Empaako tradition of the Batooro, Banyoro, Batuku, Batagwenda and Banyabindi of western Uganda

Inscribed in 2013 (8.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

© 2013 by Engabu Za Tooro (EZT)
Empaako is a naming system practised by the Batooro, Banyoro, Batuku, Batagwenda and Banyabindi, whereby children are given one of twelve 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. Empaako is given at a naming ceremony performed in the home and presided over by the clan head. 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. A shared meal of millet and smoked beef follows, gifts are presented to the baby and a tree is planted in its honour. The transmission of Empaako through naming rituals has dropped dramatically due to a general decline in appreciation of traditional culture and the diminishing use of the language associated with the element.