In my place, when a child is born we don’t give the child a name immediately. We wait for the Ibo traditional eight market days, before a proper naming ceremony is performed for the child. So until the child’s naming ceremony, the baby is simply addressed as ‘baby’ for a girl or ‘bobo’ for a boy.
The parents will present their chosen names to the paternal grandfather who usually presides over this auspicious occasion, in front of a tidy crowd of family members and clansmen.
For this occasion, water, salt, palm-oil, gin and kola-nut must be present. Oblations are offered to the ancestors with kola-nut and gin, after which the well clad baby is presented by the mother for the naming. The water, salt and palm-oil represents purity, health, wealth and peace and they will be dropped on the babies lips one after the other accompanied with prayers and a chorus of ‘ise‘ meaning ‘and so shall it be’ by everyone else.
The list of the child’s name would be read out and attributed. Sometimes, it can be quite lengthy if the child’s grandparents are all alive because each of them will present a name asides from the names chosen by the parents.
I grew up answering different names to each grandparent.
For instance my maternal grandma called me Ngozikaego – which means ‘blessing is bigger than wealth,’ while my paternal grandma called me Adaeze – which means ‘The daughter of the King’ and then my grandpa called me Ekwutosinam, meaning ‘don’t tarnish my good name.’
However, the name that my parents chose, prevails today and it turned out that they chose Jacqueline after Jacqueline Kennedy whom my mother loved her class, composure and style.
My mother said that I made such a pretty and peaceful baby that she not only chose to give me a name that matched my serenity and a woman that she admired a lot, but also the meaning of the name was a deciding factor for her. Jacqueline means, ‘May God Protect.’
It is possible that bearing a French Roman Catholic name contributed to my predilection for all things Frenchy and for being bilingual. I found myself naturally gravitating to things that had the french language tucked inside them.
© Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha
The Daily Post Say Your Name
Write about your first name: Are you named after someone or something? Are there any stories or associations attached to it? If you had the choice, would you rename yourself?