Great article on African naming traditions

Abby at Appellation Mountain shared this article recently: Africa’s naming traditions: Nine ways to name your child.

Not only do I just love learning about the naming traditions of other cultures, but I was so intrigued by this:

Many parents express their religious beliefs through names … [like] Hailemariam means the power of Mary (Ethiopia)

Hailemariam! I love it! I tried to find other examples of Marian names within African naming traditions and was unsuccessful, but in doing so I came across the story of Our Lady of Kibeho and loved this namey bit from the Judgement on the Apparitions of Kibeho by Bishop Augustin Misago of Gikongoro, Rwanda:

Yes, the Virgin Mary appeared at Kibeho on 28 November 1981 and in the months that followed. There are more reasons to believe in the apparitions than to deny them. Only the three initial testimonies merit being considered authentic; they were given by Alphonsine Mumureke, Nathalie Mukamazimpaka, and by Marie Claire Mukangango. The Virgin appeared to them with the name “Nyina wa Jambo”, that is “Mother of the Word”, which is synonymous to “Umubyeyl W’iamna” that is, “Mother of God”, as she herself explained.”

Do any of you know anything more about African naming traditions, especially in light of the faith? Any other examples of Marian names like Hailemariam?

15 thoughts on “Great article on African naming traditions

  1. oh so cool!! I know absolutely nothing about African naming traditions!!

    Also, Alphonsine, Nathalie, and Marie Claire are BEAUTIFUL!! Alphonsine!! I’ve never heard of it before but my goodness it’s gorgeous!!

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  2. This reminds me a of a story I heard a priest tell once. He was from (I think) Nigeria and I guess it is common there for the priest to name the baby. Well his brother Joseph married a woman named Mary and when they had a son they called him a and asked what the baby’s name should be. The first name to come to mind was Emmanuel. Some time later he visited his brothers village and asked a neighbor about him and the neighbor replied “oh you mean the Holy Family?” The brother and his family became known jokingly as the holy Family in their village 😄

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  3. We lived in the Bakonjo tribe in Uganda with the birth order tradition and completely flexibility between first and last names. Like, I’m Masika Katherine because I’m firstborn and a girl, but I could also be Katherine Masika. My son and husband are both Mbere because they are firstborn males with all their grandparents alive at the time of their births. My daughter is Muhindo Eleanor because she changed the sex of my babies (this name is used for boys or girls). It conveys a surprising amount of information when you think about it!

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  4. I recently met a guy from Kenya who told me that it was tradition where he lived to give a child a name representing where he was born.
    For instance his name was N!co but (and I don’t remember the Kenyan word for it) his other name was “soccer field”. I thought it was so interesting and also lovely way to highlight the importance of a birthplace.

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  5. Another beautiful Marian name is Immaculée (I-mak-u-lay). Rwandan American Catholic author Immaculée Ilibagiza has written an incredible memoir of her survival of the Rwandan Genocide called “Left to Tell.” She’s also written a couple other books including an awesome one about Our Lady of Kibeho. Her family all had beautiful names – her brothers were Aimable, Damascene and Vianney.

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  6. I don’t know any but I’m a big fan of Our Lady of Kibeho, and also Immaculee Ilibagiza, who spreads the word about Our Lady of Kibeho and shares her story of surviving the genocide in Rwanda by being hidden for months in a tiny bathroom with seven other women. So awesome.

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