Chief Tamale Bwoya was born on April 18, 1966 at the Lubaga Hospital in Kampala, Uganda. Due to the political conflict of 1966 under the Milton Obote regime, which resulted in the abolition of all traditional African institutions in Uganda, his parents fled the capital and entrusted Tamale’s care with his paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Nanfuka. Tamale’s formative years were shaped by Elizabeth’s loving and guiding hand; she raised him with a profound knowledge of Kiganda culture.
Tamale was enrolled in the Nsambya Primary school, a predominantly catholic institution 500 meters from his grandmother’s home in a suburb of Kampala city. As an adolescent, he took an interest in Catholic theology, but twice missed the entry examinations to register in catechism studies. Later in life, Tamale noted that this obstacle was necessary in order for him to fulfill his spiritual role in the tradition of his ancestors.
During the political instability of the ‘70s, Tamale’s family suffered significant property losses and moved him from the Kampala suburbs to the Busoga kingdom under the care of his uncle, Fred Mukasa. In 1980, Tamale enrolled in Busoga College Mwiri for secondary education. Fred, a linguist who had returned to Uganda after studying in Britain, France and Germany instilled in Tamale strong values for education and assisted his preparation for university.
Tamale’s university years were challenged by bouts of temporary blindness. The first time this happened he was attending a lecture on family law and could not see the blackboard, or his professor, who stood a few meters away. Though he was scared, Tamale trusted his intuition that it was not a critical illness.
Looking for answers, Tamale recalled a similar experience during childhood. At age 14, he fell seriously ill following an examination in primary school. After medical doctors failed to diagnose his sickness, Tamale’s grandmother consulted a native spiritual healer who advised her to look for Tamale’s father. The healer said, “The spirits are demanding that the boy be taken to his clan.” When they arrived at the family ancestral home in the Mpigi district, Tamale recovered without any medical treatment.
After university, Tamale developed a keen interest in herbal medicine. As a young man, he studied natural pharmaceutical preparation and medicinal plant conservation. He also trained with herbalists and traditional spiritual healers throughout Uganda, from whom he acquired skills in indigenous medicine preparation and formulation. In 1991, he was hired by Bulls General Agencies–Salompas, the largest herbal medicine manufacturing company in Uganda. He worked there as a production manager for 3 years.
Though Tamale was successful at Salompas, a new experience urged him to leave his job and uncover the mystery of his previous illnesses. For several years, he traveled throughout Uganda seeking answers from spiritual guides through sacred ceremonies. Wherever he went, native chiefs recognized him as Mugema, grand chief of all the clans. This period marked the initiation to his chieftaincy. Traditional elders observed in Tamale an innate, advanced spirituality, and they trained him to assume spiritual leadership at the highest level. The elders revealed to Tamale that the ancestral line of his chieftaincy had been dormant for 100 years until his birth, and his role is based on divine destiny, not appointment or educational merit. As Mugema (grand chief), Tamale supervises cultural development, serves as spiritual arbitrator, facilitates purification ceremonies, and ensures stability of the Buganda Kingdom.
Other services became an integral function of Tamale’s chieftaincy. He established several associations for traditional healers at the national and local levels, and organized a cohesive traditional medicine system that is currently used throughout Uganda, where 80% of the population relies on indigenous medicine. In 2003, he co-founded The International Institute of Traditional and Complementary medicine in Uganda. Under Tamale’s leadership, the indigenous spiritual system has been revitalized, which had been abolished for 27 years under the Obote regime. In this capacity, Tamale has been recognized for his ability to balance the challenges of cultivating an ancient traditional framework in modern times.
In 2000, Chief Tamale co-founded a branch of PROMETRA in Uganda, a non-profit organization that promotes the preservation of traditional medicines and indigenous herbal knowledge. PROMETRA International, headquartered in Dakar, Senegal supports traditional medicinal practices throughout Africa. As an authority on native healing practices, Chief Tamale has attended several international and local conferences on herbal medicine, as well as participated in seminal negotiations between the government, indigenous healers and health practitioners to draft a law that governs traditional medicine practice in Uganda.
Chief Tamale has been called to share his knowledge outside Uganda. In 2010, he represented a Ugandan traditional healers association at an inter-religious panel on Aids, Religion and Social Activism organized by the Research Network on AIDS & Religions in Africa. In 2012, he was invited by the Global Peace Initiative of Women
– a global non-profit organization – to gather with spiritual elders and native healers, environmentalists and social justice advocates from around the world at the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya to discuss the following themes: Recognizing the Rights of Nature; Global Interdependence–Shifting From A Paradigm of Dominance to One of Cooperation; Awakening Global Compassion; and Creating a Vision of Oneness–Overcoming Challenges to Social Transformation. Following this, in November 2012, Shinnyo-en a Japanese Buddhist organization invited Chief Tamale to join a panel of global spiritual leaders and wisdom keepers for a five-day discussion on the efficacy of Sharing Contemplative Practices and Esoteric Rituals for the Betterment of the World Community.
Chief Tamale’s international exposure has strengthened his spiritual and civic leadership roles. During his participation at both conferences in Kenya and Japan, he received two spiritual revelations addressed to the world’s spiritual chiefs. The message that he shared is that spiritual leaders must urgently assume their role to guide humanity in peace and safeguard and defend the natural world from further ecological destruction.