Much significance is placed upon the types of names parents give their newborns. Although this is true across the planet, in Africa, the name a child is given carries a lot of significance, often serving as a reminder of the circumstances a child was born in.
//Khae-#gao, meaning comfort in Damara language, is name commonly given to a child whose close family member or parent has died prior to a child’s birth. Meanwhile, #gom-e tama or Buruxa, meaning unbelievable or a wonder are names given to a child born in impossible situations, or one that survived miraculously.
It is not different for the Oshiwambo culture. Mwalengwa is a name that can be given to a child whose parents have trying unsuccessfully to have a child for a long time, and have endured mockery from community members, finally when their child is born the name will serve as a counter jeer towards their mockers.
Lecturer at the University of Namibia (Unam) and observer of the Oshiwambo culture, Petrus Angula Mbezi agrees, “These names are given to affirm historical records. They serve as part of history. If there was an election during the year the child was born, generations afterwards will know because some child’s name will reflect it.” He adds, “The practice is still very strong to this day. Many will even prefer to have a traditional than a Western one and they use it as a decolonising strategy.”
However not every traditional is desirable and some names reflect a bitter moment in the parent’s lives. Some would rush to change such seemingly unpleasant names, but others have embraced them.
Former local rapper M2DY, real name, Alpheus Nasheya whose home name is Matudi says that as a child, growing up with the name was extremely difficult. “From six to 13 it was not easy. Other kids made fun of me for having a name which means faecal matter. When a person says ‘Matudi’ it’s like you are a piece of shit. But after I turned 13 I started having fun with the name. When I turned 15, I started to take pride in that name,” Nasheya recalls.
He says meeting different people as he grew made him grow to appreciate his own name. He says, “Even though I have given my son a Christian-European name, John, I cannot give you a concrete reason as to why I do that. That’s why I had to give him a traditional name, my grandfather’s name.” Nasheya still has not found exactly why his father gave him the name. Whenever he has sat his father down to enquire, he told him he felt like doing that. “To this day my father would call me that name. He would say; ‘Omatuthi gandje ngo’ which would loosely translate as my ‘That is my sh*t, and I know he is very proud of me. It is a name I am proud of.”