Onicha Ado N’ido by Rewa

Art + Illustration

We love this series by Rewa where she celebrates the naming rites and traditions of the Igbo tribe of Nigeria. This is a good example of how art can be used to educate as well as celebrate at the same time. Rena sheds light on the Igbo tradition, showing that a name is more than just a name; it is an epiphany, a prayer, a wish for history to come back to life.

Rewa explains the Igbo naming process in good detail on her website. See an extract of it below:

“The Igbos are one of the three major tribes of Nigeria and comprise the largest group of people living in southern region of the country.

Igbo culture is a magical amalgamation of steadfast customs, ancient practices, Nka (artistry), religious beliefs, birth, marriage and death rituals, language, music and dance forms, as well attire and cuisine. The culture of the Igbos modifies our thoughts, speech, actions and artefacts to the extent that we are easily distinguished from other ethnic groups.

In Igbo traditional society, a naming ceremony, Igu Afa, occurs on the 8th day after a child’s birth. Paternal grandparents officiate the ceremony and it begins with ancestral recognition and divination, followed by the name giving. Wine libations are then poured in deference to our ancestors and also to notify them of the child’s name. This is followed by the breaking of kola nuts and prayers and the ceremony, which traditionally lasts an entire day, ends with a family procession.

In Igbo land, there is great significance in a name – a name is more than just an appellation or a stamp of identity. Our names bear a message, a meaning, a story, an observation, a history, a life experience or a prayer. They embody a collective of my people’s rich heritage and provide a window into our value systems and life philosophies. We believe that God, man and destiny are intertwined. Chi is our personal God who resides within the individual and presides over our destiny, Eke is the principle of creation and destiny apportionment and Uwa is the world as we know it. This sacred trinity is woven into our names and moulds us into who we are.

Onicha Ado N’idu offers a viewing facet into our culture, our naming rites and how these appellations shape who we are. How a culture survives depends on its people’s capacity to learn and transmit it to succeeding generations. Through Nka, I hope to provide viewers with an understanding of who we are as a people and seek to learn more about my tribe and my country as a whole.”

Rewa expresses this with a series of female portraits who have been given Igbo names.

Apun’Awu meaning Don’t go out in the sun | A delicate being, to remain unspoiled by the sun so as not to lose her beauty. Apun’Awu’s story is one of preservation of all things that we hold dear

Eziamaka meaning The good path in life (the place you went to was good) | She embodies peace, good health and wealth

Nkiruka meaning The future is greater than the past | What lays ahead of you is far greater than what is behind. She looks ahead for greater things to come

Nonyelum meaning Stay with me | We yearn for companionship when faced with grief or death. The fragility of the human mind in such a state is comforted through the bonds of a companion

Nwabundo meaning My child is my shelter and protection | She is a sanctuary and gives eternal strength to those that she holds dear

Okedinachi meaning Destiny lies with the Almighty | She is ordained with the gift of eloquence and is destined to achieve great things in life

Oluchi meaning God’s handiwork | She sees the beauty in the world around her; creation of man can never equal that of God

Somadina meaning I am not alone in the physical and spiritual world | She is iconic and her strength is derived from the people that surround her

Somtochukwu meaning Join me in praising God | She celebrates in life, always, because although there may be misfortunes along the way, the sun always rises in the morning

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