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THE RELEVANCE OF NAMING CEREMONY IN NATIONAL
DEVELOPMENT
A STUDY OF THE YORUBA NAMING CEREMONY
BY
SALAWU MOJISOLA DAMILOLA
NSU/ART/934/12/13
A LONG ESSAY SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE
REQUIREMENT FOR THE COURSE: TCS 414: CULTURE AND NATIONAL
DEVELOPMENT
DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE AND CULTURAL STUDIES
NASARAWA STATE UNIVERSITY, KEFFI
COURSE LECTURER
BARCLAYS FOUBIRI AYAKOROMA, phD
APRIL, 2017.
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TABLE OF CONTENT
1. Introduction ------------------------------------------------------------1
2. The Yoruba people ------------------------------------------------------3
3. The Yoruba naming ceremony -----------------------------------------4
4. The relevance of the naming ceremony in national development14
5. Conclusion ---------------------------------------------------------------15
6. Works cited ---------------------------------------------------------------16
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INTRODUCTION
Culture makes a society; in every society, there must be a culture which
distinguishes the people and makes them special from everyone else. Culture
gives the people an identity and it helps to shape their thoughts, behavior,
beliefs, norms and values.
In the words of E.B Tylor an anthropologist;
Culture can be seen as that complex whole which includes knowledge,
belief, art, morals, law, customs or any other capabilities and habits
acquired by man as a member of society. Culture, accordingly
encompasses those conventional understandings and practices which give
a people its uniqueness and thus renders such a people distinct from
others (67).
The cultural policy for Nigeria states that;
Culture is the totality of way of life evolved by a people in their attempts
to meet the challenge of living in their environment, which gives order
and meaning to their social, political, economic, aesthetic and religious
norms and modes of organization thus distinguishing a people from their
neighbours (68).
Culture has made adaptation easier for man by providing the necessary
skills and knowledge man needs to adapt to his physical environment.
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These knowledge and skills can also be preserved and transmitted from
one generation to another. Through culture, man has an identity which
forms his personality and helps him design his way of life, thereby
promoting his physical environment and contributing to national
development.
According to Emenyonu;
“Development has to do with the realization of the potential of human
personality and of social integration (10).
During this work, I came to understand that the names we Nigerians, especially
the Yoruba bear did not come by accident or through guesses, but instead these
are names that whispers hope, courage, power, love, and joy into each other and
every one of us. If we pay keen attention to the significance and meaning of our
names, we will discover that we are true reflection of our names. The Yorubas
believe that given names are so profound, meaningful, and powerful, and that
the names children bear can influence their entire life cycle. For example; a
child who bears the name of a known thief will most likely become a thief, and
a child who answers the name of a past ancestor is more likely to preserve
his/her origin.
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THE YORUBA PEOPLE
The Yoruba people which are often refer to as “Awon omo Yoruba” which
literally means “Children of Yoruba” are an ethnic group of south-western and
north-central Nigeria. The Yoruba constitute over 40 million people in total.
According to the CIA World Fact book, the Yoruba are one of the largest ethno-
linguistic groups, and they constitute about 21 percent of the population of
modern day Nigeria.
Majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language which is tonal and they have
the largest number of native speakers.
The Yoruba share borders with the Bariba to the northwest in Benin; the Nupe
to the north, and the Ebira to the northeast in central Nigeria. Within Nigeria,
the Yoruba dominates the western part of the country. They live in the states of
Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo. The Yoruba are known for their
excellent craftsmanship, and this is considered to be the most skilled and
productive in all of Africa.
Traditionally, they worked at such trades as blacksmithing, leather working,
weaving, glass-making, and wood carving.
Yoruba mythology holds that all Yoruba people descended from a hero called
Odua or Oduduwa.
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According to Ogunfiditimi; “The Yoruba indigenous religion is structured on
the following belief: belief in the supreme deity; belief in divinities; belief in
ancestral spirits, belief in moral order, and belief in the hereafter”.(139)
In Yoruba land, the name for the supreme Deity is Olodumare or Olorun. What
this implies is that God to the Yoruba is not merely an abstract concept, a vague
entity, but a veritable reality. The name depicts their understanding of God.
Apart from the names, the supreme Deity possesses attributes ascribing traits,
properties, qualities or characteristics to him. These demonstrate how the
Yoruba perceive God and their relationship to the creatures. It is to this supreme
Deity that the Yoruba direct their worship and supplications through the lesser
gods. Their oral tradition includes; praise poems, tongue twisters, hundreds of
prose, narratives and riddles, and thousands of proverbs.
THE YORUBA NAMING CEREMONY
In Yoruba land, naming ceremony is an event whereby families, relatives and
friends come together from far and near to celebrate the arrival of a new child.
This ceremony normally takes place on the eighth day after the child is born.
The Yoruba people love celebrations; they celebrate life whenever they have the
opportunity to do so. Lots of guests who are family members, relatives, and
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friends are invited by the parents of the new child, different kinds of food like
Moi-Moi (steamed bean cake), Ewedu, Gbegiri, Efo-riro, Inyan (pounded yam),
Pepper soup, Rice, Eba (cassava mashed) Egusi soup, and Amala are cooked
for the ceremony.
The ceremony takes place in the home of the paternal grandfather of the baby.
Before the ceremony, the baby's mother is not allowed to eat salt, sugar or
pepper from the time she gives birth until the baby's naming ceremony. This is
done to help the mother reduce any pregnancy ailments and high blood
pressure. On the morning of the naming ceremony, a special stew packed with
Iru (locust beans), dried fish, and pieces of dried smoked bush rat is made. This
is what the baby's mother is allowed to eat, and this signifies the end of the
special diet she was put on. Early that morning, the baby is stripped naked, and
the iru, dried fish, dried rat stew is applied on the baby's joint and a tiny bit to
the tip of its tongue. Of course, a baby who has been feeding on breast milk is
usually not impressed by this new taste and let's everyone know by screaming
down the place.
An elder in the family carries out the ceremony. He/she receives the child from
the mother and performs the naming ritual.
The ritual is performed using different items like oyin (honey), omi (water), iyo
(salt), epo (palm oil), obi (colanut), orogbo (bitter cola), atare (alligator pepper),
oti (liquor), ireke (sugar cane), owun ikowe (pen), iwe mimo (book), and owo
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(money). All these have a special meaning in the world view of the Yoruba to
pray for the new child.
HONEY (OYIN)
Honey is present for the child to be as sweet as honey to his community and
most importantly for him not to be ostracized by his people when he grows to
adult hood.
WATER (OMI)
As water has no enemy, and as the child drinks water; he will be free of
misfortune and that child will have a peaceful long life.
SALT (IYO)
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Salt is important to any food for its palatability. So must the child be to his
community. When any person is said to be as salt to his people, it means he
brings joy, happiness, and even sweetness where there is bitterness.
PALM OIL (EPO)
African palm oil is used for series of medicinal purposes, both positive and
negative. This is used for naming the child so that when he grows up, he will
make a positive use and not disuse of it.
COLANUT (OBI)
Some colanuts have two carpels, some three, some four, some five, and some
six which is the highest number of carpels they can have. Usually we use the
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