Kugana is the “Traditional Basongora Storytelling”. It is an oral tradition that consists of an elaborate form of storytelling usually done by elders, parents and visitors in the way that they will get to interact with the young ones and that teaches useful social values and life skills. Kugana is a leisurely pastime activity that is done when all the work for the day is done, usually after milking the cows, and after dinner. Kugana is practised among the Songora people in western Uganda and eastern Congo. Storytelling was done around a fire - and consisted of stories that told about heroism, and about history.
During Kugana stories were told about their origins of the clans of the Basongora, about the exploits of the ancient Basongora, and about ancient battles. Sometimes stories were about moral lessons, about bravery, love, patience, co-operation, sharing, loyalty, obedience, and other useful values.
“Migane” or “Ebigano” are words meaning “stories” in Rusongora - the language of the Basongora people. A single story is “Kigano”. To tell stories is called “Kugana”. Kugana consists of many aspects that go beyond simply recounting events. Stories that were old and well known to everyone ceased to be simply “migane” and are known as “biganicho”.
Making riddles - Kuchweicha - is part of Kugana, and usually goes with old and well known stories - that way they are never boring. Riddles are done during story-telling, and many common riddles popular among Basongora are integral to the stories.
“Kucwa Enfumu” means to “quote proverbs”. Proverbs are also integral to Kugana. A typical session of Kugana involves new stories, old stories, riddles and proverbs, in a healthy and interesting mixture. The listeners are not passive and are involved in answering riddles and interpreting the proverbs.
Other components of Kugana are “Kulengyeza” which means to say something over the heads of the listeners, or say something with “tongue-in-cheek”. The storyteller may say things that appear to mean one thing but actually mean something else. A good story-teller causes the listeners to enjoy themselves in trying to decipher and solve the mysteries meanings behind the words of the story teller.
“Kulengyeza” may also include a species of disparagement known as “ameijukuru” - a term that transliterates as “manners of the grandchildren” and refers to disrespectful talk used against the elders. “Kujuma ameijukuru” is to “insult the grandparents” and refers to cryptic words that are used indirectly to ridicule elders whom one is supposed to revere. Most of the “ameijukuru” are meant playfully and elders and young ones may engage in friendly banter that is endearing or flattering rather than insulting.
Both children and adults enjoy Kugana because it contains the riddles, mysteries, tongue-twisters, rhymes, proverbs, and tales about heroes and lovers.
The benefits of Kugana are many. Because children like stories, they tend to stay at home in the evenings if they know they can get to hear new stories. Through stories people would learn to co-operate and work together as a family and community at large.
It was through Kugana storytelling that children and youth would learn to listen to their parents advice. Through Kugana both children and adults learn the procedures and protocol involved in speaking properly, in marriage, in raising cattle, in building houses, in finding medicinal herbs, and in other useful life skills.
Some stories - for example the story of “Nyabwangu” - teach children to be patient and to avoid being unduly hasty or rash in their decision-making.
Kugana also creates bonds of love between the parents and their children, since it creates opportunity for positive interaction between members of the family. Stories in told in Kugana - such as the story of Kahigyi - inspire boys and girls to be brave in case of attacks by either animals or people. Some stories teach the importance of not mistreating step-children, e.g., in the story of “Njuma and Njunju”, as told by one bearer.
Adults use Kugana to prepare their children for marriage, or to instil in them the values they will require to survive and thrive in the world outside the comfort of home. Story telling is useful in transmitting important knowledge and skills. Storytelling was good and important in the historical background of Busongora in the form of informal education.