Wednesday, October 16, 2013

World-Wide Wednesday: African Names

For the third installment of World-Wide Wednesday, we'll take a look at the naming traditions in Africa.
Featured African Names: Kato & Zola

For most Africans, baby-naming is extremely important. They place a high value on the name choice and its meaning. Many believe that it will have a major influence on the lives of the child and the family as a whole.  There is a delicate balance between giving a child a name that is too ambitious and a simple name that may not yield high enough expectations.

Of course, Africa is a very large continent and it is home to hundreds of different languages and customs. Traditionally, African parents like to give names that reflect the time and day of the birth, the environment in which the baby was born or other related circumstances like gender or birth order.

Many African names also reflect the parents hopes, aspirations and dreams for the child, or they may have to do with their fears, their religious beliefs and their own philosophies about life and death. Sometimes these names can provide outsiders with an idea of the culture and events surrounding the time of their birth.

Northern Africa sees a lot of Muslim names being used since many are Muslim. In Central and Southern Africa, there is a bit of European influence on names since many in that region are partially Christian and may speak French, English or Portuguese.

In Nigeria, the meaning of names is so important that Nigerians will actually introduce themselves and then explain to people what their name means. Names are viewed as a promise, a vocation and a list of expectations for one's life. Their name IS their identity.

Sometimes, the process of choosing a name is carefully decided upon by not only the parents, but also grandparents and extended family members. Naming a child is so important that it sometimes takes a whole village! When the child is finally born, there is an extensive naming ceremony, sometimes including prayers recited by a religious teacher and animal sacrifices. The reason for the ceremony is to formally give the child the selected names.

Traditionally, the child will receive three names, one from the parents, and two from the maternal and paternal grandparents. In some places, the first name is the personal name, the second is their praise name that reflects the hopes for the child's life, and the third name ties in the family and community.

With such high expectations put on a child through their name, the parents tend to use that against them when they misbehave. African Proverbs are used to help parents drive home the messages to their children. The name is used to steer the child through life in a positive direction that was carefully chosen before the child was even born.

Examples of names and their meanings:

Abena - "Born on Thursday"
Abeni - We asked for her, and behold, we got her"
Abidemi - "Born during father's absence"
Abioye - "Born into Royalty"
Babirye - "First of twins"
Bongani - "Be grateful"
Bosede - "Born on Sunday"
Chiamaka - "God is Beautiful"
Chidubem - "Guided by God"
Dada -  "Curly hair"
Delu - "The only girl"
Dubaku - "Eleventh born child"
Ebele - "Mercy, Kindness"
Emeka - "Great deeds"
Farai - "Rejoice"
Funanya - "Love"
Gbemisola - "Cary me into wealth"
Hassain - "Handsome"
Idowu - "Born after twins"
Ikenna - "Father's power"
Iniko - "Born during troubled times"
Jelani - "Mighty"
Jurodoe - "faithful"
Katlego - "Success"
Kato - "Second of Twins"
Kirabo - "Gift"
Lerato - "Love"
Lumusi - "Born face down"
Makena - "Happy one"
Melisizwe - "Leader of the nation"
Monifa - "I am lucky"
Ndidi - "Patience"
Nkiruka - "The best is still to come"
Nonye - "Stay with us"
Nosizewe - "Mother of the nation"
Ochieng - "Born when the sun shines"
Olufemi - "God loves me"
Oni  - "Born in sacred bode"
Paki - "Witness"
Rufaro - "Happiness"
Sanaa - "Art"
Sauda - "Dark Complexion"
Simba - "Lion"
Tafari - "He who inspires awe"
Tatenda - "Thank you"
Udo - "Peace"
Wekesa - "Born during harvest"
Xolani - "Peace"
Zola - "Quiet, tranquil
Zuri - "Beautiful"

I've always taken the meanings of names seriously but there are many parents who don't care about it and don't think that the meaning of the child's name will have any impact on their life. Here is an entire continent that says differently. Meanings are our identities, according to African parents.  Which of the above meanings do you like best?

Note: I am not African and have never been to Africa. If I have gotten any information wrong, please let me know so I can correct it.

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