Bigwala players of the Basoga Kingdom
© James Isabirye
16 October 2017

In July 2015, the Bureau of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage approved a grant of US$24,990 for the project “Safeguarding and promotion of Bigwala gourd trumpet music and dance of Busoga Kingdom in Uganda” from the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) Fund. The National Council of Folklorists of Uganda (NACOFU) implemented the project between September 2015 and August 2017, taking an intergenerational transmission approach towards safeguarding the Bigwala Music and Dance.

The project accounted remarkable achievements among which are the cultivation of gourds by the Bigwala community, renewed recognition of the element nationwide and around 400 direct beneficiaries (including youth and women) who were trained in the Bigwala playing and dance. The documentary , recorded within the context of the project, demonstrates strong engagement of the people of the Busoga kingdom and reaffirms their continued interest in safeguarding the element beyond the project period. While the activities of the project targeted mainly the safeguarding of the element, they also satisfied other priorities of UNESCO that contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals particularly Goals 1 (Poverty alleviation) and Goal 5 (Gender equality and Women empowerment).

Bigwala music and dance is a cultural practice of the Basoga people of Uganda, performed during royal celebrations such as coronations and funerals and, in recent decades, on social occasions. As at 2012, the practice suffered threats of disappearance, only two practitioners remained alive throughout the Busoga kingdom and Uganda at large. In addition, the instrument – gourd trumpet and drums – for the music no longer existed, as the seeds used in fabricating the instrument were longer been cultivated. In acknowledgement of the need for safeguarding, the element was inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2012.

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