What shall we call her?

My name is Kambura. I was born on a rainy Friday in November in Nazareth Hospital. My dad couldn’t remember what it was called; he’d say he’s going to Jerusalem to see his newborn daughter. It still tickles Mom thirty-five years later.

My mother’s creativity had drained out in the labor that ended up being a Cesarean Section. Losing your creativity in delivery is no mean feat. The labor room is filled with uninhibited creativity —women who have never sang become choir soloists. Two-left feet swollen with edema break into dances, and the hapless husbands and nurses have to watch them do a naked Azonto. Peaceful women who can’t hurt a fly throw punches like boxers and insults like Mombasa touts. These sins are not recorded in God’s book; he did this to us.

So when the nurse asked, “what shall we call her?” Mom looked at the window, saw droplets of rain, and said, “Kambura.”

I got my second daughter three years ago, and Mr. K, a well-meaning Kikuyu who’s coming from a background where babies take all the names of their namesakes, said we’re calling my baby Ciakuthii. Ciakuthii is my mother.

I was mortified! I was still recovering from anesthesia, I still couldn’t feel my legs, but I wanted to go judo on his backside! No one is calling my daughter Ciakuthii in the 21st century! Cia … what now?

“But why not?” He asked.

My firstborn is named after his mother; it only made sense that this one named after my mother should take her native maiden name. Aiii, Ciakuthii wasn’t just cutting it. All the people from Chuka that I told le husbae wants to call my newborn daughter Ciakuthii were getting mini heart attacks. Even the original Ciakuthii herself wasn’t for the idea!

She was given a different, “more acceptable” name. Looking back, I wonder if I should have just called her Ciakuthii. Almost all Meru, newborn girls, are called Mukami, Mwende, Mwendwa, or Makena. All newborn boys are called Muthomi, Mutugi, or Mwenda. There are a few Munenes and Gatugis.

When did you last meet a three-year-old boy called Mũtegi? Or Mîcheni? Or Nkoru? Or a two-year-old girl called Ciambai or Mũkwanjerũ? The only people I forgive for not taking their ancestral names are the Tharaka. No one is holding a grudge against you for not calling your son Makambî or Makara or Kanyamba. We understand. Totally. No grudges there, kabisaaa.

‘Cia…, Mukwa…, Nya… and M’ names are extinct now. I had my Ciakuthii chance and wasted it. Or not. I’m not sure I’d use it if I’m given a second chance to call her Cia-anything.

Do other tribes have names they don’t use anymore? I’d love to know.

And does anyone know what Nkirote, Kanario, Naitore, or Ncabira means? Or Kinoti?

2 thoughts on “What shall we call her?

  1. Wow…..you have made my day! The hilarity, my goodness. I hadn’t encountered anything to laugh about since morning. Not even a chuckle, can you imagine?
    Seriously though, some Ameru names sound so nice. I kind of love Nkirote. Oh and there is Makena! What of Gatwiri, or ”Twiri” for short! And Kendi….? I could go on and on.
    Happy Mothers Day by the way and thanks for the post. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


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