How A Professional Caterer Became Bunyoro's Cultural Site Caretaker Top story

3387 Views Hoima, Uganda

In short
Kiiza is in charge of a cultural site with a well believed to be where Bunyoro’s Omukama Kabalega Chwa used to draw drinking water. The legendary king also used to play a board game (Omweso) at the site during his leisure time. The site was also said to contain Omukama Kabalega’s footprints (Ebigere), although these were destroyed by residents during stone quarrying.

From a professional caterer to a cultural site caretaker, 65 year old Vincent Kiiza is the man in charge of Kacungiro cultural site in Kinogozi, Buhimba sub-county, Hoima district.
 
Kiiza is in charge of a cultural site with a well believed to be where Bunyoro’s Omukama Kabalega Chwa used to draw drinking water. The legendary king also used to play a board game (Omweso) at the site during his leisure time. The site was also said to contain Omukama Kabalega’s footprints (Ebigere), although these were destroyed by residents during stone quarrying.
 
The site is located about eight kilometers from Hoima town. It sits on a 200 acre piece of land belonging to Bunyoro Kitara kingdom.
 
Given the amazing features, Kacungiro is a very important cultural site in Bunyoro’s history. Sadly its remote location means it only receives about 30 visitors every year. The visitors come from within and outside Hoima district. Although there are no charges for visitors, permission is granted by the kingdom authorities. The caretaker Kiiza explains that because of the sanctity of this place, he’s not allowed to take anyone around without clearance from the kingdom.

Bunyoro kingdom Prime Minister Reverend Jackson Nsamba Kasozi says because of the site's cultural importance, the kingdom has started developing it by building a vocational institute near it. Last Saturday the prime minister officiated at a ground breaking ceremoney for construction of Mount Camel Vocational Institute at the site. Kasozi says the site will be developed further attract more tourists and generate income for the kingdom.

//Cue in: "its going...
Cue out: ...next targets."//
 
Kiiza became Kacungiro's caretaker at 26 after a dream inspired him to offer to do the work. He was then a catering trainer in Entebbe. He has been the Kacungiro caretaker for the last 39 years.
 
As a cultural site caretaker, Kiiza is charged with maintaining the neatness of Kacungiro by trimming the vegetation. He also has to perform cultural rituals. Among the rituals he performs is offering sacrifices to ancestors at the site. He also cleanses people with misfortune in their lives by either bathing them in the stream or giving them purified water to drink.
 
Kiiza says he has cleansed several people around the Kabalega stream including the present Omukama  Solomon Gafabusa Iguru.
 
Runyoro
//Cue in: "Bikankoma..
Cue out: ...hanu emikoro."//
 
Voiceover
//Cue in: "They chose me...
  Cue out: ...rituals here."//

Kiiza claims to be a rainmaker too, especially after he plays the board game.It indeed rained moments after he played it during this reporter's visit.
 
Meanwhile It is hard to believe that Kacungiro well is special unless Kiiza explains it. The area is a concentration of three wells, each next to the other. As Kiiza explains the bigger and deep well is the one Kabalega used to draw his drinking water. However the water now looks dirty and Kiiza says this is the intention of ancestors to bar residents from drinking it.
 
Next to it is another well, small in size but with clean and fast flowing water. It’s from the well that residents collect their drinking water. There is always water in this well even during the dry seasons. To the right another well, smaller and shallower with very dirty water. This third well is called wife of Kabalega's well.
 
Also peculiar about the Kabalega well, is the magical water color changes. Kiiza explains that the water sometimes turns red, signifying likely problems in the kingdom. Sometimes stars appear in the water and this signifies good fortune for the kingdom. Kiiza says the stars normally appear in harvesting seasons when Bunyoro families have plenty of food.
 
Runyoro
//Cue in: "Haroho...
Cue out: ...hakasumi."//
 
Voiceover
//Cue in: ..."When...
Cue out: ..in this water."//

To visitors, Kacungiro is an amazing place to go, but residents don't see it this way. For example they have destroyed a rock that had footprints believed to be Kabalega's during stone quarrying. Although some residents refused to talk to URN about this site, Kiiza maintains that such destruction means an attack on Bunyoro's culture, therefore residents have no respect for this place.
 
Vincent Kiiza is a father of two, but lives alone in a semi-permanent house, near the cultural site. His wife Princess Zabeti Nyabutono died a year ago. Apart from care taking the cultural site, which he describes as voluntary work, Kiiza is a farmer.