I have always enjoyed the Malewa the main source for the Bagisu people on Mt Elgon. Different local restaurants in Kampala suburb prepare this delicious sauce accompanied by sour Matooke the staple food for almost all Ugandans.
I once bought it at home but failed to prepare it because of its hardness. I hardly found anyone willing to teach me. I recently got a chance of travelling to Bugisu region with my friends who were going to hike Sipi falls at a fair cost and love it because I am an adventurous undertaker.
We set off early enough to avoid that much traffic on Jinja high way. As we were approaching mbale, the biggest town in eastern Uganda and the main city/town for the Bagisu, on the way we met hundreds of people almost blocking the road drumming and singing some local interesting songs that we hardly knew the meaning. None of us was really understanding what was taking place and ended up looking at each other wondering.
This road is mainly used by tourists heading to SIPI and we were part of them.it was a real tour in my own country. Many other tourists including us were so frightened thinking there was a strike causing insecurity. As Ugandan from central and have that happy feeling and warm welcoming to new faces. I decided to step out of the car having told my friends to shoot a video of me interacting with one of these people. I really wanted to find out what was taking place and had led to all this much traffic and tension.
I greeted one of the locals who was so happy due to what was going on. With her broken English, she replied, sawa ya mbalu meaning it’s time for circumcision.
I stared at her with a big smile and asked if we could join, but I again thought of my friend’s security.
In a loud voice I screamed to my friends, Embalu circumcision!!!! They all happily wondered how it could be done in an open place, but then told them its cultural. They got so surprised and eager to watch it being done. We drove ahead of everyone and hired a security guy as the leaders arranged some seats for us.
With the loud funky noise from the sweet songs and the loud drumming, all could not leave us seated.
I tried my best and fought back and forth to reach the groom as he is titled but in vain. At that moment, all my friends were scattered in different points to get a clear view of the action.
Unknowingly, my friends were being helped by police guys to get to the front. As we went on with struggling, I realised I could not push any more. I sadly withdrew and decided to sit aside away from the crowd. while I was seated with the function going on in a loud noise, here comes a huge guy half naked full of hair on his chest all seriously sweating. He sat beside me sharing a bench and asked why I had left, I gave him a reason and decided to fire him with all questions that I wanted.
This is what he said, ‘’this is a cultural practice arranged only in even years.’’ little did I know. ‘we normally do a serious search in homes of Bagisu people to find out whoever is ready in age and not yet circumcised. Even the government is aware and its legal country wide as long as you are a Mugisu. If you refuse to willingly do it, then we forcefully do it. We have to exposes our strength and braveness by accepting this in public and without shading tears. This prepares us to be strong and survive in all kind of situations in future.
In the process with a lot of attention paid to this gentleman, the noise became intense and terrifying. He then told me, they are now cutting off the skin. They do it this way to confuse the groom not to feel the pain. I looked at them and they appeared to really be enjoying what they were doing, using a lot of energy to produce the best product (music and shouting a lot)
As I was still enjoying the talk, the rest of the group came back with their face flushed with excitement and were all trembling. They all called me ‘Winnie’ it is amazing, unbelievable, unforgettable, wonderful. I was looking sad having missed to watch it live in action, they called me and showed me nice videos of the live circumcision. Indeed, it was amazing
It all started when a tall brown man with a sharp point glittering knife was standing in front facing the groom and about four huge baskets were arranged for everyone wishing the best to the groom to drop some money. My friends dropped in dollars, they had no changed money. This encouraged and enticed many more other tourists to give in and gave the supporters energy. The groom all smeared with whitish substance which I am told it’s a mixture of cassava flour, water and maize flour all naked, was given a brown, long, dry stick to hold with a lot of strength and if possible he would bite it tightly without releasing it. He could also shout un controllably as all the rest were making a lot of noise.
This guy counted three in descending order while pulling the foreskin of the groom’s penis. When he reached zero, he cut the skin off and the congratulating noise became too much.
Guess what! chilli on a fresh wound. At that time, it was getting late and remember we still had to drive a long way to sipi. We left everyone so amazed and embarked on our journey.
Until next time, find out what happened next with Malewa.
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