[ To the ‘Godfather’ of the KuchuLGBT movement in Uganda with infinite gratitude, kama sharing ni caring, then wot wealth we got to harvest in reclaiming indigenous ideas about mapacha?]
The Njovu Clan is one of the 56 recognised clans of Buganda. Therefore, its traditions, customs and norms are not different from those of other clans. They are part and parcel of the culture and heritage of the Baganda people. The Clan has no culture peculiar to itself.
It must be pointed out that these traditions and customs exist in a traditional religious environment. They have been handed down from generation to generation for centuries, and they have become part and parcel of people’s lives. For this reason, the Baganda have been described as being notoriously religious…..
The birth of twins
The birth of twins in the family is regarded as a great blessing to that jamii. It is a wish that almost every woman entertains. It is an honour for a woman in Buganda to be called Nnalongo (mother of twins).
The additional child was not looked at as burden or challenge in the past. This is because the Baganda had a settled life and did not have to roam around with their families in harsh conditions. This situation still obtains today.
However, the birth of twins was and is still seen as an event out of the ordinary. Therefore, twins were and are still treated with fear and special care and respect. Children of such births were and are still believed to have special powers. There is still a belief that twins bring blessings to the family and community, but can be nasty and dangerous if not treated well.
Many beliefs, taboos, rituals and ceremonies are associated with twins. People fear them; and this fear is associated with the unusualness of their birth.
On the birth of twins, special names are immediately given to the twins, their parents, and the children in the traditional family who come either before or after the twins. The twins are named: Wasswa or Babirye or Kato or Nakato, depending on their sex. The father is named Ssalongo, and the mother Nnalongo. The child who precedes the twins is named Kigongo. Children born in the extended family after the birth of twins are also given special names, as it will be seen later.
These special names become permanent identities for everyone concerned, but they are not clan names. The names given to the parents accord them special honour and respect and enhance their status in society.
Ssalongo (the father of the twins) has an obligation to deliver the news of the birth of twins in person to his parents and to the parents of his wife. Two things happen here:
1) Ssalongo is given a surrogate Ssalongo (Ssalongo omukulu=the ritual Ssalongo) from his family; and from the family of Nnalongo he gets a surrogate Nnalongo (Nnalongo omukulu=the ritual Nnalongo); and
2) all contact, between Ssalongo and his parents and between Nnalongo and her parents, is cut off until after the ceremony that is held for celebrating the birth of the twins. This ceremony is the equivalent to the naming ceremony for ordinary children, though the rituals involved are somehow different.
The surrogates play critical roles in the rituals associated with the twins. These two persons are minors. The significance of this is that the rituals in which they are going to participate are sacred; these persons need therefore to be people who are holy or at least people who have not yet engaged in sexual activity. Apart from acting as surrogates, and still innocent, they should be the natural people to care for the twins who are considered to be holy.
A variety of intricate and complex taboos, rituals, and ceremonies accompany the birth of twins. The rituals and ceremonies are intended to: put an end to the period of taboos which begun with the birth of the children; ensure the safety of the twins and that of the family; and establish the twins’ legitimacy as complete members of the clan and of society at large.
The rituals and ceremonies slightly differ in families. It is the responsibility of Ssalongo’s father, the grandfather of the twins, to make arrangements for the performance of the rituals and ceremonies in accordance with his family’s norms. However, characteristically, there are big ceremonies and festivals to mark the birth of twins.
There is, however, one big ceremony for celebrating the birth of twins (okumala abalongo; entujjo y’abalongo) which seems to be common. This ceremony is characterised by a lot of rejoicing, feasting and general merrymaking not only by the relatives concerned, but by also the surrounding community.
On the vigil of the appointed day for the ceremony, Ssalongo’s family, led by a clan elder, performs the child-confirmation and naming ceremony for the family’s children who have not yet undergone that ceremony.
On the appointed day, Nnalongo’s mother and her relatives prepare a one pulp of cooked matooke. Ssalongo’s side does the same. At the agreed hour, both Ssalongo and his relatives and Nnalongo’s people gather in the main house of Ssalongo’s father to share a common meal. The two separate pulps of food (emiwumbo gy’emmere) are meshed into one pulp.
