At the Igbozue summer picnic, held Saturday, August 13, 2017 at Wharton Park, in North Haven, Connecticut, children and teenagers sat around wooden tables for an educational session of translating popular Igbo names into English.
God and man are two themes that attract enormous respect and honor in Igbo culture, said the instructor, Chibuike. This explains why lots of Igbo names begin with two prefixes: Chukwu–, or chi — [a short form of Chukwu], both meaning God, and Nna–, meaning a biological father, or a divine figure.
To translate many Igbo names, we only have to substitute the word Chukwu or chi with 'God' and replace the word Nna with 'father'.
Beginning with his name, Chibuike, and following up with several other examples, the instructor explained, "Chi [God] -bu [is] -ike [power] translates as 'God is powerful'. Chukwu-Emeka [one who has done well], which translates as 'God has done great things for me', is another familiar Igbo name. "
In Igbo society, the birth of a boy adds a path in the continuity of family longevity. Through the birth of a male child, a banner passes from the father to his son, someone who will continue the family lineage in a way not entirely guaranteed in female children, who after marriage tend to identify with their husband and his family.
Chukwu / Chi-dalu [thank you], meaning 'God, thank you,' is an Igbo name which expresses gratitude to God for wishes come true. A mother anxious for a baby girl after seven male children would likely call her newborn girl Chidalu.
Thousands of names come to life just by linking God / Chukwu or its mini version, chi-, to any notable events, blessings, regrets, revenge, supplication, wishes, or promises in the lives of parents and ancestors.
"Equally prominent among Igbo names," said Mr. Chibuike, "is the use of father [Nna] as a prefix." For obvious reasons, names of boys dominate in this category. Fathers in Igboland, particularly older men, are placed on a pedestal in a way almost comparable to God. Elders are the visible God seen by children, and their names bear witness to such understanding and cultural belief.
Nna [Father] -bu- [is] -ihe [something important] translates as 'my father is of importance'. This is a very familiar name among Igbo boys. Nna [father] -emeka [done very well], also seen in Chukwu [God] -emeka, underlines the equal importance of God and man in Igbo cultures and beliefs.
Mothers also feature in many Igbo names, with Nne [mother] as a prefix. But unlike Igbo names starting with God and father, showcasing power, strength, supplication and fear, names which start with Nne emphasize beauty, love, fruitfulness and other cultural attributes peculiar to Igbo women. And, as you may imagine, such names are reserved for girls.
Some fanciful Igbo names associated with mother include Nne [Mother] oma [pretty], which translates as 'the excellent mother'.
Ezi [perfect] -Nne [Mother], translates as 'a mother who could do no wrong' – a symbol of devotion – and Nne [mother] -ka [greatest] means the matchless mother, someone who is without comparison. Prettiness, caring, fertility, patience, attached to the 'Nne' prefix, make spectacular female Igbo names.
After listening to the instructor, the children were eager to say and translate their Igbo names into English. They were determined and successful to a surprising extent.
"Keep up with learning your Igbo names and words at home from your parents and relatives who speak the language," said instructor Chibuike as the fifteen-minute session ended.
After the language translation session, children played soccer while adults walked back and forth chasing bocce balls. The background music, together with the pepper soup, pizza, roasted corn on the cob eaten with coconut, fried rice with chicken, grilled hamburger and hot crispy kpofkpof, beer and wine kept the picnic running until sunset.
Igbos are a major tribe in Nigeria. Igbozue Connecticut USA is a nonprofit organization that facilitates social and cultural interaction between Igbos living in the state of Connecticut and Nigeria.