The Bakonzo Culture

The Bakonzo people believe that the Rwenzori Mountains are theirs. The Rwenzori Mountains are managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), but the Bakonjo residents who live deep in the hills jealously guard them. Originally called Rwenzururu, the Rwenzori Mountains were renamed Rwenzori by Sir Henry Morton Stanley due to difficulty pronouncing the word.

The Bakonzo people actually believe that the Rwenzori Mountains are theirs and they are also known as the mountain keepers. The Rwenzori Mountains are a symbol of a culture that describes the Bakonzo’s presence. There are two stories about the Bakonzo people’s origins. Following the arrival of the Toro government, the Bakonzo gradually migrated to the lowlands. The Rwenzori Mountains have consistent rainfall and lakes that provide water to both wildlife and humans. Agriculture, both in livestock and crops, is the main activity in the area. It is also believed that the Bakonzo families emerged from caves in the Rwenzori Mountains and gave birth to the rest of the Bakonzo.

During his journeys from Egypt to Ethiopia, Egyptian King Ptolemy is said to have reported the presence of short, physically strong women and men in the Rwenzori Mountains. He mentions that these people used to circumcise themselves by wrapping a small piece of bark cloth around their waists. Furthermore, the Egyptian king Ptolemy is credited with naming the Rwenzori Mountains the Mountains of the Moon, a name that is still in use today. Another legend has it that the Bakonzo originated near Lake Nalubale, also known as “Victoria.” Some of the works of art in Kasubi tombs, Baganda cultural heritage site in Kampala, show that the Konzo community was formed by two clans who fled to the Rwenzori mountains.

Kasese is home to the Bakonzo people. Other people in the Rwenzori region include the Bambuti and Bamba, though Bakonzo is the most populous. They are physically short and stout. The Bakonzo and Bamba are small, dark-skinned, and short people who marry at a young age, usually around 13-14 years. These are the original inhabitants of the forests and mountain ranges. Their natural surroundings provided them with a diverse range of small percussion instruments, portable instruments, wooden horns, and simple dances.

Bakanzo and Bamba both believe in superhuman abilities, and their gods are named Nyabarika and Kalisa. Kalisa has half a body and appears to be a man, with one eye, one arm, one leg, one ear, and half a nose. Nyabarika was the most powerful spiritual force and was the god of life, death, and hunting. These gods were later erected. People in the area were hunters, and they hunted with dogs.

The Bakonzo live in the villages and farms that surround Uganda’s Rwenzori front hill. They are also a significant ethnic group, numbering over 30’000 people, and are known as Banande in Congo.

Their homes are constructed of plaited bamboo filled with clay and roofed with grass. However, due to modern changes in Africa, they now use iron roofs. Coffee and cocoa are the two most important cash crops grown on the foothill.  Cotton, on the other hand, is grown on the plains. Because of the growing population, economic policies that favor stability have taken hold, pushing farms further and higher into the mountain foothills due to increased erosion and environmental harm caused by people’s activities on the land.

Experiencing the Bakonzo culture.

Rwenzori Turaco View Campsite.

For over 300 years, the Bakonzo lived in Mihunga, a small village on the slopes of Mount Rwenzori. One could argue that the spectacular views of the snowcapped peaks are why they chose this location for their village. The Bakonzo adapted to life on the slopes of this towering mountain without power or running water. They were self-sufficient, using local herbs for medicine and farming for food. You will visit the Mihunga community tourism group as part of your cultural expedition. The rapid evolution into modernity in our time has threatened traditional ways and customs. This organization was formed in order to promote and preserve the Bakonzo heritage.

Ruboni Community camp

The Bakonzo Culture

The Ruboni community camp is an agricultural village near the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains. This cultural encounter not only teaches you about the Bakonzo culture in this village, but it also takes you through their daily lives. The village is home to over 2,000 people, and a visit here takes you to their farmlands where they tend to their gardens, livestock, and prepare their fresh meals. Meet the traditional healer and learn about the various herbs used to treat ailments. Visit the blacksmith and learn about the time-honored method of making tools like knives. Women, on the other hand, weave baskets and tell stories passed down through generations.

Bulemba-Ihandiro Cultural Trail

Follow this 6-7-hour cultural trail to learn about the Bakonzo people’s culture. The trail winds through beautiful valleys, stopping at various villages to learn about the lives of the locals. Visit the traditional healers and learn about the Muhima’s powers. The blacksmith demonstrates his ability to shape metal into tools such as knives. The women show off their basket weaving abilities. As you participate in the traditional dances, dance to the tempo of the African drum.