Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Kasubi Tombs

Today we visited the Kasubi tombs where four Kabaka's (rulers) of Buganda are buried. The line of spears surrounding the main burial site and the section where only royalty was allowed made it feel like a sacred place (which it was), rather then just being a museum. Learning about the martrys shrine where christians were executed by the king for standing up[ for their faith, and actually going to part of a service was awesome, although I was surprised that it wasn't done in English. What surprised me the most about the Kasubi tombs was the fact that the first kabaka was buried there only 130 years ago and the last three ruled Buganda during the time when Great Britain ruled over Uganda. The question I have is whether the Kasubi tombs represent the same Buganda that existed in the previous century, or if the traditions we learned about were influenced by the rest of the world, and if so how?

17 comments:

  1. Great Question! I think that the fact that the Tombs now also are a tourist attraction indicates that the outide has had significant influence on the site. However they have done a nice job of retaining the traditions (requiring all the females to use a long wrap as a skirt, taking our shoes off as we enter the tombs, not allowing you to sit cross legged etc.) The changes are not uncommon. This spring with the MPA program trip we visited Westminister Abbey in London where many past Brits are buried. I think the tombs have done a much better job of maintaining past traditions. On a related note, I had an interesting discussion with our tour guide. As we walked between stations in his tour, he asked what part of the US we were from and then asked "How is that man doing?" When I replied "what man?" he answered with a smile "you know who I mean." We then had a discussion of the first few months of President Obama's administration. Given the president's ties to neighboring Kenya the election has been a hot topic in this part of the world. He commented that he was surprised that Iowa had voted democratic in the election since it had gone republican sometimes in the past. I was surprised by his detailed knowledge of the US political system and that he knew how Iowa had voted. I was more struck by the influence the US has in the world and how as Americans we take for granted the rest of the world's interest in our country. On a broader note tied to Scott's post, keep track of indications of how the rest of the world has influenced Uganda, and wheteher or not these influences are always positive. Return to this post and let us know your thoughts.

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  2. I think that the Kasubi tombs are definitely a representation of Buganda in the previous century, but that they are only that: a representation. They are a symbol of the great Kingdom of Buganda, but they are not an accurate portrayal of the kingdom's current situation or power. They represent the might of kings past... a might that, while the king still exists, has significantly lessened. Clearly, given Uganda's current political state, the country has been influenced from without. Even while on the sacred ground of Kasubi tombs citizens of Uganda are still subject to the laws of the nation and the rule of the President.

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  4. It was great being able see the Kasubi tombs where the kings were buried. Even though the last three kings ruled during colonization there is still a lot of Ugandan traditions practiced there. For Instance in front of the topmb there is a line in which only royalty can cross and all people who enter must fold their legs. It was also fantastic visting the Martyrs chruch. It is such an important place for Chrisitans in Uganda. In memory of the martyrs over a million Christians from around Uganda as well as from surrounding countries walk to honor the martyrs on June 3. There are a lot of Ugandan traditions and places I look forward to seeing.

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  5. I'm kind of having trouble with the wording of the question. If you are asking if the whole ceremony of burying the "disappeared" king was due to European influence, then I would have to say no. Mummifying (which is what they did) is a very ancient process which originated in Africa. It seems to me that enshining the dead and paying homage to the them especially kings is a very traditional African ceremony. Visitors were expected to observe very traditional etiquette. The women had to wear skirts to their ankles, we had to sit in a certain way while in the palace, and we weren't allow into certain buildings or areas based on our status.

    Certainally there is a more modern aspect of the people staying there. They could obviously get cell phone reception in the palace. I suppose this is Western influence but it does not seemed to have altered the cultural identity.

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  6. I believe that the traditions followed at the Kasubi represent mainly the Uganda of the previous century. Though, I notice it is impossible to not have current factors play a role, the tumbs were very strict with their traditional culture. My capri shorts were not acceptable and the way we sat while by the burial site of the kings had to be followed. Therefore, I do not believe the traditions were influenced by the outside world.

