How Imbalu festival will boost tourism

Men perform the imbalu dance. Photo by Yahudu Kitunzi

Following the launch of the imbalu season in Bugisu region early this week, President Museveni, one of the witnesses as courageous young men face the knife in the rite of passage to adulthood, pledged to promote the cultural ceremony for tourism purposes.
According to the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), this year’s imbalu celebrations have been demarcated as a cultural tourist activity under the theme, “When you unite, love each other for development.”
At the inaugural ceremony at Mutoto grounds in Bulambuli District on Tuesday, President Museveni asked cultural leaders to preserve practices that are relevant to today’s society and turn them into tourist attractions.
Mr Edwin Muzahura, UTB’s marketing manager told the Daily Monitor in a telephone interview that, “The imbalu festival is a key product in the eastern Uganda cluster. We believe that besides wildlife and other natural attraction, culture is an integral part of any society and it can be used to attract thousands of tourists.”
“We are interested in taking people to where they love to be due to the love and beliefs they attach to their cultural practices, events and places,” said John Ssempebwa, UTB’s deputy executive director.
Imbalu means a sharp knife in local Lugisu dialect. It is an activity of the Bamasaaba where boys over 16 years are circumcised as a rite of passage to manhood.
The Bamasaaba Cultural Union (Izu ya Masaba) ensures that their imbalu, a circumcision ritual which symbolises unity, is respected by its people.
Every after two years, the ceremony brings together people from Bulambuli, Sironko, Mbale, Manafwa, and Bududu districts as well as some from western Kenya (the Bakusu) who come to take part in the event. The total population of the Bamasaaba is about six million people spread across Uganda and Kenya.

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