Sometime last week I also found myself at a Congolese naming ceremony in the heart of Bukavu.
I was out with my congolese friends at the local ice cream parlour when they said that their sister’s friend’s brother recently had a baby and they were invited to it and as their friend I was too! So 20 minutes later we are in front of a small house, we enter from the side alley and after stumbling our way through the dark, climbing a flight of very questionable steps (they were slanting wooden planks held together by bamboo sticks) we finally come upon a big courtyard full of people. Music blaring through gigantic speakers and happy, pretty faces everywhere. We were warmly greeted by the new grandmother ‘ Karibu, Karibu sana’ and assigned a seat. Everyone is sitting in a circle with the guests of honour at the centre. Soon a little boy comes to us and asks us what we would like to drink, I ask him what they have and he says ‘ we have everything’ and its true. People around the room are drinking atleast 5 different kinds of soft drinks, 3 different brands of beer, gin and tonic, and whisky. I settle for a coca cola and sit back to enjoy the ambiance around me.
The new parents are also sitting in the centre of the circle. The mother dressed in a beautiful suit of green and orange pagne and the father in a white suit with a top hat! Everyone is dressed so beautifully, in colourful pagnes and creative headgears and shining jewellery, I am starting to feel a little out of place with my black tee, blue jeans and red backpack.
The drinking and talking and greeting goes on for a while but everyone seems to get more and more restless. The kid serving the drinks is still running around asking everyone what they want, collecting empty bottles. Suddenly a line of women with gigantic dishes in their hands walk into the courtyard. These plates are heaped with food – there are 5 different kinds of meat – fish heads, chicken, beef, goat and some animal hooves. More plates follow with fries, peas, fufu(local favourite made from corn flour), rice and of course beignes( sweet balls of fried flour). All this food is laid on a table and everyone seems very content.
Next, everyone stands up and the new grandfather gives a short speech, followed by a prayer and the baby’s name is announced – Erico! A round of applause is followed by women making a high pitched woo woo woo wooooo woo sound.
Everyone takes a seat again and the food table if declared officially open. But everyone remains seated. I wonder why and it is explained to me that the important people eat first. The order is – The new mother, then the father, the grandparents, then the important guests that include the doctor who birthed the baby and then the rest of the crowd – the men first. Everyone piles their plates up with food, the music is turned up again and sits back down to enjoy their meal.Once everyone has had their full, some people start dancing and others sit and watch. And soon the evening celebrations are concluded with a big thank you to everyone.
On my way back home I realise that the baby was nowhere in sight but when I ask my friend about it she says, of course, it is just two days old, they’re not going to show him to everyone. Makes sense to me, I get back home feeling super full, happy and lucky to have been part of a celebration. 🙂
Ps. The cute baby in the picture was a guest at this ceremony, but he was not present at his own naming ceremony either.