[Special Episode]

The Power of Names

What is the meaning or reason behind your name?

Join us as we embark on a journey exploring the power of names. At the 2023 Nairobi Design Festival's Afrika Design booth, we invited our community to share the stories and meanings behind their names. We extend our sincere gratitude to all who took part. In this episode, expect a diverse array of names from various communities and continents, along with a special story from Abigail. Thank you for being a valued member of the Nairobi Design community. Your support is truly appreciated.

Stay tuned and immerse yourself in the culture of naming!

This is the eleventh episode under the ‘Shifting Narratives’ program supported by the British Council SSA Arts.

*For the best experience, please use a headset/earphones.

IG: @nairobidesign_

Website: nairobi.design

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Producer: Hi, my name is David King'ori. I'm the current producer of the show. If you've been tuning in, then you may have noticed by now that there's something we like to do at the beginning of each episode, and that is to ask our guests the meaning or the reason behind their name.

[00:00:14] Names can shape our destiny or our future. They carry personal, cultural,

familial, and historical connections. They give us a sense of who we are, the communities in which we belong, and our place in the world.

[00:00:28] This year we decided to expand this question to our community. We did this at the Africa Design Booth during the 2023 Nairobi Design Festival. We'd like to thank everyone that came through and talked to us. So for this episode, expect names from different communities, continents, and a special story by Abigail.

[00:00:47] Thank you for tuning in. We appreciate your support. And thank you for being a part of the Nairobi Design community.


[00:00:56] Wawira Munyaka: Hello, my name is Wawira Munyaka. Welcome to Afrika Design Podcast. Well, my name Wawira, it means hard worker. So I was named after my grandmother. After her trait, she was hardworking. And Munyaka means lucky. So Wawira comes from the Embu community. I'm half-caste, or half Embu half Kamba. So, Wawira is hard worker and Munyaka means lucky. So that is my surname from my dad. That's his middle name. 

[00:01:26] Theresa Nanjala: Hi everybody. My name is Theresa Nanjala Lubano. I'm very excited to be, you know, speaking on my first podcast ever. So what drew me to come here and speak is I saw a narrative out here about, you know, that the, it's it's idea around identity and the fact that we as Afrikans don't speak enough about our work and more so about the meanings of our names.

[00:01:52] So I'd like to share what my name means because it's very meaningful to me. I was born in July and in the Luhya community, when you're born in July, it's considered a very cold month, a very cold season where I come from. Crops are still growing. It's raining hard, and normally it's a time for hunger.

[00:02:18] So Nanjala is from a Luhya word that means Enjala. Which simply means to

hunger. And my name is of great significance to me because I have a hunger for great design and I'm happy to be here today for the Nairobi Design Festival which is happening in Nairobi, Kenya. And yeah, I mean for me, I'd love to know or at least see platforms like this which give artists, designers, and anyone a platform to just sort of speak about their identity, where they come from because I think it's part of this that is a preservation of our own heritage and we need to start doing this otherwise we get lost in other cultures. And thank you for the opportunity. 

[00:03:05] Hillary Amondi: Hi guys. my name is Hillary Amondi. The meaning behind Amondi is that I was born at dawn, so in the Luo culture we named people according to seasons, the time they were born, whether they're twins or not. And I happened to be born at dawn, so my name is Amondi. Yeah. 

[00:03:22] Wamaitha: Wamaitha, I was named after my grandmother who was my mom's mother, and she was really dear to me. She was the greatest grandmother ever and Njimu is like a family name. 

[00:03:36] Theresa Atieno: Hello, my name is Theresa Atieno. My first name came from my grandmother, who's called Theresia, and my second name comes from Atieno, which is jioni (evening). it means jioni in Kijaluo.

[00:03:53] Nishant: Okay. My name is Nishant. I come from, uh, India, so a community in central India. And my name means I'm never calm. 

[00:04:02] James Kagwe: So, hello guys. My name is James Kagwe. I'm from the Kikuyu community but when I was born I was actually given a nickname by my mom's Maasai friends.

[00:04:12] It was Sankale. So, the name basically meant one who brings peace in times of war because, uh, when mom was expectant, she used to go visit them a lot. And so when I was born, they felt like I was a member of their community because that kind of signified the... it like was symbol to officiate the friendship. And I'm actually very proud of that name.

[00:04:37] Sachi: My name is Sachi. I come from the Gujarati culture and when picking out our names, they use the time that you were born and you know, the religious aspects of it to create some sounds. And then through those sounds you can, you can create a couple of different names. And so that's how my parents came up with the name Sachi. Sachi in Gujarati means truth. And so that's the meaning behind my name. 

