Kumam Culture


The Kumam people are part of the Atekerin family along with the Iteso, Langi and the Karimojong. This group is often referred to as Nilo-Hamites and they live in the west of Teso and the south of Lango. In the Teso region, the Kumam are known to be living in the areas of Soroti, Kaberamaido and Serere. Though the Kumam speak the Luo dialect, their language is not Luo. It has a percentage of the Luo and the Ateso.

Regarding their origin, the Kumam are noted to have originated from the north east of Africa in the present day Ethiopia approximately 1600 AD. It is also alleged that the Kuma were originally the Iteso whop learnt Luo as a result of their close association with the Luo in the Mountains of Wila and Otukei. The Kumam share related customs and practices along with Iteso and the Langi including births and hunting. The Karimojong use the same phrase while referring to the Kumam, Langi and Iteso

Regarding the political arrangement, the Kumam had a loose political structure which had clan leaders referred to as Wegi Atekerin. The other remarkable of significance were dance group leaders named the Wegi ikodeta Cel and the Sonya jomes named wegi cel. These were at times the clan who descend from one man. The clan leaders were meant to maintain law and order along who general administration. They also adjudicated in the issues of political and social significance.

Regarding the social setting, the Kumam had element of the Iteso and the Langi communities though they were closer to the Iteso than the Langi because the langi were more subjected to the influence of the Luo.

Regarding Marriage, the parents could prepare marriages for their children. The young girls would be affiliated to the boys of whom they would be officially handed over to after maturing. As the changes started to come in, the boy would look for the preferred girl and sneak with her at night to his home. After a week, the relatives of the girl would embark on looking for her and at times they had prior knowledge of their daughter’s whereabouts. After discovering where she was, a fine would be extracted from the boy and the bride price arrangements would be considered and the marriage officially formalized. If the parents failed to trace the girl’s where about, she would come home at a certain time and tell them where she was and then the relatives would go the boy’s family negotiate the bride wealth and take them on the same day. The bride wealth among the Kumam was a little high with a revenge of twelve (12) to fifteen (15) cars. However, this number depended on how hard working the girl was.

soroti town
Soroti Town and Kumam youths at a function

Regarding pregnancy, the Kumam woman was not supposed to consume any animal intestines and after giving birth, a feast would be organized. If the new born was a boy, he would be given a spear and a girl would be given a calabash. The ritual was meant to protect the child against bad omens. The name given to the child depended on the prevailing circumstances at the time of birth or the parent’s experiences. The placenta and the umbilical cord would be buried under a big pot which was used for keeping water inside the house. This was meant to protect them from wizards and ill-wishers that might harm the health of the newly born and the mother. The twins were regarded as special and their respective rituals would be performed following their birth. The green vegetables would be prepared and the in laws from the side of the mother would be invited. The feat would then be organized with lots of dancing and eating. This ritual function was meant to initiate the twins in to the community.

Regarding death, the Kumam never believed in natural death and as such each death was attached to witch craft. Following one’s death, a lot of weeping and wailing would be expected and the burial would wait until the relatives have fully gathered and the mourning would go in for a week for the men and women. The Kumam believed the spirit of the deceased could not die and had the power to inflict harm on the living people. Thus, a shrine would be constructed for these ancestral spirits where they would be fed during their visit to the family. Before heading for a hunt or a long journey, one would pass by an ancestral shrine and pray for good fortune.

Regarding the economy, the Kumam show that they were pastoralists and reared cattle, sheep, goat and chicken. However with time, they have adopted cultivation practices and grow millet, sorghum and potatoes not forgetting beans and peas.   The land among the Kumam was owned communally and any member of the clan was free to use it. The women and children never owned land.