3, thereby inferring
that there was still one more number of the volume which was not included, whereas
of course it was complete only up to and including Volume VIII, Number 2, with
which the eighth volume should have ended.
In past editorials the editor has frequently referred thankfully to the way in
which the Uganda Society has been able to continue the publication of its Journal,
as well as to progress in other directions owing to the small degree in which the
war had affected Uganda. Now, alas! the blow has descended and our printers
have come to the end of the stocks of paper which they have been holding. In
addition to this it is next to impossible to get any blocks made, and the stocks of
art paper on which these blocks were printed is also practically non-existent. Our
printers, as most of our readers know, are extremely busy with war work, and
having taken all these facts into consideration the committee have reluctantly de-
cided that this number of the Journal is the last which can be published under
wartime conditions. From time to time when they consider fit they will publish
occasional papers, which may be produced on newsprint, but the publication of the
Journal in anything like its present form must be suspended.
Naturally this step involves a reconsideration of the present subscription, and
the committee have carefully considered this matter with a view to submitting their
recommendations to the General Meeting, whose approval is necessary for any such
change by the constitution of the Uganda Society.
We also have to announce with great regret that the special stocks of paper
which had been ordered for the printing of Sir Albert Cook's "Uganda Memories"
have been sunk at sea by enemy action, so that the publication of this work, for
which arrangements were well in hand, is also now most unlikely. However the
author has definitely entrusted the Society with the publication of his manuscript,
and we can only hope for a speedy return of happier times which will enable us
to go ahead with the printing.
It merely remains for us to thank members for the continued support which
they have given in wartime and the uncomplaining way in which they have sub-
mitted to the whittling down of their Journals to two a year. We feel sure that
they will amply appreciate the reasons which have prompted the committee to the
taking of the last sad step and that they will continue to support such lectures as
can be provided until the reappearance of a really satisfactory peacetime number
of the Journal is possible again.
SOME ASPECTS OF BAGANDA CUSTOMS.
Being the Presidential Address for the year 1942 delivered to the Uganda
Society on Tuesday, January 27th, 1942, at the Kampala Club.
by OWEKITIBWA S. W. KULUBYA, M.B.E.
It is difficult to talk on Native Customs without going back through the history
of Buganda to find out about the early beginnings of our Kings.
What is known so far about the history of Buganda gives us to understand
that the first Kings of Buganda came from outside Buganda, but others disagree
saying that there were still earlier Kings. Some say that Bemba, who, according
to legend was a snake which lived on the hill of Budo was a human being who
ruled Buganda and that when Kintu, who the Baganda hold to be the forerunner
of the present dynasty of our Kings, came to Buganda he found Bemba reigning.
He fought and destroyed him, thus becoming the undisputed ruler of the country.
I do not, however, intend speaking about that side of our history to-night. I
would pass over it by merely stating that the kings of Buganda are of very long
standing in the history of the country and that they have held the Throne in a
direct line of succession. Because of this, everything connected with our kings, the
respect due to them as well as customs in connection with Royalty are quite
different from those as practised among commoners.
First of all, let us try to find out more about the princes from whom our kings
were chosen. The king did not (to use a modern expression) marry his wives in
the same way as his subjects, but they were given to him by his people. This kind
of giving we know in Luganda as okusiga. History, by which you will understand
that I am referring to oral history as handed down from father to son through the
ages, tells us that king Kintu was the only Kabaka who actually married his wife
Nambi in the ordinary way receiving her from the Ngeye clan.
When a prince or princess is born he or she does not belong to the clan of his
or her father, but that of the mother. My own supposition as to why this is -so, is
that the reason for the child taking its mother's clan was so as to give a chance to
all clans in Buganda of producing an occupier of the Throne.
When princes were born they were kept apart and were under the supervision
of a clan elder known as Kasuju. This custom of separation did not, however,
extend to princesses because in Buganda females are not recognized as having any
claim fo the throne, consequently there was no need of putting them out of the way.
Among commoners, it is not permissible for a person to marry into his or her
clan or that of his or her mother, but princes belonging to the line of succession
are not debarred by such restrictions.
If I may be permitted to digress here for a moment, I wish to point out that
according to our customs, all those members of the clan who belong to the line or
age group of one's father are regarded as one's fathers and those on the mother's
side as one's mothers. We do not have those finer distinctions which one finds in
the English language. Consequently, this leads to much misunderstanding between
the European and the Muganda, when the latter asks for leave to go and bury his
"father" or "mother", when only a week before he had sought for leave to go and
bury this apparently same "father" or "mother". This leads employers of Afri-
cans to ask how many "fathers" and "mothers" their employees have! We now
know why it is so.
When a king passes away, we refer to that happening as "the fire being ex-
tinguished". It was feared to refer to the death of a king as such without hiding
it behind such words, as it would have led to strife and bloodshed. In truth, there
is a fire which is extinguished as a symbol to mark the passing away of a reigning
monarch. In the fireplace which one sees on the left-hand side when entering the
Lubiri through the Wankaki (the principal gateway) there is a fire always burning
day and night, although one may not see the actual fire, especially during the day,
as it has been provided with a zinc covering to protect the fire from rains. The
upkeep of this fire is one of the duties connected with Royalty in Buganda which
are performed by members of particular clans. In this case, the people who look
after the fire (and they have to be there every day and every night) belong to the
Bird clan. As soon as a king dies, the fire is extinguished and not re-kindled
until another king has been selected and placed on the Namulondo (the throne).
Yet another sign which marks the death of kings is that Wankaki (the principal
gateway) is not closed until the new Kabaka stands on the throne stool. Ordinarily
it is closed every night.
It is difficult here to enter into all the rites which take place when the Kabaka
dies, or when the fire is extinguished, or when the new king is stood on the throne
stool. We refer to this part of the ritual connected with the succession of kings
as "standing" on the throne stool, because it is never sat on, as probably some of
you saw two years ago. There is, however, one thing connected with such times
which requires mention, and that is the set of drums called Mujaguzo. These
drums are very important. I remember that the Kabaka's drums formed the sub-
ject of an (') article in the Journal of this Society some time ago. Before a prince
(i) Vol. III, No. 1, July 1935. (Ed.)
is recognized as the true successor to his father he must perform two particularly
important ceremonies: firstly, he must stand on Namulondo and secondly, he must
personally beat the principal drum of the Mujaguzo set.
This set is often heard being beaten on occasions of rejoicing and sorrow.
Mujaguzo has its own history. Kabaka Kintu came with a drum known as
Kyebabona. It is said that it was a drum of comparatively small size, but un-
fortunately it was burnt, I should imagine accidentally, during one of the early
Sekabaka KIMERA, who is the third in the line of our kings, had a drum
made which he named TIMBA: Tinba is the Luganda word for Python. A picture
of this drum appeared in one of the issues of our Journal, (2) and it had
an image of a snake carved on to the wood frame of the drum. This drum is
still in existence, well guarded and always accompanies the Mujaguzo wherever
the latter is taken. From this drum we make a long jump and come to the drum
of Sekabaka MUTEBI, the 15th king, which he named Kawu!ugumo, and that of
Sekabaka JUKO, the 16th king, which was named by him Namanyonyi. These
drums with others form the group of drums which we know to-day as Mujaguzo.
Up to the present day, whenever a king dies, the skins of the above two drums
burst. How this happens I am afraid I do not know; it may perhaps be suspect-
ed that a human hand plays a part in this. This, however, I do know. It is re-
lated that after the death of Kabaka Mutesa his Katikiro Mukasa set a guard on
houses containing these drums to prevent any one tampering with them. In the
morning they were none the less burst. The replacement of the skins is accom-
panied by a private function, at which are slaughtered two bullocks and much ado
is made of the ceremony. The replacement of the skin must be completed on the
These two drums cannot be beaten by any one after having been reheaded
until the king himself has beaten them, and the drum-stick which he uses for the
occasion is kept for that particular purpose only. Mujaguzo is never left in the
Lubiri overnight like other drums, it is kept outside the Lubiri a distance of about
12 or 2 miles. There are special persons whose duty it is to guard it, and they
never relinquish their guard morning or evening. This set is never beaten by any
member of the Royal Family other than the king himself, and it is never removed
from the place where it is kept without special messenger being sent by the king
himself. The reason why the principal set of drums of Buganda, Mujaguzo, is
guarded in such a manner is because in the olden days anyone who was discover-
(2) Vol. III No. 1, facing p. 15. (Ed.)
ed beating it, be he a prince or a commoner, was immediately put to death because
by so doing he was usurping the position of the king.
The following drums:
are kept by themselves in a hut reserved for them and a clan elder Kimomera of
the Mushroom clan looks after them. Kawulugumo is kept by a clan elder,
Kawula by name. This official is responsible for all the Kabaka's drums.
When these drums are beaten in concert, together with other drums which go
to complete the group, they are the full Mujaguzo. Until this day, this group of
drums is held in great respect, so much so that it is a well known fact that when-
ever they are heard it is a sure indication that the king is there in person. They
are never removed from where they are kept even for the shortest time without
the king's permission.
Namulondo is to a Muganda what the Throne is to an Englishman. It has a
history which goes back a few centuries, which tells us how it came into existence.
I do not, however, intend to enter into that history now. I shall merely confine
myself to saying that the present stool Namulondo is the original one still in
existence. It is interesting to note how this stool first came to be used. It was
made for the 9th Kabaka Mulondo. This Kabaka succeeded his father Nakibinge
when he was a small boy, when the time came to show him to the people a stool
was made for him to stand on so that he would become visible above the heads
of those surrounding him. This ceremony was continued to the present day and
the same stool is still used. (The present Kabaka is the 35th.) According to Ki-
ganda custom, it was kept by members of the following clans:
Fumbe (Civet Cat) clan
Nkima (Monkey) ,
Mpindi (Bean )
Persons belonging to all the clans I have just mentioned formerly used to take
turns to guard the stool, but nowadays only one person guards it; he is a member
of the Fumbe clan. The stool is stood on rugs of bark-cloth, leopard skins and
hyena skins. These are known collectively as Kiwu. Namulondo is taken out of
the hut where it is kept only once in any reigning monarch's lifetime, and that is
when he is proclaimed as the successor to his father.
The throne which is used by the king on ordinary occasions is quite a different
seat, and so is the Kiwu ordinarily used. These are looked after by certain mem-
bers of the Lugave clan and no member belonging to any other clan can handle
them. These persons are descended from one MYAMBA, the title of the Omutaka
or clan-elder of a hill called Ndugu in Kyagwc. The first person to perform this
duty was a woman named NAKIJOBA.
From as far back as is known in Buganda many of the things used by the
king had quite different names from those used by other people. Let us take an
instance or two from every day life. When the king is having his meals, a cir-
cumspect expression is used which, in Luganda, is ali mu bibo (literally translated
as "being in the baskets" although this is far from conveying the meaning of the
Luganda version; in fact it may not convey any meaning at all in that form. I
suppose what would be the nearest to it is "being at table".) It is never said that
the king is eating; the expression would be regarded as vulgar and shows the
speaker to be lacking in proper upbringing. Again, whatever the king uses,
including his food, is referred to as Makula (the colloquial meaning of this word
is, I think, best rendered in English as "Treasures"). Whenever that word is
used, the Muganda knows that the article referred to, belongs to the king and
consequently must be respected. When the king is sleeping, we do not say that
he is sleeping, as we would in the case of an ordinary person, but we say that the
Kabaka is resting: a word which is meant to convey the idea that the Kabaka is
always guarding his country and, hence, cannot fall asleep like the other people
who have no such responsibility; he merely takes a rest, meanwhile thinking out
what he is going to do next. From the above it will be seen that the Kabaka was
not looked upon as an ordinary human being. He was regarded as a kind of
superman without the weakness of common folk. Theoretically he requires neither
food nor sleep, he was above such things.
