Empaako is a naming system practiced by the Batooro, Banyoro, Banyamwenge, Banyakyaka ,Batuku, Batagwenda and Banyabindi from western part of Uganda whereby children are given one of eleven pet-names shared across the communities in addition to their given and family names.
Addressing a person by her or his Empaako name is a positive affirmation of social ties. It can be used as a greeting or a declaration of affection, respect, honour or love. Use of Empaako can defuse tension or anger and sends a strong message about social identity and unity, peace and reconciliation.
Several districts in greater Ruwenzori ie Kyegwegwa, Kyenjojo, Kabarole, Ntoroko, Kamwenge, Kasese among others proudly use these pet-names.
When Empaako is conducted.
This ceremony is done when there is a newly born baby in a family. It is normally conducted after 3days for a baby girl and 4 days baby boy after birth.
It is also conducted when someone crosses from another tribe to Tooro culture and this is done as hospitality or when a mutooro son or daughter marries
from another tribe
Who performs the ceremony?
According to tradition pet names are decided upon by the parents of the child. Originally when a baby was born in Tooro, it was given a Kitooro name.
And this naming of Empaako in Rutooro language is called “kuhaka omuntu” Empaako is given at a naming ceremony performed in the home and presided over by the clan head.
Here the paternal aunts receive the baby and examine its features. Any resemblance to existing relatives forms the basis of the choice of name. The clan head then declares the name to the child.
After naming the child, family members with invited guests share a meal of millet and smoked beef (omukaro)and then tradition songs follow.
After food is being shared family members and friends present their gifts to the baby and a tree is planted in its honor.
The transmission of Empaako through naming rituals has dropped due to inter-marriages and it’s diminishing because of lack of the elders to
teach their children their mother language and cultural norms.
Some of the elders say that there are no longer extended families and family/clan meetings where they used to seat and tell their children
such information regarding the ceremony due to technology, rural urban migration, time, poverty and work.
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