Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Boko Haram in Nigeria and Conclusion of Naming Ceremony

Boko Haram has captured headlines around the world. I’m sure you have been reading about the abducted girls from northern Nigeria. The writer Tim Cocks describes the decline of Nigeria’s military in recent decades and why the country is finding it so difficult to challenge the Islamist insurgents successfully in this excellent article from Reuters.

Teju Cole

Teju Cole and his novel Open City

I want to give you a link to a blog called Brittle Paper that I recently started following. The blogger’s current post starts with a piece about the Nigerian writer Teju Cole, author of the highly aclaimed 2011 novel Open City, which I’m listening to nowand the more recent novella Every Day is for the ThiefHe wrote a piece in The New Yorker about the abducted girls, reflecting on what they must be thinking.

And here is the final installment of the story about the naming ceremony for our older son. You can find the first two installments by scrolling down or clicking here for the first, and here for the second.

I ended the second installment at the moment when the women in the group ndi nutara di started to dance, and I asked if you thought I would join them

Bia, gba egwu. Come dance with us.” Obele, the wife of Clem’s most senior uncle Ejike, pulled me up to join her. (She’s in the center of the photo at age 90. At the time of the naming ceremony she would have been 42.) Rosa took the baby as I rose and joined the circle.

Obele with our son Sam and my husband Clem

Obele with our son Sam and my husband Clem

I found it easy to follow their steps and after a minute, lost my embarrassment and enjoyed the music, the movement, and the feeling of belonging. This was, after all, my group – the women married into the Onyemelukwe family. The crowd applauded, Clem most of all, as I sat down, sweating and dusty. The christening we planned to hold later at St. Saviour’s Anglican Church would seem tame, even boring, after this.

The stub of Chinaku’s umbilical cord had fallen off the day before we came to Nanka. Clem had told me to save it and bring it along for the ceremony. Now Papa asked me to bring it to him.

“I bury this cord which binds Chinakueze to Nanka, to our compound, and to our people forever,” he said. “Whenever he returns he will know that he belongs here. When he is away, he will always know that part of him is here.” He placed the cord in the hole that had been dug earlier near the wall between our compound and Ejike’s. I felt an incredible surge of emotion for the family that had embraced me so warmly. And I was sad that my family in the U.S. hadn’t been here to see and didn’t celebrate life events with such enthusiasm.

I returned to Lagos the next day, leaving a tiny part of my son behind in his father’s village. Would he feel this connection?  I knew that I did; it was now my village too.

Have you established a strong connection to a place that you came to know as an adult and you can now call your own? Where and how did this happen for you?


Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. Excellent, very touching because of your gentle style. Thanks… BTW the Reuters story link didn’t work… and I can’t find the article, can you please repost?