Silly childrens' names are killing our African culture


  • Since the dawn of time, women have been giving their children pretentious names, often inspired by trendy names of musicians or movie characters
  • Growing up, Bryo and Kevo were cool names, but there is no way of treating a 32-year old Kevin or Bryan respectfully

A young female acquaintance from Nyakach married a man from the slopes. I know of several lakeside brothers who marry from Central Kenya with varying success, but I rarely hear of Central Kenyan men marrying from the lakeside.

Honestly, other than the president’s son, I knew of no other such ‘mixed marriage,’ until the young woman called to tell me they were blessed with a baby boy.

I didn’t know she was married, much less to a man from Central Kenya, until she explained to me the exact reason she was calling me. Apparently, there was a kerfuffle when it came to name the child.

There is a specific order to child naming that must be adhered to by folks from Central Kenya. The first two children are always named after the parents of the father, and the next two after the parents of the mother.

The child takes all the names of the parent. That is why there are about three million Kikuyu folks called John Kamau or James Mwangi.

But my friend is a feminist, who wants her child to have his own identity when he grows up. Besides, in Luo Nyanza, there is little ancestral attachment to naming children. Children are always named using abstract ideas such as the time of day or season one is born in.

My answer to her was unequivocal: grant the father his wish. The child should be named after his grandfather. I was piqued that they should even debate about it. I was roundly offended when picking the name for my daughter.

Being an only-son, and my mother having died nearly 18 years ago, it was an automatic expectation from my kin that my daughter will take all her names. But the missus thought that my mother’s name Norah was a bit archaic.

Ultimately, we made a compromise that she will take my mother’s Kisii name, and the missus picked some boujie name. I hate the arrangement to date.

Mothers, since the dawn of time, tend to give their children pretentious names, often inspired by trendy names of musicians of movie characters of their generation. That is why half the women in Central Kenya born in the late 1970s to early 1990s are called Caroline. Beryl is quite common in Nyanza.

That is why, we now have 30-year-olds called Bryan and Kevin, and there is nothing as horrible as that. Growing up, Bryo and Kevo were cool names, but there is no way of treating a 32-year old Kevin or Bryan respectfully.

In another 20 years, it will be the Kylas, Mia, Liam and any other name women would have picked from the terrible series they are glued on.

We can never trust women to preserve the traditions and memories of our communities.

“No matter what, that boy has part of the heritage of the father that must be preserved through the name of the family,” I told the livid young woman overwhelmed by tradition. And I was serious.

Child naming customs are an attempt to preserve the memories of those who made it possible for us to be here. Among the Kisii, if you die without becoming a father, you will never be named after anyone. Because, your memory is not worth preserving.

It is easy for women to dismiss the role of tradition in our lives. If we are raising children in apartments, who hardly go to the village, who grow up without even killing a lizard, you know very well they will be poorly adjusted adults with drinking problems.

The kind that needlessly rev their second-hand Subaru’s are such a nuisance with the incessant hooting of their motorcycles.

We all must be grounded in tradition. One of the best tradition is giving children names of our ancestors. It helps protect the integrity of our African culture that our women are not interested in maintaining.

Listen up young women. Children are the property of a man in our patriarchal society. Once you marry, you marry into the clan, and it will be helpful to obey the clan’s demands against your higher ideals of granting the child a unique identity.

There is no bigger identity than preserving the name of the family through children for continuity.

We should not even be arguing about this. But young mothers keep pushing us towards this, giving children alien and fancy names that are guaranteed to sound ridiculous in 20 years’ time. Ask anyone called Carol.


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