Child naming ceremony in Rwanda.
It’s inevitable that culture evolves and that some countries imitate a neighbor’s culture, adding that norms change according to time.
The ceremony of child naming is one of the many cultural practices that characterize any society. It brings out society’s proper identity, which is essential among all cultures.
In the olden days, when a baby is was given birth to, in Rwanda, he/she was kept indoors for at least eight days, which was also applied to the mother. Taking the baby outside before the naming ceremony is a taboo within the Rwandan culture. So, the child can only be taken out after the whole ceremony.
Child naming in Rwanda is a tradition that stems back to the ancestral period when it was still a work in progress.
It’s explained that after eight days, friends and relatives would bring gifts, as they visit the household. During this time, the baby would be introduced in public for the first time, and then the naming follows.
From then, the ancestral period, Until today, the child is named by the father, clan members, friends, and other well-wishers. The child naming ceremony is traditionally called ‘Kwita Izina—child naming.
The ceremony usually takes place in the evening. It usually starts with prayers to put the whole function in the hands of the Almighty and to ask the Highest to bless the family to get as many children as possible.
The guests, which comprise family and friends, will give their desired names and choose the one to be given to the child. In reality, proposing as many names as possible is considered and explained as a mere formality. The child can be named after the grandfather, great grandfather, a nationalist, or hero.
However, the father can also name the child after a great and heroic person within his lineages, such as his brother, sister, or aunt.
Unlike Baganda, a Bantu tribe in central Uganda who name their children according to clan names, except for children that are named after events such as earthquakes, wars, hunger festivities, and others; Rwandans don’t follow such criteria.
One of the Rwandan adages, the Kinyarwanda sayings, prevents people from naming their children after embarrassing moments in life. The adage goes: “Ngo so ntakwanga akwita nabi.”
Parents are advised to name their children after moments that don’t create discomfort to them as they grow. This is another functional element that has been introduced within the culture of the Banyarwanda.
Child naming is still a tradition that is performed today in Rwanda, although the routine has changed.
Today, couples think of names before the baby is even born, and sometimes there is no ceremony to give a baby a name.
The Rwandan law allows anybody who does not feel comfortable with his or her name to change it after consultation with the Ministry of Justice also.
But still, after the child has been named, there is cheering and applause, which is traditionally known as Impundu, which translates as congratulations. This is done by women present at the ceremony.
The Kwivuga rhetoric is made in phases by men only at the ceremony. Each of the men has to participate one by one. Kwivuga is intended to tell the economic achievements that have been registered by men, and this depicts the social status a man has; being ever held with high esteem in society. Men that are not well conversant with the Kwivuga are not respected in the Rwandan community.
Then, after that, since it’s a traditional ceremony, the traditional beer is served, gifts are also given to the new child, gifts comprising of cows and traditional linen, among others.
Cultural teachings are carried out by the elders present at the ceremony, to teach the younger generation about the importance of such traditional value, and to remind them to maintain such cultural value so that it doesn’t lose it’s importance.
The ceremony of child naming is one of those many functions that strengthen more the cultural values within Rwandan society; adhering to this cultural value brings the clan members together, it is a uniting factor among clans. Young children are also invited during such ceremonies in an act that is traditionally called Kurya ubunnyano – children’s special meals during the ceremony.
During the ceremony, couples are encouraged to produce as many children as possible since there is no hindrance like it is said in Kinyarwanda, “Musubireyo nta mahwa” which means go back there are no thorns; here thorns refer to problems that might be encountered due to many children.
Towards the end of the ceremony, a traditional beer known as agashinguracumu is served; this type of beer is the beer, which is the last to be served in honor of the child and visitors, and after the master of ceremony says that the function is over.
However, some inside family members stay to extend the celebrations till late chatting and partying. This is followed by accompanying the visitors leaving for their homes; this is done by the child’s father and mother.