The Unique Kigezi Culture Of South Western Uganda


Cultural dances and music are undeniably one of the most revealing forms of expression of the African culture, its life and soul. One of these expressive cultural dances is the famous Kinga dance, also known as “Ekizino” by the Banyakigezi of Kigezi region.

Kigezi is located in the South western region of the Republic of Uganda. It consists of Kabale district, Kanungu district and Kisoro district. The people in this region are mainly Bakiga of Rukiga, Abhorrer of Bujumbura and Namawanda of Bujumbura who got mixed up with Bakinga through intermarriages and immigrations.

They are Bantu by ethnicity and so they are termed as the Banyakigezi. Kigezi shares borders with the Republic of Zaire to the West, Rwanda to the South and the Ugandan districts of Ankole and Toro to the East and North.


Kigezi is beautifully and naturally designed with mountains, lakes, artistically cultivated with rugged slopes and fertile grass plains of even and open country that make Kigezi very enchanting.

Kigezi is occupied by about 642000 people, 137 square miles of open water, 248 square miles of forest area. It rises from less than 3000feet above sea level in the region of Lake Edward to 13500feet above sea level in the extreme Southwest.

It is commonly known as the Switzerland of Africa, due to its weather that is similar to those of the European mountain countries. This region is blessed with a rich and unique culture besides its beautiful mountains, lakes, artistically cultivated rugged slopes and fertile grass plains which make Kigezi the most enchanting region in Uganda that even today Banyakigezi people boast about it.

History of The Kigezi/Bakinga People

There is no history of Kigezi that is scholarly known, everything that is available about the history of Kigezi is what has been passed on especially a collection of different essays that came out of a conference held in Kabale in 1970 by historians.

It is however, believed that people of Kigezi originated from Rwanda. The Bakiga are believed to be the descendants of Kashyiga, who came to be called Kakiga son of Mbogo from the small kingdom of Bumbogo in Rwanda later. He came to form the present community of the Bakiga of Kigezi as a result of Immigration.

In the precolonial period the region now called Kigezi was inhabited by three major national groups, the Bakiga of Rukiga, The Bahororo of Bujumbura, and the Bainimarama of Bufumbira.


Rukinga leadership was highly decentralized and people preferred to see power diffused throughout the various family units which formed the basis of their political, social and economic organization.

The name Rukiga means highlands and Bakiga means people of the highlands. They were agriculturalists who cultivated millet, corn, beans and peas. They tended sheep and goats, practicing pastoralism in the open grass country of the low plains.

Administration was centered around the abakuru be miryango (heads of lineages), who sometimes collaborated to their mutual advatange and sometimes fought for supremacy. The omukuru was democratically elected by his clan members. Despite the fact that the Bakiga were surrounded by centralized administration especially Rwanda and Ankoree they managed to maintain their independence until the British takeover.

Rukiga was the largest component of modern Kigezi, and was divided by the British authorities into the present countries of Rukiga, Ndorwa and Rubanda.

KIGA Dance

One of the unique features about this culture is the general motif exhibited in their traditional energetic kiga dance. Kinga dance is the celebratory dance that demonstrates happiness and joy among the Banyakigezi.

This dance involves both women and men, young and old provided they are trained in it well. In this dance, there is portrayal of lots of vigor in jumping and the strength of the stamping of their foot which is the most distinguishing feature from other dances according to Flavia Kukundakwe, the first runners up miss tourism Kigezi 2016.

This dance is usually performed on local functions like giveaways, introductions, weddings, national events and Christmas period to signify joy coming as a result of an achievement.  It’s usually accompanied by traditional songs containing messages of encouragement and education to people of all ages such as a girl under preparation for marriage.

This energetic dance also represents the hardworking nature of the Banyakigezi and their charisma. This dance used to be danced usually during harvest time to celebrate returns of hard work. Though today harvest time is not celebrated like before, however, songs in the dance still reflect this hard work.

People of this land exploit their commitment and energy in everything they do, physically. They grow mostly Irish, millet and sorghum both for food and cash.

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