Throughout history the kings of Buganda have been the supreme tribunal for
their people. There used therefore to be set aside days when they appeared to
their subjects to hear and decide all matters, legal or administrative, and settle all
disputes which were brought to them. The hut or house where the king usually
heard these and cases which came from all parts of his country was known as Ma-
sengere, but those used by his chiefs for this purpose were called Kigango. In the
Royal Court House, the Masengere, the king used to appear as often as he chose
to do so, and the place where he actually sat was roped off. This house was look-
ed after by members of the Mbogo (buffalo) clan. All his subjects came hither to
pay homage to their king. A house or hut called by this name is still maintained
and is looked after as in days past. Some time back, during comparatively recent
times, the king ceased to make his appearances in Masengere and deputed the duty
to the Katikiro who henceforward heard cases in which an appeal had been made
to the king. There was still, however, an appeal from him to the king.
There is also another hut which is known in Luganda as Akagango Ak'omu
Lugya, which is build very near Twekobe, (Twekobe is the name given to the actual
building in which the king dwells). Not many people had the privilege of going
into this hut, only the Katikiro, the Kimbugwe and the princesses. (Before I pass
on I should explain that the name Kimbugwe in the old days was not, as it is to-
day, the official designation of a county chief. The holder of this title was a
person who had specific and important duties to perform, which were what one
might almost call of a religious character.) Another hut which I may mention
here is called in Luganda Akagango K'Esanga, and as the name suggests, it used
to have a tusk of an elephant in front of it. In this hut the king also sometimes
used to decide cases and disputes brought to him.
The king's servants were young boys who were brought to the king by heads
of clans to serve as pages in the Lubiri. These pages also were said to have been
Abasige, as were the girls given to the king to be his wives, referred to by me
earlier in this paper. No page ever sought a position of himself to serve in the
Lubiri, nor would he be allowed to do so. They were all sent in by the various
clans, because it was believed, and very justifiably, that a person who had been
sent in thus would have a better sense of responsibility knowing that if he com-
mitted an offence in the eyes of the king that offence wou!d be answerable by the
whole of his clan. This naturally led to those serving as pages in the Lubiri
being very careful and diligent in their service.
It was taken as a great honour by young persons to be sent to serve in the
Lubiri. It was usually from amongst those who had served well in this capacity
that minor chieftainships were filled, and from these they stood a better chance of
being promoted to more exalted positions in the country. Chieftainships in Bu-
ganda were, as is still the case, not hereditary, and appointments were made
according to the merits of an individual. Another factor which made service in the
Lubiri attractive was that the period thus spent amounted to a training for these
young people concerning matters affecting their country, in fact an education in
the customs and usages of their nation.
This custom of giving young boys in service was also practised in the case of
big chiefs, to whom boys were sent by their followers and relatives. The king
however had the right of taking from them any one who he thought would be
serviceable to him, in the same way as to-day boys leave lower schools to go to
When the king is walking in the Lubiri, every person whom he meets on the
way goes down on his knees. This custom of kneeling down when the king is
passing is especially adhered to by the gatekeepers who, after opening or shutting
the gate, keel down at once. A person kneeling down would not be held to have
committed a breach of etiquette even if he gave the king no other salutation.
It may be said that the kings of Buganda regarded it as part of their royal
duty to make their people happy in every way possible. For instance, a chief or
other person might order something to be given to a friend or follower without
seeing it before it was taken away, but in the case of kings, they always had it
brought before them for inspection, as for example, the food or beer which was to
be given to their people at a public feasting. They did this, so as to avoid the
shame in which they would stand in the eyes of their people should the things
served out not prove to be of good quality.
The principal cook of the king is called Kawuta. This person can be chosen
from any clan the king likes. This, however, is not the case with the person who
looks after the king's cellar. This person's title is Seruti and he comes only from
the Kibe (Jackal) clan, although other clans may send in their members to work
in this officer's department. The king's drinking water is under the care of yet
another person, and he belongs to the Ngeye (Colobus monkey) clan. All liquids
drunk by the king are very carefully scrutinised by those responsible for them.
There is one rather interesting feature about our kings in the old days, and
that is that they never wanted their subjects to see into the insides of their mouths,
and so they used to place their fingers before their mouths whilst talking. I am
afraid I do not know the reason for this. Perhaps someone can tell me. This,
however, disappeared when Mutesa I came to the throne.
The apparel worn by a king was never used by anyone else, nor cou'd he
himself give it away to anyone. When the king could not use it any more, it used
to be destroyed by setting it on fire! This custom was gradually set aside by each
succeeding king during these recent times until there are no longer any signs of it
left to-day. Doubtless the reason for it will be obvious to my listeners.
Most of the clans of the Baganda have clan estates at Magonga, which is in
the county of Busuju. It was in this area that Kabaka Kintu established his
capital on a hill known as Nono. This word means something like the source or
original birthplace of the nation and also of the history of Buganda. The Ngo
(leopard) clan still uses the name of Nanono for its female members, because the
members of this clan are the guardians of this place. The clan elder who looks
after the place is called Mwanje.
When one visits this place one finds people who have always had their homes
there and who are now looked'upon as the direct descendants of the original
inhabitants of the place. It is also the custom of every reigning monarch to choose
one of his daughters whom he appoints to the position of Nalinya (or queen sister)
from Magonga. The holder of this position is caller Lugyayo, and she is generally
regarded as the chief of the Banalinya. Some of Kabaka's cattle are given to cer-
tain people living in this place for herding, but the Kabaka never slaughters them
for his table nor will drink milk from them. Kabaka Kintu appears to have been
a person of extremely mild character who disliked bloodshed. For this reason
nothing was slaughtered at Magonga and the custom is still observed.
Throughout the generations, the king respected the importance of Abataka.
These are the elders of the clans. (But the word could also, in ordinary usage, be
made to refer to persons whose occupations of a certain area had become of long
standing). As, probably, most of my listeners know, each of our clans has a
totem, which is usually an animal. There is one clan, and I think it is the largest
of our clans, which has as its totem the lung fish, and one other whose totem is
the bird; the word "bird" being general and not referring to any particular kind.
Members of each clan are expected not to do harm to the totem of that particular
clan, except perhaps under provocation, nor eat it should it be eatable.
Ladies and Gentlemen, during this short space of time I have endeavoured to
give you a brief picture of some of our customs. I would direct your attention
to the fact that there exists a marked difference between some of them as practis-
ed in the Lubiri and among commoners. We have been able to learn that some
of the important duties connected with the king are performed by members of
particular clans, and the customs are still in existence until the present day. My
own theory as to what led to this is that our kings were anxious to ensure that as
many clans as possible had an opportunity of being represented near them. The
more the clans that had the opportunity of serving the Kabaka the more of his
people there would be who would take pride in their king. This naturally led to
the good relations that grew out of it. Furthermore, in this case the gain was for
the people themselves as the clans hoped-and sometimes hopes bore fruit-that
intercession would be possible on their behalf by their representatives in the king's
service in the event of his being annoyed by any member of their clan.
NOTES ON THE ITESO SOCIAL ORGANIZATION.
by A. C. A. WRIGHT.
The following information is necessarily superficial as it is the result of broken
opportunities of study during residence in Teso District during 1935-6 and the
early part of 1940. The information has been collected through conversations in
Kiswahili and English, sometimes with an Iteso interpreter and sometimes without.
Thanks are due to Messrs. Enoka Okello and Stefano Okurut, interpreters in the
Soroti District Office, without whose help in their spare time, this work could not
have been done.
No comprehensive study of the Iteso exists. So far as is known the few
publications noted below are a complete bibliography and they reveal the extreme
lack of information existing about this large tribe.
The Iteso not only occupy Teso District itself, but spread southward across
Central District into Kakamega District of Kenya where they are often known as
'Wamia'. Their most general name, however, among the Bantu is 'Ba-kide', since
their most easterly group, called the 'Ikidi', or 'Ikidea' ('Easterners') passed south-
wards first and came into contact with the Bantu, who corrupted the name into 'Ba-
Ikidi'-'Bakidi'. They are the second largest tribe in Uganda as their total of tax-
payers is in the region of 200,000, which brings their gross population to some-
thing in the nature of three-quarters of a million.
They form, however, but one part of a much bigger linguistic group, which
may be compared in size with the Ji speaking family of tribes. No-one has as yet
named this group other than describing it vaguely as 'Nilo-hamitic', but it should
be possible to establish for instance some word such as 'Itunga'= people as the
descriptive word, following the analogy of Bantu'= people and 'Ji' or 'Jo'=
people. I had previously suggested 'It', the plural prefix alone, but this is not very
satisfactory and I suggest the name 'Itunga' for this group, which linguistically is
clearly a subdivision of the 'Ji' language family of the Sudanian group of lan-
guages. The 'Itunga' group so defined includes: -
the Iteso as already described.
the Iloke or Karamojong of Moroto District, Uganda;
the Ngiturkana of Lodwar District, Kenya;
the Itapotha, Tapotha or Tapossa of the Southern Sudan in Kapoeta
the Donyiro or Nyangatom around the Lotigipi Swamp and the Kuren
River largely unadministered on the Sudan-Abyssinian border.
possibly also: -
the Buma or Puma ) visited by Boing de Boza in 1905. N.E. of the
the Karo or Akarra ) great bend in the Omo River within Abyssinia.
Borderline groups in transitional condition.
the Jiye of Mt. Kathiangore, S. Sudan;
the Jiye of the Labwor Hills, Moroto District, Uganda;
the Suk of the Kapenguria District, Kenya:
the Lango of Lira District, Uganda. But it should be noted that though
by now the Lango have become almost pure Luo speakers, they remain
widely different from the Luo in custom and tradition, while many of
their placenames and clan names and wild animal names remain identical
This large group has considerable linguistic affinities, similarities of custom
and social organization and, it appears, many common myths of origin. It is to
be hoped, after this war, that this group or a large part of it may be organized
into a border Province, which may become a sub-nation, on a par with the Luo
The Itunga traditions suggest a common source in a congerie of nomadic
groups wandering about the southern end of the Abyssinian Rift Valley. Of these
ultimately a large number split up in various directions from a certain spot on the
Liyoro River in Northern Karamoja. Some say that this was at Koten Hill, but
the fact is not established definitely. It is quite certain, however, that they were
in contact for long with borderers of the Luo tribes; for many loan words were
adopted, probably as a result of the influence of captured women.
1. J.L. Driberg-Note on the Akum contained in 'The Lango'
2. J. Roscoe-Note on the 'Bateso' in 'The Northern Bantu'
J. Roscoe-Note on the 'Bateso' in 'The Bagesu' pp. 91-96.
3. A. L. Kitching-Preface to 'An Ateso Grammar'.
-'On the Backwaters of the Nile', Chap. II.
4. H. B. Thomas-'Capax Imperii' Uganda Journal, Vol. VI
(References to Teso contained in 'The Life of Kakunguru').
5. F. R. Kennedy-Correspondence in Uganda Journal Vol. V as to whether or not a
clan system exists in Teso.
6. F. Lukyn Williams-Correpondence in Uganda Journal Vol. V as to whether or not
a clan system exists in Teso.
