Riddle – Central Uganda

Nina       Mukyala       Wange   Agenda      kumaakya           Akomawo           kyilo

I have     wife              mine      she goes     in the morning    she comes back   night

When we were little kids, we used to engage in riddle competitions with my friends at school. All kids would pose their best riddles for everyone else to solve. Kids would often come up with the hardest riddles in order to win the contest. The winner would always be the one with that riddle that no one can solve. In one of the competitions, my friend Paddy posed the above riddle. No one around could come up with the right answer for it, which meant he (Paddy) was crowned the champion of the day. When we asked for the answer, he said that his wife was the household front door.

In his explanation of his answer, paddy said that the household front door is opened in the mourning and closed at night, which is true among the Baganda households. This, and several other Luganda riddles, is commonly heard in riddle contests, which are often between young kids of about 5 to 10 years old.


If someone this riddle were told to someone from a different culture, it would most likely sound meaningless. That means that different cultures in most cases have different riddles. That being the case, it then means that riddles are subjective to the cultures in which they are told. That is to say:  a person from a culture dominated by coffee production is unlikely to tell riddles about car production. Riddles, therefore, can have some cultural significance. Riddles can be true, joking, catch, obscene, or oppositional depending on the type of information given in them. In the case of Charles’s riddle, it is a true riddle because all the information necessary to solve it is given.

I would also consider riddle contexts as an informal way of teaching culture to children. As Charles said, it is true that the Baganda open doors in the morning and close them at night. This means that the riddle was orally formulated to teach that particular norm to kids. It might be dramatic but when the riddle is solved for a kid, he or she is most likely to learn and remember that a door is supposed to be opened in the morning and closed at night. In a way, riddles build cultural identity. Like in this case, it teaches kids what it is like to be a member of the Baganda culture. This riddle, I think, also teaches family structure to the Baganda children.

There is a sexual orientation issue indirectly being tackled by this riddle. As we see, Nasser (a boy) tells his friends – one of them being Hamis (a boys too) – that he has a “wife.” To me this has something to say about who gets to pair up with whom in a romantic relationship. In essence, this riddle says that men marry women and not fellow men. That said, I would not be surprised to for a girl to say the same riddle but say, “I have a husband” in place of  “I have a wife.”