Archive for December, 2016

Traditional links between Buganda, Bachwezi, Babito and Bahima

As people fleeing from various regimes, their ideology was understandably anti-Bachwezi, anti-Babito and anti-Bahima. It is not surprising that traditions linking Buganda to any of the three groups have been suppressed, even where the evidence is overwhelming. For instance, when we compare the Bachwezi traditions of Bunyoro and Nkore with the traditions of Buganda, which rarely refer to the Bachwezi, we find several similarities which historians cannot afford to ignore. In Bunyoro and Nkore the gatekeeper of King Isaza of Kitara was Bukulu of the Balanzi clan. On the Sesse Islands the traditions of the otter clan – which is the same as the Balanzi clan – name one Bukulu. In Bunyoro and Nkore, the daughter of Bukulu, and hence the mother of King Ndahura, was Nyinamwiru. The Kiganda equivalent is Namuddu, who is widely found in Sesse legends. From the west we learn that Bukulu’s grandson was called Mugasha, and in Buganda tradition gives the name of Bukulu’s grandson as Mukasa. W e learn from the traditions of Nkore that Mugasha disappeared in Lake Victoria; according to Bunyoro tradition, King Wamara disappeared into the lake and he was also responsible for the construction of Lake Wamala. In Buganda, Wamala, who is a descendant of Bukulu, is associated with the making of the same lake. Moreover, just as the Bachwezi spirits are deified in the Kitara complex area, the Buganda deify the spirits of the descendants of Bukulu, such as Nende and Mukasa. Is it not possible, therefore, that the descendants of Bukulu in Buganda
were Bachwezi?

To go back to the fleeing clans that constituted the Kimera complex, it would appear that, just as they left Bunyoro at different times, they also arrived in Buganda at different times. Unfortunately, all these refugee clans, irrespective of when they reached Buganda, now regard themselves as part of the Kimera migration, largely because people like to associate themselves with success. Kimera, the leader of refugee groups, founded a new dynasty and a state that brought together the thirty-five clans that had settled in the area from different directions. Each clan wanted to participate in the monarchy, and therefore there arose in Buganda the custom of each clan presenting wives to the Kabaka, giving each the opportunity to provide his successor.70 B y 1500 the migration and settlement period of Buganda history had ended. T h e consolidation and expansion of the new kingdom belonged to the future.

B. A. Ogot (Kenya); specialist in African and particularly East African history; has published many works and articles on the history and archaeology of East Africa; teacher, researcher, former Director of the International Louis Leakey Memorial Institute for African Prehistory.

Source: General History of Africa Vol.IV. [Editor: D. T. Niane] Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century. Chapter 20. The Great Lakes Region.

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The Luo

The Luo started to arrive in Kitara during the reign of Wamara. But before this, the Luo-speaking peoples had already dispersed from their land of birth, probably in the southern
Sudan. The northern Luo apparently remained in this region, but the central and southern Luo moved south into the area of the Agoro mountains. A glotto-chronological study of the Luo dialects has suggested that this separation occurred in 870 ce (+ 200), that is, between 670 ce and 1070 ce.

Oral tradition indicates that the Luo-speakers continued their gradual expansion and dispersal during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. These dates receive corroboration from linguistic evidence, which suggests that the proto-central and southern Luo separated between 1170 ce and 1470 ce. By the end of the fourteenth century, four Luo communities had emerged: one group lived near the Agoro mountains; another lived along the Nile near the north end of Lake Mobutu – the Pakwac triangle; a third occupied the area between Nimule and Shambe (Baar); and the ancestors of the Joka-Jok lived somewhere south of Mount Agoro.

According to Luo traditions, they encountered several non-Luo groups in the Agoro mountain area. On arrival, they found the Muru, amongst whom they settled and with whom they extensively intermarried. It was from this mixed population that the Joka-Jok and the Pawir-Pakwac groups, who moved away, derived. The Luo-speakers who stayed behind in the Agoro mountain area were later joined by the Jo-Oma (Bahima) about 1320-
60. At this time the former were primarily hunters and agriculturalists, and they seem to have learnt about cattle-keeping from the Bahima pastoralists.

