An analysis of the design of traditional Imbalu grounds: a case study of Bamasaba Mutoto cultural site in Mbale.
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Among the Bamasaba males, circumcision is a human right and main source of pride. The Bamasaba refer to their traditional circumcision rituals as Imbalu. Imbalu does not only denote the cutting of the foreskin of the penis; pen-surgery (Makwa D. D., 2010), but also other rituals like; reminding rituals, Isonja dance, bathing the candidate, visiting sacred swamps, smearing mud (litosi), cleaning the sacred graves, rebuilding of shrines and later confirmation, known as Inemba music and dance. The Bamasaba perform these rituals in a well-structured process with each ritual in a specially designed space which is perceived either by the material they use, with the perceived flow of space with relation to the particular ritual or with implied boundaries (in most cases created by people standing). Over time the Bamasaba have used their traditional design principles, qualities and strategies to achieve spatial qualities that evoke emotions like bravery, authority, ownership and security in candidates. Mutoto cultural site in Bungokho, Mbale, which is regarded as the main Imbalu ground for the Bamasaba and exhibits typical design that informs all other Imbalu grounds that are at clan level. Over time there has been a decline in tradition of the Bamasaba attributed to the changing architectural trends due to euro-centricity and globalization. And unless something is done, there is an anticipated loss of the Bamasaba tradition as a result of extinction of their traditional design principles and strategies. Despite its architectural and cultural importance to the tradition of the Bamasaba, there is limited research on the design of Imbalu spaces like Mutoto with few researchers like (Khamalwa, 2004) and (Makwa D. D., 2010) focusing their research on gender, music and dance rituals. This study sought to analyze the design of Mutoto, Imbalu grounds for the Bamasaba. The research went ahead to identify the traditional design principles, elements or qualities and strategies used in the design of Imbalu spaces in Mutoto, to identify how these traditional design principles, elements or qualities and strategies have been used in Imbalu spaces, and to study the evolution of Imbalu spaces and how they have adapted to the design demands over time.