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Uganda Network

Crafts and Costume


Today many people in Uganda who live in the big cities and towns wear western style dress, but in the smaller towns and villages, people continue to dress as their ancestors did centuries ago.

A Busuti Dress

The'busuti' is a dress worn by women in eastern Uganda. The European style was introduced by missionaries in the 19th century, but has been adapted to complement the colourful local fabrics and patterns.

The dress can be decorated with bones, animal horns, hides, shells or feathers. It takes about 6.4 metres of material to make the dress

A Kanga

The'kanga' is a large piece of rectangular, light cotton cloth which women wear wrapped over their head and shoulders.

A Kanszu

Most men dress in western style clothes, but in the remote areas of Uganda men wear the 'kanszu', a loose fitting robe rather like a nightshirt. The 'kanssu' can also be seen being worn by older men in the capital city and other large towns. It can frequently be seen being worn by men of all ages on Sunday.

The 'kanszu' is particularly smart when worn under a jacket.

The Scouts at the World Jamboree in Chile are seen here wearing the Kanszu with a young swiss lady

Activity - Colour and Clothes

Colour and style play a big part in what people wear, with different clothes used for different occasions. What are the favourite colours of the members of your Six? Do they feel different when they wear red to when they wear something blue for instance?

Make a chart of the favourite colours in the Pack.

Colours have meaning

Colours, like symbols can have different meanings in different cultures. Red can mean anger or passion in the west, but signifies joy in China and the Ukraine. In India it is the colour of the bridal dress. Yellow can signify wisdom or the harvest to a Russian, spring and joy to a European, fear or cowardice to a North American and spirituality to a Buddhist. Green is a holy colour to Muslims and a colour of hope in the Ukraine. In the United Kingdom we talk about being green with envy.

Activity - More Colours

  1. Play a team game about colours. Call out a colour and a number. Cub Scouts run up and say something connected with that colour for instance blue - sky, forget-menot, Girl Guide, the sea.
  2. Find out the meaning of the following expressions - the black sheep, to catch someone red-handed, green fingers, once in a blue moon, a white elephant.
  3. Crafts which are popular in Uganda are woodcarving, pottery, bark cloth painting, fabric designing, rock painting, tie and dye (adire oniko) and batik (adire eleko). Why not try some of these craft activities at your meetings. Books on all of these are available at your local library.
  4. Tie and dye
Many patterns can be produced by tie-dying, but first purchase some bright coloured cold water dyes from a hardware shop. Use cotton material and follow the instructions on the container. Cub Scouts can work with small squares of material which can be made up later into bags for sense training games. Older members can design their own t-shirts. The material can be folded, pleated, twisted, knotted, coiled or scrunched and stitched to produce a variety of patterns. Objects such as stones, marbles, sticks or beans can be tied into the material with raffia or string. The parts of the material that are tied up resist the dye and remain white.
    1. On week one: The material is prepared and immersed in a bucket of dye for about half an hour with just the occasional stir. It is then remove and rinsed well in cold water and left to dry.

      On week two: The raffia, rubber bands or string are undone to reveal the pattern. Finishing touches can be done with fabric paints or pens.

      Older members might like to try producing their own natural dyes using blackberries, onion skins, beetroot, privet and elder leaves, birch and bark. Why not experiment for yourselves?

      Table mats

    2. Make these mats using different colours of raffia which can be bought in bundles from craft shops. Raffia is a fibre which is peeled from the leaves of the raffia palm. The leaves are enormous, around seventeen metres in length and are easily the largest of any plant.
    3. Batik

    4. This is a method by which the pattern is applied using wax before immersing into a dye. Care must be taken not to crack the wax. This is a craft for older members.


    5. It is popular to include a proverb on the East African 'kanga'. Ask your members what proverb they would include, and get them to make a wall hanging using fabric paints or pens on a piece of cotton material. Hang them in your Headquarters.



In Uganda, village people often wear masks for special ceremonies and dances. Sometimes they are used to frighten away evil spirits or so that the people wearing them will not be recognised.

Activity - Make a mask

Masks can be made from almost any container or type of material, just supply the material and let the members' imaginations run away with them. Have a good supply of card, cardboard cartons, paper bags, paper plates, elastic, clay or plasticine, old newspapers and paste,scissors, staplers, tape and so on.

For decorations you can supply feathers, crepe paper, tissue paper, pieces of material, string, wool, table tennis balls for noses and eyes, sequins, seeds and so on.

Contact the Uganda Network Copyright © The UK Uganda Network - 2002
Last modified 3 January 2004


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