One of the very important elements in the African culture is the naming rites performed for a new child. It is believed that the name provides identity and will dictate how he or she would end up in the future. Even the book of Proverbs also says that “a good name is better than riches”. This belief is cherished by the African people to a great extent.
Let’s take a look at some of the traditional formalities observed in welcoming the new baby into Planet Earth.
When a child is born in the Igbo land, it calls for a huge celebration. The news of a new born baby naturally gathers the women together and they sing cheerful songs.
The naming ceremony is known as “Ikuputanwa or Igunwa’aha” which represents the formal presentation of the new baby to the people- kinsmen, family, friends, well-wishers and the community.
At the occasion, the new child is brought out by the paternal grandmother and handed over to the father, who names the child.
They start off the naming ceremony by breaking kola nuts and offering prayers. Then, the child is named by the father. The whole event is officiated by the child’s paternal grandparents.
Also, some Igbo communities commemorate this arrival of the newborn by planting a tree to signify the life and survival of the baby. The function ends with the guests presenting gifts to the child.
In the Akan tradition, the naming ceremony comes up the eight day after the birth of the baby.
It is done on the eighth day to confirm that the child has come to stay and will not be returning soon. The naming function is done at dawn. This is because the people believe that this period signifies the purity of the new baby and the dew is also pristine. Names are given by the elders to the child after his/her relatives whether they are alive or not.
During the rite, water and alcohol are laced on the tongue of the baby to let the child differentiate between a lie and the truth. The importance of this act is to reinforce the value of speaking the truth always.
The naming of the child follows a rather unique sequence. The first name is given based on the day the child was born while the second name is the official name.
The event is rounded off with celebration involving music and dance with food being served to everyone.
According to the traditions of the Hutu people, the child is named after three days, following the birth. Right from the birth of the child till the naming ceremony, both mother and child are not expected to step out of the house.
In Rwanda, the naming ceremony usually takes place in the evening. The event also begins with prayers to commit the celebration into the hands of God and blessings for the family.
Then, the ceremony proceeds to the naming of the child. First, the people propose names after which the father gives the child the name of his choice. Although, a name may be chosen from the options rendered. All of these is done to “fulfill all righteousness”.
The child can be named after a great icon, the grandparents or any other notable individual. Then, the women break out in cheers congratulating the new parents.
The Kwivuga rhetoric is next on the agenda where the men recite their economic achievements. Cultural lessons are also taught by the elders to the young ones.
This helps to strengthen the cultural value system and upholds the traditions of the society. At the end of the event, a local beer called “Agashinguracumu” is served in honor of the new baby and the guests.
Among the people of Uganda, the naming ceremony is referred to as “Cikiri”. Now, this occasion is not only a family affair, the clan is very much involved.
Cikiri means cow peas which is the main dish served at the occasion. It is made in the local way with sesame paste. In addition, a cock or goat is butchered and cooked depending on the financial status of the family involved. With this dish is served a local alcoholic drink.
It is quite interesting to know that after the birth of the child, both the mother and the baby are to stay at home for three days (for male children) and four days (for baby girls).
Names are given to the new child based on the circumstances surrounding the birth at that period. Now, that system has been altered.
Congolese babies are named by the mother, maternal uncle or even the mother’s sister too. Also, Christian names are mostly given because a large percentage of the people of Congo practice Christianity. In addition, two traditional names are given.