Following the outbreak of a cattle disease in the area, a large number of these pastoralists were later forced to migrate. They crossed the Nile into the Bachwezi empire during the reign of King Wamara, […] Those who remained behind were absorbed by the Luo speakers who, under their king, Owiny I (1409-36), had established Tekidi, one of the earliest Luo states. According to Luo traditions, Owiny married Nyatworo, a Muhima girl, by whom he had a son, Rukidi. Later, Prince Rukidi broke away from his father and, with his followers, migrated towards Pakwac. After Kagoro’s coup, he was invited by earlier Luo migrants into Kitara to assume political leadership there. H e and his followers became known as the Babito, and he founded the new Babito dynasty of Kitara (c. 1436-63) as related below. From these accounts of life in Tekidi we can infer that at this time it was extremely difficult to know who was a Luo and who was a Muhima, given the mixed descent of the population. It is probably because of this that Crazzolara and other writers refer to these Luo-speaking Bahima as Luo.

B. A. Ogot (Kenya); specialist in African and particularly East African history; has published many works and articles on the history and archaeology of East Africa; teacher, researcher, former Director of the International Louis Leakey Memorial Institute for African Prehistory.

Source: General History of Africa Vol.IV. [Editor: D. T. Niane] Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century. Chapter 20. The Great Lakes Region.

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The Bachwezi Dynasty

The history of the Kitara complex covers geographically most of the present Bunyoro, Toro and neighbouring portions of Nkore, Mubende and Buganda. It is probably the oldest state system of the [East African] interlacustrine region, and its history is usually conceptualized in terms of three groups of invaders: the Batembuzi, the Bachwezi and the Bibito. […]

The history of the Baranzi clan provides a link between the Batembuzi and the next dynasty in the Kitara complex – the Bachwezi. According to Kinyoro tradition, the founder of the clan, Bukuku, was a commoner and an official in the court of Isaza (c. 1301-28), the last of the ‘pioneer kings’. He is supposed to have taken over from Isaza and at the same
time he is regarded as the grandfather of Ndahura (c. 1344-71), the great ruler of the Bachwezi period. The clan itself had the grasshopper and the civet cat as its totems and it probably came from the Busongora area into the west. As is explained below, both totems are important in Buganda and Busoga history as names of pre-Kintu, and therefore pre-
Bachwezi, groups that moved from west to east across the grasslands to the shores of Lake Victoria.

As we have said, Bukuku, an agriculturalist, provides a genetic relationship between the pioneers and the Bachwezi. Ndahura’s foster-father was, according to Bunyoro and Nkore traditions, a potter by trade, who came from a Bakopi clan. Hence Ndahura’s other name, Karubumbi (from mubumbi or potter). […]

The succession of Bukuku to Isaza’s throne was resisted by several chiefs, who objected to being ruled by a commoner. Bukuku crushed the rebellion, although dissatisfaction became widespread and provided an opportunity for Ndahura to seize the throne and found the Bachwezi dynasty. The traditions of Bunyoro and Nkore are agreed that this dynasty consisted of two rulers – Ndahura and Wamara – and a regent, Murindwa, who acted as such when his brother Ndahura was away on war expeditions.

The [prevailing theory] is that the Bachwezi were local rulers who emerged as a result of the economic and demographic changes that were taking place in the interlacustrine region. It is clear that the empire of Kitara was created by Ndahura (c. 1344-71), a great warrior king, who extended the small chiefdom of Bugangazi over a vast area which included Bunyoro, western Buganda, Toro, northern Kigezi, the Sese Islands, Nkore, Kiziba, Karagwe, part of north-eastern Rwanda and part of western Kenya. He lacked the military power, the bureaucracy and the means of quick communication to be able to establish a centralized state over this vast area. H e therefore relied more on agents who were appointed to represent the king in the various areas. This loosely organized empire seems to have had salt, cattle and iron as its economic mainstay.

King Ndahura, who often led his own army, was captured during an invasion of Ihangiro in Bukoba, when an eclipse of the sun caused panic among his troops. O n his release, he preferred to migrate westwards rather than return as a disgraced king to his capital at Mwenge. Tradition is silent on his subsequent fate.

