The multi-coloured and checkered attire (Nakatukok) of the Karimojong people of northeastern Uganda are won not just to cover the body but to also depict gender roles and social status.
In Karamoja, majority of the people – children, adults and elders alike – wear the cloths of many colours, locally called Nakatukok.
The males knot the Nakatukok over one shoulder as the rest of the cloth covers the body. Some men also make special skirts out of the cloths.
The females turn the cloths into short skirts with many folds matched with bright coloured sleeveless blouses. Both men and women also use the Nakatukok as wrappers.
The Nakatukok is so rampant that for first-time visitors to Karamoja it presents a rather unique type of traditional attire not found in any other part of Uganda.
One may also think the Nakatukok is just clothing with no strings attached to its wearing, but that is not the case. Albins Lokwii, a resident of Kaabong Town Council in Kaabong District, says the colours of the Nakatukok have meaning, in addition to reflecting social and power constructs in the Karimojong society.
Lokwii explains that Nakatukok in colours like green and purple are for females.
According to Lokwii, Nakatukok with darker shades like black, blue and crimson are for the youth, as well as herders and warriors because they are good for camouflage.
Nakatukok with brighter colours like yellow and red, adds Lokwii, are the preserve of elders, kraal leaders, the rich and the powerful. He emphasizes that a poor man cannot be given leadership position.
This reporter also learnt that among the Karimojong older age is not a prerequisite for becoming an elder, but rather factors like bravery, oratory skills and wealth.