[00:05:05] Nancy Robi: My name is Nancy Robi. I'm from the Kurian community. Robi, my second name is a common name in Kuria, basically most of the girls, first-borns. They usually get named Robi or Bhoke. 

[00:05:20] Njeri: Okay. So my name is Njeri. I am Mumbi's daughter from the Kikuyu Land, Kirinyaga to be precise. And I'm really happy to be here. And it really warm my heart to see what everyone is doing. All the creatives creating and making warming our hearts. 

[00:05:38] Vincent Odhiambo: Hi everyone. I'm Vincent Odhiambo Otieno. So Odhiambo means evening in my dialect, it's called the Luo. And Otieno means night. So I was born in the evening towards nighttime on there 1st of June.

[00:05:54] Were: Alright, so the story behind my name, my name is Were. The story behind it, I asked my mom why she called me Were because it means so many different things. It can mean singing in my language. It can mean God and it can mean talented. So my mom was like, well, you can't really name somebody after God. So I named you Were because I wanted you to be talented. So Were, talented. 

[00:06:19] Abigail Nyokabi: Hi, this is my first time doing this. My name's Abigail Nyokabi, like Abigail the wise woman from the Bible. My mom's a Maasai, my dad's a Kikuyu. I love them very much. I have a lot of loving cousins. I love my life. I praise God and I fear him. My favorite color is pink and purple. My favorite food is rice and chicken. I want to tell you guys a story about a turtle. 

[00:06:50] So one day there lived a turtle and there was drought in that forest. So the

heavens, angels called all the birds to come and eat as a feast. So the angels said that they had to come with a leader. So all the birds went to ask "Owl, Owl, please may you be our leader so that we can go to heaven and feast". Owl said, "no. I have two big eyes". So the birds continue to ostrich. They said, "ostrich, please, can you be our leader to go to heaven to have a feast?"

[00:07:29] Ostrich said, "no. I have two long legs". When Turtle heard that turtle told the birds, "I can be your leader to guide you to the journey to heaven". And so the birds agreed, but then turtle is asked the birds," how will I go and guide you to the heavens if I don't have wings?" Then one wise bird suggested all of them to pluck one of their

feathers and stick them to the turtle.

[00:07:59] So when they all did that, they started their journey to heaven. So they

continued. They continued. They continued. When they reached the gate of heaven, Turtle became smart and said, "my name will now change and become all of you." Now they got in, they were all refreshments, juice, biscuits. Then the tortoise came and asked the angels, "angels, whose food are these?"

[00:08:28] And the angels said, " for all of you." And remember that tortoise said that his name was all of you. So the Tortoise ate and ate and ate, the birds are very angry and hungry. So they continued dancing and lunch came. 

[00:08:45] The tortoise came and asked the angels, "angels, who are this food for?" And the angels said, "For all of you." Okay. The toys ate and ate and ate. The birds were hungry and hungry. Dinner came and then the tortoise came and asked the angel, "who are this food for?" And the angel said, "for all of you." And the toys ate. When it came time for bed, they slept, but the birds didn't sleep. They were very, very hungry and angry. So the wise bird said, "let's do this. Let's pluck all of our feathers back then fly back to Earth. So, when tortoise heard that, he was very angry and pleaded, "please, please don't pluck these wings out of me." They plucked all of them and he didn't even remain with one wing. Then Tortoise came and asked one bird, "please go and tell my wife to put soft things, mattresses, cushions, soft things." So the bird said yes. When they reached the journey, the bird went to the wife and then said, " your husband is at heaven. And he said that he's a very strong tortoise, so put hard things like metal, rock, stones. So the wife put. The tortoise couldn't see anything but his wife moving, moving around.

[00:10:11] So when the wife stopped coming out, when she already prepared the hard things. The tortoise said that the wife is already done putting the cushions and pillows.

So the tortoise jumped. The tortoise land at the pile of rocks and hard things and broke his shell. Then the wife came and said, "oh, tortoise, please don't die". "Oh, tortoise, please don't die." While putting his shell all together without even looking if it's well arranged. And that's why the tortoise has a rough shell. Thank you. 