He was succeeded by his son Wamara (c. 1371-98), who on security grounds moved his capital from Mwenge to Bwera. Wamara’s reign was even more turbulent than that of his father, largely because it witnessed the advent of several immigrant groups. Among those were the Jo-Oma (or Bahima), most of whom came from the Agoro mountain region; the Bantu-speaking clans from the east associated with the Kintu complex; an invasion from the south which probably represented an advance group of the Bashambo clan; and the Luo, who began to infiltrate into Kitara from north of the Nile. […]

King Wamara had attempted to enlist the support of the immigrants by appointing them to important political posts. For instance, Miramira of the Bashambo clan and Rugo and Kinyonyi of the Balisa clan were appointed Wamara’s representatives around Lake Masyoro in the areas which became Kitagwenda, Buzimba and Buhweju. Ruhinda, a Muhima, was placed in charge of the royal herds; Nono, a member of the Basita clan, became a deputy chief in Karagwe; Kagoro, a Luo, became the chief military commander; and Wamara formed a blood brotherhood with Kantu, who had emerged as the leader of the Bantu clans of eastern origin. All these overtures, however, were construed as appeasement by the immigrant communities, who soon developed into over-mighty subjects.

Then there occurred a great famine, followed by a cattle disease which spread all over the empire. Dissatisfaction became widespread. Kagoro, Wamara’s military commander, seized the opportunity to stage a coup against the Bachwezi, who were mercilessly massacred and their bodies thrown into water. The Bachwezi aristocracy, which in any case could not have been a large one, was thus annihilated or, as tradition put it, ‘disappeared’. The coup marked the end of the Bachwezi empire. It was replaced by two conglomerations of states: the Luo-Babito states of Bunyoro-Kitara, Kitagwenda and Kiziba; and the Bahinda (Bahima) states further south in Karagwe, Nkore, Kyamutwara, Ihangiro and possibly Gisaka.

The collapse of the Bachwezi empire led to a fierce struggle between the Luo and the Bahima (the Babito and the Bahinda) for the political control of the region; the history of the successor states for the next three centuries should be viewed in the context of this struggle for political hegemony.

B. A. Ogot (Kenya); specialist in African and particularly East African history; has published many works and articles on the history and archaeology of East Africa; teacher, researcher, former Director of the International Louis Leakey Memorial Institute for African Prehistory.

Source: General History of Africa Vol.IV. [Editor: D. T. Niane] Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century. Chapter 20. The Great Lakes Region.

 

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The East African interior: Religion in the 7th to 11th centuries

Most peoples of the period of the seventh to eleventh centuries followed one or the other of two major religious systems.

Across much of the Kenya interior and south through central Tanzania there prevailed the belief in a single Divinity, usually identified metaphorically with the sky. The existence of evil was understood in this religion to derive usually from divine retribution or judgment. Ancestor spirits were not significant objects of religious concern. Versions of the religion among Cushitic-speaking peoples sometimes added a belief in lesser spirits capable of harm, and some of the rift Southern Cushites had developed a different celestial metaphor, linking Divinity to the sun rather than to the sky in general. This latter variety of the religion had been adopted some centuries before the turn of the era by the Southern Nilotic ancestors of the Tato and the Kalenjin.

In much of the southern half of the East African interior and through much of the Great Lakes region, a different religion prevailed. Brought in by Bantu settlers at the start of the Early Iron Age, this set of beliefs recognized the existence of a creator God , but its primary religious observances were directed toward the ancestors. Evil was attributed most often to human malice and envy: to the work of persons called, in European translations of the African names for them, ‘witches’ or ‘sorcerers’. In the Lakes region there eventually arose an additional stratum of spirit belief. Spirits of higher status and farther-reaching influence than one’s ancestors are now widely turned to by supplicants in that region. This level of religious practice may go back to proto-Lacustrine times at the turn of the era, but
it seems probable that it began to take on pre-eminent importance only during the second millennium, as the religious counterpart of, and often reaction to, the growth of political scale in later eras.

In the central East African interior where both religions were practised, the trend of the past two thousand years has been toward blending the elements of the two philosophies. A couple of significant manifestations of this trend belong to the period from the seventh to the eleventh centuries. In western Kenya the idea of the ancestors as an important focus of religious observance diffused, presumably from the pre-Luyia-Gisu, eastward to the pre-Kalenjin during that era, and the concept of witchcraft had apparently become part of the Kalenjin explanation of evil by the end of the first millennium also. In North Pare and adjoining areas of Kilimanjaro, the God-sun metaphor took hold in proto-Chaga religious thought at around the beginning of the second millennium. The proto-Chaga incorporation of Old Asa people apparently added Southern Cushitic concepts of Divinity onto a still active concern for the ancestors, derived from the Bantu portion of the Chaga heritage, just as the contemporaneous assimilation of Old Ongamo people brought about a major modification of age organization in the society. But elsewhere the era does not seem to have been marked by great change in values or beliefs.

