The origin of male circumcision that is today so central to the culture of the Bagisu is debatable, but a dominant tradition tells of how Masaba had to undergo circumcision before receiving a wife from the Kalenjin tribe across the border in Kenya.
Today it is not debatable for a Mugisu boy to enrol for the ceremony that is held biannually throughout Bugisu, and uncircumcised males (basinde) are never regarded as men. This important rite of passage involves the whole community and during this period, the atmosphere in Bugisu reaches a fever pitch with lots of traditional music and dance everywhere. The Bagisu welcome visitors who have been flocking to Mbale for decades to witness this energy charged ceremony.
The Ceremony – For three days before they are to be cut, the initiates are made to dance around the village, to excite and prepare them for the ceremony that is performed in the morning hours, before 10am. On D-day, the initiates have their faces plastered in ash and they wear and they are escorted to the circumcision site by a medley of wild music, whistling, cheering, and dancing from community members.
They stand in full sight of everyone and with the frenetic drumbeat and dancing happening all around them, they are quickly snipped with no anaesthetic. Naturally, strength on the part of the initiates to maintain their composure when the cut is made is celebrated. Throughout the ceremony, enthusiastic crowds encourage the initiates and praise them for their strength.
Ekitaguriro dance is a testament to the Banyankole love for their cattle. The dance that is performed by both men and women is an imitation of the movements of the long-horned cattle, and the singing mimics many of the sounds made by the cattle. Women spread their hands high above their heads like horns, while the men energetically stamp their feet to imitate the walking if the cows.
The performance is a fascinating medley of many sounds and actions; recitations of heroic deeds, colourful descriptions of prized cows, imitation sounds of milk flowing from the cows udder, and the piercing sound of the flute that is also used to herd cattle.