Names and Identity in the Ghanaian Context

Naming ceremonies are important in Ghanaian communities regardless of their religious backgrounds. The child is named after a living relative, or an ancestor of the family and clan given a name with a biblical connotation. For example, the name Amete¦e (In place of) is given to a child who resembles a relative in the family who has died. The family consoles themselves with the belief that an important person who is lost to the family is being replaced. A given name during outdooring ceremonies could be Makafui ( I will praise Him) or Az⊃ko (At long last). Newborn babies are named on the eighth day after birth in a ceremony at dawn or in the early hours of the morning. These naming ceremonies are not Christian baptisms but indigenous practices that initiate the baby into the community and are accompanied by music making and feasting. Church baptisms are performed later in the life of the child or adult. During naming ceremonies, the newborn baby is given water and any local brewed gin to taste, symbolizing the facts of life, and to bless the child that he or she may be a truthful member in the community, and be able to differentiate good from evil when he or she grows up. In the Ewe community, the senior uncle or aunt from the father’s clan will dip his or her finger into the wine for the child to lick. The naming ceremony is performed by a relative of the baby’s father’s lineage because it is a patrilineal community. This practice differs from one ethnic group to another; the Akans perhaps may prefer the uncle from the mother’s side to be the master of the ceremony because they practice matrilineal inheritance.

Before the naming ceremony, however, the child is already called by the day of the week she/he is born. For example, when a baby girl is born on Monday (Dzoda), she will automatically be called, “Adzo or Adzoa.” If a boy’s birth occurs on a Monday, he is called “Kodzo, Kudzo or Kwadzo,” thus all Monday ‘borns’ share the same name. The spellings and pronunciations vary according to the language of the various ethnic groups.

Below is a chart of weekday borns:

The importance of the weekday names is manifested in daily living and activities. For example, when an important personality gets up to dance during a special occasion, he or she is extolled as “Adzo” “Afi”, “Akosua,” and so on. As a matter of fact, anyone who gets applause for doing an extraordinary deed is called by his birth name “Afi, Awo, Ame,” and so on. The feminine version is used in the appellation even if the recipient is a male.

Reference: Mary Priscilla Dzansi 2002, 'Some Manifestations of Ghanaian Indigenous Culture in Children’s Singing Games', University of Education, Weneba, Ghana, International Journal of Education & the Arts, Volume 3 Number 7  

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