Naming: A Tool for the Preservation of the Historical and Cultural Heritage in Ghana

The importance of the cultures of people is undisputed and is proven by several empirical studies. Culture defines the makeup of societies. This includes their belief systems, norms, ideals, values and ethics. This makes it easier to preserve the good cultural gems of a people from one generation to the other. As part of the culture of a people, the naming trend is part of the beautiful culture of an ethnic society.

Names carry the historical episode of many societies. In Ghana, names are directly linked to historical events in the lives of the people or sometimes particular families. To illustrate, many children born in Ghana on the Wednesday 6th March 1957 when the country gained their independence from British rule were called ‘Kwaku Ghana’ (Kwaku- the name of a male child born on Wednesday) or ‘Akua Ghana’ (Akua- the name of a female child born on Wednesday) to remember this iconic moment in the history of the Ghanaian people.

Usually, persons are named after the event as a form of remembrance. A child is called ‘Nkyiridwo Kojo’ (A male child born on Monday when the Nkyiridwo festival was commemorated). This name links the person to his place of descent, thus, Essumeja in the Ashanti Region of Ghana which is the host community for the ‘Nkyiridwo’ (the tabooed Monday) festival. Some people were named after particular societal or national happenings. For instance, many families that experienced the famine sting in Ghana in 1983 named their family members born in the year after this unforgettable episode in their lives. Examples of such names include ‘Abrafi Kom’ (You came home in the period of famine). Interestingly, those who were born just when food became abundant were also called ‘Kofi Kumkom’ (‘Kofi’-A male child who is born on a Friday, ‘Kumkom’- who killed the famine or hunger).

Also, the ordeal or good moments that perfectly depict the situation a family was experiencing at the eve of one’s birth is given as names. For instance, a child is called ‘Antobere’ (Didn’t experience the pain) when the child came to enjoy the good times of the family and did not experience their poor and sad moments. A child may be called ‘Abebrese’ (Untold or intense pain) because the parents went through very tough times financially. It may also be as a result of the birth pains the child brought to the mother during his or her conception till s/he was finally delivered.

Furthermore, to remember the special trade or societal duty assigned to particular families in the society, their duty is mostly attached to their given names. For instance, members of a family from which spiritualists or traditional priests and priestesses that offers the traditional spiritual services in Ghana are born are given surnames ‘Akom’ (traditional priestly duty).

Moreover, many people are named after their family ancestors just to maintain their ancestry lineage and memories. Many Ghanaian parents sometimes name their children after the names of good personalities whose shining examples are worth imitating. The strong belief is that names reflect the attitudes of their bearers. Though this is not always true, it cushions the bearer to walk the worthy path of the original owner of the name. Indeed, names are repositories of the historical and cultural heritage of people and exert a huge impact on their bearers.

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