Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo bares Uganda’s cultural heritage

Uganda has been exhibited to the world as a beautiful destination and it is hard to disagree. The Pearl of African Tourism Expo last month was a good eye opener, where locals and international buyers, were able to see what Uganda has to offer in tourism potential- culture, food, weather and the hospitality.

“The expo is a place for networking, discussing business expansion and marketing prospects as one meets and interacts with exhibitors, buyers and source markets,” Uganda Tourism Board’s chief executive officer Stephen Asiimwe, said.

A rich heritage

The cultural exhibition at the various tents was quite a crowd puller. At the Busoga Tourism Initiative (BTI) tent, there was a lot of regalia that teaches and reminds us about the rich history of Busoga sub-region.

Edward Baliddawa, who started BTI, says the expo is a good idea that should remind people about their heritage.

“We believe people are forgetting where they came from and we need to know where we come from in order to appreciate where we are. So we are exhibiting what you would find in a traditional home of a Musoga, for example the beds, the pots, the chairs and hunting materials,” Baliddawa explained.

He emphasised that the new generation should not lose out on the rich heritage of their tribes and argues that a community with no heritage is a lost one.

The BTI tent had variety on display that should attract you to the Busoga tourism cluster, one of the oldest in the Ugandan clusters. There were young ladies and gentlemen explaining to visitors about the use of the different items and their symbolic important, which was an interesting story altogether.

Baliddawa says the maiden expo is a good ground for learning and important to help exhibitors learn so that they are able to put up something better the following year.

Another attraction at the expo was a pigmy from the Batwa community, who would demonstrate to people how animals are hunted. Visitors could try this and get a complimentary drink or honey.

Under the Buganda Tourism tent, John Bukenya explained how bark cloth is made, from the time it is harvested until final products are made. On display were bags, baskets and clothes made out of bark cloth.

The main attraction at the Bunyoro cluster tent were honey, charts and shirts bearing pet names locally known as empaako, such as Ateenyi. These are praise or pet names affixed on ones names. There were also traditional knives made from the sub-region.

Adjacent to the Bunyoro cluster tent was one from West Nile that shared space with that of the Nubian, who displayed colourful baskets, mats and other decorative items.

A group of young ladies and gentlemen also endeared visitors to their stall. There were hand-made crafts and food items such as millet and the hosts willingly showed visitors how to grind thm. Every space at the expo was active.

One of the ideas behind the annual expo is to showcase Uganda. It is on this basis that Geoffrey Baluku, one of the organisers of the expo, argues that talking about how scenic and gifted Uganda is without showing it is like a man winking at a lady in the dark.

Prior to the expo, Uganda Tourism Board and the East African Tourism Platform partnered to take international hosted buyers to a number of tourism destinations and hotels around Uganda, to appreciate and get a sense of what the country has to offer, and thereon be in position to market or recommend tourists to this destination.