7. (R.P.) Kruyer-Notes on the Teso Tribe.
8. (R.P.) D. Schut-Notes on the origin of the Teso and some customs.
Of these, the two last are unpublished short memoranda, of which I am making use
with their authors' permission.
The eruption of the Iteso southward into what is now Teso District, seems to
nave been comparatively recent, i.e. within the last 250 years and to have finally
sundered those Luo groups who had penetrated southwards; the Jo pa Dhola and
the Jo pa Owiny, from their homeland in Acholi District. It may be remarked
that one group of these, the Imugenya, are now found still in Teso District, as well
as among the Luo in Kisumu. There is no tradition that any clash between the
Jo Luo and Iteso ever took place. Teso District was reported absolutely empty
when the Iteso entered it.
I am using the name 'Iteso' throughout for convenience as it has now the
widest provenance, and under this heading I am including the sub-group of the
Ikokolemu or Akum, or Kumam, who live in the western area of Teso District
and were until recently administered as part of Lango District. Now on the use
and extension of the word 'Teso' I must quote Father Schut. He writes thus:--
"On the map one finds "TESO DISTRICT", and the whole population
there is called generally 'Teso', and to-day from Mt. Napak (in the North), to
Pallisa (in the South), and from Kachumbala (in the East) to Bugondo (in the
West), they all call themselves 'Iteso', and even in Tororo away to the South
it is the same.
"But originally it was not quite like that. The people as they spread may
have called themselves 'Iteso', but there was only one part of the district
which was, and is still, called 'Ateso', i.e. the land of the Iteso and that is the
area of 'Usuku' or 'Napak', i.e. that part of Teso District which lies between
Lake Bisina (marked also GEDGE & SALISBURY on maps), the Komolo
Swamp and the Karomojo desert that begins with Mt. Napak. When people
of this area go to Kumi, they say they go 'to Ngora' or 'Okekwa', i.e. 'to
the other side' of the lake. When they go to Amuria, they say they go to
'Aburatap' (where at meals the millet bread 'atap' is heaped up well). But
when the people of Soroti, Ngora or Amuria go to the country neighboring
Mt. Napak, they may say they are going to 'Usuk' (more properly 'Ausuk') or
'Kokorio'; but often they will say 'to Ateso'.
"Also in the names of the peoples living in the various parts of the district
it is indicated that the Napak area is original 'Ateso', for, while the people of
Kumi and Ngora are called Ingoratok: the people of Soroti and westwards,
are the Ikokolemu; the people of Kasilo, Serere and northward to Soroti are
the Isera; the people of Bukidea and Pallisa are the Ikidea; and the people
of Tororo are the lyatekei; the people of Usuk alone are simply the Iteso.
"Now once this is established that the Usuk area is the original habitat
of the Iteso, it may be asked where did they come from before they settled
"The tradition is that they came from the East. It may be true and it
may not be. The Iteso believe that many things come from the East e.g.
'ekodoi' (any mortal contagious disease, in particular smallpox) comes from
the East, and 'Edeke' (the spirit whence all disturbance and sickness comes,
cf. vb. edeka-to be sick) comes from the East."
The Iteso of Usuk say that they came from 'Iworopom' and on a clear day
in this county, standing on a little rise, I asked the old men to show me where
was 'Iworopom'. They pointed due East straight across the great plain to the
distant low outline of the Suk Hills discernible between the great mountain masses
of Mt. Elgon (Masaba) and Mt. Debasien, called by the Iteso 'Tapes' or 'Morunge-
lel'. Father Schut states that the Sabei call Debasien 'Taposiat'. It is confusing
that some Iteso also call Mt. Napak-'Tapes', though to Europeans it is known as
'Kamalinga'. Place names are not final proof, but it is a remarkable coincidence
that the people of Usuk should have a tradition of coming from an area which
they call 'Iworopom', but which is still known by the same name as their own, i.e.
'Suk'-a fact of which they were unaware. The same remarks apply to the occur-
rence of the words 'Tapes', 'Taposya', which are but variants of the tribal name
'Tapotha', and which variation is a very curious accident if it does not support the
Tapotha tradition collected by Capt. G. R. King that they came from Karomoja
area before their last move northwards.
The wanderings of the Iteso about their own district have been desultory and
confused. With their entry into this vast unoccupied area, unmenaced by foreign
invasion, the need for tribal cohesion ceased. Small groups split up and wandered
off-in all directions to settle and multiply.
The following account of some of the movements is Mr. Isaya Otai's, and
though it may not be complete, it is worth recording: -
"The people were in the neighbourhood of Magoro (Central Usuk) when
they split up. Some moved to Nariam, Kelim and Katakwi, others to Koro-
rio, Kapujan and thence by ford to Kapiri. There is a ford, which is good
except in a very wet season, across Lake Bisina at Ochomai in the Miruka
Omito of Kapiri, and by this all the Ingoratok crossed over. Later some of
those who were in Katakwi moved westwards into Amuria, particularly to
Acwa Gombolola. In the early period, however, there were two great streams
of folk, one crossing Bisina at this ford and then passing through Odwarat
to Kobwin and thence to Agule. The second stream avoided Bisina and out-
flanked it by passing North and West of it from Kapujan into Gweri and
thence to Soroti which was formerly known as Opwuyu. But near the rock a
certain wealthy fellow named Isolodyang used to dwell and the etem meetings
used to be held there, whence the people of this group gained the name 'Iso-
Iota' and the rock became known as 'Solot'. From Soroti the people pushed
West and South fanwise into Alouet-Asurett and Lalle. Some of the Serere
people came this way but others were offspring of the folk who came first
into Ngora. Similarly the people in Amuria are partly from Usuk direct and
partly a group of the Isera from Soroti neighbourhood who pushed North."
Further West still at Lwala in Kumam County, Mother Felicity of the Mission
there collected the story from an old man that the forefather of the local people
was a poor man named Aman who lived on the shores of Bisina. He moved to
Solot and became prosperous. The advance parties 'ibekana' of his group pushed
on to Kamod and Lalle without trouble except for lions. They met no-body until
they made contact with the Jo Miro (Lango) near Katine, with whom there was
The tradition in Bukidea is that their forefathers came from Kanyum, N'gora,
Kyere and Serere. There are still some traditions that when they lived in Serere
they used to have dealings with the Banyoro across the lake. They went there and
the Banyoro came to them to sell the Bunyoro iron work in exchange for Iteso
pots and cattle and goats. Further than Serere the tradition of Bukidea does not
go. There must however have ben some direct migration from Usuk southwards
across the Kelim River, East of Tissai, as the Ateso spoken in Bukidea (according
to Father Schut) resembles the dialect of Usuk more than that of any oher part of
The pre-European social organization of the Iteso was unlike that of any of
the better known tribes in Uganda, since it was based fundamentally not upon a
'vertical' division of clan or lineage as found among the neighboring Bantu and
Luo groups, but upon a 'horizontal' division of age, dependent on initiation status,
similar in type to that found among so many of the Kenya tribes, but lacking the
ritual incident of circumcision, which always attracts the maximum attention from
the European public. So much notice has been taken of this, that the fact that
many other forms of initiation exist other than those involving the removal of
morsels of the sexual organs, is hardly realized. Dr. E. Evans-Pritchard's recent
study of the Nuer has described in detail their initiation ritual, which consists in
cutting seven deep horizontal cuts above the eyebrows and across the forehead
from ear to ear. The Iteso initiation which involved a painful flogging was tame
in comparison, but it had the same purpose as all the others. It was an ordeal, a
test of manhood, the physical price for the recognition by society of a new status
gained by an individual. It provided also in his scars a permanent certificate of
the fact of this recognition.
The British administration on arrival in Teso found in existence a type of
organization that was already familiar, a division of the country into counties or
Sazas, sub-divided into Gombololas and Mirukas. This system, however, was not
indigenous, but owed its existence to the historical accident of Kakunguru's mili-
tary occupation of the Eastern Province. (') It was, however, an extremely convenient
accident as it gave an effective hold over the country by means of a hierarchy of
Baganda Agents and thus provided the machinery for stimulating a somewhat
stlid peasantry into the pleasures of planting, weeding and picking cotton. The
inculcation of the best methods of carrying out these chores and the collection of
the revenue therefrom, has been the chief labour of the Administration for the
past thirty years.
With the slow spread of the doctrine of Indirect Rule, it was felt advisable to
replace the Baganda personnel in the Government machine by local tribesmen,
and this was gradually done in the years 1927-1933. Captain Tracey-Phillips here
as elsewhere was the initiator of this movement. The machine itself, however,
has remained largely unaltered until the present day. Now it is possible that the
indigenous Iteso social organization would have been able to withstand this autho-
ritarian imposition of an alien 'chiefly' organization if it had not been that this
society was itself in a state of flux owing to a change from a nomadic pastoral
existence to a fixed agricultural life. The introduction of the profitable economic
cotton crop and the prevention of local warfare accentuated the tendencies already
inherent in the change from pastoralism to agriculture. If it had not been for
this, the local organization might have carried on a subterranean existence parallel
with the Govermental one, as has happened so frequently in other parts of Africa.
That it has not on the whole, is probably due more to the economic changes than
to the undoubted pressure, which came from the Baganda, to suppress the initia-
tion ceremonies, which were at one time the chief social bond in local life. Never-
theless, as might be expected, the changes introduced have not failed to set up a
series of strains in society, which is one of the reasons why the Iteso have the
reputation of being such a 'difficult' tribe, with a tiresomely high murder rate.
Lawyers have attributed this latter fact to the strength of the Iteso beer over
that of surrounding tribes. This may be the case, but in fact no one has as yet
taken the trouble to test and compare the average alcohol contents of a number
of peasant brews in Teso, Lango and Acholi Districts.
In 1935, when in this District, I became convinced that the problem of crime.
and much that was miserable in this District, must be due not to such adventitious
causes as beer-drinking, but to a dislocation of social solidarity. To rebuild this
(1) Vide H. B. Thomas' "Capax Imperii", Uganda Journal, Vol. VI
it was first necessary to grasp what had been the previous working system. To
realize this, I obtained permission to visit some of the Nilo-hamitic tribes of the
Southern Sudan still largely unaffected by economic and administrative pressure. It
became clear that the Itapotha around Kapoeta provided the best opportunity for
study as they possessed close linguistic affinities with the Iteso, a history of
contact further South, and a working age set system, which appears to be very
similar to that described by the old men in Teso District. Some information was
duly collected, but the effort proved temporarily abortive through the fact of my
appointment to work in the Western Province. The information, however, was
filed and became eventually of use. Several Teso chiefs had been interested by
the effort to collect details about their history and continued in their own areas.
This information has since been correlated and expanded by conversations with
them and many old men.
In the meanwhile in 1936 Mr. Kennedy had begun the experiment of trying to
encourage the establishment of councils of village elders who would act in an
advisory capacity in Gombolola (sub-county) affairs. These individuals were called
'apolon k'ateker' (plur. apolok k'atekerin) i.e., leaders of kindreds and in many parts
their recognition has been enthusiastically welcomed as representing the establish-
ment of local interest against those of the Government appointed chief. Never-
theless, these councils have not as yet proved very effective, the reason being that
the 'ateker' or kindred, is not, nor ever has been, a social group of any political
importance among the Teso. (2) The persistence of these kindred names such as
Ikaruok, Ikatekok and Trarak right through the whole of the Teso-Turkana-Tapotha
group is most remarkable; but if one may use a metaphor, these kindreds are
rather persistent threads in the whole fabric rather than patches of coherent mate-
rial in particular spots. The significance of these names seems to be rather in the
prevention of incest by close intermarriage of related cousins. They are associat-
ed with distinctive taboos (etal), but these latter are observed only by the women
in the family of the men they have married (of which family they become a part by
marriage); but the observance ceases again on divorce. The kindred names are
carried by the men, but appear to involve no obligations or advantages outside
the small lineage (ekek, pl. ikekia) (3) situated in one area and amounting but
rarely to more than a score of taxpaying males.
