It’s all in a name…latter-day parents defy tradition, culture

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019 00:00 |
Jeff Gichuki, his wife Everlyn Wambui and their children. Photo/PD/Mary kinuthia

Mary Kinuthia @MsonKinuthia

“Her newborn child is called what, again?” That is how people reacted when reality star Kim Kardashian named her daughter, North West.

That was in 2013. Years later, Kim, who is married to Kanye West and commands a local following hasn’t changed her unusual naming style. She has a son called Saint and a daughter, Chicago. Their last born is Psalm, born in May this year.

Closer home, gospel artiste Eko Dydda’s children have sentence names. He has named his babies Keepitreal Favour Dydda and Amblessed Wisdom Dydda. “We did not want to give our children names that would align them to any tribe,” Dydda said. Gospel artiste  Bahati named his daughter with Diana Marua, Heaven. His newborn son is called Majesty.

Traditionally, Kenyan communities named their children after animals, seasons, time, circumstances, place of birth, a grandparent or family member, among others. 

Among the Agikuyu community for instance, children are named after a family member. However, Jeff Gichuki and Everlyn Wambui prevailed past traditional beliefs of naming children to defining the purpose and future of their children through names.

The couple, who resides in Kasarani, Nairobi, believe there is more to names than seasons, past events or what people presume to be honouring the generation before them. They have three children whose names have no generational attachment. 

Putting meaning to names

Their first son is called Asaph Mutoria. Asaph means a chief singer while Mutoria means victorious. Being the first male child in the family, Asaph would have been named after his paternal grandfather Gichuki, whose meaning is one who keeps bees and/or harvests.

Their second child is called Charis Mutugi. Charis is a Hebrew word meaning God’s grace while Mutugi means grace making his name, therefore “double grace.” In different circumstances, Charis would have been named after his maternal grandfather, Wanjohi, which means the drunkard.

Their only daughter Ivanna Riri’s name means God’s gift and glory respectively. Luckily, Jeff and Eve parents had no problem with their grandchildren not bearing and carrying forward their names. 

Francis Gachoki and Jackline Gachoki share a similar story as they named their three sons Elnatan Murathime, Eldad Muhotani, Elhanan Mutoria. Murathime means blessed, while Muhotani and Mutoria means victorious one.

Francis, whose second name was Muthike, narrates how he changed his name in his adult life after realising his name meant the buried one. It was his grandmother’s idea to name him Muthike, after a dead family member who Francis never met since he had passed on before his birth.

Francis further observed how his father, Kinyua, lived up to his name, which means a drunkard. Although his father, Kinyua, broke the alcoholism habit, Francis claims that the effects of his alcoholism are still felt in the family to date and carried on by other distant relatives bearing the same name. 

The couple agreed to mark the beginning of a new and different generation by giving their children names that would define their future and purpose in life.

And Francis has always been present during the birth of his children. “He is the first to receive our children in this world and speak words of life to them immediately after they are born,” Jackie says.

When asked to explain reasons for doing this, Francis points out that the power to define the future of a child through words and naming is vested in the child’s parents, with the father setting pace and taking the lead. 

However, Kennedy Musau and Mary Mbithe, a Kamba couple named their son Geoffrey Wambua in honour of Kennedy’s great-great grandfather who was born in a rainy season. They claim that they seek to keep their past generation alive through names. “He was a respected community leader and we wanted to keep his memory alive through our son,” Musau narrates. 

“The number of people changing names in their older years or adding a descriptive desirable name on social media such as lovely, blessed or favoured, to those given by parents continues to increase,” says Dan Ngalobe, a psychologist and life coach. 

Exercise caution

Research studies show a person’s names correlate with attitude, personality, ethnic stereotype, career choice and success. “Children have a high likelihood to exhibit the character of the one they are named after, name meaning or the cultural identity.

For this reason, parents should be conscious when naming their children because these names resonate with so many different meanings throughout one’s life,” Dan urges.  

However, even as one picks an unusual name, experts warn parents to be cautious. “At the end of the day, remember that kids won’t always be kids. “Pick a name that won’t embarrass your child in future.

Will they have to spell out their name on phone calls a trillion times throughout their life? Will they have to watch people figuring out how to react every time they introduce themselves; will other children make fun of them at school?” he poses.

We live in a modern society where young adults can travel, study, learn languages and marry whomever they’d like from any cultural background. Picking a ridiculous name could influence your child’s approach to this diverse, globalised world. “By all means, call your daughter Fifi. But make sure she has Felicia or Florence in her back pocket if she needs it,” he adds. 

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