The Ovazemba, Caprivians and Kavango Traditional naming ceremonies- Part 3

The Ovazemba

The person in charge of naming takes up a stirring stick with which the maize mush has been cooked. He removes a little piece of porridge and puts it on the end of the stick, briefly moistens the morsel in meat sauce, then presents it to the mother. The mother not being able to touch the food with both hands makes an effort to take it with her mouth. But before she can do so, another woman one of the group assistants, anticipates her and with rapid movements frustrates her attempts. The game is repeated until the mother succeeds in swallowing any portion greedily. Then the highest point of the ceremony arrives. The name-giver rubs the child with butter and raises the child to the sky and then leans to the east, then to the west and finally shouts out the name. (Estermann, 1979:25)

The Caprivians

Among the Caprivians two naming ceremonies are celebrated namely the naming ceremony for a new-born baby and the naming ceremony for bestowing the name of a deceased upon a living child. The naming ceremony for new-born baby is done as follows: First the mother spends a time in seclusion after the birth with some women who take care of her. Men are allowed to go and visit her to see the baby but are not allowed to touch her dishes as it is believed that they will contract diseases should they attempt to do so. After the umbilical cord has fallen off the actual naming of a baby is done. The father and the mother take turns in naming the baby but the father often plays a dominant role. When any of them suggests a name, he/she asks the other party to consult her/his parents on the quality of the name. After the approval of the name by the parents of a person who is not responsible for naming a child, the feast is organized. The maize is cooked and eaten. The grandmother approaches the child and puts the string of beads around its necks saying you are so and so. The attendants throw maize grains on the child and children are also allowed to do it. The actual naming is accompanied by dancing in honour of the child.

Closely allied to the naming of a new-born baby is the bestowing of the name of the deceased upon his/her living child. This ceremony is done a year after the death of a person. The relatives of the dead come together at night when the moon is full. They discuss and decide which child should take the name of its parent which is usually the eldest child. They hold discussions while the children are asleep and they whisper when they discuss so that the children do not hear the discussion. One of the relatives is then sent to collect the charcoal. The child to be given the name of the deceased is collected and a relative of its father puts a string of white beads around its neck. Such a relative also throws the coal at a child while announcing its name saying you are so and so. Each relative also throws the coal at a child. The participants then start dancing saying the dead is brought back to the village. They often say: Mayolo (inherit) or Choliso (inherit a name). A room is then built for the child in which it should sleep. Early in the morning a mat is brought for the child (and its wife) if it is married. Afterwards a bowl is brought and the participants put in gifts for the renamed person. People take beer and eat meat. The ceremony takes a day and a half (Interview with Honorable Raphael Mbala in 2004).

The Kavango

The name is bestowed upon the baby early in the morning in the house at the entrance of the hut of the mother. The grandmother and neighbours are invited to witness the event. The mother holds the baby which she hands over to the grandmother to announce. The grandmother holds up the baby and says: You rare so and so saying the name which the father told her. After announcing the name she hands back the baby to the mother. The spectators ululate and give shouts of praise and dance. The baby given is given siranda (traditional beads) which it wears around necks, on both hands and legs. The oil is applied to her whole body and the attendants smears themselves with the oil as well. The barks of mugoro tree may also be used instead of the siranda. The baby is given the skin of Mbulu to wear it around the neck and on both hands and legs in order for it to become powerful in its life and the skin of ruthimba is worn by the child to protect it against illness. The child is named after one of its deceased relatives in order to reincarnate him/her. Some clans apply the herbal liquid to the body of a child instead of oil. The liquid is also sprinkled over the attendants. At the end of the ceremony people help themselves to the food and drinks (interview with Rev. Paul Muha in 2008). PF