(2) Our information leads us to believe that the above statement is based on information
now out of date (Editor).
(3) Note: 'Ekek' means literally in Teso, 'doorway'; in Tapotha, 'the lintel of the door';
but by derivation from 'household group' has come to mean 'lineage'. Cf.
Hima use of 'omulyango,' Luo use of 'Dho ot', and Galla use of 'balbal',
all with the same series of derivative meanings from the same original sense.
It was unfortunate for the Iteso that all administrators serving in their area
necessarily were likely to consider their political organization in terms of lineage
and clan; since among all the Bantu in Uganda, and most of the Nilotics there,
this is the sole division of importance. A European acquainted with the social
organization of the Nandi-speaking tribes of Kenya or the Nilo-hamitic tribes on
the Southern Sudan border, would have tended to look rather to some grouping
linked with a division of society by age. This grouping it may be said with some
confidence existed everywhere in Teso District, and in some parts at least still
survives. It was called the 'etem' (pl. 'itemuan'), and consisted in a clearly defin-
ed group of villages with a distinctive common name, e.g. 'Ikelimor, Imagoro, Isu-
reta, Isuguro. Many of these names are concealed as place names of areas used
as administrative divisions, atongoles, mirukas or even Gombololas. It may be
argued that this is an indication that the Administration was using the local
organization for government; but this is a misapprehension. The social division
often gave its name to the site chosen for an administrative centre (there being no
other name known to the inhabitants) but the use of the name does not imply that
the social organization was actually developed as a part of the machinery of local
government. E.g. In the four adjacent sub-counties of Mukura, Kapiri, Kapujan,
Wera and in a portion of Gweri, the itemuan are reported as being as follows: -
There is no difficulty in establishing among the older men, who belongs to
which group, but these groups are in no way related to the Administrative
The word 'etem' literally means 'hearth' and was originally translated by
Father Schut as 'clan'; probably on the analogy of the Luganda word 'esiga',
which has come by derivation from 'hearth'-'fireside circle' to mean 'family' and
hence 'lineage', or even loosely 'clan',( though the correct word 'ekika' is in common
use). The fire or 'hearth' in Iteso custom which attracted attention and was ex-
tended to a social connotation, was not that of the home circle, but of the cere-
monial feast, when bulls were slaughtered and roasted at the time when repre-
sentatives of the group of villages met to carry out an initiation of new youths to
manhood, or of warriors to the rank of elder. The 'etem' from meaning 'the
hearth' alone was extended to mean 'the group of all those who met around it',
and thence to 'the group of adjacent families who habitually met for initiation
Now if you ask an old Etesot "Did an etem own land?" he will say "No! an
etem was a meeting of people, and could not 'own' land". But if you ask him
what has the name of the 'etem' in a particular area, he will quote some name,
such as those already given, e.g. "Isureta'; and if you ask "Did the Isureta have
their land?", he will agree that they did, and that they had recognized boundaries
It is clear that the 'etem' thus described consisted of a group of inter-marry-
ing lineages (ekek, pl. ikekia) (5) who maintained their agnatic distinctions by the
use of the kindred or clan names (ateker) among the men and by the observance
of various taboos (eital pl. itale) among the women. While a man might never
marry a girl whose mother observed the same taboos as his mother, i.e. was of the
same 'ekek' as himself, he might, and indeed often did, marry a girl of the same
'etem' as himself. It was normally considered a marriage of doubtful correct-
ness if the 'ateker' names of both parties to the marriage were the same; but this
was not invariable as sometimes the connection was far too distant to be traced.
Such marriages, however, were rare as communications were difficult and danger-
ous and guerilla relations were common between adjacent groups. Thus many
will state that marriage between two people of the same 'ateker' was forbidden
(though this is demonstrably not the case in fact). It was indeed rare, since if a man
and woman were of the same 'ateker' and neighbours, they were almost certainly
relations, i.e. of the same 'ekek' and, therefore, incapable of a marriage relation-
ship. If they were of the same 'ateker' and not neighbours they would not be
likely to meet. At the same time it may be noted that the Iteso observe mother-
in-law avoidance to a very marked extent, and since it is socially extremely in-
convenient to live near at hand to those whom you must at all costs avoid, it is
probable that this has given rise to a development of the 'etem' system, which is
at first rather confusing.
(4) Note: Father F. McGough of the Mill Hill Mission informs me of the following
extension of the meaning of 'etem' thus:- "Talking to some of my cate-
chists about the Item, they said there were now three in the country, the
Teso, the Native Anglican and the Catholic. The "Teso" is the Native
Christian way of saying 'a pagan'."
(5) Note: There is an alternative word 'atekit', which is sometimes used for family or
lineage division. Father Schut remarks "One hears also another word used,
the word 'atekit'. This seems to stand more or less for 'ekek' and 'etal',
but I have a suspicion that it is the same meaning as 'ekek, only that it
is more restricted."
The social cohesion of the 'etem' was maintained by the existence of common
meeting places for particular purposes; rainmaking; initiation of the youths to
manhood; hunting; war and the settlement of quarrels. Such places were usually
at the kraal of some wealthy man, or by some prominent landmark as a great
tree, such as that now called 'Tanganyika' in Mukura Gombolola, or a great rock,
such as Solot, from which Soroti, the District Headquarters, get its name. Each
'etem' was a dynamic unit capable of reproducing its kind indefinitely. When the
area it occupied grew overcrowded, fission took place not by clan or lineage, but
by division of the generations ('aturi', pl. 'ituria'). A whole group of young men,
jealous of the control which their elders held over them, and often inconvenienced
by the close proximity of their mothers-in-law, would move off en bloc and found
a new village or group of hamlets at a distance. This would in time grow to
form a new 'etem', out of what had once been merely an age set. Sometimes the old
'etem' name would be carried on and used for the new village (6), sometimes a
new nickname connected with characteristics of the age set in question or the site
chosen would be used. Gradually a series of 'etem' (pl. 'itemuan') began to be
recognized as having more in common with each other than with others, probably
as deriving from the same source and having certain dialectical distinctions of
speech. These large 'sections' of the Iteso are sometimes called 'inerisinei'-'the
dialects' from 'ainar'-'to speak', or 'imutanganio' divisions. (7) In these divisions
there was no hereditary chieftainship, but wealth and personality counted for
much and there was usually a comparatively small number of individuals for these
reasons who could safely claim to the title of 'ejakait'--chief. Since wealth was
hereditary, there was a tendency for this authoritative title to be held in certain
families for several generations, but this was not a necessary feature of social
The core of the whole 'etem' organization was the ritual of initiation. Here
at once we are faced by a difficulty since two types of initiation are remembered,
first, the Eigworone (from 'aigwor'-'to sing'), which was apparently a manhood
initiation involving instruction and the infliction of pain, and taking place at fairly
frequent intervals of 2-5 years, and secondly, the Esapan, which was an initiation
into the rank of elder and involved merely the payment of heavy fees and took
place only at long intervals of 15-20 years. These two would appear to be
naturally supplementary to one another, but in fact at present where the Esapan
ceremony is found, i.e. in Usuk and in Ikedea and Tororo, the Eigworone cere-
(6) This is one of the reasons for the common repetition of village names in Teso
(7) Note: The equivalent word among the Turkana would appear to be 'Adakaritha',
the plural of 'ada kari'-'territory'. Cf. Emley J.R.A.I. 1930.
mony does not seem to be remembered, while in the West of the district, among
the Isera folk, it is the Eigworone which is well known and the Esapan forgotten.
It is interesting to note that among the Itapotha both types of initiation are still
practised. Captain G. R. King, District Commissioner, Kapoeta, has described the
parallel existence of the Age-Classes-'Amaget' and the Bull-Classes-Nyitha-
pan (s). Captain King wrote- "The age classes are periodically 'raised' to 'Bull
classes'; entry into which gives the member warrior status. The exact relation
between the age and bull class is not accurately established, .... but there are
(8) See Section on the Tapotha in "Handbook of the Mongalla Province" by C. Nalder,
pub. Int. Inst. African Languages. Note also: Nyithapan and Esapan are merely
two ways of writing the same thing. Cf. 'Dabossa' and 'Tapotha'-variant spellings
of the same African tribal name.
Diagram of formation of two daughter etem communities B and C from parent A.
Note I Only four day of the clans are shown for simplicity. The real number is
of course much greater.
Note II Each etem is a community of mingled clans representing in original the
movement of a mature age-set (aturi).
Note III The broken lines representing the lines of familial connection.
grounds for saying that the bull classes correspond exactly to the age sub-classes,
and that the entrants to the lowest classes are very young (probably 16-17) and
have to wait till they attain full manhood before their class is raised to 'bull'
(warrior status)". He then gives an account of the initiaion as reported among
the Itapotha, which may be compared with the following description of initiation
among the Iteso.
First, the Eigworone. The interval between initiations seems to have varied in
different sections of the tribe. Among the Ingoratok (people of Ngora and now
mostly living in Ngora county) initiations are said to have been held every year,
among the Iteso in Soroti county every four years, in Amuria every three, and so
on. These differences were not significant as no tribal unity existed, and provided
each 'etem' kept to a consistent succession, no confusion resulted and it was of
no importance what other neighbours might do. In practice, there seems to have
been considerable uniformity within each big section ('imutanganio') of the tribe.
The initiation primarily consisted in social recognition of an observed fact,
i.e. that certain youths had passed puberty and required adult status. It involved
instruction of the youths in tribal duties by the old men; the learning of songs and
some prolonged singing and dancing; the payment of a fee in the form of an ani-
mal slaughtered to provide food for the elders at the initiation feast; a mock
fight in which the retiring age-set were driven out by the incoming age-set; and a
ceremonial washing of the initiates to recognize their re-birth as men.
When the time came round for a new initiation, there would be a lot of boys
ready and wanting to be recognized as men. Some of them would bring beer to a
full-grown man of the age-set next above that most recently initiated and he
would become their sponsor, to suggest to the elders of the 'etem' that it was time
a new initiation ceremony was held. Messages would pass from kraal to kraal
and eventually a time and place be chosen. The men of the 'etem' are divided
into two groups left (kediany) and right (teten), which indicate their relative posi-
tions at the time of initiation in the great cattle kraal (aujo) (9). In theory the
age sets belong alernately to the right and left 'sides', but special circumstances
sometimes upset this logical order. Throughout Teso District the age-set system
was of retrogressive type, i.e. there were a series of names ('iwoye') which were
repeated at the conclusion of the series. In the Isureta etem', which held its
(9) Note: The Iteso kraals to-day are not orientated in any particular direction, but in
speech they are 'left' and 'right' as 'north' and 'south' directional points, as do the
Galla and Hima, (which indicates an orientation towards the sunrise). Cerulli
states that the Galla kraals are in fact normally faced in this direction with the
entrance to the East.
initiations in Omodoi etela (Io) of Asurett Gombolola, the rotation is stated to have
been of iwoye.
