Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Kenyan mother names son "Air Force One"

This could be old news to Kenyans, but it came to my attention only recently.

When I read recently that a mother in Kenya named his son Air Force One, born during President Barack Obama's visit to Kenya I thought that was odd. Odd, but culturally understandable.

Throughout African societies, naming tradition is influenced by significant events. And if a Kenyan parent decides that a US president's visit is significant, she has every right to think so. In Tanzania Chausiku is the name given to girls born at night. The name Abidemi in Yoruba is given to a child born during the father's absence. Esi in Akan means born on Sunday.

So if a mother gave birth as Air Force One was touching down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport recently we might raise eyebrows on the choice of name, but as far as African naming tradition goes, it is perfectly in order.

So I was surprised to learn that some Kenyans squirmed and cringed in reaction when a Kenyan news anchor ululated as she introduced President Barack Obama and his host President Uhuru Kenyatta at a Nairobi meeting.

Julie Gichuru of Citizen TV ululated, as many Africans do on festive occasions, as she ceded the floor to President Obama and her action drew some criticism from some Kenyans. I suspect it reminded these critics that Kenyans were Kenyans; that Africans are Africans. And that act, to those who embrace and extol other cultures, was the the most damaging act she could have projected to a world-wide audience.

The interesting part is that anyone who watches American audiences will notice that, they too, utilise a form of ululation, as a positive reaction to speakers, and at sporting events.

Not surprisingly, besides the criticism, I have seen some praise for her high-pitched welcome from other Kenyans.

1 comment:

Brian Singer said...

Very interesting! All of it but especially I never thought of the origin of Chausiku.