The Ik People and their Culture


The Ik people also identified as the Teuso, are the smallest Ugandan ethnic group of people. Though rapidly growing, they are a group of about 10,000 people who live in the North-eastern region of Uganda. They live in Morungole mountain just close to Kidepo Valley National Park and near Uganda’s border with Kenya. The Ik people became popular around 1972 after a British – American anthropologist Colin Turnbull published his book, “The Mountain People”. This book majorly portrayed the Ik people as loveless. However, when you take a cultural visit to Ik communities, you will surely disagree with what the book says about them. they are very interesting people, so hospitable and caring. 

The Ik people live high in the Morungole mountains, on Uganda’s border with Kenya near one of Uganda’s finest safari destinations – Kidepo Valley National Park. With a total population of 10,000 people and still growing, the Ik tribe are believed to have migrated from Ethiopia and first settled in Kenya before migrating to their current home in Uganda. The Ik are believed to have been the first people to migrate to North-Eastern Uganda. The Ik were majorly hunters and fruit gatherers who also kept cattle. But due to the constant raids from the Karamojong of Uganda, the Turkana of Kenya and Tuposa of South Sudan, they lost a lot of cattle and thus gave up on cattle keeping and decided to adopt to subsistence farming instead. This also included rearing domestic animals and bee keeping.

The Ik spent most of their livelihoods in the forest where they survived on hunting wild animals and gathering fruits and honey in Kidepo Valley National Park. However, they were later displaced from their ancestral land in Kidepo by the Government in the efforts to gazette the area into a National Park. The problems of the Ik thus started escalating as they were constantly raided by other tribes who claimed that the Ik were a weaker tribe. The Ik faced a number of challenges including famine, scarcity of water and pasture for their animals. They had now lost their ancestral land and hunting grounds.

The Ik therefore decided to migrate up to Morungole mountain, somewhere high and far away from hostile tribes who were fond of disturbing their peace and have a fresh start. Until today, the Ik have been living up in Mount Morungole and though they live in isolation, they live in a harmonious community with one another.

Cultural Visit to the Ik People

Visiting the Ik people is one of the most exclusive cultural experiences that you can be rewarded with while on a Uganda safari to Kidepo Valley National Park. With the amazing views and spectacular vegetation that you will encounter while hiking up to the Ik communities will take your breath away. The hiking experience alone is one you shouldn’t miss. The cultural experience will take you through the culture, traditions, norms, beliefs and way of life of the Ik. You will be amazed by their entertaining traditional songs, dances and ancient stories of origin.

During your Uganda safari to Kidepo Valley National Park, you can have a cultural visit to the Ik communities. The experience is done on foot and it involves hiking up the steep slopes of Mount Morungole. This will require one to be physically fit and in good shape. The experience will last a whole day hiking up and down the mountain. The cultural trail is about 8 kilometers long, it may seem long and tough but I can promise you, it is a worthwhile experience. You will trek until you arrive at the Ik communities. On arrival, you will be welcomed warmly by the Ik people and with the help of a local guide, take you through the daily life of the mountain people.

Community Set-up of the Ik People

The Ik live in a number of small villages arranged in groups which make up their whole community. Each village is enclosed in a fence and distributed into family neighborhoods called Odoks. The Odoks are also apportioned into small homes called Asaks. The asaks have front-yards intended for community-based relations and events. Inside the Asaks, the children’s sleeping quarters are separated from their parents’ side by cooking stones.

Traditional Set-up of the Ik

The Ik people are traditionally polygamous people who can marry as many women as they want. This depends on how many beehives a man owns. According to the Ik culture, to be regarded as respectable, a man should own about 50 beehives where he can give 5 to 10 hives as bride price. Every woman has their own hut and the husband is supposed to visit all his wives in rounds. Only the first wife can own the “husband” over the rest of the wives. In addition, wife inheritance is done after being widowed or divorced.

Children in the Ik community are meant to move out of their parents’ houses and go live with their grandparents until are 11 to 13 years of age. When they turn the mentioned age, the girls get married and the boys have to team up and build a hut where they will stay until they marry. The boys make teams called age groups which are divided into two i.e., the junior group which is comprised of children between 3 and 8 years and the senior group which is comprised of children between 8 and 13 years. The Ik community raises their children quite differently from other ethnic communities. For instance, pre-marital sex is not a big deal in the Ik community. Close relations between boys and girls in the community is accepted because it offers a variety of opportunities.

Moreover, formal education in the Ik community is not quite common. Besides, polygamy is measured as part of life. However, sex and marriage in the same clan is portrayed as a taboo. More so, a case of adultery on the woman’s side is punishable by death.   Visiting the Ik people is always part of Uganda wildlife or cultural safaris to Kidepo valley National Park. when you visit this unique tribe of people, you will explore and learn more about their fascinating culture and traditional lifestyles. More so, cultural encounters to the Ik people will show you how nice and warm hearted the Ik are. You will be stunned by their entertaining traditional dances and folksongs. In addition, hiking the Morungole ranges to get to the Ik community is yet another wonderful experience. The trail maybe tough but the attractive views en-route the hike will make it a worthwhile one.

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