The significance of child naming in the Rwandan Culture

In the Rwandan culture, birth is the first rite of passage. In the earlier days when a baby was born, it was kept indoors for at least eight days and that also applied to its mother.
Doreen Umutesi
Doreen Umutesi

In the Rwandan culture, birth is the first rite of passage. In the earlier days when a baby was born, it was kept indoors for at least eight days and that also applied to its mother.

After the eight days, friends and relatives would visit the household and bring gifts. It was this time that the baby was shown in public for the first time so that it can be given a name.

Child naming in Rwanda is still a tradition that is performed today although some events have changed overtime. 

In most cases it’s the father of the child who chose a name. He selected one name from the different names brought forward by family and friends during the ‘Child naming’ ceremony which is traditionally called ‘Kwita Izina.

These days, the ceremony kicks off with prayers to bless the whole function since it’s an important moment in a child’s life. In conclusion, the child’s parents are also included in prayers so that they can be blessed in order to get as many children as possible. In the earlier days, having many children was prestigious.

Usually, the child’s first name is after their grandfather, great grandfather, or a hero. However, with modernity more parents are naming their children after their favourite celebrities.

After the child is named, the guest cheer and applause—usually the women at the ceremony do this.

The significance of this ceremony is to welcome newborns into the family. It’s also because many parents would name their children after embarrassing moments in their lives. A funny or embarrassing name often affects the child while growing up or later in life. For instance they can be bullied while at school because of the meaning of their name. 

The commonest Kinyarwanda saying discouraging people from naming their children after embarrassing moments in life states, “Ngo so ntakwanga akwita nabi,” literally meaning ‘if your father gives you an embarrassing name, it doesn’t necessary mean that he hates you.”

 

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