Karamajong culture:  Indigenous karamojongs of Uganda have the unique cultural that originates from their ancient traditional beliefs. The Karamajong are a group of semi-nomadic pastoralists who settled in the northeastern part of Uganda.  The karamajong main activity is mainly cattle keeping which is the main cultural and social importance to them. Crop farming is the supplementary activity under taken only in areas where agriculture is practicable and majorly small scale growing crops like sorghum and millet.

Due to the unfavorable climatic conditions of the region which is Arid, the Karamojong’s have always practiced transhumance “type of pastoralism involving the movement of cattle’s in search for green pastures” time to time in their neighboring Districts .

The need for green pasture is always a concern by the karamajong nomads and this affects the karamajong interactions with their neighboring ethnic communities.

The unique interesting fact about  Karamajong culture is their isolated  ways of life such as backward dressing code, traditional local arts, and crafts, jewelry, unique preserved  traditional dances, food preparation, and the marriage and initiation ceremonies  which they have highly respected.

 Traditionally, making of women`s and girl`s costumes in Karamoja was mainly a female work. Every woman in the village (Manyatta) had to be involved in the dress-making. The elderly women came together  and  co-operatively  produced  a  respectful  piece  of  work,  while  the  girls  were  under apprenticeship, improving their skills in the techniques and styles of making female costume. The same fashion of skirt was made all over Karamoja with just small difference among some tribes to thrill while on Uganda Cultural Tours.

Karamajong culture
Karamajong culture

The girl’s shirts was called “Elou” and the women shirts was called “Abwo”. The “Elou” was mainly made from sheep and goat skin and Abwo was made from antelope’s skin. Karamajong men and boys wear a short and a special regalia called Nyathukok, which covers the whole body then Women and girls wear a special apparel known as Nyemarinda, a skirt which is worn by all. This skirt, mostly in a brown and reddish color.

The Karamajong live in houses known as manyata which are made using local materials like grass, mud, and cow dung. These houses are enclosed in a fence with consists of thorny plants to keep the animals from roaming out of the fence and it is also a form of protection from dangers such as wildlife and thieves from entering.

Their cultural traditional dance id called “Endaga” which involves jumping up and down and mostly performed in various occasions such as the weeding’s, courtship, entertainment events and when a visitor visits. The dance ids known for its unique style where women leads the dance holding sticks on hands and swings from side to side then men follow with energetic movement.

Karamoja modern dressing code

Today, most of the leather crafts are being replaced by modern materials for example the wrappers, commonly known as bed sheets or “Esuka / Makatuka” that came in to existence around  1970s due to enforced wearing of clothes. This has resulted into the disappearance of skin-made objects with most of their leather-crafts such as aprons, skirts, shields, and other smaller objects. “Suka” is a piece of colorful cloth designed in geometrical lines, which is usually about two meters long. The women cut the piece of cloth and sew it into pleated skirts by hand and while the men use them as wrappers by wrapping them around their shoulders or waist. Its origin is not well defined, but since the Masai people of Kenya use the same cloth, it’s possible that the Karamajong borrowed this way of dressing from the Masai since they are also nomads. The indigenous Karamajong was content with what he made and therefore also got suspicious about any other thing that was foreign because they believed that it could be carrying diseases.

Today, much of the laborious work is being avoided since it is very difficult to obtain wild animals’ skins, the karamajong have now declined from using cows’ tails as whiskers. Dome times instead of using the animal tails, the people now use wood as a way to curved.  Though   the modern transformation  is taking place among the Karamajong people, they have  maintain the making of leather bands for arms and legs, and These consist of several leather strings that are woven individually, by using only two stripes. This is why most of the art handcrafts have been found in everywhere in the society as well as Uganda at large.

 The Karamajong attire has maintained its traditional look, especially the colorful nature and length of the skirt, the colored bed sheets are still in use by the Karamajong, and they are sewed to fit any design and fashion. Traditionally, the Karamajong women were not interested in the skirt, because they were wearing hides and skins until when the cows in the region reduced due to cattle rustling, this is when they started developing the attitudes of wearing the modern dress.

However, the hides are still being kept for traditional events. The arrangement of the beads is a major key to the attractiveness of a particular piece of work. The choose of  fashion of the beads and skin is one of the methods where the karamajong  choose any  colored skins, mostly black colour , which matches l with any of the color of the beads.

The  Karamajong  people  today face  a  lot  of challenges just like any hand craft making industry  in  Uganda, this is also due to the high  demand and supply brought by modernity . Today, the Karamajong people have combined their craft work with their traditional skills with that of the foreign influence. New modernity are being made in the fields of leather-craft, for example; modern handbags, pocket money and drums baskets, among others.  the karamajong method of trade has also mixed whereby some objects are obtained through exchanging goods like in  the  old  days,  while  other  products  are  being  bought  using  money.  That’s to say,   the present Karamajong is being pushed by both the traditional and the modern forces.

Women dressing

The women dress is usually made from bed sheets that is hand sewn into skirts, it is usually sewn with folded pleats or hides, and then decorated with beads to make it attractive and colorful. The skirt is called “Ebow” and it is made from hides, however this is most commonly worn by the Karamajong women as a traditional attire. The skirt is also paired with a vest which is similar to that worn by men only varies in colour. The women wear their attire which also is accompanied with beads, made as ear-rings, necklaces waist belts and head gears and this are all called “Ngachillo”. The style of the skirts that many women now wear started as an abuse according to karamajong tradition.

Men Dress

The young Karamajong men wrap a sheet around their waist, pairing it a vest called “eplan” in any colour. The older men tie their sheet across their bodies and over the shoulders. This  bed sheets originate  from  Kenya  among  the Masai,  traditionally ,  the  Karamajong  and  Masai peoples have  some similarities in their traditions. The Karamajong dress code is usually not complete without a stick is known as “Abele” and a stool called “Ekicholong”. The sticks are usually carried along by the karamajong due to the pastoral kind of work that they do and a stool is used for resting when one gets tired in the grazing field. The men can also  to wears  beads known as “Ngachilo” around their waist just to respect their traditional dress code, the beaded arm-let  is usually worn on the arms or across the chest depending on its fashion , or on any part of the body that one desires. They also wear a hat with feather commonly preferred is the Ostrich bird feather. 

known as “Ebela” and a stool called “Ekicholong”. Sticks are carried along by Karamojong people ue to their kind of work as pastoralists, stool is used for resting when one gets tired while the cattl  The  shoes  or  sandals  are  made  from  car  tyres  commonly  known  as“Ngatangai”.

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