Acoli are a Nilo-Shemetic Luo ethnic group of people from the eastern part of the newly created nation of South Sudan specifically in Magwi County and they presently occupy the Northern Uganda (an area commonly referred to as Acoliland) districts of Gulu, Pader, Nwoya, Agago, Amuru, Kitgum, and Lamwo.
According to the population census carried out in 2002 by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, approximately 1.17 million Acoli were enumerated in Uganda and 45,000 more were living in South Sudan in 2000.
The Acoli is the language spoken by the Acoli people and it is a Western Nilotic language, classified as Luo related to the Lango, Alur, Japadhola and Jaluo spoken by the Luo groups of people who are currently settled in various locations including Eastern Uganda, western Kenya, West Nile in Uganda, and South Sudan.
History has it that the Acoli people originally migrated from Bahr el Ghazal in South Sudan in 1,000 AD and settled in Northern Uganda and around the 17th century, a new sociopolitical atmosphere started developing which saw chiefdoms come up under the rule of Rwodi (Rwot) who traditionally emerged from one clan and the chiefdom was made up of several villages composed of patrilineal clans and by half of the 19th century, over 60 chiefdoms had been established in eastern Acoli. Arabic-speaking merchants from the North traded up to Northern Uganda in the 2nd half of the 19th century started calling them the Shooli-a term which later transformed into ‘Acholi’
Culturally, the Acholi traditional communities organized hamlets of circular huts with high peaked roofs, furnished with a mud sleeping-platform, jars of grain and a sunken fireplace made for cooking then the women daubed the walls with mud, decorating them with geometrical or conventional designs in red, white or grey. The men were skillful hunters who had expertise in using nets and spears to capture their kill and they also reared domestic animals like goats, sheep and cattle.
The women completely carried out agriculture, growing and processing different types of food crops like millet, sim sim, groundnuts, peas, sorghum and vegetables and when war broke out, the men used spears and long, narrow shields of giraffe or ox hide to defend their villages.
The Acoli are famous for the Lakaraka dance performedduring their wedding ceremonies and the Etole dance that was sang during raids to give moral to the fighters. They have an amazing traditional dress code ofskins and hides of leopards and cheetahs with head bandages where ostrich feather is tied and the calabash they always use as a music box during their dances.
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