C. Ehret (U.S.A.); linguist and historian of East Africa; has published many works and articles on the pre-colonial and colonial history of East Africa. Faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Source: General History of Africa Vol.III. [Editor: M. El Fasi, Assistant Editor: I. Hrbek] Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century. Chapter 22. The East African Interior

 

 

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The Southern Bantu: Cattle Culture

The Bantu Cattle Culture is characterized by a cluster of interrelated values concerning the political role of men , the benevolence of ancestor spirits and the mediating function of cattle.

Domestic cattle within this system belong to the domain of men: they are the principal form of wealth, the main avenue to wives and children, and the basis of success, status and power. These ideas generate a specific spatial pattern in which a men’s court is placed in the centre of the settlement in or near the cattle byre of the headman.

bantu-cattle-culture

The headman and other important people are buried in this kraal, and communal storage pits (or special grain bins) are also dug here as a protection against famine. The huts of a man’s wives are placed around this central zone according to a system of status expressed through some alternating use of left and right positions. In settlements with independent households this status system determines the location of households around the headman, and in individual houses one side is reserved for men and the other for women in accordance with the same principle.

Attitudes to profane and sacred activities, on the other hand, determine what is found in front and back positions. The front of the household and settlement is allocated to public and profane activities, while the back is reserved for private and sacred activities: for example, ancestral objects are kept at the back of a hut, privately (as opposed to communally) owned grain bins are placed behind the huts of their owners, and a sacred rainmaking area is located at the back of a settlement behind the quarters of the headman. Because this sacred/profane dimension is arranged more-or-less at right angles to that concerned primarily with status, the most important person is at the back of the settlement in the most protected position. If the front of the settlement faces downslope, then status and ritual importance are also expressed through height (see Fig. 24.3).

Despite considerable variability, this general pattern applies to many different ethnic groups in southern Africa, but it is not found among the matrilineal Bantu in central Africa, who own few if any cattle, nor among the cattle-owning non-Bantu-speakers in East Africa. The pattern instead appears to be restricted to patrilineal Bantu who exchange cattle for wives. If this correlation is correct, the presence of this pattern in the archaeological record is conclusive evidence for a distinctive Bantu system of values concerning politics and cattle.

T. N . Huffman (U.S.A.); specialist in social and cultural anthropological archaeology and the prehistory of sub-Saharan Africa; author of works on the subject.

Source: General History of Africa Vol.III. [Editor: M. El Fasi, Assistant Editor: I. Hrbek] Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century. Chapter 24. Southern Africa to the south
of the Zambezi.

 

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Kiswahili Architecture

lamu

Stone buildings among coastal settlements seem to have first been concentrated in the area north of the Tana Delta, an area which has been referred to as Swahilini. However, before the third/ninth century, the majority of the buildings in many of the settlements were, as already pointed out, mud and wattle houses. The roofs were of thatch, as are those found today, either of the fronds of the mwaa palm or of the makuti (bound leaves of the coconut tree). Even in subsequent periods such houses were still built, as they still are in present-day coastal towns. Short lengths of stone-built walls have been found but it is not certain whether they were part of larger structures.

As far as the origin of the coastal stone architecture is concerned, many historians have attributed it to Persia and Arabia. However, this diffusionist view is eschewed here in favour of more acceptable explanations.

– The material culture of the Swahili has no analogues in Arabia or Persia. The Swahili stone architecture has no detailed parallels to justify the conclusion that it originated in the Near East, Arabia or Persia. Instead it developed locally out of the mud and wattle
architecture prominent along the coast as a result of increasing economic wealth and socio-economic differentiation. The coastal architecture which has been so much used as a proof that the coastal urban centres were founded by Arabs uses no materials which are not locally obtainable. Coral and coralline limestone which dominated the buildings were locally quarried. The mortar and plaster were also made from the available coral and gypsum. –

Nowhere in the Near East are there sufficiently numerous or detailed parallels to enable clear conclusions on Persian or Arabic origin to be made. All the raw materials (coralline, limestone, coral, mortar, plaster) have always been found locally in plenty and there is nothing to prevent an innovative architectural element developing locally. However, some influence from traders and other immigrants cannot be ruled out.

