Demography and Geography
The Lugbwara number a few thousand people inhabiting the southernmost part of Yei River County in central Equatoria. The nationality extends into the west Nile district of Uganda.
Environment, Economy and Natural Resources
The Lugbwara were subsistence agriculturalists. During the period of their early migration, they brought with them simple possessions such as sheep, goats, millet and sorghum. The Lugbwara hunt buffaloes, bush buck, antelopes, rabbits, squirrels and several other animals. They also fish and trap a variety of birds.
Mythology and History
Most Lugbwara traditions regarding their origin begin with God’s creation of the universe. The first two human beings Gboro-Gboro(male) and Meme (female) are said to have been superhuman. Some traditions only speak of Meme whose womb God filled with the living things of the world. Then a gazelle made an opening through Meme’s womb by rupturing it with its hoof and all the worldly creatures came out. Man was the last to come out.
The first human beings are said to have been twins: Arube was a boy while O’duu was a girl. These twins, unlike their parents Gboro-Gboro and Meme, were believed to have been ordinary human beings. The tradition asserts that they were born in the ordinary way. Meme died immediately after giving birth to the twins. It is said that when these children grew up, married each other and produced children who through generations multiplied to produce the Lugbwara clans.
The Lugbwara speak a language categorised as being eastern Sudanic language related and very close to the Madi, the Keliko, the Logo, the Moru and the Avukaya.
Society Social Events, Attitudes, Customs and Traditions
The highest social organisation among the Lugbwara is the clan; normally headed by the clan leader called the Opi. The members of the same clan claim a common ancestry and agnatic lineage. The clan elders exercised influence over political and social affairs and they had powers to curse and punish any recalcitrance. The Lugbwara had a clientage system (amadingo) whereby the poor and destitute would be looked after by the rich. Such clients could be given land and dowry if they wished to stay in the system.
Initiation into Adulthood
On reaching puberty, both girls and boys undergo two important rituals for tribal identification. These are face-tattooing and the extraction of 6 frontal teeth from the lower jaw, which serve as a way of decoration as well as initiation into adulthood. A person who had not had these operation would still be called a child and only those who have gone through initiation would aspire to marry.
Lugbwara society used to have marriages arranged by parents. The explanation was that the community was engaged in warfare that prevented courtship between youths. The arranged marriages could be made even when the children were of a tender age. When warfare subsided considerably, courtship became possible. The boy’s father would transfer bride-wealth to the girl’s home and thereafter, the couple was customarily named. Traditionally, divorce is rare among the Lugbwara except in cases of sterility.
The ritual linked to birth is the cutting of the umbilical cord. The attending midwife is required to cut the cord in 4 strokes for a boy and 3 for a girl. The mother would stay in confinement for 3 or 4 days depending on the sex of the child and was required to abstain from eating certain foods. She could only receive a few visitors because some might have evil intentions and might do harm to the health of the child. The ritual of confinement was followed by the festivities that end with the naming of the child. The name given portrayed some memorable experiences either of the parents or relative e.g. a child born during famine is named Abiriga.
The chief’s burial differs considerably from that of ordinary men. Once the death was announced people were not allowed to wail because ‘it was feared that if one wailed before burial, the corpse might turn into a lion or a leopard and attack people. A bull was slaughtered for the mourners and its hide was used to wrap the corpse. The burial usually took place in the middle of the night and the body would be placed in the grave with the head pointed northwards towards Mt. Lira from where the Lugbwara believed to have originated. After burial, a sorrowful song would be sung and the mourners would wail as they danced.
A bark-doth tree (lam) would be planted on the grave. Food could be served during part of the mourning. The paternal relatives of the late chief (opi) would give a bull (avuti) to the chief’s maternal relatives. Only wailing and absence of lam tree on the grave differentiates the burial procedure for ordinary from that of the chief. The recounting of the life history of the deceased (adi) and funeral dances were compulsory in Lugbwara burials.
Political Organisation, Traditional Authority
The most important figure in Lugbwara society is the chief (ozoo-opi) who sometimes exercises both political, judicial and rainmaking powers in addition to being the custodian of the clan’s property. When the chief did not possess rain-making powers another individual (ozoo-ei) is entrusted with the powers of rainmaking. Succession of a chief is a peaceful affair.
The date of the succession was a very honourable occasion punctuated with a lot of beer and food and was attended by all the notables of the clan. The most senior Opi in the lineage presents the new Opi with a chiefly stool (anderiku) and the rest of the chiefly regalia – a spear, a bow and arrows, and a bracelet. The congregation of lineage chiefs would formally brief the new Opi on the qualities and rules of conduct expected of him as a leader and alert him to the heavy responsibility to shoulder.
Spirituality, Beliefs and Customs
The Lugbwara believe in the existence of a supreme being – God but they also entertain the concept of spirits particularly that some people transform into other animals on death.
Culture: Arts, Music, Literature and Handicraft
The Lugbwara culture is expressed orally in songs, poetry, and dance. There is nothing peculiar but like their neighbours they weave baskets.
Neighbours and Foreign Relations
The Lugbwara neighbour the Madi, Keliko and the Logo to whom they relate. Their other neighbours are the Pöjulu and the Kakwa.
The long running war affected the Lugbwara and caused their massive displacement into northern Uganda.
The bulk of the Lugbwara joined their kinsmen in Uganda and a large Lugbwara community exist in Arua and Aringa Counties in west Nile.
Butt, Audrey, ‘The Nilotes of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and Uganda.’ In Daryll Forde (ed.) East and Central Africa, part 4 of Ethnographic survey of Africa, London, Oxford University Press, 1952 Richard Nzita & Mbaga-Niwampa (ed.) ‘Peoples and Cultures of Uganda.’ Foundation Publishers, Kampala, 1998 Collins, Robert, O., ‘Land beyond the Rivers: Southern Sudan, 1898 – 1918.’ New Haven Yale University Press, 1971.