Naming Tradition

A few months after a child is born, three months for a boy and four months for a girl, a simple ceremony is held at which the child is given a personal name along with one of the traditional Mpako names. The name can be given by a parent, grand-parent or some other relative. But if the father of the child is known and present, he has the last word. The names given differ considerably. A few of them are family names handed down in particular clans to commemorate, for example, a relative or some feature on the child or some circumstances surrounding the child’s birth.

There are special names for twins and those immediately following them. However, the majority of other names portray the state of mind of the persons who gave them. Most names are real words which are used in every day speech. In the olden days, the general theme of the names used to rotate around the constant imminence of sorrow or death, the experience or anticipation of poverty and misfortune and the spite or hatred of one’s neighbors, but that has since changed with today’s naming themes rotating around joy, hope, anticipation of good, love, and faith in the creator.