F. T . Masao (Tanzania); archaeologist; specialist in the Later Stone Age and Prehistory rock art; author of numerous works on the subject; Director, the National Museums of Tanzania.
H . W . Mutoro (Kenya); specialist in African archaeology; author of numerous works on the subject.

Source: General History of Africa Vol.III. [Editor: M. El Fasi, Assistant Editor: I. Hrbek] Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century. Chapter 21. The East African coast and the Comoro Islands.

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The Kiswahili Language

maeneo_penye_wasemaji_wa_kiswahili

The coastal settlements or small towns, it must be assumed, brought together different people, the majority of whom were of Bantu stock, a condition which must have favoured the development of Kiswahili.

The term Swahili is derived from the Arabic sähil (pl. satvâhil)-”coast’, and was employed first for the region stretching from Mogadishu to Lamu . The Kiswahili language (literally, ‘the language of the coast’) developed, of course, only later with the introduction of many Arab and Persian loanwords, that accompanied the progressive Islamization of the coastal people.
It would be therefore more proper to speak – at least before the sixth/twelfth century – about proto-Kiswahili as the Bantu language that formed the basis on which later Kiswahili developed. Many authorities argue that Kiswahili was first concentrated in the area north of the Tana Delta and along the Somali coast and then spread from there southward. […]

As the society of coastal townspeople who were the speakers of Kiswahili became more complex and as commerce became important, interaction with Arab traders increased. A s a result, a number of Arabic words and the Arabic script were adopted into Kiswahili. Subsequently, the language spread down the coast as it was carried by traders from Somalia and northern Kenya around the ninth century. A s the traders expanded their activity down the coast, they established n e w settlements and interacted with the
societies in which they settled. This gradually facilitated the adoption of Islam as the religion of the rulers.

This view is contrary to the thesis propounded by some historians w ho view the Kiswahili-speaking peoples of the East African coast as members of an Arab diaspora which due to trade spread all over the coast during the last two thousand years. They argue that the Swahili culture has very strong Arab elements, that the language uses Arabic script, that the stone buildings and mosques are constructed in the Arabic manner and that the religion of Islam which is predominant along the coast and the genteel social behaviour of the Swahili are all Arab, especially when contrasted with the African cultures of the interior.

This perspective is essentially diffusionist as it assumes that cultural innovation and historical development in East Africa could only come from outside. It is also racist to assume that race and culture are so inextricably linked that a separate ‘race’ of immigrants had to carry these n e w ideas. These historians failed to investigate the possible African roots of the Swahili culture as reflected in the language, in religious beliefs and values and in the economy or social structure.

Recent studies of Swahili culture and society reveal that African components are far more prominent than is allowed for by the diflusionists’ arguments:

(1) The Kiswahili grammatical structure as well as the greater part of the vocabulary are closely related to the Mijikenda and Pokomo languages, while its literature reflects the African oral code.
(2) The material culture of the Swahili has no analogues in Arabia or Persia. The Swahili stone architecture has no detailed parallels to justify the conclusion that it originated in the Near East, Arabia or Persia. Instead it developed locally out of the mud and wattle
architecture prominent along the coast as a result of increasing economic wealth and socio-economic differentiation. The coastal architecture which has been so much used as a proof that the coastal urban centres were founded by Arabs uses no materials which are not locally obtainable. Coral and coralline limestone which dominated the buildings were locally quarried. The mortar and plaster were also made from the available coral and gypsum.
(3) Even the Islam of the coast bears strong traces of historical traditional African religions in the prominence in it of beliefs in spirits and spirit possession, ancestor worship, witchcraft and divination which can be found in local traditions of Islam, co-existing with the more orthodox legal tradition.

F. T . Masao (Tanzania); archaeologist; specialist in the Later Stone Age and Prehistory rock art; author of numerous works on the subject; Director, the National Museums of Tanzania.
H . W . Mutoro (Kenya); specialist in African archaeology; author of numerous works on the subject.

Source: General History of Africa Vol.III. [Editor: M. El Fasi, Assistant Editor: I. Hrbek] Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century. Chapter 21. The East African coast and the Comoro Islands.

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