Empaako are pet names given to every Mutooro by their elders. These special names are used to show both love and respect, and children even call their parents by their empaako. There are 11 empaako; Abwooli, Adyeeri, Araali, Akiiki, Atwooki, Abbooki, Apuuli, Abbala, Acaali, Ateenyi and Amooti.
The Omukama always goes by Amooti, irrespective of his previous empaako or by Okali, which is forbidden for use by commoners. The empaako are not believed to be Rutooro words, but rather are derivatives from Luo, the original language of the Babito invaders that colonised the Empire of Kitara. The only other tribe in Uganda that uses pet names is the Banyoro who also share Tooro customs and language.
The social value attached to empaako is one of Tooro’s most endearing and well-protected cultures. A Mutooro will always greet a fellow Mutooro on first meeting by asking, “empaako?” and will in subsequent interactions address them by their pet name. Ignoring entreaties that follow the speaking of one’s pet name is frowned upon and in this way empaako promoted social harmony.
Batooro find it bizarre to interact with people that do not have empaako and so they often give empaako to non-Batooro. It is not uncommon to find visitors who leave Tooro having earned a new pet name.
The Tooro dance, Entogoro also called Runyege, is one of Uganda’s most famous traditional dances, and probably the most energetic. The dance is named for the pod rattles tied around boys’ legs called ebinyege and entogoro that produce percussion rhythms that blend in with the song and drumbeat.
Entogoro is a courtship dance with a long history. As the legend goes, a very long time ago, several men sought to marry the same beautiful girl. To settle who would win her hand in marriage, a big ceremony was organised and all the suitors were invited to dance before the girl’s elders who would then determine the suitor with the most stamina that would be best able to fend for and protect their daughter.
Although this is no longer used as a way to determine the eligibility of a suitor, entogoro is still performed for entertainment at traditional Tooro weddings. Visitors to Tooro on cultural tours can engage in this old courtship dance alongside local groups of men and women.