Ref: Tumwijuke, my tribesmate

 Tumwi was saying,  (Refer to “I Am Not My Tribe”, by Tumwijuke)

It’s natural, in people, the result of a natural instinct acting out. To protect yourself you look for friends—you need an ‘us’ around you, a group to belong to, a group that will belong to you.

I guess in primitive times you banded with the people who lived nearest and spoke the same language, whose lives, perspectives, character and values were shaped by the same circumstances that shaped your own. You were all in this together.

It made sense then, I think. All Omnians from the deserts of Klatch spoke the same way, looked similar, were industrious, frugal, intense and serious people. Meanwhile, the peoples from the lush forests of the Ramtops are fat, jolly and perhaps a bit lazy. They live in the midst of plenty, so why shouldn’t they enjoy their lives?

Tribe made sense then.

It doesn’t now. Not in the city. Not uptown.

Because if your tribe is the people who live nearest, speak the same language, whose lives, perspectives, character and values are shaped by the same circumstances that shaped your own, then none of you dotcom yuppie kids are Bakiga, Banyankore, Acholi or Baganda.

You are dotcom yuppie kids. You are of the Badotcomyuppi tribe.

After all, you all share a language, customs, values, culture— your clothes, your music, your morals all the same. Same tribe. The only difference in the group is the language your respective grandparents speak.

But how do you define one person by describing another?

I could try to be a “real” Muganda, I guess. I could master the language, drop the English name, learn the rituals, but all this would be superficial. I could walk the walk but at heart I would still be that kid who grew up in Kenya and was raised on American TV. Nothing can change that.

It won’t be identity, it would be a disguise.

It will be like those Americans who give themselves Swaheely names, grow dreadlocks and dress their kids up in Kente.

In every fundamental sense I would have more in common with Tumwijuke than with the scores of peasants who live on my Granddad’s land in Kyadondo, even though I try to act as if my life and theirs have anything in common.

Aspects of tribe can be quaint and charming and entertaining, but generally, fuck tribe.

As I was saying over at my kinswoman’s blog, they tell us we should identify ourselves, not by our reality, but according to the customs and traditions of forefathers.

We should return to our traditional ways, and shun the ways of the colonialists who wish to usurp our true culture.

But then for real, this tribe hasn’t always always existed. If you go back enough centuries you will find an ancestor who speaks a completely different language. He lives in a simple, primitive agricultural community around there, speaking his other language peacefully, until, one day, this band of marauding warriors comes storming over the hill, screaming in a language he doesn’t understand. What can your ancestor do? He surrenders, like everyone else in the area. What could they do? The didn’t even have an army, they barely had a political leadership. They had farms and chicken, that’s all.

The chief warrior gets all the little villages he has conquered together and calls them his kingdom. Soon all the people in the kingdom are speaking his language and paying allegiance to him; the kids are developing a taste for the music he came with, they are wearing their clothes in the fashion of that other village over there which they got to know about after they found themselves in the same colony with it.

The ancestor is old now. He remembers what life was like before the Huns and he looks at the kids speaking Luganda he says, “Kale they have forgotten their culture. All brainwashed by the colonialist!”



  1. Argh, not this tribal ish again!!!! This kaboozi is too intellectual for my mind… Baz, bring back Lizzie. Or Thicke to post for u. At least he has no serious stuff to say.

    But does anyone know wassup with Ivan Long Raider?

  2. Shit! Its stuff like this that made me want to leave school! Don’t do this again!

    @Cheri; We agreed we would not use that name in public

  3. i could not have put it better myself! culture evolves, lots of influences, what is not needed shed along the way.

  4. I totally agree. It is a bit strange that my three closest girlfriends are from the West but it is not because they are from the West that I love them. I have interacted with so many people and the last thing I ask is what tribe are you? I might go years without knowing because knowing will not alter how I feel or perceive you. You will be the talkative one, the funny one or even the smelly one and if the smelly one happens to be a Munyankore, I won’t then assume that all Banyankore are smelly. Ernest, I am so with you, Fuck tribe. That said, I do enjoy speaking Runyankole and dressing up in my myenda but granted I am fascinated by language as a whole and fashion as well.
    Sorry for mini-posting on your commentspace.

  5. I’m still confused by the little story at the end. So was mr. ancestor calling the chief warrior the colonialist?
    Please tell me the moral of your story Baz, I’m too slow.

  6. Well said homie! Or is it tribey or dotcommie?

    For some reason we were decieved that culture is static. That the best way to uphold tradition is not to change. But we can’t fight the inevitable.

    I got an angry phone call last night from someone accusing me of being ashamed of my family and shya-shya after all he has done for the Kiga community and shya … I was like whatwhatwhat? I wear my father’s name with pride, but not because of where he comes from. I am proud to be his child because of who he is. When did tribe begin to characterize who we are? Did I miss that memo?

    My ire aside, I am grinning from ear to ear because I think there is somewhere the potential for all this nonsense to end and for the revolution to finally begin. Yay!

