Muireann taking photos in Uganda


Mac Cool's Uganda Letter

Photographs and Stories by Muireann Mac Cool


B l o g


16 Aug 2006

Reverred, feared and loved: Ugandan Twins and how society welcomes them with a unique ceremony and special names.

"Bantu peoples think of twins as being complicated" I'm told. I'm not too sure what they mean by complicated but when they say the word they look into the middle distance. Every culture has it's superstitions and with a strong belief in witch craft still rooted in society superstitions here hold a lot more weight.

Specific names are awarded to members of a family baring twins. Wasswa is the first born twin male. Kato is the second born twin male. Babirye is the first born female twin while Nakato is the second. The child that preceeds the set of twins is given the name kigongo regardless of their sex. The child following a set of twins is called Kizza. The child following Kizza is called Kamya or Nakamya for a girl. The parents are no longer Maama or Taata such and such but Salongo (Dad of Twins) and Nalongo (mother of twins). These names can superseed any of your other names.

It is believed that twins can be either an extreme blessing or a curse. It brings bad luck if the twins reside in any other dwelling than their fathers. Only when they live in the house of their true father will they bring good fortune to the family. So before there was DNA tests (which still not available in Uganda according to my medical sources) there was the insect test. well I haven't been able to find out it's proper name but when twins are born as local test has to be carried out at the Twins Blessing Ceremony. A large piece of bark cloth is laid over the floor of a main room in the house of the eligded father. The guests wait and wait until and insect walks over the barkcloth which is then rolled up around the insect. This is a sign that the twins are indeed the children of the father.

The ceremony also involves the only allowed public use of obsenities. In Uganda, there are a large number of taboo words including the V word.It's a true sin to utter such words but at the ceremony you can say the grossest most obsence things in song or words and it's all part of the process. I think I won't ever get to find out the real reason why this is done because it could be taboo to tell me or rather too embarrassing. During the twin blessing ceremony, the mother, father and both twins are given baskets. The four baskets are filled with money and coffee beans from the guests. The baskets for the twins are placed under their beds. Every time a good fortune occurs in the family the father and mother should add some money to each of the basket. Do thieves not catch on to this, I ask naively. Oh no, they would never risk such bad luck, shame and curses! They would be too superstitious to steal the money. The parents may borrow from the basket but the money must be return or woe will befall them.
There are other beliefs about clothing and how twins should be treated but I don't know enough about them.

The baganda view twins in a very different way to me. I do believe they are blessings, after all my Dad and God mother are twins.They don't give me the spooks unless I think about the labour poor Nalongo went through to have them.

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