A Ghanaian naming ceremony usually happens when a child is born. Every child is given a name a week after they are born. A ceremony takes place with the relatives and close friends attending. It is also the time when the parents show the baby off for the first time, and the baby is seen outside the home. Naming ceremonies usually take place at dawn because it is believed that the dew at dawn is fresh and it represents the innocence of the newborn. On the day of the ceremony, the baby is named by an elder of the family. Alcohol and water are put on the tongue of the baby to let him or her know the difference between the truth and a lie. This signifies that the child is to speak the truth in every aspect of their life.
The community comes together with food and dance to celebrate the new name given. The first part of the name is based on the day of the week in which you were born. For example, if you are female and born on Friday, the first part of your name will be Afua. If you are male and born on a Friday, you will be named Kofi. The second part of your name would be considered your formal name.
In March of this year, I took a trip to Ghana. During my trip, my group and I got to take part in an Akan traditional naming ceremony in a small town called Aduamoah. The day started with my group and I meeting the people of the village. There was drumming and dancing. At the start of the ceremony, I was called up to the table where the chief elder and other elders sat. In front of me were two glasses with liquid in them. One of the elders stood in front of me and asked me to drink from the first glass. I took the glass and swallowed the liquid which was water. I then took the second glass, which was a type of alcohol, similar to Vodka. The elder asked what were in the glasses. I responded accordingly, “water” and “alcohol.” The elder confirmed by nodding and began to say that the moral of drinking the two glasses with liquid in them was to always tell the truth, no matter what happens in life, it is my duty to tell the truth.
After drinking the liquids and hearing the message to always be truthful, I turned to the chief elder of the village, and he gave me my Ghanaian name, “Your name is Adwoa Tenkoramaa.” Adwoa because I was born on a Monday and Tenkoramaa after one of the elders in the village. Once I received my name, I turned to the villagers, and everyone cheered. Upon completion of the ceremony, the women in the group took my hand, and we danced to the drums being played. I got to engage and embrace the women of the village, while they asked me so many questions. They were fascinated by the fact that I am an American, but look like them.
The day ended with my group and I being invited to the chief’s palace for drinks. We sat and talked with the chief elder for about an hour and learned about his family, his experience as Chief, and his day to day life living in the small town of Aduamoah.
Participating in the naming ceremony was such an honor. It was my favorite memory of my time in Ghana. I say my Ghanaian name proudly: Adwoa Tenkoramaa! The chief, elders, and people of the village welcomed me as if I was their kin and we came from the same bloodline. Although I am African American, I feel a strong connection to Ghanaian people and Africa in general. Ghana feels like home, where I belong, and the naming ceremony solidified this connection for me. If you ever have an opportunity to partake in a Ghanaian naming ceremony, I strongly encourage you to consider it, because it is life changing.