  7. Tumwi what revolution when all the potential badotcomyuppies are going to be educated in ‘local languages’ in UPE. This tribe thing is with us to stay. Unfortunately.

  8. Deny it all you want but you still came from a tribe. Doesn’t matter that Shaka Zulu conquered over 100 tribes to create the Zulus but they are still there. Tribe is with us and is recorded in history. Those who think it is primitive are short of ignorant. For you cannot even google the meaning of the word primitive. Be that as it may, we people who wear our heritage and tribe with pride also do not live primitive lives and are about as interactive and liberal as y’all dotocmmies. We also don’t take notice of tribe, and even go out to learn other peoples’ languages and customs. I happen to understand Zulu, Tswana, Afrikaans and Pedi quite well. I’m also a bit fluent in Swahili. I speak above mentioned languages, albeit haltingly. I am very well aware of Baganda culture because of where I grew up. That makes me have a deeper understanding, appreciation and respect for other people’s cultures as well as my own. Being aware of and proud of tribe has nothing to do with primitiveness. Unless of course dotcommies have become narrow-minded too to the extent of labelling and pigeon-holing.

  9. I think everyone should post something on their blogs and vent. Coz this is not a simple matter. Cheri could want to make believe that this is nothing but underneath its festering. Wait till you get stonewalled by the family for not naming your child after some grand-auntie you even never saw, nor had any interest in. Then the enormity of the stupidity of this thing will become clear.

  10. Carlo, you probably misunderstood my use of the term primitive. I did not mean it as a pejorative. Primitive merely means in the early stages of a development cycle. Societies in their early stages are small, scattered villages, living on subsistence farming. Given time, they develop trade, specialise, coalesce into larger more sophisticated political entities, and the economies develop specialisation etc.

    Primitive used in the sense of “yet to become complicated”.

    Plus, given that everything is still in stage of development, then everything is primitive. Western Civilisation will be called primitive one day. In a couple of years you will realise that iPods are primitive. Ndaba Windows 93 is called primitive.

    It has nothing to do with the quality of person.

    Now, I can appreciate that your tribal heritage means something to you. But the thing I am trying to argue is that, mine means nothing to me. Not because I wanted it to, but that’s just how it is.

    I am not trying to deny my tribe. I tried to fit in, and that is when I realised that I am faking it. I went to Buganda when I was 18 years old because I was told that is where I was from. I got there and realised that I had never even been there before. That really is NOT where I am from.

    I saw the real Baganda there. They were very patient with me, but fact remained, they were them, and I was me.
    Sense of belonging? I have a better chance of fitting in with a group which greets me with “What’s up” than a group that greets me with “Gyebale kko.”

    Therefore, anyone who insists that I should act like it is is asking me to lie. Who I am and where I am from is I am Baz and I am from four cosmopolitan cities.

    Tribe is superficial and trivial in this Cappucinio middleclass urban world; there is no context within which I ever associate with a person in which I ever need to know his or her tribe. Any one of my friends who I love and admire could tell me could tell me one day, “By the way, I am actually adopted. My real tribe is Fante from Nigeria.”

    (And Anonymous, I deleted your post because I am not convinced you meant what you said in good faith)

  11. Ah, me I have no problem with tribe; I love to laugh at the eccentricities of my tribe, and other people’s or admire the interesting bits. I love to find out the differences and similarities between tribes. I am learning more about mine and enjoying it. I like to be a Mudotcomyuppie, but also I cannot do it as well as being a medley of the different experiences I have had, just as I can not do my own tribe well. Tribe for me is like that sharp point of the compass that stays in the middle while the pencil rotates around to draw the circle. No matter how far and wide I go, I want that orientation, to know where I came from.

    N.B. Baz, Anonymous’ comment is still showing.

  12. Ok finally I delve into this matter.

    Phantom…I was watching from the sidelines, both here and at Tumwi’s but now here’s my 2 cents’ worth…


    Our tribe is one thing that wont go away. We’ll always be members of it…but letting it define us and our principles is the archaic thing I wont let bark cloth or long horned cattle define me cuz we are moving to an age where tribe will cease to exist as we mix up.

    My ma is mixed. My dad is mixed, so if that makes me Mutoro-Acholi-Rwandese-Sudanese then I’m one hell of a cocktail. But that always sidelines the point.

    Point is I’m a member of the Human race. I’m a citizen of the World!!!!!!! I

  13. One word – Banange!

    And no, that doesn’t mean I have turned Muganda.

    Echoing Baz, the burden of defining who we are is our own. It is an individual matter and absolutely no external forces can change my perception of myself.

    On the else and else, perhaps we could battle it out over a margherita during Thursday’s UBHH? I am assuming the Dotcommies will triumph, but we’ll see.

  14. @Tumwi; Did I not tell you? there you go again. thought u Kampala cappucino/margharita kids say ‘bannange’ as part of your social construct and not –ganda wharrever.

    this is good debate… loving it. local languages for upe!! way to go.. you guys the way you use local languages is too local!! try indigenous maybe could make some sense then.

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