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, the matriarch Ajakait Joyce Mary Alinga, may her soul continue to rest in power.
But, I was born in the 1960s after Christianity had taken root in Uganda. At the time, provision was made on official documents for one to state their Christian name; now changed to first name.
And so it was that my name in full as appears on my birth certificate is Norah Esta Alinga Owaraga. Nora and Esta are my Christian names and officially my first name. Alinga and Owaraga are my surnames; the latter being my father’s name and therefore our family name.
Now, back to my name Alinga. The philosophy that binds the Iteso nation – the creeping grass philosophy – emuria koliai – 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 koliai 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 both bestowed with pride and obligation.
- Child, the pride of being the extension of a legacy.
- 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 her death 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.
When she died 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.
I believe the spirit of my tata (grandmother), Joyce Mary Alinga watches over me still.