Wednesday, October 31, 2018

TRAVEL: Have the gods of Uganda's Dolwe Island gone to sleep? PHOTOS, VIDEO



By Matthias Mugisha, New Vision, Added 16th May 2013 11:57 AM

He is the self-proclaimed caretaker of the spirits of Dolwe Island. When we met him, he promised us the biggest catch .

Until World Environment Day, June 5, in a campaign, Save Lake Victoria, Vision Group media platforms is running investigative articles, programmes and commentaries highlighting the irresponsible human activities threatening the world’s largest fresh water lake.Today , we bring you how fishermen of Dolwe Island are turning to superstition following dwindling fish catches

He is the self-proclaimed caretaker of the spirits of Dolwe Island. When we met him, he promised us the biggest catch of fish we had never seen. His confidence came from the fact that he owns 37 gods.

Kaliisa Mugozi, 32, has two wives, and is a fisherman of contradictions. He is the self-appointed priest with 37 gods scattered in various rocks on Dolwe Island in eastern Uganda. Kaliisa speaks complex Luganda although he claims to have a Rwandese origin. He has given his gods Kiganda names although he claims to have a Rwandese origin.

He has given his gods Kiganda names although Dolwe is in eastern Uganda. Kaliisa claims that his gods can give you everything including the fisherman’s dream– Nile perch.

Until recently, Dolwe Island was a fisherman’s dream. Located in the deep water of Lake Victoria, it was considered the Dubai of Uganda, where fishermen made quick money on account of abundance of fish, but not anymore. Over-fishing has depleted fish stocks and turned former fish tycoons into paupers.

The name “Dolwe” is a corruption of the Luo name “Lolwe” meaning Lake Victoria. The lake was named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, by John Hanning Speke.

With a surface area of 68,800 square kilometres (26,600 sq mi), Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake by area, and it is the largest tropical lake in the world. Lake Victoria is the world’s second largest freshwater lake by surface area in the world after Lake Superior in North America.


Dolwe Island is the biggest of the several smaller rocky islands in the Ugandan eastern part of the lake.

Measuring about 12km, it has two main congested towns– Singla in the east and Golofa in the west. Singla comes from a corruption of the word signal.

The town used to have a light house with a signal that warned ships against rocks. Vandals who were searching for mercury pulled the light house down.

The other smaller towns are Kandege and Mwango– both inhabited by Jaluos from Kenya, who were some of the first inhabitants who gave the Island the name Lolwe.

The Jaluos specialise in catching Mukene. Golofa, which is Kaliisa’s base is the biggest town. It got its name from the rocks pilled on one another like storied houses (Golofa in Luganda). The population of Golofa alone is estimated at 20,000.

The island is naturally beautiful. God took his time when he was creating Dolwe Island. In great detail, he displayed unparalleled artistic mastery when he placed beautiful rocks in Africa on the Island.

His generous mood was not yet over. He put a lot of fish in the blue waters surrounding the Island. Fishermen came, made fortunes and become millionaires overnight. More fishermen indifferent to God’s beautiful creation around them, came in search of riches. And along with them came illegal fishing gear and smaller gods.

The beautiful waters were depleted of fish. Some of the millionaires lost their money. Their fishing boats are rotting.

Not long ago, the creator was forgotten. Instead, Kaliisa Mugozi’s man-made gods sprung up in the beautiful rocks.


Despite the lack of fish, Kaliisa assured us that his gods give him what he needs, including fish, as he took us on a tour of some of the gods. He has many gods like Mukasa, Ddungu, Kanywa Musaayi, Nakayima, Ndaula and Lubanga among others.

First was a shrine he calls Byoto (fire). The shrine contains a pot of water, a calabash and a basket containing coffee beans.
People who experience a lot of rough waters on the lake while fishing come here, pray to the gods and they fish on calm waters.

The resident god here is called Mukasa,’’ he explained as he performed rituals by throwing coffee beans in all directions.
“A few minutes from now, I will send two boats into the lake and tomorrow, I will give you the mother of all fish for breakfast when my boats come back.

The gods are happy,’’ he promised.From there, he took us through a narrow and dark corridor through a huge rock to another shrine whose resident god is called Kanywa Musaayi ( dracula). Kaliisa said Kanywa Musaayi is the most dangerous god, who can bring calamities if not appeased.


Kaliisa invoking the gods to bring forth fish

He climbed on top of rocks and invoked the powers of the god to protect us after which he gave us coffee beans to throw around and make a wish list. We were all afraid. Kaliisa threw himself on the ground, rolled, made exaggerated antics for the cameras, regretted why he had not come with his smoking pipe before he declared the tour over. “Let’s go and I dispatch my boats.

Tomorrow, I will give you a fish you will not be able to carry. I am in control of the lake,’’ he boasted. That night, it rained. Sipping beer from one of the bars, Kaliisa said he had instructed the gods to calm down the lake. The following day, Kaliisa was nowhere to be seen.

His phone was off and he did not show up where we were supposed to meet him for the fish. We bumped into Kaliisa by accident in the afternoon

He looked unhappy. Before we could ask him for the fish, he looked down and said: “The gods are not happy. I have suspended fishing until further notice. My two boats came back empty.’’

On a sad note, fishermen of Ndolwe Island seem to be oblivious to the fact that the dwindling fish stock is a result of over-fishing and not because the gods are annoyed. Allowing the waters around the island to fallow would replenish the fish stocks.

Have the gods of Dolwe Island gone to sleep?

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