UNESCO Inscribes Empaako Tradition Top story

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In short
Empaako is a naming system practised by the Batooro, Banyoro, Batuku, Batagwenda and Banyabindi communities in western uganda. In the tradition, children are given one of twelve names shared across the communities in addition to their given and family names. It can be used as a greeting or a declaration of affection, respect, honour or love.

The Empaako tradition has been inscribed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO as an intangible heritage in need of safeguarding.

Empaako is a naming system practised by the Batooro, Banyoro, Batuku, Batagwenda and Banyabindi communities in western uganda.  In the tradition, 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.

The tradition was inscribed by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage during the UNESCO conference held in Baku, Azerbaijan on Saturday.

According to information obtained by Uganda Radio Network, the Empaako traditional was the only element from Africa. The other element that was inscribed was the Mongolian Calligraphy, which is the technique of handwriting in the Classical Mongolian script, which comprises 90 letters connected vertically by continuous strokes to create words.

The inscription of the Empaako tradition now means that UNECSO will provide financial support to implement the programme of safe guarding the tradition like mass sensitization. UNECSO will also help promote and popularize the tradition through its systems internationally.

The need to recognize the Empaako tradition was initiated in 2011 by Engabu Za Tooro (EZT), a cultural organization in the Rwenzori region.  The organization was accredited by UNESCO during the 2003 convention on intangible cultural heritage.

 This follows a research carried out by the organization which indicated that the tradition was under threat from groups like cults especially the Bisaka cult, which has a large following in Kyejonjo District. The cult prohibits its believers from greeting using the pet name, which they associate with the demi- gods.

The inscription of Empaako comes after several views were collected from district councils, and clans in areas where the pet names exist. The views were then presented to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, who then forwarded them to the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France.

According to UNESCO, it was established that Use of Empaako can defuse tension or anger and sends a strong message about social identity and unity, peace and reconciliation.

But 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.

Steven Rwagweri, the Executive Director, Engabu Za Tooro, who was present at the inscription ceremony, told Uganda Radio Network in a telephone interview that the misconceptions about the empaako tradition will be fought since the tradition has been recognized by UNECSO.

Rev. Richard Baguma, a regent in Tooro Kingdom says that since the tradition has been recognized, there should be a cultural policy passed and the pet name be attached to official names and also revive the ritual of giving a pet name when a child is born.

 

About the author

Emmanuel Kajubu
Emmanuel Kajubu is proud to have been the first Ugandan journalist to write in depth pieces about the Tooro Kingdom institution. His knowledge of the inner workings of the Tooro Kingdom is what made him privy to the splits in the royal family. These splits almost challenged Tooro Omukama Oyo Nyimba Iguru's reign.

Culture, agriculture and the environment are just two areas of many of interest to Kajubu. As long as he has held a pen, Kajubu has also written about public policy, health and crime.

Kajubu is keen on impacting his society not just as a writer but also a trainer and mentor. Bundibugyo and Ntoroko districts fall under his docket. Kajubu has been a URN staff member since 2008.