Great Benin Bronze


Friday, 03 May 2013 00:00 

By Oghogho Obayuwana Art - Arts 

MAN is what his name says. That statement, being profoundly true from the spiritual point of view leaves the rest of us to struggle to appreciate how that knowledge plays out in life. The experiencing of the statement in real life goes without saying.

Current research findings today show that African names are front liners in terms of conveying a meaning. It seems out of place in these parts to have such names as Bush for instance or Lawless (Yes, the new political Counsellor of the US Mission in Nigeria is Mr. Gregory Lawless) or glassstone.

The African name always carries a meaning corresponding to the circumstance surrounding the birth of the child, the karmic threads attached to him/her as sensed by the parents. Then there is also the happenings of significance around the time the child is born or a particular hope that his coming evokes as well as other emotions bordering on wishes or even unfulfilled expectations.

This consciousness is deeply rooted. Which is why a man particularly from the western part of Nigeria would take offence if his name is wrongly pronounced. The protest and indignation surrounding such howler stems from the fact that the tonal “murder” gives the name what was never intended or envisaged. And those who are aware of the errors then jeer and scoff as a toast to the fact that the meaning behind the names must never be lost.

So what lies behind a name? As an illustrative paradigm of the subject, the cultural anthropology of sorts that became of the child naming ceremony of a baby boy born into the home of Senator Ehigie Uzamere by his first son-Osaze recently in Abuja, comes handy. An architect by training and a politician by practice, senator Uzamere invited a coterie of the political class, fellow lawmakers, business associates, family friends and a splinter of persons of Edo origin to a spectrum to the ceremony which was holding exactly one week after delivery. As an epitome of Edo culture, nuances were freely used to demonstrate the fact that a man is lost if the finer elements of his roots are not carefully woven into significant acts such as naming ceremonies and much else.

Vocal music, excitement, camaraderie and much more was in the air. There was a role for everyone. The senator’s wife, Mrs Joy Iriagbonse Uzamere was the lead chorister, Uzamere’s personal assistant Frank Osayaende was the orchestrator and Hon Samson Osagie would gesture from time to time indicating if anything was being left out. In Africa it is said that the child only primarily belongs to the parents while it is given that every adult in the community is a part-parent to the child.

From the beginning of the ceremony, there is a big aplomb around the child even if it is sleeping. Then the chorus bearing gratitude to the almighty father and all the ululation. Interestingly, names that used to covey special favours from certain gods or that seek to hold such gods in awe have slowly given way to names proclaiming the supremacy of the Almighty Father...

And the names rained down in torrents. Owing to the depth of their meanings, one can only translate literally most of the time.

For instance, what was behind the name: Osagbemwen-orue earlier given in the senator’s household? Man of the people Uzamere had just escaped an assassination attempt. Osagbemwen-orhue literarily means God has bathed me with white chalk. The white chalk, it is learnt, symbolises victory and purity. Rubbing it on the body particularly the face connotes that a person has been favoured and wants to demonstrate this visibly to his fellow men.

Then very recently another child was born, this time to another of his sons- Osamwonyi. Do not mind the common English and Biblical names that also flew around. Emmanuel, Samuel and the rest. It was the African names that were always going to catch attention. And the names started pouring: Orobosa! (It is in the hands of The Almighty), Ehioze (the personal god is the reason...), Etin-osa (the power of the Lord), Izosa (I have chosen God), Iyegbenosa (I have given my life body to God), Osarumwense (God has done well for me) Osamudiame (God stands by me, Netete (The one who does not recede or suffer ignominy).


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