The Acholi are a collection of small ethnic groups brought together by the Luo migration. Historians assert that they are a product of intermarriages between the Luo and the Madi. They are Luo in language and custom and are closely related to the Alur of West Nile, the Jopadhola of eastern Uganda and the Joluo of Kenya. They inhabit the districts of Gulu and Kitgum which formerly constituted the Acholi district. There are also some Acholi in the southern Sudan.
Like other Luo groups, they trace their origin to Rumbek in southern Sudan. It is believed that the major group of the Luo moved downwards under the leadership of Olum and settled at Pubungu near Pakwach.
Legend asserts that Luo was the first man. He had no human parents. He is said to have sprung from the ground. It was taken that his father was Jok (God) and that his mother was Earth. Legend adds that Luo’s son Jipiti, whose mother is unknown, had a daughter called Kilak. Kilak was not known to have a husband. Then one time, she got lost in the bush from where she later emerged with a male child. It was believed the father of this child was the devil, Lubanga. The child was named Labongo. He was born with bells around his wrists and ankles and he had feathers in his hair. There were definitely magical elements in Labongo. It is said that he was fond of dancing all the t time and as he danced the bells jingled.
When Labongo grew up, he married and had a child in the normal way in spite of his peculiarities. Luo’s home is said to have been at Bukoba, near Pakwach. He possessed an axe which he is said to have driven into the ground and out came the chiefs of many Luo groups. Labongo became the first in the line of the Rwots (chiefs) of Payera. The same Labongo whose full title was Isingoma Labongo Rukidi, is also remembered as being first in the line of the Babiito kings of Bunyoro-Kitara. He is said to have been the twin brother of Kato Kimera who is remembered in some quarters as the first in the line of the kings of Buganda. The first Namuyongo of north Bugerere is also said to have been a son of Labongo.
Whether true or false, this legend brings forward the complicated interrelationship between the various peoples of Uganda. It is quite interesting that the Banyoro and the Acholi, different as they seem, could claim common origin. Some groups in Acholi such as the Pajule trace their origin directly to the Bagungu of Bunyoro. It is said that after settling in Pawir, while some Luo (Biito) moved southwards, others also moved northwards and settled in Pajule.
Acholi Dances
The Acholi usually sing about everyday incidents but some of their songs refer to well known incidents in the past. Songs are tuneful and dancing s communal. Solo dancing is rare.
The Acholi have eight different types namely: lalobaloba, otiti, bwola, myel awal (wilyel) apiti ladongo, myel wanga and atira. In the lalobaloba dance, no drums are used. The people dance in a circle. The men form the outer ring. A man may move an hand above his head. There are no special occasions for this dance. All dancers carry sticks.
In the otiti dance, all male dancers carry spears and shields. The dancers encircle drums which are usually attached to a post m the middle of the arena. This dance involves more shouting than singing; in the end, spears and shields are put down and the dance converted into lalobaloba.
The bwola dance is the most important. It is the chief’s dance and is only performed on his orders. The men form a large circle a of them carries a drum. The movement of the feet matches rhythmically with the beating of drums. The girls dance separately inside the circle without beating the drums. The dance has a definite leader and he moves by himself within the circle. He sets the time and leads the singing. He is considered important person and traditionally he was to wear a leopard skin.
The myel awal dance was a funeral dance. The women wail around the grave while the men, armed with spears and shields dance lalobaloba. Apiti was a dance for the girls. Men were not supposed to participate. The girls danced in a line and sang. It was usually held in the middle of the year when the rains were good.

Ladongo was danced following a successful hunt when the hunters were still away from their homes. In this dance, men and women faced each other in two lines and jumped up and down clapping their hands. In the myel wanga dance, all men sat down and played their nanga (harps) while in front of them, the women danced apiti. This dance was usually held after marriages or at beer parties. Then there was the atira dance. It is now completely outdated. It was held on the eve of a battle. All the dancers were armed and they went through the motion of spear fighting and thrusting.

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