Meanings of Age-set Names
S lef (Iwoye)
4 Igolei Hawks (right)
*& Iderini Bush bucks (left)
Irisai Leopards (right)
S. Ikosogwa Buffaloes (left)
SItomei Elephants (right)
Imoru Rocks (left)
I Wkosogwa w- Iputiro Warthogs (right)
\.f "r Ikaalen Floods (left)
S Igolei Hawks (right)
p Iderini Bush bucks (left)
In practice these were
not often alluded to as
S'Iwoye', but as the
Diagvam of repetive. cycle of ,ge-secs. 'names of the Genera-
The succession, however, was not quite so simple as this at first appears.
Each set had 8 years in the warrior grade (eigworone), during which for 4 years
they were Juniors (Lukatupak or Luatupeke) and for 4 years Seniors (Lusoditi).
I (1) Igolei (left hand) & )together initiate (3) Isirai (left hand)
(2) Iderini (right hand)
II (1) Iderini (right hand) & ) ,, ,, (3) Ikaalen (right hand)
(2) Irisai (left hand)
III (1) Iderini (right hand) & ,, ,, (3) Ikosogwa (left hand)
(2) Ikaalen (right hand)
(to) The word 'etela' is the Iteso equivalent of the Luganda 'mu-tala', meaning an
inhabited piece of land between two depressions. The word is often used to trans-
late the English 'village', though it does not convey an idea of social grouping. The
best translation is probably 'the hide' in its mediaeval sense of a piece of land
cultivated by a village. Cf. also 'egitiella' plur. 'Nyitiella' in Turkana videe Emley
IV (1) Ikaalen (right hand) & ) ,, (3) Itomei (right hand)
(2) Ikosogwa (left hand) )
V (1) Ikosogwa (left hand) & ) ,, ,, (3) Imoru (left hand)
(2) Itomei (right hand) )
VI (1) Itomei (right hand & ) ,, ,, (3) Iputiro (right hand)
(2) Imoru (left hand) )
VII (1) Imoru (right hand) & ) ,, (3) Igolei (left hand)
(2) Iputiro (left hand) )
VIII (1) Iputiro (right hand) & ) ,, ,, (3) Iderini (right hand)
(2) Igolei (right hand) )
IX (1) Igolei (right hand) & ) .. ,, (3) Irisai (left hand).
(2) Iderini (left hand) )
Now in this list the Roman numerals represent four year periods at the end of
which time initiations are held. It will be noticed that in every initiation there are
three groups, those marked (1) in Arabic script, who are seniors (lusoditi); those
marked (2) who are the juniors (lukatupak), and those marked (3) the initiates
(Ikalomak). A further point to notice is that the initiates always enter the same
'side' (ewai) as the senior class of the year they are initiated, i.e. the opposite of
the group immediately above them in age. There are, however, always a number
of boys of rather indefinite age about whom there is considerable doubt whether
they should be initiated or not. Rivalry breaks out between the two initiating
groups, the seniors and juniors, on this point, which leads to a fight. Normally in
this fight the seniors should always win as they are the full-grown men, as oppos-
ed to the young men. The ground for the rivalry is that if the group of young
boys is initiated at once, the boys will join the 'side' of the seniors, while if they
wait for years more, they will join the 'side' of the juniors. In neither case of
course will they be the same age-set as the seniors or juniors. It depends merely
upon left and right.
It must be remembered that once a man joined an age-set he remained in it
for the rest of his life. Nevertheless during his lifetime of roughly 70 years, he
passes through a variety of "stages" or "grades of life", i.e. "age grades" (atyaka-
tyaka) which are as follows: -
Imokeru-babe for a period of roughly 2 years i.e. up to 2
Ikoku -child ,, ,, 4 ,, 6
Etelepat-boy ,, 8 ,, 14
At about this period puberty (alokonan) occurs.
Etumunan-youth for a period of roughly 4 years i.e. up to 18
Esapat -young man ,, ,, 8 ,,,, 26
Ekilokit -full grown man ,, 16 ,, 42
Apolon -elder ,, ,, 24 ,,,, 66
Emojong -old man until death.
Initiation takes place approximately as puberty, so that the candidates (Ikalo-
mak) were aged between 12-18, i.e. partly 'itelepai' and partly 'itumunan', depend-
ing on their physical development. Similarly the junior initiating set (lunatupete)
were between 16-22, i.e. partly 'Itumanan' and partly 'Isapai', and the senior
initiating set (losoditi) between 20-26, i.e. all 'Isapai'. The reference previously
made to the 'warrior grade' ('Eigworone' from 'Aigworo', to sing) was to refer to
the combined forces of the 'Lusoditi' and 'Luatupete', who together at any time
form the chief body of fighting men in the tribe. During the period of life when a
man is described as 'Esapat', he normally gets married and thus passes into the
next stage of being a householder.
The fight between the seniors and juniors was of definitely ritual form. Each
age-set (aturi) represented sing their songs (hence the name 'Eigworone', the singers)
to which those on the opposite side reply. Then the argument (ipegeta) as to the
initiating of the various boys takes place, in which each side is represented by
spokesmen (ikeraban). More songs follow with dancing and leaping and cracking
of whip (edasit). This was the only weapon allowed in the contest, and though
severe pain could be inflicted, dangerous wounds were rare. It may be noted that
the boys initiated (the ikalomak) were not beaten at all. Their time of trial came
when they had, four years later, to fight their own seniors.
The initiation took four days, on the first of which the groups from all the
different 'atekerin' came in and split up into their various age-sets, the boys then
being chosen. On the second day various fertility rites were carried out connected
with the removal of parasites (ekurut) and fungi (acii) from the crops by sympathe-
tic magic. On the third day more dancing took place and the ceremonial washing
of the boys in the late afternoon, followed by a race back from the swamps.
Lastly, on the fourth day, a ceremonial feast of slaughtered cattle, goats or chickens
was provided by the boys for their elders. The boys were anointed with the chyme
to bring them good luck. During the whole course of the ceremony the boys were
not allowed to feed themselves, but were fed by their female relatives. After this
last day they were given a fortnight's holiday, in which they feasted and ran riot.
These contests between the various stages of adolescence and maturity served to
ritualize and stabilize a type of hostility which is always latent among the youth of
any society. It also provided a degree of discipline, and in later life offered some-
thing in the nature of a philosophy and a club.
Now the order of age sets given here must not be regarded as general. In
Usuku, for instance, in Isuguro etem the order was given as-
In contrast among the Ingoratok, the series was one of seven, according to the
evidence of Isaya Otai, thus-
Some of the Ingoratok appear
Bukedea and Pallisa and
taken this series with them, but others in Bukedea trace their origin to Usuk, with
the consequent emphasis on the Esapan ceremony.
The Esapan Initiation. (") In Usuku it was definitely stated that there are two
important feasts in a man's life, "Aparan nakalomar"-"the day of entering in";
"Aparan nakaijar iwore"-"the day of handing over the power". During his life,
a man acquired three names, e.g.
1. Okiror a birth-name;
2. Aesokol an Esapan bull name (dark brown bull
with white stripes);
- a war name (lit. "Who sleeps where
("i) Emley distinguishes two types of initiation among the Turkana:-
(I) The entry of a.youth into 'Ngaban' with the spearing of a bull under the direc-
tion of a friendly elder who acts as ritual father.
(II) The entry into a 'decoration class'-Athapanitha (plur. of Athapanu decoration.)
He states that there are only two 'decoration classes'.
Imuru (Rocks) and Iritha (Leopards), c.f. Ateso Irisai. "Membership of each
class runs in alternate generations by which I mean all the Sons of Imuru will be-
come members of the Iritha class, while their Sons become members of the Imuru
class". I have an uncomfortable feeling here that Mr. Emley and I have been
presented with the same evidence through the medium of inexpert interpreters, and
have merely interpreted it in different ways. For this is so very near to, though
different from, the Ateso system, while the nomenclature is practically identical.
Most old men in Usuku are known to their friends by their bull name, e.g. the
man in question, who is a well known character in Toroma is always known as
'Aesopol'. His description of 'alomare'-'entering in', was that when a boy wishes
to be admitted to an age-set, he first has to find a sponsor, with whom he goes
to live, calling him 'father' and his wife 'mother'. Here he works for a month or
more doing the tiresome work of grinding millet, collecting firewood and water,
and receiving instruction from the old man. This period was called the 'aitemio'-
'the testing'. At the end of it, the boy's people prepare a feast for the boy's
return, which is called 'inyamat lu bwataret asapanan'. The boy comes home
running and bursts through a new gap in the homestead hedge which has been
prepared for his entry. He goes into the hut where the beer is ready and his
sponsor says to him
"Koloto koreme etom arai engatunyo arai amosing arai erisai arai iko-
sogwa!" (Go and kill elephant and lion and rhinoceros and leopard and
buffalo!), and other hopeful and congratulatory remarks.
Then he takes a mouthful of beer and spits on him and the boy's mother
gives the shrill of triumph. After this, the boy takes a new name from the bull
that has been killed and his sponsor may give him a goat.
This individual initiation, however, was a function of but secondary importance
compared with the ceremony of handing over the power (iwore). This took place,
it was said, but once in 15-20 years. The position of dominant age-set was much
coveted and it was only by the provision of much beer, a great deal of persuasion,
and the payment of a bull and a goat (ibaren lu lomaret) by each of the incoming
set, that the age-set of elders could eventually be induced to retire and hand over
their authority to their successors. I have not yet learned the actual title of
dominance used for 'the ruling age-set', but in many initiating societies it is found
and it may well have existed among the Iteso.
The occasion of formal handing over was a great communal feast (epuchit)
which took long to prepare and lasted for several weeks as all the payment cattle
were gradually slaughtered and eaten. At intervals speeches were made by the
leaders of the various sets who described the achievements and wealth of his set.
This was interspersed by much dancing and drinking, and probably not a few fights
among the young warriors. The ceremony culminated in the handing over by the
retiring age-set of their feather headdresses (achuria) to the incoming set as sign of
their new dominance. I saw a great meeting of the Itapotha age-set (but not a
handing over ceremony) in Kapoeta district, where scores and scores of men were
drawn up in close column formation on four sides of a clearing in the scrub. It
was very marked how one group was distinguished from all the rest by their
magnificent waving ostrick plumes. One group had retired and the other two had
not yet come on-so it was explained to me. The Iteso before their decadence
must have looked much the same.
This 'handing over' of the power does not appear to have taken place in either
Usuku or Tororo for many years; but the individual initiation and taking of a bull-
name has lingered on, as it both flattered the vanity of wealthy persons and re-
presented a vested interest of the older men.
There is, however, one feature of the Eigworone ceremony, which is probably
also a feature of the Esapan, but about which I have only collected details from
the Isera and the Ingoratok. It is such a large question that I have left it to the
last to deal with. According to repeated replies from the old men, it is clear that
under the age-set system, the whole sphere of natural existence was divided up into
'categories' which were equivalent to the 'powers' of the age-sets. Thus, if for
instance some matter concerned fishing or rainmaking, it was the duty of the floods
(Ikaalen) age-set to carry out the necessary ritual actions to right the balance of
nature. Similarly if it was to do with fire or forests it was the Elephants (Itomei),
or if cattle then the Hawks (Igolei) took control. On first sight it seems too
elaborate a system for a primitive people to have evolved; since any conceivable
occupation or object from a leaf insect to a mountain, from hunting to birth or
burial can be brought by deduction into one or other of these categories. That the
deduction is often irregular, and to our minds illogical, will be seen if the follow-
ing lists prepared for me by two intelligent men are looked through. The first
was the work of Mr. Eriapaulo Engul, Saza Chief of Soroti, working with the old
men of Isera division, the second by Mr. Isaya Otai, ex-Saza Chief, among the
ERIAPAULO ENGUL'S LIST.
