It has been eight months since Ejakait Engineer George William Obityo Owaraga, the Chief of the Ikaribwok Isekielio Clan of the Iteso and King George of Entebbe, my father, rested early morning on 1st November 2020. As his cultural mother, I, Ajakait Esta Norah Alinga Owaraga, who is named after his late mother, Ajakait Joyce Mary Alinga, miss him dearly.
But I delight in the blessing that special moments we shared are beautifully captured in pictures by his namesake, Emmanuel George Owaraga, now my cultural son and de facto the chief.
The ancestral home of late Eng. George William Owaraga in Kadoki in Pallisa, the only tiled house in the vicinity and so it is often the norm when asking for directions to his home, it is enough for one to say something like “direct me to omategula (the tiled house)”.
Moments such as when we welcomed to our ancestral home the wife of the Chief’s third son, Engatunyun, my brother and cultural husband for he is named after our paternal grandfather, the late Ejakait Yosia Engatunyun, Simba the Lion Chief, since rested.
In the background my out-kitchen from whence we emerged followed by the akogo band as we initiated Nikye (centre). Am on her immediate left; and my two aunts (sisters of my father) are on my side (Ija Adekete) and on her side (Ija Agadi).
As my father’s cultural mother, it was my role to take the lead in initiating my sister in-love, Nikye, into the clan taboos of her husband’s clan, our clan.
“This ceremony is known as the smearing ceremony (ainyonyo) and may take place at the time when the new bride is brought by her relatives to her husband’s village on the marriage day.” J.C.D. Lawrence in his book: “The Iteso”
Ours did not happen as per Iteso scheduling, it was delayed because my brother and his family live abroad; and so it was only possible when they had the opportunity to come home for the first time after they were married.
At my homestead which is within my father’s ancestral home (as you can see my house which I inherited from my late grandmother is in the background), Nikye kneels to serve her father-in-love some tea, under the supervision of my father’s younger sister, Ija Agadi; and as the band’s man with base akogo plays loudest.
Nikye may think that I was a bit much, but, in reality, my substitutions and innovations for her ainyonyo ceremony were to her advantage. After all, if I had done it the Teso way, she would have:
“Been seated at the door of her husband’s house on the skin of an ox, which must have been slaughtered, with her legs stretched straight in front and holding a child in her arms. She would have been smeared with ghee by her mother-in-law and the older women of her husbands family. In the ghee are mixed shavings of esaas sticks. Esaas sticks are usually rough at first but become smooth with constant use and shaving.”
Nikye receives a live chicken from her husband for her to slaughter and cook for her father-in-love his first meal cooked by her.
And there is more, but am sure you get the gist of things cultural taboos.
As part of Nikye’s initiation, led by her father-in-love, we took her to our family burial grounds in the compound of our late grandfather, the father of her father-in-love. As you can see, our late father made sure his late father’s homestead lived on, complete with that magnificent tin-roofed-house of the chief still standing!
These photos, herein, have truly made my day.
As I write this blog post, I am in a celebratory mood and, in fact, I am singing and swaying, remembering the tunes we were dancing to that day from a live akogo (Iteso thumb piano) band.
With my Ija Mangada Akia, the eldest sister of my late father, she who baby-sat him, and she is still alive!
Ayiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiyi …. emuria koliai!
The profiled photo is of papa, the late Ejakait Owaraga, sitting on his late father’s grave during Nikye’s ainyonyo ceremony.