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Shared and transmitted from generation to generation, Empaako is a globally unique naming system whereby in addition to family and given names a special name – Empaako is given, selected from a fixed and closed list of 12 of them. They include Okaali which is exclusively reserved for Kings, Araali, Bbala, Acaali and Apuuli which are exclusively for males and Akiiki, Ateenyi, Abwoli, Atwoki, Amooti Adyeri and Abbooki which are for both men and women.
The ultimate literal meaning and origin of those twelve words is reserved as a mystery. Despite theories advanced by linguists and historians, we only access their functional and spiritual meaning as highly valued words of endearment with strong social and sentimental effect. The practice cannot be accurately translated to any language, foreign to its cultural context and therefore Empaako is simply Empaako.
Empaako is practiced by the communities of the legendary Bunyoro-Kitara Empire in the interlacustrine region including Batooro, Banyoro, Batuku, Batagwenda, Banyabindi, Basongora, Banyaruguru, Baziba and Banyambooga. The bearers of Empaako practice are estimated to be about five million people, living in the land of Empaako and in diaspora. Researched on and defended by culture scholars led by Stephen Rwagweri. Empaako practice was in 2013 inscribed by UNESCO, on the World List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during UNESCO’s 8th Session of Intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding intangible cultural heritage sitting in Baku, Azerbaijan.
“A fixed and closed list of twelve literally meaningless in their own contextual language but functionally rich-magical words of endearment, intimacy or respect, depending on the type of human relationship and at what moment or form of interaction and of which origin is culturally a mystery, shared and transmitted from generation to generation by millions of people across several African communities and territories of the legendary Bunyoro-Kitara Empire, Empaako is a globally unique naming system and now a UNESCO-Inscribed Representative Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity which can be harnessed to build mass solidarity and cooperation for greater Social-Economic progress”
- Atwoki – Rwagweri, 2013.
(Official statement on the occasion of Empaako inscription by UNESCO during its 8th IGC session in Baku, Azerbaijan – 4th December 2013).
Objectives of Empaako platform
- Organizing, consolidating, disseminating and archiving knowledge and information related to Empaako heritage and the whole experience of its nomination and inscription by UNESCO and the post-inscription safeguarding programmes.
- Creating a one stop centre of accessing and sharing cultural information and knowledge among Empaako people at home and in diaspora.
- Creating a database of people who share the Empaako heritage for effective coordination, mobilization and networking on matters of culture and development.
- Creating an online hub of Empaako communities for organizing themselves for development and progress.
- To increase the capacity of Empaako people to interact among themselves.
- To promote and adapt the use of Empaako into the modern lifestyle.
- To build the capacity of Empaako communities for effective fundraising for cultural projects.
- To increase the online visibility of Engabu Za Tooro and other cultural organizations working with and for Empaako communities and their programmes.
- To generate membership which will form Empaako Heritage Development Trust which will spearhead the future development projects built around Empaako heritage.
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