1. Generation of the Hawks. (Aturi na Igolei).
N.B. I think this is the small grey Sparrowhawk. The underlying principle
is Wealth, Stockowning (apolouke lukabarak Ibarene) and objects connected with
these ideas for various reasons, e.g.; Cattle (akituk); Milk (akile); Butter (akinyete);
Blood (aukot); Mud-in-the-kraal (eriti); Hippopotami (Emiriai), because they graze
and have droppings like cattle; Waterbuck (apoli), probably also from a general
resemblance to cattle; Ostrich (ekuulu). Since its feathers are a great indication of
wealth; the Kite (etori); and the achomia, the abango, and the esomi, three un-
identified birds, and the Owl (etukuri).
2. Generation of the Bushbucks. (Aturi na Iderini).
The underlying principle is rather obscure. There seems to be an idea of
capacity to foretell the future coupled with a certain amount of maleficent influ-
ence. Granary (edula) presumably on account of it being a provision for the
future; Termite hill (atitipu). These insects are regarded as being extremely
mysterious and it is very unlucky to trip over or knock down one of their mounds.
Ground Horbill (esukusuku), this birds well known habit of calling before rain
has made it a potent vehicle of rain magic and therefore of good or evil fortune.
Pied Wagtail (itawala), this bird's association with the homestead and the kraal has
given it the position of a controlling household spirit. Its appearance, or non-
appearance, give indications as to the suitability of a particular site for settlement.
Porcupine (icocia), this animal apart from having a remarkable capacity to cause
damage by projecting its quills through the air, has a habit of living in caves,
which are mysterious places often inhabited by spirits. For these reasons it is
grouped among the uncanny. Mole (enukunuk), this animal is blind and yet
manages to carry on its business. It is for this reason a freak and a potential
vehicle of magic. Oryx (?) or Kudu (?) (Ecwilil), both of these animals
have magical potentialities, but I have not found out which is indicated by this
word. Aard-wolf (epeete), Jackal (ekwee), Baboon (ecomo), Red Colobus (elwola),
two biting insects (amuriat) and (imukunyo), and flying termites (ikongo).
3. Generation of the Leopards, (Aturi na Irisai).
The underlying principle is plunder, they are sometimes called "The Thieves"
(Ikokolaka). Naturally under the same heading comes the leopard cat (egwangi),
the wild cat (ikapa), the mongoose (ikunyuk), crested crane (ewalu) and the guinea
fowl (atapango) which are thieves of the crops; the stork (egoro) which plunders
the fish; the pangolin (apupu) and the aard vark, which attack and destroy the
termite nests. Groundnuts of two kinds (emaido) and (isuku); simsim of two kinds
(ikanyum) and (etego) and beans (imare). Groundnuts are a vegetable very popular
with the leopard, but the reason for the inclusion of the other two vegetables is not
4. Generation of the Buffaloes, (Aturi na Ikosobwa).
These have the power of division and the work of distinguishing the times and
seasons and apportioning the earth (lutemet akamu, aiporo, aiwalari, akwapu). The
zebra (etukoi) and the eland (egwapeto) and the harnessed bush-buck (amuget) are
included because of their stripes but also a large number of animals whose reason
is obscure; the donkey (asigiria), the goat (akinei), the sheep (amerekek), the oribi
(amori), the sitatunga (amiem), the rabbit (apoo) which is renowned for its cunning,
the ant-lion (opude) for the same reason; the giraffe (ekori), the edible rat (enyu-
ru), the common rat (imirio), shields (ebuku) which are made of buffalo or giraffe
hide, three birds (emiede), (icewerin-the tick bird) and (achobin-a small grey-
5. Generation of the Elephants, (Aturi na Itomi).
Here the ideas of strength and wisdom seem to be combined with power over
fire, iron and wood. All objects manufactured from these last two, or by use of
the first, come under the category, i.e. all house building, artisan work and smith-
ing, including most of the objects introduced by Europeans such as motorcars,
railways, steamers and aeroplanes. The objects recorded are as follows:-
Fire (akimi), grass (anya), planks (abaoi), trees (akitoi), milkpails (elepiti),
canoes (atakere), houses (itugol), cotton (pamba), clothes (igoyen), spears (akwara),
hoes (emeleku), axes (ayepe), cooking pots (asepuran) and guns (emudu), auto-
mobiles (emotoka), railway (lerwey), bicycles (ogali), steamer (omeri), aeroplanes
(edege), corrugated iron sheeting (amabati) and cash boxes (abengi).
Also bats (emyena) and three kinds of birds (echolibe), (ichika) and (etolutu,
pelican). Under the heading of wooden objects (abelata-a wooden headdress for
dancing) and (apelu-an armlet decorated with beads) are mentioned.
6. Generation of Rocks, (Aturi na Imoru).
This is described as the people who control the supply of food, so that the
staple crops (eleusine millet (akima), sorghum (imomwa), and beans (emaare), their
products such as flour, beer (ajoona) and bread all belong. It is less clear why the
lion engatunya), the rhinoceros (amosingo) and the python (emorototo) should be in
this category. Grasshoppers (ibeerei) are also rather an odd addition.
7. Generation of Warthogs, (Aturi na Iputiro).
The principle idea is one of fertility and multiplication, thus under the head-
line of "warthogs" are doctors who treat people (imurok imukeete itunga), and their
patients humanity in the mass (itunga), while women (angoro) who produce new
people are closely connected. In the same way fowls (akokoroi) and eggs (abejei),
pigeons (eluke), partridges (etakura) and bees all of which multiple rapidly are
included, also several unidentified birds e.g. (agwele).
8. Generation of Floods, (Ituri na Ikaalen).
This is perhaps the most important category as it includes most of the natural
forces of the sky, which produce rain, and of water when it is upon the earth. Thus
are included the sky (akuju), rain (akiru), dew (kepyei), the rain clouds (edou), the
rainbow (etalika), the sun (akolong), the moon (elap), the stars (kacere), water
(akipi), the earth (akwap), potatoes (achoko) planted near water, running stream
(akelele), darkness (amusimusi), lake water (angololo), crocodile (akinyang), lake
plants (amokoku) and (ikoromo), papyrus (aladoi), sitatunga, mosquitoes (isiru),
ducks (atudoi), tortoise (akolodong), frog (aidodok), lesser egret (aliabong) and two
kinds of fish (aporogon) and (ebileng).
The Ngora account contrasts sharply in having a series of only 7 or 8 age-
sets. Moreover in points of detail there are a considerable number of differences.
I did not have the opportunity to discuss with Isaiah Otai the reasons for the in-
clusion of particular animals and objects under separate categories, so I will give
his list without comment.
1. Generation of Floods, (Aturi na Ikaalen).
Akipi (water), edou (rain), akinyang (crocodile), isiru (mosquitoes), akako
(hail), erisai (leopards), egeregere (varanus lizard), itiliyo (cob), akolodong (tor-
toise), ikwaruna (serval cats?), atawoi (civet), apowono (hares), ilotuna (washing).
ekipyei (lightning), ekwamu (wind), ikusu (fish-hook), elisina (whirlwind), etaluka
(rainbow), and atwalai (daylight).
2. Generation of Buffaloes, (Aturi na Ikosobwa).
Ikului (ostrich), ebuku (shields), agongou (chamelion), asulyangi (luck), ame-
niti (success), egili (parrot) and erukusuku (ground horn-bill).
3. Generation of Elephants, (Aturi na Itomei).
Icolibei coucall), ikito (trees), akimi (fire), anya (grass), itogoi (houses), ata-
kerini (canoes), icolong (chairs), imesana (tables), amugiti (gourds), atotor (char-
coal), atenusio (drums), igoyei (clothes), epapa (cotton), apuru (smoke), akopiti
(rope) and asimakoko (cobweb).
4. Generation of Rocks, (Aturi na Imoru).
Includes all metal objects, particularly iron, thus akwarasi (spears), ikilanga
(knives), itilidyo (iron tipped arrows), emudu (rifles), imelekesi (hoes), amabatini
(corrugated iron sheeting), icuman (all iron tools), igalini (bicycles), emotoka (motor-
cars) etc, also ingatunyo (lions), icocia (porcupines), idokolene (monkeys), komini
baboons), ibwini hyaenass), ilobai (elands?), atapengo (guinea-fowl).
5. Generation of Warthogs, (Aturi na Iputiro).
Akima (eleusine), akokorei (chickens), itukoi (zebras), ikweje (tiny red-brown
bird-wren), aluryeiki (type of weaver-bird), idodoi (red headed lizard), imirio, (rats),
ikanyum (simsim), imumwa (sorghum), ajweleiki (dove), asurino (small bird), aiso-
lene (common yellow weaver bird), ajono (beer), ilukei (partridge), acukyai (small
black bird), awoo (bees), atudoi (butter), aliabong (lesser egret) and ajojoto (Heron).
6. Generation of Hawks, (Aturi na Isolei).
Angoro (wives), itunga (men), akituk (cows), akinei (goats), ikwei (jackal), ame-
rekekin (sheep), akile (milk), imiryai (hippopotami), abangangai (ibis), emase (locust),
awongoryai hoopoee), ingokwo (dogs), iderim (bushbucks), asigiryana (donkeys),
icucu (flies), ikuru (insects), amuka (shoes) and amjiporin (sparrows).
7. Generation of Rhinoceri, (Aturi na Imusingo).
Alupe (mud or clay), amoti (pots), emaido groundnutss), acoko (sweet pota-
toes), iwalune (crested cranes), alurukene (vultures), ikuruk (crow), itolune (red
beaked cranes), itoryono (kites), arwatatini (walls of house), itogoi (houses), ikongo
(termites), imare cowpeaa), ikunyuk (mongoose), emwogo (cassava), imorotitini
(python) and imunwa (cobra).
NOTE FOR COMPARISON WITH TESO SYSTEM.
Emley (Vid. Sup.) gives very similar lists for the Iturkana, but under the head-
ing "Song Subjects peculiar to each Athapan", e.g.
Black Ostrich (akaleth), giraffe (eokuri), stone (amuri), ostrich egg (abeiye), lion
(angatum), buffalo (ewapet), eland (akothuwan), honey (aou), deiker (ithiru), Kerio
River (ang'olol kerio), acacia (eowei).
Light ostrich (akeleth), leopard (erith), elephant (etom), rhinoceros (amuthing),
guinea-fowl (atapin), partridge (etokora), wild pig (eputir), porcupine (abubu), serval
icat (echwet), snake (imun), Turkwell River (ang'olol tirkwel)."
Naturally enough the song subjects of each class are within the 'power' or
magical control of the members of that class; much of that magical control being
wielded through appropriate ritual song.
The presentation of these rather tedious lists of objects should not be consider-
ed as an attempt to explain a system of thought which is very widespread in the
African Continent. Donnet in his "At the Back of the Black Man's Mind" has
made a serious study of it among the Ibo. My intention here has been merely to
show that a system of categories exists among the Iteso which can be worked out
by sympathetic inquiry when opportunity occurs. That some such system exists
is almost a natural corollary of the fact that the negro is a reasoning being. If
we consider the arguments of Thales and other early philosophers they are chiefly
concerned with the classifying into categories the qualities and materials of the
external world. (12) The incorrect but much advanced Aristotelian division of the
world into four categories of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water was orthodox in Europe
for over a thousand years. Driberg quotes d'Abbadie ('3) as giving a list of the
Galla age-set names as representative of certain abstract ideas which formed their
categories of existence, thus:- Man= Reason
Running Water= Progress
Sheep = Peace
Lion = Strength
Vulture = Plunder.
