Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Igbo Names and the Naming Ceremony Part II

I posted a challenge question eight days ago and it’s still waiting for an answer! You can read the post here. The question was about Igbo names and the words for God contained in our son’s names – Chinakueze and Chukwugekwu. What are the Igbo words for God in those names? A copy of the anthology with my story to the person with the first correct answer!

Igbo names almost always mean something. My husband’s first name, Clement, was adopted from the colonial masters and missionaries. But his middle name – Chukwukadibia – is deeply Igbo! I’ll tell you the meaning in a later post, so I don’t give away the answer to my challenge!

I promised you more of the story of the naming ceremony for our first son, Chinakueze. I shared it this evening with a group of friends in our Grandmother’s Group; here is more for you. The first part is in the post from four days ago. I left off when we were in the village, and my baby was crying as Clem’s uncle greeted the guests who responded with a shouted, “Kwenu!”

I knew breaking kola was the first major agenda item of any Igbo event. Ejike reached down and took one of the kola nuts from the plate in front of him. “With this kola I offer thanks to our ancestors,” he said in Igbo as he held up the kola for everyone to see.

“The ancestors have honored us by making our son Clement a chief engineer. They honored us by giving him a wife from America. Now they have blessed us with a son.”

He broke the kola nut he’d been holding into three pieces, took one himself and placed the rest on the plate. Then he called several young men to carry the other trays of kola nuts to pass to everyone present, men first, then the women. When everyone had a piece, jugs of palm wine and bottles of Star beer were brought out and served.

Star beer

Star beer, a popular drink

Most men had their own calabash gourds with them. Some, I suspected, had started their drinking earlier in the day.

Years later, as his son Jonathan ascended the ranks in the Anglican Church in Nigeria, Ejike became a Christian. But now there was no reference to God and no amen. I wondered what my mother would have thought. I guessed she would have been as thrilled as I was to experience this non-Christian way of initiating a baby into the family.

Ejike took the baby from me and held him up before the crowd.

Ndi be anyi, kwenu, my people, rejoice.” The guests responded with another shouted Kwenu. “I have given this child the names Chinakueze Iwenofu.” He poured a libation of palm wine on the ground as he said, “I consulted the Dibia who said the ancestors approve.”

The baby was handed around to all the senior men. Then the women took turns holding him. He was passed back to me as the women brought out and served the food they’d cooked during the night.

After everyone had eaten their fill of jollof rice, garri, pounded cassava and okra soup, an Igbo men’s dance troupe performed, accompanied by drums, the high-pitched wooden Igbo flute, and Igbo maracas. This Men and Mask YouTube video has a masquerade, which we didn’t have at that ceremony, but the men’s dance was like this one. Then the women, the same group who had cooked and served the food, began to dance.

Would I dance with them? What do you think? You’ll find out next time.

And I must add two notes – one sad and one happy.

One is a link from Professor Vinnie Ferraro’s blog, World Politics News, who posted a paragraph about the kidnapping of the Nigerian girls.

The other is that Kerry Washington, the actress, and her husband gave their baby girl an Igbo middle name – Amarachi. Part of it means God – so that’s a clue to the challenge question I posted at the beginning. Can you answer?

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.


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  3. Chukwu is the supreme, all powerful and all encompassing deity and Chineke is the creator of the world so my answer is that your eldest, Chinakueze, China, is from the name for the creator deity and your second son, Chukwugekwu, Sam, is from the name the supreme deity is known by.

    • Well done, Lynda! Thank you. You are correct, but I’m sorry to say you missed being first by a couple of hours. Chinakueze means God is the one who creates kings. Chukwugekwu is God will speak.