Gishu is a tribe from the eastern part of Uganda. The people from that region are also known as the bagishu and mostly are found in the districts of Mbale, Sironko, Bududa, and Manafwa along the slopes of mountain elgon. These people speak a common language known as lugishu. The bagishu are known for their culture that is to say male circumcision also known as Imbalu in the native language. This is believed to be a symbol of manhood among the bagishu men.
Circumcision among the bagishu is highly respected and when it comes to marriage, an uncircumcised man cannot be approved for marriage especially by the girl’s family because such men are believed to be cowards and immature and with this at the back of their minds, the girl’s parents cannot be assured of their daughter’s protection and safety as well.
Many years ago, marriage among the bagishu was arranged by the parents of the man and the girl. This was done even without the couple’s knowledge and approval. Sometimes it could even be forced. But nowadays, marriage among the bagishu starts with a mutual understanding between the girl and the husband to be. However, incest is highly prohibited among the bagishu.
Marriage among the bagishu is very unique and is done through various steps. First is a brief introduction among a few family members especially the elders from both the side of the girl and the side of the man, where they agree on whether the marriage should go ahead that is especially after confirming that the man is circumcised. Here the girl’s family then decides on what they need from the man’s side of the family. Once the man’s family agrees, both the families set a date on which an official introduction ceremony can be held.
An Introduction ceremony among the bagishu is the most important step of marriage. Here, the man’s entire family is invited the girls home so that both the families get to know each other. The venue for this function has to be the home from where the girl comes. At this ceremony the man’s family members are the major guests and their comfort is very important. This ceremony is highly respected and prior preparation has to be made especially by the hosts that is to say the girl’s family.
The introduction ceremony is very interesting as all the people are dressed very smartly in the beautiful cultural wear or attire that is to say the gomesis for the ladies and the kanzus for the men. Very beautiful! There are also various types of food traditionally prepared for example matooke, rice, cassava sweet potatoes and many others served with the staple food commonly known as malewa which is a very tasty dish made from bamboo shoots and others like chicken, beef and many more. The music played at this ceremony is very interesting because it is traditional music known as kadodi and is danced to by different traditional dancers. Very interesting.
At the introduction ceremony the guests from the man’s side of the family come along with various gifts as agreed by the family elders and girl’s parents, which gifts are brought for the girl’s parents, brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles. Some of these gifts include cows, goats, chicken, traditional clothing (kanzus and gomesis) that is for the girl’s aunties and uncles, different types of drinks including local brew known as kamalwa and many more according to how much they can afford.
After the introduction ceremony, another date is set for the real wedding preferably done in churches, mosques or any other places of worship according to the couple’s religion where they are officially pronounced as husband and wife. This wedding ceremony is mostly attended by friends to the couple and a few family members after which there is a reception where all the guests converge to have dinner with the newly wedded couple. The reception venue is usually selected according to the couple’s choice.
Generally, the uniqueness in gishu weddings is the joy and positive energy around throughout the entire ceremonies, the delicious traditional foods, traditional wear, music and dances that makes one feel positive about life and marriage.
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