Lou: the Kenyan community that names babies after U.S. presidents and famous events

Stephen Nartey April 03, 2023
Photo credit: Flickr

Naming a child is considered a very momentous occasion in some parts of the African continent, mainly because a name is an integral part of one’s identity. In some cultures, a name links a child to a specific tribe or family and may be purposely chosen for the preservation of a family lineage. That is why some children are named after their grandparents in certain African cultures.

The Luo ethnic group in Kenya pays particular attention to the time and season of a child’s birth. When a child is born at night, for instance, the baby is named Atieno for a female or Otieno for a boy, according to the cultural atlas. Children are also named based on the circumstances of their birth or significant events that occurred during the pregnancy. However, in recent years, there has been a trend toward adopting famous names for children.

This trend has emerged due to several reasons. Firstly, parents want their children to have names that are recognizable and easy to pronounce. By choosing famous names, they ensure that their child’s name is not mispronounced or misspelled. Secondly, parents believe that by giving their children a famous name, they are instilling a sense of pride and confidence in them. They feel that their child will be proud to bear the name of a famous person and will aspire to achieve great things like their namesake.

When President Barack Obama was elected into office, many parents of Lou origin named their children Obama. When he visited the country in 2015, some parents reportedly named their children Airforceone, and many parents are known to have named their children Churchill or Clinton, following the ascension of these prominent figures to their respective high offices.

Though quite unpopular, some Lou-speaking parents have named children after Donald Trump. The defense is the belief in his staunch principles. Which of these principles it is, they believe the children will imbibe while they grow up, according to the BBC.

Lastly, Luos’ adoption of famous names is seen as a way of preserving the community’s cultural heritage. Many famous names in Kenya are culturally significant and associated with important historical or cultural figures. By giving their children these names, parents are ensuring that their culture is passed down to future generations.

Overall, the trend towards adopting famous names in the Luo community reflects the importance of names in Kenyan culture, and the desire of parents to give their children the best start in life by choosing a name that will bring them good fortune in the future.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: April 3, 2023


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