Written by Timothy Makokha
Read 1890 Times
The bukusu people name their new born babies according to sikuka (inherited names), cultural practices, and character (kumwima).
The ‘sikuka’ names are names of ancestors who were respected in society. A parent does not choose the name for a child but the child will automatically cry meaning a particular ancestral spirit is disturbing the baby wanting the baby to be named after him/her.
When the child cries during the day, it means the ancestor who wants to be named comes from the mother’s side. When the baby cries non-stop at night, it means the ancestor who wants to be named comes from father’s side.
This is because a mother usually takes care of the child during the day when the father is away in the field or working. As a result most fathers take care of their babies in the evening or at night after they have returned from work. This is the reason why the endless crying of the baby at night is associated with a name from the father’s side.
Before a child is given a name from the mother’s side, a close relative of the mother is invited to grace the naming ceremony. If it is a name that emanates from the father’s side, an elder from the clan is invited to oversee the naming process.
If the person to be named had some kimisambwa (cultural spirits), or was very senior and respected then the naming ceremony is done slightly differently. For a baby girl a hen is used while for a baby boy a cock is used in the naming process.
In some clans a thin goat’s skin (sikhabala) is put around the wrist of the baby for some time after naming the child. If the name originated from the mother’s side the ‘sikhabala’ was tied on the left hand but when giving a name from the father’s side it is tied on the right hand.
Any chicken is recommended for this ceremony except a black one. The chicken is held above the head or closer to the child as the name of the departed relative is mentioned. The chicken that has been used for this purpose is not to be slaughtered immediately; it is spared for some time.
Several words are uttered and then a name is declared to have been given to the child. For example one would say, ‘if it is you Simiyu my uncle that is making my child to cry, please keep quiet and set the child free we don’t harbor any bad feelings about you’. At that point the baby will stop to cry and return to her normal life.
It was very technical in the sense that after naming the child after somebody, the child is to be handled with care. In case of any mistreatments, the ancestor who was named may appear in a dream to give a warning to the person mistreating the child.
Twins were named in more special way. For example the first one to come out was named Mukhwana who is followed by Mulongo. After the birth of twins a ceremony known as khukhwikula bukhwana is done.
The ceremony celebrated after birth of twins involves the two families coming together (people from the mother’s clan and those ones from the father’s side). It involves one group of people entering the house leaving the other group outside the main house where the twins were born.
The people inside the house will push the door outwards to block those ones outside from entering. The outside group will also push hard in an attempt to enter. The pressure will force people who are inside the house to let the door loose for the group to enter. Then they will begin to dance in the sitting room of the house. The dance is then shifted to move outside the house.
The dance involves some obscene gestures that dramatize the child making act. Some obscenities are shouted to praise the father of the twins and his efforts to sire twins. After dancing, people then give gifts to the twin babies.
When parents produce children who die immediately after birth, a ceremony known as ‘khuboelela’ is carried out to stop evil spirits from killing babies. It is carried out after parents have lost hope after so many children have died at very tender age.
Immediately after giving birth, the baby is neatly dressed and taken to path/ road side near home. A humble blameless old woman is instructed to go and pick the baby from the road side and bring it to its parents. On reception of the baby, parents will pretend as if baby is not theirs but they are just to take care of it. Names given to baby girl after this ceremony include Nabangala, Nang’unda, but boy’s names are like Kundu, Kuloba, Makokha, Namunyu and Wenani.
A child that was born after a prolonged gestation period was given a special name; the boy is named Mwibanda while the girl Nasiebanda. A child that is born before normal gestation period is named Nambuswa.
Normally a child is born with the head first, in case a child is born with legs first, is given a special name. A boy is named Sifuna while a girl Nafuna.
Wife inheritance is a very common occurrence in bukusu land. When a man inherits a widow who has children with the late husband, the first boy child of the inheritor is named Omukhala Mwandu.
Most of the children are named according to the seasons in which they are born. For example a girl born during circumcision season is named Namwenya while a boy can be named Nambalu.
Giving a name to a child is a very sensitive matter because some names affect the behavior of an individual. For instance a child named after a person who was a thief is likely to steal just like the former bearer of the same name. That is why in the past elders were consulted about the history of a person before naming after him/her.
Switch to Our Mobile Site