Why Bamasaba women don’t eat chicken and whistling around like the Bakiga

By Steven Masiga

While it is a common practice among the Bakiga and Banyankole women and girls of western Uganda to whistle while digging or herding animals, among the Bamasaaba, it is a taboo for a woman to whistle as whistling is a preserve of males and thus a no-go area for Umumasaaba women and girls. And if anyone dared to engage in whistling, then they will never get married.

Another area where Bamasaaba women are not supposed to encroach on is eating chicken. Chicken among Bamasaaba is only prepared for males, and it is against tradition to slaughter a hen or cock for a female visitor. If it ever happened, this can be news in certain communities for decades.

Female visitors’ meat is their thing. If you find Bamasaba ladies eating chicken, just know they are slay queens or may have been corrupted by foreign influences unsupported by our culture.

The practice of women not eating chicken is highly pronounced in the Districts of Bududa, Namisindwa, especially the Bunamulunyi and Bupoto communities. Chicken is singularly a preserve of males. The women are estopped by culture to even taste the chicken sauce while cooking, and in order to ascertain the status of salt in the sauce, they can perhaps call male neighbours or husbands to establish the status of salt in the sauce but not women tasting.

Culture in Africa dictates what communities can and can’t do. Whereas many communities are ignorantly embracing foreign cultural practices which conflict with their own cultures, efforts should be underway to ensure that our traditions and norms are protected. Bamasaba women are also not supposed to put on trousers as trousers are a preserve of males.

Our traditional dressing for women is gomesi. Anybody seen with trousers should be reported to our Cultural police or should be termed as corrupted by foreign influence.

Among the Bamasaaba, during the circumcision ceremony, women cannot and should not go nearer the yard where the boys are being circumcised, and indeed they are limited by culture from going near the yard of imbalu.

Their escort services stop some kilometres away from the yard. Hon Moses Kutoi, the minister for culture in Zuyamasaba, also observes that women in Bamasaaba can’t climb trees picking fruits like mangoes or oranges, by women is foreign to Bamasaaba women, and the Imbalu Yeba Masaaba Board Chairman Hon Watira Wilson, an appointee of Umukuka III, his Royal Highness Jude Mudoma, the Umukuka III of Bamasaaba, further says women can’t climb a granary and extract or pick millet.

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He also additionally insists that Bamasaaba women once married are supposed to keep meters away from their fathers-in-law.

While among the Bakiga and Banyankole, sons-in-law freely hug their mothers-in-law, according to Fred Nyihangane of Rukungiri who says he sees no problem hugging his mother-in-law. Such practices of hugging mothers-in-law or father’s in-law are highly rejected among the Bamasaaba community.

While Dr Julius Arinaitwe, a lecturer at Kabale University, says he has hugged his mother-in-law many times and sees no problem with it. The cultural idea of keeping one’s distance away from fathers-in-law and mothers-in-law has rich and empirical reasoning as to why distances between in-laws should be widened.

The author of this piece, Mr Steven Masiga (3rd from R) alongside other officials from Inzu Ya Masaaba’s cultural leadership (Photo/Handout)

Occasionally, many mothers or fathers-in-law may develop lust for their sons-in-law or daughters-in-law, and distance helps to minimize this, no wonder that keeping a safe distance, especially among the Bagisu has helped to maintain healthy boundaries so that a father or mother-in-law is not on the radar of his sons-in-law, each must live somewhat an independent but above all respectful distance from each other.

My efforts to establish from Dr Harriet Nabushawo of Makerere University and District Education Officer Mbale Madam Lydia Musungu and Prof Sarah Shisali a minister in Zuyamasaba if they eat chicken went unanswered.

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However, Hon Irene Manghali a minister in Zuyamasaba and former Deputy RDC Manafwa says for her she eats chicken and claims the old men of the past wanted to monopolize chicken eating alone. She says she broke the tradition.

The writer is the spokesperson of the Inzu Ya Masaaba

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