The Ganda people of the East African country of Uganda reside primarily in the sub-national Kingdom of Buganda.

Millions of Baganda (commonly referred to as the Ganda people) make up the largest Ugandan ethnic group, representing approximately 20% of Uganda’s total population. Buganda (which means bundles) is the largest sub national kingdom in the present day Uganda. The name Uganda is a Swahili word meaning “land of the Ganda” which was first used by the Arab and Swahili traders on the East African coast to refer to the Buganda Kingdom.

The official spoken language of Buganda is Luganda, referring to the region of Uganda where the largest number of native speakers is found. It has developed over centuries as a spoken language.

Its written form is only as recent as the arrival of the Arabs and European influence among the Baganda. It has not however until the second half of the 19th century that Luganda was first written down and appeared in print in its own right.

Its writing

The first writing clearly was a pilot venture, an improvisation by the early missionaries who tried to put the language in a written form so that their work among the Baganda would be made easier.

The creation of written Luganda words mainly depended on the interpretation and impression that the ears of these foreign listeners had of the Luganda word sounds. It was not surprising for example that Speke spelt Kyabaggu as (Chabagu). Looking at the earlier prints by various writers such as Speke, Stanley and others would confirm the suspicion that each wrote according to the interpretation his ears perceived. It was therefore necessary to undertake a serious study of the sounds in the Luganda language in order to be able to formulate a proper phonetic system that would be meaningful in written form.

Clans & Totems

Nkula - Rhino (Diceros bicornis)
Nkula – Rhino (Diceros bicornis)

Nkula – Rhino (Diceros bicornis)Nnyonyi ndiisa – Yellow throated Longclaw (Macronyx croceus)Kkobe – Air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera)Nseenene- Cone-headed Katydids (Ruspolia differens)

The Kingdom of Buganda represents an undeniably significant opportunity for the diversification of the tourism product in Uganda. If tourism is loosely defined as the things visitors see and do while at a tourist destination, these products are distributed all over the Kingdom’s eighteen counties. This distribution is based, in part on the fact that the natural environment in Buganda has shaped the culture of the people and in turn the emerging cultural values and practices have ensured the existence and conservation of the natural environment.

Nnyonyi ndiisa - Yellow throated Longclaw (Macronyx croceus)
Nnyonyi ndiisa – Yellow throated Longclaw (Macronyx croceus)

This mutually beneficial co-existence has allowed many wildlife species to exist for the present generation to find and enjoy. One example is the totems and taboos of the Baganda which are connected to a range of species of animals, birds, fishes, insects, plants and other natural resources. In the past, the observation of the taboos linked to the totems played a significant role in people’s daily lives, their role in society and their effect on the conservation of nature (Taga Nuwagaba & Nathan Kiwere, 2014). A person would not eat, harm, hunt or destroy his totem and in so doing a lot of wildlife was protected from extinction


Recognising the importance of totems to society, Buganda’s transformative leader, Kabaka Kintu innovated a hierarchical clan structure, based on totems thus linking the lowest person to the King. He assigned each clan with roles and responsibilities which ensured the stability of society and mutual the co-existence of man with the environment. These values and practices are still observed by the current generation but with less fervor compared to the past generations. By linking culture to nature conservation, Uganda in general and Buganda in particular, are well-positioned in gaining a realistic competitive advantage over other African destinations. A lion, elephant or leopard in Buganda is in many ways different from that of Kenya and South Africa because of the deeply-entrenched totemic culture in Buganda. By understanding, adopting and interpreting these indigenous conservation practices, Uganda’s tourism fraternity has a rare opportunity to set itself apart from other competitors. These indigenous conservation practices and knowledge have been tested over the centuries and found to be effective, and if promoted, will go a long way in protecting the much threatened wildlife resource.

Kkobe - Air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera)
Kkobe – Air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera)
Nseenene- Cone-headed Katydids (Ruspolia differens)
Nseenene- Cone-headed Katydids (Ruspolia differens)







Traditional Wedding


The Baganda regarded marriage as a very important aspect of life. A woman would normally not be respected unless she was married. Nor would a man be regarded as being complete until he was married. And the more women a man had the more of a man he would be regarded. This presupposes indeed that the Baganda were polygamous. A man could marry five wives or more provided he could manage to look after them. It was easier to become polygamous in Buganda than in other parts of Uganda because the bride wealth obligations were not prohibitive. However, unlike in other societies of Uganda, divorce was very common in Buganda.

