Names are steeped in meaning in Uganda. They reflect parents' hopes and aspirations for their children, as well as ties to their culture and environment.
Traditionally, among the Banyoro and Batooro communities in western Uganda, clan members hold special ceremonies when they bestow a name to a baby. At these ceremonies, known as okuruka amabara, villagers examine the baby for family features and distinctive qualities in order to pick the name befitting what they believe is the child's character.
Towards the climax of the naming ritual, those present are given millet bread, served fresh from the fire in wicker baskets called endiiro, alongside pots of steaming smoked beef or pigeon peas and peanut butter stew. The fresh millet bread is also a signifier of the change of season, releasing a scent like that of clean air and rain falling on dry ground.
Historically, every family would cultivate their own plot of millet and harvesting the crop was a communal activity. Towards the harvest season, children would patrol millet fields, banging empty tins with sticks to scare away the insatiable quelea birds. Then in November and December, groups of women armed with baskets and knives would harvest millet. Wooden granaries, raised off the ground on stilts close to the homes, would heave with the grain by Christmas.
But millet, a major crop in both Africa and Asia and one of the world's most nutritious cereals, is now under threat. Production is decreasing and many families have flattened the wooden granaries where they used to store the crop, using them as firewood. A dish of millet bread and pigeon peas-groundnut stew is no longer a common traditional meal in many households.