Here we have something of the same division of life as I have tried to show in
rather clumsy form among the Iteso. It must be remembered that the "categories
of existence" of a society in the hunting and collecting stage of culture will be
entirely different from those of a society in a pastoral nomadic stage or in a settl-
ed agricultural stage. This being the case, the intermediate condition of the Iteso
between pastoralism and agriculture between primitive tribal life and the incidents
of European capitalist civilization must necessarily be confused. It was unfortunate
that opportunity did not occur for a prolonged discussion and comparison on the
huge number of points raised by these lists, as to why exactly each particular
object or beast should be allotted to one or other category. Only by such methods
can the system be worked out into self-consistent form. The lists here presented
do not supply philosophical coherence and it may be argued that it is not in the
nature of primitive man to integrate his thought. Nevertheless that ideas roughly
self-consistent on these lines existed, and to some extent still exist, and thus formed
the explanation and justification for the pre-European patterns of social behaviour,
I have little doubt.
Finally, (as all study in these hard times must be justified by its immediate
relation to utility), the reader may ask what is to be deduced from enquiries on
the largely moribund Teso social structure.
(1) The close relation of both dialect and custom between the Iteso, the Ka-
ramojong, the Itapotha and the Iturkana.
(2) Geographical proximity, common history, customs and language, suggest
a common administrative machine. In other words, if East Africa after the war
is to receive any more logical form of government than its present highly artificial
one with frontiers everywhere cutting tribal units, these people, whom I have
named for convenience the "Itunga" should form a single province instead of being
parcelled up between Uganda, Kenya and the Egyptian Sudan.
(12) Compare the hypotheses "All is water", "Everything moves", etc.
(13) Annales de la Soci6t6 Scientifique de Bruxelles, Vol. IV, 1880, quoted by Driberg in
"The Galla of the Lacustrine Region".
(3) If possible, when labour is required on a large scale for such purposes
as swamp drainage, well digging, contour ridging, etc. attempts should be made to
call out men for work in age classes. This has been done with success among the
Lotuko of Torit district, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, where the age classes are still very
much alive. In Teso, where they are not, it would be necessary at first to do the
selection and grouping arbitrarily. But if leading inhabitants are encouraged to
revive the age class system within their villages it should not be difficult to run as
an extension of Native Administration government. If it is organized under Euro-
pean supervision as a mixture of dancing, drill, club life and rural education, it
should not clash with any teaching of Government or Mission schools and should
provide a degree of discipline which the rustic youth of Teso so obviously.
lacks. Football competitions etc. may replace the former more bloodthirsty
struggles for mastery, and relate the Ancient to the New. The wearing of
the various animal signs on shirts as indication of a particular dancing club (as
is found in western Lango and Puranga Acholi) should add an amusing and
modern note. Life is so intolerably boring for the average peasant youth that the
provision of some means whereby his life can become slightly fuller and more
interesting should be at least one of the many varied activities of government in a
primitive country. "Satan always finds some work, for idle hands to do" expresses
a profound truth. The life of a man in isolation is as Hobbes said 'nasty, brutish
and short' and if a peasant has nothing else, but the cotton cycle, drink and forni-
cation to pass his time he is apt to grow troublesome. Litigation in the native
courts provides a distraction, as do the weekly ritual exercises at church, but the
integration of his life in a social discipline, in which he is controlled by his seniors
and in turn controls his juniors, is missing. Such re-integration should I believe
be a deliberate policy not with any idea of archaism; but in the best democratic
tradition, of which the Czech Sokols (14) were an example. It is towards this type
of institution that I suggest our efforts be directed.
(r4) The Czech Sokols were not age sets but physical culture clubs from distinct rural
and urban areas, which met at regular intervals for the performance of their dances
and drill,, for their mutual edification. The public thereby enjoyed a great spec-
tacle, district identity and differentiation of custom and dress were recognized.
while at the same time over-riding national unity was emphasized.
The Amazing Muscular Reflexes of a Dead Crocodile.
by CAPT. C. R. S. PITMAN, D.S.O., M.C.
I have previously described in considerable detail (Vol. VIII, No. 3, page 112)
the extraordinary behaviour of some crocodiles when shot through the brain. The
creatures are actually dead, but as the locomotory nerve system is placed well
behind the head in the centre of the cervical region, they are capable of amazing
muscular activity so long as the nervous system continues to function. This may be
for a considerable period which I can testify can be as long as one hour.
I have from time to time in this connection witnessed astonishing incidents,
but the one I am about to relate eclipses all others.
On the 24th September, 1941, I was shooting up a crocodile breeding ground
in the Kinywante region of Lake Victoria, and amongst the variety of targets offer-
ed was a facing shot at a crocodile's head in the water about 20.paces from the
shore. It was not an absolute frontal shot, but slightly oblique, so that when the
soft-nosed .318 bullet hit the beast below the right eye it tore a great piece of
bone out of the frontal portion of the head, and then passed on through the brain
to blow away completely the left, upper portion of the skull. It was a terrible
wound into which one could easily have got a fist. The crocodile momentarily
sank and then back uppermost, up came the huge bulk of its massive body above
Then it rolled over slowly towards it right side and eventually on to its back
its hind and fore feet struggling feebly. Next it started to roll over again and
again swiftly to the right, occasionally interrupted by a semi-circular movement
under water which each time brought it nearer the shore. Then it became poised
in the shallow water its left side uppermost, and there presumably it would have
remained-dead as the proverbial door nail-if it had not been interfered with.
But I wanted the creature out on shore to measure and to examine it.
Three hefty Africans entered the water and laid hold of the crocodile's tail,
whereupon the whole body responded with a convulsive shudder.
Now if one catches hold of a living animal's tail what is the natural result?
-a desperate effort by the owner of that tail to get away in the oppositee direction.
This crocodile though utterly dead in so far as its brain was concerned, was never-
theless very much alive in respect of its locomotory system. So its obvious reflex
when haulage was exerted on its powerful tail was to endeavour to get away. It
bored forward persistently with its huge head, it scrabbled fiercely with its feet,
and when it had with difficulty been dragged to the shore, belly downwards, it
made desperate efforts to lever itself back into the water with the aid of its power-
It had taken the united efforts of four of us to haul the creature a few feet
only on to the shore. Up to this stage of the proceedings I consider that the reflex
exhibited was the very natural outcome of any animal's instinctive efforts to escape
when seized and pulled by its caudal appendage. I have many times experienced
similar behaviour on the part of crocodiles when killed in the water with a brain
The next reflex of this particular crocodile was most remarkable, for when
interfered with to the extent of trying to turn it on to its back, it gave a most
ferocious exhibition, partly of self-defence, partly of aggression. But the so-called
aggression was in reality self-defence.
In order to measure a crocodile correctly one turns the elongate brute on to
its back, aridthen runs the steel tape along the centre of the belly from the chin
to the tip of the tail.
Without anticipating anything out of the normal, the three men started casually
to turn the carcase on to its back to take the usual measurements. But the
crocodile thought otherwise, and one could see it exerting every ounce of its
prodigious strength to remain on an even keel. We tried to turn it over on either
side, equally with no success, and as the beast still possessed intact a pair of jaws
lavishly equipped with wickedly sharp teeth, one naturally kept away from the bit-
ing end, so all the time it was able to keep its forefeet firmly plented on the
I was determined to throw the beast, so the next move was to drag it clear of
the cover fringing the water into the open where the job could be more easily
tackled. But it was not to be, and then it was that persistent interference invoked
a very definite reflex of self-defence. Suddenly, when the beast was all but on its
back it made a stupendous efforts with its forequarters, once again it was flat on
its belly and simultaneously its head and half its body had come round in a smash-
ing sideways blow towards the tail, which would have resulted in the most in-
pleasant consequences for anyone who had got in its way.
Struggle as we might it was the crocodile who invariably won. We tried
alternately to turn it over first on one side and then the other, but all to no avail.
The brute was equally agile and forceful with its terrific head-blows either to the
right or to the left.
The reflex of self-defence had now appeared to have dominated that of escape,
which is an apt description of the one first exhibited.
The creature's locomotory system having been stimulated into such furious
activity it was considered advisable to leave it alone for a while and watch what
The carcase had been left with the head pointing inland, and after a few
moments its massive bulk began to turn, continuing until the head was directly
towards the water.
Then slowly, but deliberately, it began to creep forward towards its natural
element. It was all most uncanny. It was the fourth time that 1 had seen a
crocodile, which had been shot in the brain in the water and dragged on to the
land, turn right round, when actually dead, and make for the water. It may sound
incredible, but I have had many witnesses with me.
Now the reflex activity I have so far described is surely simply mechanical,
and actuated and stimulated by definite, provocative interference. But how is one
to explain this extraordinary urge to get to the water which manifests itself with
such deliberation in the case of a crocodile with a pulped brain but a still active
I think the answer can only be that this too is purely mechanical. It is often
claimed that the crocodile has an instinct which enables it, whether juvenile or
adult, to move unerringly in the direction of the nearest water, that is if an adult
is driven by drought from an expanse of water it has lived in for years, or if a
juvenile is deposited far away from its native element.
But what do we mean by instinct, what does the dictionary say? Here is the
recorded answer- "Innate propensity, especially in lower animals, to certain seem-
ingly rational acts performed without conscious design." It is a real mouthful,
and perhaps "innate impulse" is simpler.
I cannot help feeling that the explanation is not so difficult and that some
portion of the crocodile's anatomy accurately registers the direction of the water
Accordingly self-preservation, i.e. the urge to get to the water, is probably res-
ponsible for the reflex which induces the crocodile, its brain hopelessly shattered,
to turn round again and again, sometimes even to get on to its belly first, in that
desperate endeavour to reach safety.
Further, to test the reflexes of this remarkable beast a large pole was bump-
ed against its jaws, and immediately the mouth opened and tried to close like a
spring trap on what had attacked it. This was another mechanical action, an
endeavour to seize what might have been a potential enemy.
84 UGANDA JOURNAL.
It was necessary to fire a solid .303 bullet into the vicinity of the cervical
vertebrae before the animal could be turned on to its back to be measured. This
shot also produced a remarkable result, which was new to me. The last three feet
of the tail lashed furiously sideways, about fifty times, with astonishing force.
On examination it proved to be a very old female, barely 10 feet in length,
and so black that I was convinced it was a male.
Finally, as it might appear that much cruelty was involved in the incidents
which have been described so fully, I would like to repeat that, although the
creature's locomotory system was functioning, its varied activities were purely
mechanical, and the creature itself was stone dead.
Progress in Africa.
by T. R. F. Cox.
It is a generally accepted principle that in administering a primitive people
the best of their old customs should be absorbed into the new ones introduced to
them. The following note seems to show an example of an African absorbing a
new custom into the old. It should be read with Chapter VI of Driberg's "The
On 6/1/42 there appeared before the District Commissioner, Lango, a Native
Administration policeman bearing a letter from a chief and an elderly Lango nam-
ed Otema carrying a bottle of petrol. The letter said that Otema was found in
possession of a bottle of petrol and could not give a satisfactory explanation of
how he obtained it. His explanation was simple; he bought it from a lorry driver
for Shs. 2/-. The District Commissioner was more interested in why he obtained
it than how he obtained it and was informed that he bought it to bur the body of
his brother-in-law's wife who had died and been buried some months before. The
Cen (ghost) of this woman was haunting the village and had already been res-
ponsible for the deaths of six persons.