Formerly parents would initiate and conduct marriage arrangements for their children. A father could, for instance, choose a husband for his daughter and the daughter would not question whether the husband chosen was too old, too young or unappealing. It was common for old men to marry young girls to rejuvenate themselves. However, as time passed, boys could make their choices and with the help of their families, proceeded to make formal arrangements for marriage.

The girl would contribute nothing more than her consent. After the due introductions and payment of the appropriate bride wealth, a formal ceremony would be arranged and the girl would be officially handed over for marriage. Such ceremonies were great occasions of eating, drinking, dancing and social gathering. A man could not marry from his own clan except for the members of Mamba and Ngabi clans. They gave the simple justification that they were very many. Even then marriage occurred between distant clan members.

The formal arrangements were such that the girl’s aunt would dress her smartly and the boy would be invited to look at her. If the boy appreciated her, further arrangements would be made for introduction (kwanjula). Following the introductions, more arrangements were made for the payment of the bride wealth and then the handover ceremony.

Bark Cloth – Olubugo

The knowledge of bark cloth making is over 400 years old. Bark cloth -comes from the fig tree species ficus natalensis locally known as omutuba. A piece of bark is peeled from the tree and it is pounded with mallets. This allows the bark to expand to three times its original size. The first piece of bark peeled from a tree is always rough and tough but after it regenerates and is peeled for the second time, it is supple. The bark of tree regenerates after every eight months and hence the need to quickly cover up the patch where the previous one has been peeled off to avoid drying. This process of re-usage can take up to 40 years.

Bark cloth was used as dowry and as a means of exchange. It was also used for embalming during burials. Ssekabaka Edward Muteesa II was wrapped in around 3000 ‘mbugo’ when he was buried. Bark cloth is also believed to be a mosquito repellant.


Buganda royals first wore bark cloth until the last quarter of the 15th Century when ordinary citizens started wearing it too. Then it was followed by cotton when the missionaries and Indians came to Uganda.



The kanzu is the Kiganda traditional dress for men. It is in form of a Turkish tunic and is always white or cream in colour. It has embroidery at the neckline and mid-leg. It is usually worn with a jacket and a pair of trousers underneath.

A muganda gentleman dressed in a kanzu and the lady in a kikooyi and bark cloth sash. (Traditionally, Baganda women are supposed to kneel when greeting or talKing to their elders and spouses as a form of respect. They are also not supposed to look straight into a man’s eyes when talKing to him).

Bukalabanda – Traditional wooden shoes


Buganda palaces were made with a special ceiling technique known as eddali. This basket-like shape has been regarded as a masterpiece due to its intricate formation and the time that goes into making it. The colobus monkey clan (Ngeye) was in charge of creating these great structures. The gentleman who supervised this work was given a title called ‘wabula akayole’ because he was such a perfectionist. This work is hereditary and even today, the Ngeye clan is responsible for rebuilding the Kasubi Tombs. These ceilings were made of palm fronds, raffia, reeds, tree barks and banana fibres. Clusters of spear grass (lusenke) were used on the exterior.



The staple food in Buganda is matooke, which is a type of banana. It is peeled, wrapped in banana leaves, tied up with banana fibre and then pressed and mashed to a form of mound.

Matooke is best served hot with peanut sauce and smoked fish or with meat. To add extra flavour, these sauces are also prepared and cooked in banana leaves called empombo.

Drinking water is stored in a smoked pot which gives it a nice smoky aroma and taste.


The traditional dance known as “Amazina Amaganda” has different formations and both men and women tie sashes and goat skins around their waists to energize the movements.

A typical Buganda drum set has more than 5 types of drums, each with a special name; Namunjoloba, Embuutu (double drums), Entuuzi, Empuunyi and Engalabi. The drums are accompanied by other instruments such as shakers, xylophone, tube fiddle, shakers and others.

Lyre (Entongooli)

Shakers (Ensaasi)

Xylophone (Amadinda)

Tube fiddle (Endingidi)

Bowryre (Endongo)

Flute (Endere)

Bow hero (Enanga)

Xylophone (Amadinda)

Tube fiddle (Endingidi)

Drums (Engoma)




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