Kampala is the capital city of Uganda with a lot of diverse culture and interesting elements. Here are some of the best things you can take home from the city.
1. A Kitenge
Kitenge is a cotton fabric with African print. The print designs are limitless with many designers in Kampala who are always creating new prints. There are also already made kitenge fabrics almost in every boutique around town. The custom is to buy a piece of kitenge cloth in a preferred design and then taking it to a tailor who then makes anything you want out of it. The kitenge prints are great for couples, families or even friends to wear different designs of a similar print. It creates a mesmerizing picture. Other than that, people also make cute purses, handbags, head wraps, and scarfs out of the fabric. The options of cute souvenirs from the kitenge are many.
2. Crafted Baskets
Locally known as ‘ebibbo’ in Luganda, these are baskets handwoven by locals from the rural parts of Uganda. Strong fiber from an African raffia tree is woven together with papyrus stalks and millet straws to make the basket shapes. Seeds, grapes, leaves, and other natural plants are used to make the dye for the different colors. The baskets are a part of many cultures in Uganda where they are used to carry and store fruits and other food. In some Ugandan traditions, they are also used to carry gifts at the traditional weddings. From their impressive artistic designs, they are also good additions to the home décor as ornaments.
3. Banana Fiber Toys
Ugandans are known for their love of bananas or plantains, especially in the central region in Kampala. Many homes in Kampala have a plant or two in their backyard. The plants offer a lot more than food. In the previous generals before technology took over, Ugandan children used to craft small makeshift toys to play with from banana fibers like the ‘dodgeball’ which was very common. Now, the art and crafts industry has picked up on these traditional practices and have continued to make and develop on the variety of crafted items. You can get mini toy cars, motorbikes, canoes, huts, among others skillfully made from banana fibers.
4. Bark Cloth
This was the original garment that people in Uganda used to wear in the ancient times before cotton and other materials reached them. They would shred the rind from the ficus natalensis tree also known as ‘Mutuba’ in Luganda. The rind was beaten repeatedly until it got softened and enlarged in the process. Men and women both would clothe themselves in the bark cloth by wrapping it around their bodies. The royal family would have their pieces dyed white or black different from the normal red-brown color of the material. Bark cloth making has been revived in the country and it is now used to make many cute things like purses, bags, throw pillows, etc.
5. A Calabash
This is another cute souvenir that one should not miss grabbing from Kampala. A calabash is natural bottle got from calabash plants. The fruits from these plants grow in different bottle shapes and when left to ripen, the shells harden and change color from green to brown. The seeds contents inside are then scooped out to form the bottle. Some cultures in Uganda use calabashes on traditional functions to serve drinks and to store local alcohol. The calabashes are known to be healthy and environmental friendly as they have no impurities that can degrade the contents inside. You can find them in different sizes, shapes, and designs in the craft shops around Kampala.
6. Traditional Musical Instruments
Uganda is a composition of many different tribes of people from different cultures. Furthermore, all the tribes have their own unique ways of expressing their cultures through music and dance. The musical instruments that have been used since ancient times in the different Ugandan cultures are therefore very diversified. Plus, they come in big sizes as well as small sizes that are easy to pack. You can choose from drums, fiddles, harps, xylophones, shakers, among others. All made with natural materials like animal skins and fur, wood, sticks, gourds, etc. There are also interesting musical shakers that are worn on the ankles or wrists of traditional dancers such that they make musical rhythms in tune to the dance moves.
7. Ugandan Mats
These Ugandan mats are handmade by locals, a process that entails weaving strips of dried palm leaves. Each mat is unique with its own pattern. The mats were used to sit on before chairs came along and some homes in the villages still use them for this purpose. None the less, they are still useful when on a picnic, at the park, or in your backyard. Their texture is firm and water resistant, making them a preferred option for laying down on grass or any other surface. They can also be used for decoration given the interesting art and craft designs they are made in.
8. Batik Art
Batik art is very popular in Uganda with many Ugandan artists depicting talent and interest in the work. The artwork involves an application of hot wax on a piece of fabric and later the application of different dyes. Most of the pieces are sketched to show the lifestyles and cultures of people in Uganda. A piece of batik art is, therefore, a good memoir of your visit to Uganda. Kampala being the capital city is the center of display of a variety of Ugandan batiks. There are a number of galleries within the city where you can get one of these like the Banana boat and Nommo Gallery.
9. Traditional Attire
A Ugandan traditional attire for yourself or as a gift for someone is another great option for a souvenir. The attires differ with the different tribes and ethnicities of people in Uganda. The gomesi is the most popular, worn by the Baganda and Basoga in Southern Uganda. It is made from different materials of different designs based on individual choice. The Kanzu, which is a long white or cream tunic, is the men’s traditional wear for many tribes. There is also the Mushanana, a combination of a wrapper skirt, vest, and shawl. This one is worn by tribes in Western Uganda.
10. Ugandan Arm Bands
While in Kampala, you can also look around for these lovely armbands. They are made with the Ugandan flag colors; black, yellow and red. They have different designs and shapes and most have adjustable strings meaning that they fit any wrist size. Some of the places where you can find various options of these armbands are Exposure Africa on Buganda Road, the Uganda Arts&Crafts Village at The National Theatre, as well as other craft shops in shopping malls. Aside from the armbands, you can also find key chains, cufflinks, earrings, and other accessories in the Ugandan colors.