The Ik People and their culture

The Ik People and their culture

Uganda cultural safaris-Cultural safaris in Uganda

The Ik people or the Teuso or the Karamojong of Uganda are the smallest tribe in the country. They are an evolving group of people of over 10,000 individuals and they speak Teuso as their traditional language. Their language is a part of the highly deviating Kuliak sub-group of the Nilo-Saharan languages. They are found in north-eastern Uganda in the Morungole mountains, Kabong district who can be visited on a Uganda Safari to Kidepo valley National Park.  The Ik are often not distinguished from the Karamojong because of their similarities in their lifestyles.

The Origin of the Ik people

The term Ik means “head of migration” or the first ones to migrate. The Ik are believed to have migrated from Ethiopia to the current Kidepo Valley National Park. they were hunters and fruit gatherers. But due to government interference to make Kidepo a wildlife reserve in the 1960’s, they were forced out of the land and displaced to other areas. They were the first to migrate and settle in Karamoja and they lived in the lowland areas of Karamoja.

But due to the hostility of the nomadic pastoral tribes within Karamoja, they were forced out and decided to settle in the mountains that border Uganda with Kenya and Sudan. They were consequently raided by other tribes which caused them to suffer a number of problems including famine. They therefore migrated up to the Morungole Mountains and decided stay in the mountains where they could be safe – thus the term “mountain dwellers”

The way of life of the Ik people

The Ik people live in several small villages that arranged in groups that comprise their whole community.  Each village is surrounded by a fence then portioned into family neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are called Odoks. The Odoks are also partitioned into households known as Asaks. However, the asaks have front-yards designed for community-based interactions and events. The children’s sleeping quarters are detached from their parents’ side with cooking stones.

Traditionally, the Ik people are polygamous – therefore they can marry bas many wives as they want depending on how many beehives a man possesses. According to their culture, a respectable man usually owns about 50 beehives of which he can offer about 5 to 10 hives as dowry. Only the first wife has the “husband” status over the other wives. Every woman has their own hut and the men are meant to visit their wives in rounds. Wife inheritance is practiced after being divorced or widowed. Close proximity between boys and girls in the community is allowed as it offers a lot of opportunities. Pre-marital sex in the Ik community is not an issue. However, sex and marriage within the same clan is considered a taboo. In addition, adultery on a woman’s side is punishable by death.

Children in the Ik community are supposed to move out of their parents’ house and go stay with their grandparents until they turn 11 to 13 years of age. After that, the girls get married and the boys team up and build a hut – in which they stay until they marry. The boys team up in groups called age groups. These groups are referred to as the “Junior group” which is consists of children between 3 and 8 years. The second group is called the “senior group” and consist of children between 8 and 13 years. Raising children in the Ik community is quite different. Besides, polygamy is considered to be part of family life.   Furthermore, there’s not much formal education among the Ik people.

Cultural safaris to the Ik people

Visiting the Ik people is always part of Uganda wildlife or cultural safaris to Kidepo valley national park. when you visit this unique tribe of people, you will explore and learn more about their fascinating culture and traditional lifestyles. More so, cultural encounters to the Ik people will show you how nice and warm hearted the Ik are. You will be stunned by their entertaining traditional dances and folksongs. In addition, hiking the Morungole ranges to get to the Ik community is yet another wonderful experience. the cultural trail is about 8 kilometers long. The trail maybe a tough one but the attractive views en-route the hike will make it a worthwhile.





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