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  7. I feel like the Kasubi tombs were a general representation of the Buganda of old, but also not as detailed as I expected. I feel like back in the days they were more expressive with the tombs and therefore they were more inctricately designed and decorated to the "norm" back then. Now I feel like they have simplified the tombs because it has become such a tourist attraction, and if they were as complex as they used to be, they would have a lot of explaining to do for every little thing. I feel like as a business, tourism, especially in Uganda, is based on how many people you can get in and out of your business. My point is that the tours would have taken hours if they were decorated with no tourist influence. The guide was hurrying us through questions when we got into the main tomb, so that showed to me that they kind of like to keep things short and sweet. I feel like it is because of the tourism business that the tombs have been simplified from their original display and decoration.

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  8. The two places that we visited today I found to be rather interesting. My favorite part was finding all of the old rituals that still exist today. Not only did the tour guide talk about how they were still being used today, we got to see them in action. As the kings had many wifes the blood line of royalty extends quite far. While we were in the burial tomb there was a line closer to tombs in which only the royal family members were allowed to pass. And we go to see that in action. I don't think that it's too uncommon to see members of the royal family in there paying their respect.

    Personally I didn't believe that the time in which the Ugandans were under rule by the British was too influential on the rituals and practices in place by them already. This was clearly obvious as we were visiting both the Tombs and the Martyrs. At the Tombs we saw the royal family members still practicing rituals that were set in place many years ago. Then at the Martyrs we learned about this very large event that happens every year on June 3rd, which attracts around one million people from countries all around Uganda. These are just a few examples of ways that Ugandans continued their own practices even under the influence of British rule.

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  9. I agree with most of the posts above that the Kasubi tombs were in fact part of the representation of Buganda and not influenced by the rest of the world. I thought is was very interesting even though it seemed that a lot of important history was left out of the tour. All the different houses were cool and so was the main burial site. The main burial site was very well built with the rings on the inside, it was also interesting to see the all the "wives." This was probably one of the most interesting things to me. The wives that still went to pay their respects after so long was intense. Overall liked the tombs, maybe with a little more information I would appreciate and understand it more.

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  10. It is interesting that you would ask that question. And it would make you wonder that if Buganda was under British rule, how much influence did they have on Buganda. I would veer to say that that they had a significant role on Buganda, but not when it came to culture, traditions, and its Ritauls. The British, to my knowledge, were not constantly in the terrority that they ruled so it would be hard for them to impress upon the Bugandans their culture and Rituals.

    It is very evident from our tour that this was their orginal traditions were not influenced by the British. The girls had to wear skirts, we had to sit a certain way, and the service was very ritualistic as well. Even though this is open to the public, I believe that this is Buganda's orignal tradition and was not influenced by British rule.

    Overall, I learned alot from these two tours about the history of Uganda and how it relates to sustainable development.

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  11. It was very interesting to go and experience part of the history of Uganda. This is different from anything I have ever experienced in the United States. I feel that these tombs definitely represent life at this time when these kings were alive. I was surprised by the size of the palace that the Queen of England gave the King of Uganda. Obviously, the sizes of palaces have changed since then. There also is a lot of meaning behind aspects of the palace. Rings represent all the different clans. This is very detailed, well thought-out and planned. The huts were very particular and there were a lot of rules (for example, regarding women and who was allowed in what hut and so on). These rules definitely help to represent life at this time. Even with the numbers of wives, life has changed so much since this time period in Uganda.

    I think that there are aspects of the present day that affect our perceptions and understanding of the tombs. For example, today women wear clothes that are not accepted in the tombs and we had to wear a wrap. Norms that existed back then have changed. Obviously, these tombs are used as a tourist attraction. So, the industry of tourism has affected these tombs in some ways. I think that this can affect how we perceive a different sort of life in the tombs. We had a tour guide describing the experience, so this was not the real experience, just an account of what previously went on here. As I mentioned earlier, there were many rules that governed who was allowed where and into what huts. I think that it is a good thing that we were not allowed to enter these huts because it stayed true to Buganda's old traditions and rules and worked to first hand illustrate how these rules played out. These tombs were great to see and represented a part of Uganda I was not well aware of before visiting.