Then, Nnalongo’s mother picks a morsel of this food and hands it directly to Ssalongo, her son-in-law (Maama wa Nnalongo akoleza mutabani we, Ssalongo, bba wa Nnalongo, ekitole ky’emmere n’akimukwaasa mu ngalo butereevu ye kennyini). Ssalongo’s father also picks a morsel of food and hands it directly to Nnalongo, his daughter-in-law. Relatives from both sides do the same to each other. As this is going on, omujjwa comes and steps in the food and carries away. This is followed by a ritual dance, similar to a bump dance, in which Nnalongo’s mother and Ssalongo dance together and Ssalongo’s father and Nnalongo do the same. The pinnacle of this dance is the coming into contact, through bumping, of Ssalongo’s rear and his mother-in-law’s rear and Nnalongo’s rear with her father-in-law’s rear. The relatives from both sides also engage in this bump dance.
This ceremony has special significance and meaning. The meshing of the two separate pulps of matooke into one big pulp which is shared by all present is a sign of unity and communion between the twins’ paternal and maternal families. It is also the meeting place of the dead, the living, and those not yet born but are in the loins of their parents.
Communication, cut off immediately after the birth of the twins, is re-established. The ceremony puts an end to the period of taboos which begun with the birth of the twins. It also ends for good all the sexual marriage taboos which are common with other people who are not parents of twins. Henceforth, there is no longer avoidance and the in-laws from the families affected by the birth of twins can meet and talk freely to each other (obuko buweddewo).
The action of the mujjwa of spoiling the food symbolises the wiping away of any evils and problems that would otherwise normally have resulted from breaking sexual and marriage taboos.
After the big celebrations (entujjo), the twins’ umbilical cords are not buried as it is the custom with normal children. Instead, they are firmly tied and made into a beautifully decorated necklace which is kept and adorned by Ssalongo at ceremonies and festivals of his household or of the traditional family……..
A lot of changes have occurred to the way twins are treated in modern times. These changes have occurred as a result partly because of the spread of foreign universal religions, partly because of intermarriages, but mainly because of changed outlook and new lifestyles in urban settings.
Some parents have abandoned the twin culture as a result of the various intricate and quite complex activities accompanying the ceremonies and rituals. The activities are considered as wasteful and hard to fulfil; and this has forced them to opt for the less complicated and less expensive church services. In many cases, it is economic hardship which has probably forced people to abandon these customs.
However, the aura surrounding the twins still exists in the minds of many parents and their relatives. It is believed that twins should not be mistreated since many taboos are attached to them.
The special naming of close relatives of twins continues, but the naming in modern times is increasingly becoming restricted to the household of the twins’ parents. This is because of western education and influence where the family means only the small unit of husband, wife and children (if any). This is in sharp contrast to the traditional view of the wider or, in western eyes, the extended family which includes brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, etc. Under western education and influence, members of the traditional family are more or less regarded as outsiders.
In these cyber days, the Ssalongo informs both his parents and the parents of Nnalongo by telephone (sms). He therefore does not engage in certain rituals which were mandatory in the past. If at all his household is ready to get involved in traditional rituals pertaining to the twins, he asks for the surrogates on telephone (by sms again).
Whereas it was a strict requirement in the past that the surrogates be children who have not engaged in sexual activity, these days the surrogates are mature persons, often people who already have children, thus destroying the sense of sanctity that, in the past, was associated with the birth of twins.
Whereas in the past all channels of communication were cut off between Ssalongo and Nnalongo and their parents until they engaged in the ceremony celebrating the birth of twins, nowadays this is no longer the case. They meet freely and exchange ideas.
Some of the intricate and complex taboos, rituals, and ceremonies accompanying the birth of twins are dying out. Except in very remote communities, it is no longer possible for Ssalongo to drum for a whole month day and night. Also, gone are the days of wild rejoicing and feasting during which lewd songs were sung and irresponsible acts, including free sex, were committed.
In some families, the umbilical cords are not bundled and decorated. Neither does many a Ssalongo find the time to wear the umbilical cords as required by tradition.
Some non-Baganda wives dislike engaging in Kiganda traditional practices pertaining to twins, even although they very much love to be called Nnalongo.
However, some families nowadays combine the traditional and the modern under modified form. In some Christian families, the twin babies are baptised and then a small party for celebrating their birth is held at home.
These days, the tendency in many modern families is to treat twins as normal as any other children. These people do not see any reason to fear twins or regard them as having more power than other people………
Reblogged from http://www.njovu.org/traditions_customs.htm