Karamoja, Uganda: Experience of Visiting a Homestead

A homestead is the name of the homes in which the Karamojong live either as families or as clans. During the course of my Mission Experience Program in Kotido Diocese, Loyoro, Karamoja, I came to learn that there are many values depicted by the homestead in Karamoja.

The homes of the Karimojong are constructed with grass and sticks from the bush. The homestead has the following structure: the section for animals, the section for the burial of the elder of the homestead, and the sections where the people live. They use many sticks in the construction. Every homestead consists of families or clans.

The homestead radiates laughter, joy, and happiness to the outside. The Karimojong have different activities, which occur within the homestead. These different activities often generate a lot of laughter, joy, and happiness within the homestead. The Karimojong are people of celebration especially during the harvest season. During celebration, everyone was bound to experience joy, happiness, and laughter.

In every occasions of celebration they share their local drink called Ebutia. This local drink is something which the people take on daily bases. Indeed, most of the celebration occurs either in the homestead, outside the homestead or at the centers where people gather. It was during such celebration that I could see the features of the Karimojong namely: hospitality, communal sharing, singing, and dancing. In a way, these were also moments of refreshing among the people.

The homestead was a place where many things were hidden from the outside world. First the homestead hides the suffering and sadness of the people. During home visiting I came to notice the experience of suffering and sadness which families experience. It is only in the kraal that one can experience the proper aspect of the reality of suffering. Although from the facial appearance of the people one can sense this reality of suffering and sadness.

Hence, this facial appearance can be actualized when one visits the people in the homestead. Despite this reality of suffering, pain, and sadness the people are hospitable whenever they are visited. Secondly, the homestead hides the cruelty of husbands toward their wives and children. In the course of my encounters with the people in the homestead I noticed that some men are very hard on their wives and children. In many cultures, men are very domineering. This dominating attitude of some men manifests itself in the way they treat their wives and children. Thus, this poses many challenges, which many families were experiencing.

This dominating attitude of men toward women is one of the cultural practices, which need evangelization. Thirdly, the homestead hides quarrels. In the course of visiting in the kraal, I experienced many instances of quarrels within the homestead. Many of these quarrels were caused by misunderstandings in the families, too much consumption of alcohol, and failure to fulfill family obligations. The effects of these quarrels often manifested themselves in fighting or burning of the homestead.

The homestead was also a place where torture, torment, and discipline could occur. My experiences with the people within the kraal revealed to me the torture and torment that some wives and children were going through. The homestead was a place of discipline for children and men who went against the family norms and community principles. However, there is a gradual development in regard to the nature of the homes in Karamoja. Many educated and uneducated Karimojong are constructing bungalows.

This constriction of brick-built bungalows also helps in the preservation of trees. The aspect of cutting trees in Karamoja is a common phenomenon. The cutting of trees contributes to the drought in Karamoja. Therefore, the people are encouraged to plant trees and to reduce the rate of tree cutting. In every homestead, there are many gates before one reaches where the people live.

These gates are all made of sticks. There are many reasons as to why the people construct many gates. First, raiding is a common activity in Karamoja. Young men carry out these cattle raids. The animals brought back from raiding serve many purposes. They serve as dowery/bride price and traditional ceremonies.

Therefore, the gates make it difficult for the enemies to take away the animals through the gates. Secondly, the people have experienced constant attacks from the neighboring tribes so the many gates help to prevent the enemy from accessing the people and the animals. This explains why people live together in clusters .In case of attack they can easily rescue themselves.

Generally speaking the wooden stick fence of the kraal hides plenty of things in the lives of the people.

It was an enriching and fulfilling experience for me whenever I visited the people in the homestead. I learned a lot in the course of my visit in the homestead. It was also an opportunity to learn a lot about their aspirations, their culture, their desires, and their challenges. Perhaps, despite all these challenges within the homestead God cares for the people.

Nobert Yarshike, former Mill Hill Missionary student

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