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  12. The Kasubi Tombs wwas a great experience and I think we all thoroughly enjoyed it. The traditions that we were all immersed in gave us an opportunity to experience Uganda's past traditions and principles. Not only did we learn from it, I think the MUBS students learned a lot that they weren't previously aware of (especially that when we, females, enter the palace, we are all queens and princesses).

    I do believe that these tombs represent Uganda's past. Though there is still a king, I believe that he is more ceremonial and only still in place because Ugandans are used to the idea of a monarchy. He does not have as much power and previous kings because of the president and parliament that are now in place as well. Obviously as time goes on, the tombs will be influenced by those that upkeep it, which come from outside of its walls. I do believe they do a great job in maintenace, though, such as the wraps and the removal of our shoes.

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  13. I think the question of how the sites we visited yesterday compare to how life was before colonization would be better answered by someone with more knowledge of the history of this country. How can any of us compare time periods of a country we have heard only a little about? Especially since we have only been here a matter of hours, and we have only seen a representation of one of the two time periods in question. It is an interesting question though, and I think it would be a good one to present to someone that might be able to answer it with a little more validity than any of us.

    As for outside influences on the sites, I thought it was interesting how our guides in both sites were as adimant about giving us a tour of the gift shop as they were about sharing the actual historical aspects of the locations. It was clear to me that the burial site and the martyr site were there to make money as well as share history. Outside influences were also evident in the sites themselves: One of the pictures of the kings at the burial site had a display of British medals of honor underneath it. And the service at the martyr site was based on European catholicism.

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  14. It was a very interesting day being able to vist the tomb of the past 4 kings of Buganda and learning a little about the history of Uganda and how the British taking over has changed the power of the King. The British came during the second King and he did not want to give up any of his power so he was sent into exile. Later the 3rd king became President of Uganda many years after becoming king at the age of 1, and now the 4th and current king of Uganda has no specific power over the country he now just represents a symbol. It was put to a vote to see if the people wanted to have the King back even if it was for only a symbol and I beleve the number was 89% were in favor or having him back. So over many years and the influence of outside nations the tile of King of Buganda has gone from being all powerful, to exile, to president, and now to only representing more of a symbol.

    So to answer Scott’s question I believe that yes many traditions are still intact but they are more of a symbol of what use to be, and what is now is very influenced by the outside world. What Uganda is today is nothing like what Uganda was over a Century ago.

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  15. btw the martyrs would not have exhisted without the presence of outside influences.

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  16. I think the Kasubi tombs represent the traditional Buganda culture. Everything there seemed to be in much the same condition as it probably has been for years. They guide was telling us that nobody was allowed in those houses/huts(?) besides the caretakers or the King and that many of the same items and belongings of the past Kings and their families were still in those buildings. Also, the mummifying of the Kings and their belief that they are not dead, but have 'disappeared'- because the fire has not burnt out- is definitely specific to Buganda culture and history. It was really cool to see how, even to this day, only royalty is allowed to pass the line near the tombs and that people continue to come and watch over the place and keep it clean. The Kusabi tombs aren't just a piece of history; they are still a part of Buganda's culture today.

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  17. I love the culture and tradition that is a part of every day life here. For example, in addition to the post by Austin, the common people (including us) had to sit with our legs to the side. Only members of the royal family could sit with their legs crossed. There were four women in the 'hut' with us, each being a wife of one of the kings buried there. They could live their lives outside of the tomb, but they spend all day every day just sitting with their husbands (who have 'disappeared' not died.)
    Outside of this area, tradition still carries on. I was talking with a few of the students and they were saying that the outfits they were wearing (long pants and pretty conservative shirts) would NOT be worn to their parents' homes. They would be looked down on and be forced to change. Conversations about 'dating,' working, and living life have been filled with these traditions. We have to go now - but I will continue later.

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