[00:10:49] George Deshala: Hi, my name is George Deshala. I am a photographer. Originally, I'm from Angola. I've been studying in Mount Kenya University for like three years now. My last name is Deshala and the meaning behind it is we have stayed. And so, what's the bigger meaning behind it. It's like they have left, there's like other people have left, other people have given up. But it's like we have stayed, we have decided to stay. We have persevered. I've always found it interesting because it speaks to like

resilience, right? It speaks to resilience. It speaks to being able to withstand hardship, and to still be strong and to still stay. And the thing that I found most interesting is that it's not just I have stayed. It is like 'we' because it's plural. We have stayed and especially when you name a whole family that we have stayed. So it kind of makes you also think what kind of challenges, particular challenges that people were going through at the time, and then why they chose that name specifically. But yeah, I always found that interesting and I always love that.

[00:11:57] Wayne Mwangi: My name is Wayne Marandu Mwangi. I am half Kikuyu, half Mijikenda. Mijikenda are a coastal tribe of nine tribes. Miji meaning group and kenda meaning nine. And of the nine tribes, I am one of the tribes called Kambe who settled around the coast, around the middle maybe around Gede, Watamu area there.

[00:12:20] So Mwangi is a very common Kikuyu name. But Marandu which is my middle name, it means the persistent, or it can also translate to the desperate, which

basically means the person with that name is constantly trying. And even when they fail, they just get back up again and they try and they just keep trying.

[00:12:42] Gathoni: My name is Gathoni. I am Kikuyu. I'm not sure from which clan, but I was named after my Cucu. The name Gathoni comes from the word Thoni, which is sometimes shame, but my name means someone who's shy. I wouldn't say I'm shy, but yeah, I think I love my name especially because it's from my cucu.

[00:13:02] Joy: Hi, my name is Joy and in terms of the meaning of my name, when my mom was pregnant with me, she had a lot of complications and wasn't clear that I would be born. And so when I was born and I was healthy, she was very happy, and that's why they named me Joy. 

[00:13:19] Aaliyah: So my name, I pronounce it Aaliyah. But the correct pronunciation, it's an Arabic name in Arabic, and it's pronounced Aaliyah and it means elevated, exalted. In Hebrew, it's pronounced Aaliyah, and it means a journey to a promised land. So when the Jews were traveling to Israel, they called it the Aaliyah and they also called the Aaliyah when they're in temple and they go to read from the Torah in front of

the congregation.

[00:13:47] My parents are Black Americans and they were involved in black radical

movements in United States. So my parents joined an organization called The Nation of Islam, and my parents, they changed their last names to X. So they wanted to completely cut off their relationship to their previous slave owners. So they renamed their children's with names that had meetings and that had no connections to their colonial past in America. So that's my name. The states we say Aaliyah, but everywhere else it's called Aaliyah. 

[00:14:19] Mowgli: Well, hello there, my dear friend. First of all, let's start with the basics. Mowgli an Italian word that means wife in English. But don't let that fool you. There's so much more to the name than just the simple translation. Mowgli is the name that exudes strength, grace, sophistication. It's the kind of name that commands attention and respect wherever it goes. Think of it like Regal Queen holding courts in a

grand palace. But the same time, Mowgli is also playful and full of life.

[00:15:04] It's the kind of name that inspires adventure, excitement, like mischievous pixie leading you on a wild and wonderful journey. So, when I introduce myself as Mowgli, you're not just saying my name. You're inviting people into the world of wonder where anything is possible and every day is a new adventure.

[00:15:29] Yeah. 

[00:15:30] Moraa: One of my names is Moraa. And Moraa is derived from the name of a plant, a medicinal plant called Emira. But Moraa is also the name of a woman in the 19th and 20th century who is a seer and and a medicine woman who led an anti-colonial resistance amongst the Gusii people. Another one of my names is Bosire, and Bosire means stubborn.

[00:15:55] Leah Ndumia: Hi guys. My name is Leah Ndumia Waihoine. And the meaning of my name that I know is Waihoine from Kikuyu, ihua means flower. So, Waihoine means the child who is born of flowers or like the flower child, like you belong to the flowers. Thank you. 

[00:16:14] Melissa: Hi, my name is Melissa. Melissa is a Greek name that means honeybee. My middle name is Anyonje. It's a Luhya name. I was named after my grandmother. I've been searching for the meaning of that name. So if anybody knows, please reach out. I'd love to know the meaning behind that. 

[00:16:30] Vittoria: Hey everyone. I'm Vittoria from Italy, Switzerland, Kenya. And I wanted to remind everybody to always be collaborative. Work together and let's reach better goals as a group.

Episode Credits

Produced by Nairobi Design

Host: Adrian Jankowiak

Producer: David King'ori

Shorts & Artwork: David King'ori

Music: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)

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