Culture

Branding in Ateso, the case of my “Atorot” brand

As I sought to brand products of my Alinga Farms using Ateso, the language of my people, the Iteso of Uganda, the fifth largest first nation of Uganda, I crosschecked with the Ateso dictionary by Ongodia and Ejiet.

In the Ongodia and Ejiet Ateso dictionary, the spelling of the Ateso word for flower is “Atorot”. And so, I chose to brand my Alinga Farms flagship product – the dried calyces of the hibiscus sabdariffa fruit, “Atorot.”

Drying calyces of hibiscus sabdariffa fruit at Alinga Farms in Pallisa

Hibiscus sabdariffa is in the same family as emalakany, a green leafy vegetable that is popularly consumed by Iteso. The seeds and the plants at early stages of growth of both crops are very similar.

However, for emalakany it is its leaves that Iteso consume as vegetables; while for hibiscus sadariffa it is mostly the fruit that is consumed – juice extracted and taken as a hot or cold beverage. And emalakany is ready for harvest within a few weeks, while hibiscus stays in-field for at least three months.

Hibiscus sabdariffa fruit ready for harvest at Alinga Farms in Pallisa

My aunts who were challenged by the tongue twisting name “hibiscus sabdariffa” initially insisted on calling it emalakany. However, while in-field and before it fruits, hibiscus sabdariffa flowers magnificently. And so my aunts appreciated the difference and later baptize it “Atorot”.

When you listen carefully to how my aunts and other Iteso pronounce it, you can easily conclude that the correct spelling of the word should be “Atoorot.” And so, as soon as my product hit the shelves I was equally hit with a barrage of complaints from my fellow Iteso saying I had got the spelling wrong.

Ateso is a tonal language and so when Iteso speak, one must listen very carefully and or when one is speaking, one needs to take care to pronounce the right sound. This is because in Ateso, as is the case for tonal languages, the pitch tone is important in distinguishing the meaning of words.

Indeed, Ongodia and Ejiet, in their Ateso dictionary point out that it is often the case that people think that the correct spelling of Ateso words is how they sound when pronounced correctly, but that is not necessarily always the case.

Hibiscus sabdariffa drink at Alinga Farms in Pallisa

I decided to retain my brand “ATOROT”, because, in addition, in any case, brand names often make a play on words, spelling the brand, sometimes different from the true spelling of the word.

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