THE POWER OF A NAME
Ajakait Joyce Mary Alinga (RIP) my paternal grandmother who I was named after and thus gives me my identity. Emuria kolia!
She passed on years ago, but she lives on in me and I am comforted that she continues to watch over me and to guide me.
Culturally, my first name is Alinga. A week after I was born I was named in an Iteso naming ceremony. I was named after the mother of my father, my grandmother.
My name in full as appears on my birth certificate is Norah Esta Alinga Owaraga. I was born in 1968 after Christianity had taken root in Uganda. At the time I was born, provision was made on official documents for one to state their Christian name; now it has been changed to first name. Norah and Esta are my Christian names and officially my first name is Norah.
Owaraga is my father’s name and therefore our family name.
My name Alinga is part of my social capital. Within Iteso culture the name that one is given signifies one’s cultural roots.
The philosophy that binds the Iteso nation – the creeping grass philosophy – emuria kolia – may the grass take root, continue to grow and spread – espouses the Iteso nation’s ideal of extending the influence and power of its people. Emuria kolia signifies that one has roots from whence they came.
In a name, in Teso, a child and the adult whom the child is named after are bestowed with pride and obligation – for the child, the pride of being the extension of a legacy; and for the adult the assurance that their legacy will live on in flesh and blood.
The child ideally grows up aspiring to achieve the greatness of their name; while the adult whom the child is named after nurtures the child to know who they are, to stay true to one’s roots and at the same time soar high to achieve greatness.
As a child I had the privilege of spending significant time with my grandmother during which she convinced me of her greatness and therefore what I should aspire to become.
At the death of my grandmother I inherited her house, which my father built for her. My inherited house is part of our ancestral homestead. I have deep roots on our ancestral land.
Yes, scary for whoever thinks of uprooting me from our ancestral land.
At the death of my grandmother it became my duty to extend the legacy of our name, Alinga.
With such firm roots and therefore power – however imagined – I am journeying on this our world.