Catechized on Lango funeral customs he showed that he was well acquainted
with them and admitted that cremation was not one. He stated that all the
ceremonies had been carried out and that an abila (shrine) had been built.
He had consulted an ajoka (witch doctor) but still expressed his desire to burn
the body although the ajoka had not told him to do so. Finally he admitted his
reason for desiring this cremation. He had seen Indians burning one of their dead
and considered that if he burnt the body of the deceased woman all the troubles
caused by her ghost would come to an end.
The District Commissioner advised him to try something else before resorting
to this remedy and suggested that perhaps the funeral feast had not been all that
it might have been. Otema admitted that this was so; beer had been provided but
no food was cooked. The District Commissioner advised him to rectify this
omission and was informed that the ajoka had given the same advice.
The old man then departed, leaving behind his bottle of petrol, stating that he
would try the effect of providing the food which was not produced at the funeral
The Political System of the Anuak of the
By E. E. Evans-Pritchard.
Dr. Evans-Pritchard's monograph on the Social Organization of The Anuak,
though intended primarily for the specialist, will repay study by all who are interest-
ed in the problem of African Administration. The investigations of which it is the
result, were made at the request of The Sudan Government, who had encountered
difficulties in their relations with the Anuak. Dr. Evans-Pritchard's work may
therefore be regarded as an example of applied anthropology, in the sense that it
seeks to provide a basis of social knowledge in accordance with which administra-
tive policy may be formulated. A comparison of Anuak political features with
those of related groups does not fall within the scope of the author's enquiry and
is not attempted. Nevertheless, the main value of this book at least to residents
in Uganda, is not pragmatic, but consists in the data which it furnishes for a
comparison with political systems prevailing in this country.
The Anuak are a riverain people whose territory is partly in the Sudan and
partly in Abyssinia. They form part of the Shilluk-Luo group and are thus
linguistically and in other respects closely akin to the Luo, Acholi and Alur of
Uganda. The most salient feature of their political system is the absence of any
social group larger than the village community. The author analyses in a most
convincing manner, the relation between political fact and environmental conditions,
and traces the reason for the isolation and autonomy of village groups to a self-
subsistent agricultural economy and to difficulties of communication. The same
phenomenon of village autonomy is met amongst the Acholi where it may have
resulted from similar causes.
But as an example of careful and thorough enquiry, and as a fund of data for
a comparative study of Nilotic political systems, Dr. Evans-Pritchard's work has
much of value and interest to offer to the Uganda reader.
"THIS SPRINGING WILDERNESS". (Poems of Uganda). By Stella Wood
and Geoffrey Masefield. The Uganda Bookshop. 30 pp. Shs. 3/50. (In aid of the
Uganda War Fund.)
Poetry, like all the arts, is healthiest when practised not only by remote 'intel-
lectuals' but also by the men and women who live and work among us. This is
one reason why we welcome this volume of verse, written by a government officer
and the wife of an army officer, with a very able introduction by the headmaster,
of a Uganda school, a striking frontispiece by a Uganda artist, and admirably
produced by the Uganda Bookshop.
But the book is not recommended just because its authors are known to some
of us, or even because its profits go to the War Fund. It also contains some good
Mrs. Wood and Mr. Masefield write, for the most part, in conventional rhythm
and rhyme, and show considerable versatility in the use of their media. They both
have a flair for the right word. The reader does not often stumble over a rhyme
which rings false or a phrase where the sense has been twisted by the demands of
sound. They. are also able to maintain a high standard of poetry to the end of
the last line of the last verse of a poem. It is comparatively easy to write the
first line or two of a poem. To carry it through to the end requires a kind of
artistic stamina which is not given to everyone.
"Good poetry" is almost entirely a matter of taste, and the task of a reviewer
is correspondingly thankless. Where he finds a fairy palace, another reader will see
only a heap of rubble. But anyone who admires the natural beauties of Uganda
and who has any feeling for words, will not fail to find a pleasure dome or two
in this volume.
Geoffrey Masefield records some rich impressions of the Uganda countryside
in poems like "Peace in War-Time":
'Or Teso soil is dry and brown,
But even that can bring content
At sunset when the day leans down
Over the fading continent.'
Or, "On a Valley in Kigezi":
'O those rich valleys, waving plumy green
Slow fans of plantains like a forest seen.'
'The cattle and their slow Muhima lord
Pacing together peacefully the sward.'
He has some memorable lines, of which the following are a few:
'The little wind that breeds
And rises in the reeds'.
'And through the dawn the softly steaming cattle
Move with their gentle tread'.
'The cries of wild birds in accustomed flight
Heralded the long night'.
Stella Wood has a special predilection for night sounds and scenes. This is
from "Cloud over Africa":
'Stately, strange, remote and proud,
Through the silent straits of night
Move the moonlit shapes of cloud,
Huge and slow and coral-white'.
And this from "The Listener":
'Low-lying cloud muffles the dying stars,
and in the still-dark garden now the birds
paint on the silence and the strongly sweet
rain-smelling air the brief emphatic words
Of poems uttered in a secret tongue'.
In two attractively eerie poems, "The Old Lady" and "Pre-Vision", she gives
forebodings of the future:
'I saw myself grown old and watching
Grimed gulls and frozen Serpentine'.
There is something haunting about this and some of Mrs. Wood's other work
which gives it a distinguished beauty of its own.
The writing of poetry, like its appreciation, is so much a matter of personal
taste that no criticism should be regarded as a direction to the poet about what,
or how, he should write, but simply as a record of the critic's impressions.
One such impression remains from this book. It is that only one side
of Uganda life has inspired these poems. It is the arcadian side-the land of
'shadowed hills', 'gold-gloried sunsets', 'enchanted waters'. Mrs. Wood writes
of the heritage of her 'bronze boy and wine-dark maiden'-'sweet airs, warm
winds, gold sun, red loam'. But the heritage has a sterner side. Boys, maidens
and their parents are often engaged in a grim struggle with the soil. Their years
are marked by the recurrent dramas of birth and death, storm and drought.
They face, and face with fortitude, sickness and discomfort. In them the human
spirit battles with ignorance and superstitious fears. English poetry has never
shirked the severer realities of life. May these things not be a challenge to English
poets in Uganda?
CHAGA CHILDHOOD". By O. F. Raum. International Institute of African
Languages and Cultures. 422 pp. 21/-.
This is an important book which should be read by all who are interested in
the sociology of East Africa, and especially by those engaged in educational work.
It is the first large-scale attempt to describe the bringing up of children in an Afri-
can tribe, and deals with the life of young people from birth to marriage.
Dr. Raum bases his work on the hypothetical definition "Education is the
relationship between members of successive generations." Most definitions of
Education hover between vagueness and inadequacy. This one at least avoids any
suggestion of mere schooling or instruction and is appropriate to the subject of the
Not that instruction is absent from Chaga education. Dr. Raum gives an
interesting account of direct instruction in the initiation ceremonies, and of the
training in manners and customs which the child gains from its parents by precept,
proverbs and stories. He emphasis too the general 'conditioning' of the young
person to the patterns of the society in which he is to live his life.
The book begins with a valuable history of the subject. It goes on to birth
customs, infancy, childhood and adolescence. In his concluding chapter the author
makes a theoretical summary and gives some practical corollaries. Although he
4eals exclusively with indigenous education in the main part of the book, he has a
good deal to say about "European" education in this final section. He raises the
rather weary question of "European" versus "adapted" education. Needless to
say, he champions the latter. His argument is generally sound but, like most
others of similar views, he is inclined to forget that modern school education is
intended to fit a child to live in the world as well as in a tribe; and that too great
an insistence on "tribal" education is as nonsensical as the curriculum which copies
too faithfully the content of the English school course.
But there can be no doubt as to the value of the main contention implied in
the book-that it is the duty of every educationist to learn something of the home
background of the children he serves. Many Europeans must at present admit to
sad ignorance of such matters, a knowledge of which would immeasurably help
their work. This book deals only with one tribe. But it will serve both as an en-
couragement and as a guide to similar investigations in other places.
July 21st, 1941.
of 'Uganda Journal'.
Some of your readers may be interested to learn that as a result of a brief visit
to the old camp which Sir Samuel Baker called 'Patiko' in the Gulu district, I ob-
tained in 1929, within the precincts of the camp two insects new to science.
The first was described in 1932 by the late Dr. C. le Doux of the Berlin
museum as a new form guluensis of the extremely beautiful bright red butterfly
Acraea Acrita subspecies manca Thurau. The locality was interesting as it extend-
ed the known range of the butterfly considerably to the north: it is well known
from Kenya Colony and Tanganyika Territory. Specimens previously taken by
myself in 1925 from Attiak in the Gulu district had not then been identified.
The second novelty, a species of Dragon-fly, has just been described by Lt.
Col. F. C. Fraser, I.M.S. as Ceragrion hakeri. It is one of the smaller more delicate
type that flit about among vegetation or close to the surface of the water. The
following bird extract from my Journal for July 22nd, 1929 may be of interest
"Baker's Camp ('Patiko') is on a rocky ridge between Ajudu and Kijun hills, with
a few great boulders still standing. He had three stone houses on top of a bare
rock: the moat partly filled with trees could be seen for about 100 yards. At a
pool among the rocks were two specimens of an Agrionid new to me, with head,
eyes and thorax turquoise blue, abdomen dull orange".
The description of the Acraea by le Doux will be found in 1932 Mitteilungen
aus dem Zoolog. Mus. Berlin; 18: 199-201 and the Ceragrion was described by
Fraser in 1941, Proc. R. Ent. Soc. Lond., (B), 10: 62-63.
A note on Baker's camp will be found on pp. 470-471 of Thomas and Scott's
G. D. Hale Carpenter.
(Formerly Specialist Officer for Sleeping Sickness).
The following list of Corrigenda to the article on "Lunyoro Proverbs" in the
last number of the Uganda Journal is printed below:-
p. 115 The first proverb quoted should begin Etakarugire (not 'k').
p. 116 Obwasanga should read obwosanga. (2nd from bottom).
p. 118 Egaloho should read garoho, and 'onjuna' 'njuna'.
p. 119 line 8 'with piece' should be 'with a piece.'
p. 120 (2nd proverb) 'ebisiri' should be 'ebisoro' and 'locust' has been omitted
afted 'catch the'.
(Last proverb) 'bakabuza' should be bukabuza'.
p. 123 (Under "Friends") When your great friend should be Where.
(2nd from bottom of page) 'Kanura' should be 'Kunura'.
p. 124 (Last proverb) 'obwakauita' should be 'obwakuita'.
p. 127 (2nd proverb) 'Anyanguhya' should be 'Enyanguhya'.
fish should read fist (last under "Greed").
S(Last line but one) 'fasten' should be 'fastens'.
p. 130 (1st under "Visiting') 'ebisusa' should be 'ebisusu'.
p. 131 (1st line) The Semicolon should be a question mark.
p. 132 (12th line) 'to' is printed twice.
(21st line) 'let out out' should read 'let it out'.
(24th ine) 'bad' should read 'had'.
Index of Volumes I-VIII.
Under the contributor "F.O.A." two book reviews have been omitted.
These were:- "African Roses" Vol. V pp. 305-306.
"The Bisoro Stories" Vol. V p. 307.
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