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African “Nomen est omen”
Wednesday, 15 December 2010 Written by fra Ivica Perić

Rwandan Moon

Since I’ve arrived in Rwanda I haven’t stopped struggling with the pronunciation of our parishioners’ names. On the other hand, I also haven’t stopped admiring the imagination their parents used to name them. Twajirimana means “Only God can save us”, Hatangimbabazi says that “Only the One who is almighty is merciful”, Habimana points out that “God exists”, Hakizimana that “God saves”, Gahiji is in turn “a hunter”, Sebahive “a bearer of good luck”, Sentwali is “a brave one”, and Uwimana is “God’s daughter”.

In Rwanda too, like in most world cultures, numbers play a very important role, and seven and eight are especially interesting. Thus the seventh child in a family gets a special name in a very special way. And the name the seventh child gets is – Nyandwi. The newborn is once more named eight days after it was born, and only then the woman is allowed to leave her Ikiriri bed. The eighth child is also named after the number eight, Umunani, which is the number of cows given as a dowry for the woman that got married. For those who don’t know, the name of the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ghana’s Kofi Annan, means “Friday the Ninth-born” (Kofi – Friday, Annan – ninth born child)!

GorillaIn the recently held, now already traditional, Kwita Izini Ceremony of naming young gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park, the world renowned actor Don Cheadle was the godfather of Zoya, and the name was chosen by numerous internet users for one of 11 baby gorillas. Another famous and world renowned godfather, wildlife photographer Luo Hong, took a young cub named “Waka Waka” under his protection. The rest of the gorillas, as you can guess, got their own native and descriptive names.

The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, was the godfather of twins named Byishimu (“Lucky”) and Impanu (“Gift”), and names were also given to Kunga (“Peacemaker”), Izuba (“The Sun”), Isoni (“Shy”), Ubufatanye (“Cooperation”), Kubana (“To live together”), Icyerekezo (“Vision”), Inkurwa (“Beloved”), and Itsinzi (“Victory”). The festivities were held at the foot of the extinguished Sabyinyo Volcano that looks exactly like its name says – a rotten old man’s tooth!

I can freely say that in Africa, and especially in my Rwanda, the old Latin proverb “Nomen est omen” (“The name is an omen”) fully realizes its meaning.

Father Vjeko Center

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