Volume 37 Number 5
Published: October 1, 2006
Talk of ‘ensonga za Ssenga’ (Ssenga matters) among the Baganda people of Uganda signifies an institution that has endured through centuries as a tradition of sexual initiation. At the helm is the paternal (or surrogate) aunt whose role is to tutor young women in a range of sexual matters, including pre-menarche practices, pre-marriage preparation, erotics and reproduction. In contemporary Uganda, commercial Ssenga services abound, with Ssenga columns and call-in radio programmes and Ssenga booklets for sale on Kampala’s streets. The institution is being transformed by ‘modernisation’ and urbanisation, redrawing the boundaries of Ssenga to suit the times. This article suggests that while Ssenga facilitates and reinforces patriarchal power, at the same time it subverts and parodies patriarchy. Through a deconstruction of the arrangement of gender and sexuality in Ssenga, this article investigates constructs of Kiganda sexuality, and of femininity and masculinity within them.