Friday, 21 November 2014

What's in a Name?

Today our daughter Nashipai celebrates her one week birthday. As we mark this milestone, one thing we are quickly finding out is that if you are to swim against the current, be prepared to answer questions at every turn. In our case, her name Nashipai Katindi Njonjo has been the subject of many conversations and curious whispers. The most interesting being, since traditionally our middle name is usually regarded as our 'real' name (the first being the 'given name' and the last being the surname), then, 'Why is she being named after Katindi instead of after my mother according to the Kikuyu custom?' And we have to explain that her name is not Katindi, it is Nashipai. Katindi Njonjo is her composite surname, although not hyphenated. Then instead of using the Kikuyu naming pattern strictly under which she would have been called Nyambura after my mother, we chose a name that reflects a character quality that most reminds us of my mother, hence Nashipai. Which is also controversial to some, since it is neither a Kikuyu nor a Kamba name (it is not even a Kiswahili name like Baraka or Neema - which many regard as fairly neutral and safe in our ethnically sensitive culture), but a Samburu one. Nchipai means happiness and also praise. Nashipai is the female name of the one who brings happiness and also an expression of praise in a divine context. My late mother, even with her modest education, was never shy of breaking new ground. She was a trade unionist in the factory where she worked even before I could walk. I am sure she would have been proud of both her latest grandchild and the names that she bears.