In Uganda, the Ministry of Tourism has resolved to promote the Bamasaba cultural circumcision ceremony also known as Imbalu, as one of its tourist attractions.
The Festival takes place every even year from August and lasts four months.
Unlike in other African areas where circumcision is carried out indoors with few associates present, the Bamasaba or the Bagishu carry out the cutting without anesthesia and also in public, which allows tourists to attend. According to the Uganda Tourism Board, more than 30,000 people showed up for three days of festivities in 2016.
“Government needs to increase funding for the tourism sector to empower cultural institutions. This funding will also be used to set up cultural sites to preserve the culture and tourism for future generations”
So how does this ceremony actually work? The Bamasaba, young and old, pitch camp at Mutoto Cultural Site, two kilometers from Mbale town. The elders must check the ‘candidates’ for the ritual to see whether they are real Bagishu. The candidates are put in the middle of a crowd of potentially 30 000, singing and dancing the traditional ‘Kadodi’ dance.
Tourism is one of the biggest industries in Uganda. But the east African nation has also been losing an estimated $1 million a day due to the fighting in neighboring South Sudan. There are high hopes that this biannual circumcision ceremony can help fuel tourism and bring more funds to this specific region.
The tourism board has yet to set aside the funds or find investors necessary to develop a tourist center.
We hear expert views from Mugisu journalist Denis Woniala on how the ceremony works and how the government and Bagishu community could further market the activity.