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Igongo Cultural Centre, a marvel of Ankole history

A grass thatched with sculptures of the Ankole Kingdom back then (PHOTO/Abraham Mutalyebwa)

MBARARA – With this digital era in the 21st century comprised of millennials, that are raised up on electronic gadgets that include; televisions, video games, movies, cell phones, and social media among others.

The cultural values, norms and personal identity are dwindling at an alarming rate.

During my galavanting spree in western Uganda, in  Biharwe in Mbarara district, that was previously categorized as the land of milk and honey.

I was able to visit  Igongo cultural centre situated along the Kampala – Mbarara highway roughly a 10-minutes drive to Mbarara town.

To my astonishment, I have used the highway heading to other districts such as Bushenyi, Ntungamo, Rukungiri, Kanungu, Kabale, Kisoro to mention but a few, and I had not taken the initiative to stop for a refreshment or even brief tour to check out this hidden treasure and tourist site that is facing the Biharwe eclipse monument  not known to many, since the locals and the district officials do not understand the significance of such places except for a few tourism enthusiasts and white tourists that are eager to learn and enrich themselves with African escapades.

Cultural performers entertaining the guests at the centre found in Biharwe, Mbarara (PHOTO/Abraham Mutalyebwa)

The  centre opened my thinking about our roots and heritage that most of us think is out-dated just because of a few foreign trips and constant hustle and bustle in the city centre all in the quest of modest living and accumulating wealth  that has deeply plunged our tradition in the “abyss” for those that read the Bible.

Needless to add,  I went to the Kaahwa Kanuzire restaurant, had a snack to eat and a soft drink, while enjoying the cultural performances in Kinyankore with a blend of Kinyarwanda was our “discotheque” for some of us that spent barely an hour at the site.

The place used to seem pretty small since I always saw it from a distance and this was a “mirage” according to my ordinary level physics in highschool.

It was completely the opposite, there were relaxing gardens and courts named after districts such as Buhweju, Kashari, Ibanda, Mpororo, Mbuuro, Igara  among others orchestrated with beautiful  symbolic sculptures and the most appealing  was the  long-horned cow with a cattle eagret “Nnyonyi Nyange” in the Luganda dialect  and the crested cranes that  bring to life the element of  pastoralism a major activity practiced by the Banyankore people that fall under Uganda reflected by the Crested Cranes.

The section leading to the “Eriijukiro” the Museum at the Igongo cultural centre (PHOTO/Abraham Mutalyebwa)

As a budding reader,  I visited the Nkwanzi crafts and book shop that had racks filled with various categories of materials that cuts across in various spheres like Ankole history, politics, children storybooks, current affairs, lifestyle among others. What  caught my attention was the “one little guitar ”  words of prince Paul Job Kafeero a fallen “Kadongo Kamu” legend, ” What makes Africans laugh” authored  by James.R. Tumusiime also the proprietor for the centre, ” Battles of Uganda’s Resistance” A tradition of Maneuver by Muhoozi Kainerugaba , ” Abagabe b’ankole 1 & 2 written  by A.G.Katale and L.Kamugungunu , Runyankore – Rukiga Grammar  composed by Y.Mpairwe and G.K. Kahanga among others.

Relatedly, not forgetting  “eriijukiro” the museum that had antiquties that share more insights about the Ankole traditions. I was able to glaze at the grass-thathed gazebo with reeds with sculptures of the mother queen attended too by  her subjects with gourds of ghee and milk at her disposal.

To capture the modern market as well, kids play area has been set up with modern swimming pools  for adults and children as well as a lounge and lodging facility at the Hotel.

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