I recently received this comment on my last post:
Okay, Madame Kouka, explain to all of us about names. If your husband had married a Congolese woman, how would the naming go? In other words, would someone from Congo have taken the husband's name as their last name like you did? And what are all your husband's names? Is his last name his father's first name like so many African conventions? Just how does all this go?
Just thought others would be interested too, so I'm making my reply its own post. First of all, I have chosen to take the name Kouka, but legally (i.e. on my passport, etc.) I'm also keeping my maiden name just to facilitate things (since I have some documents in my former name and what not). But please feel free to use just my married name in your correspondence with me. I will be changing my email in the near future.
I confess I do not know all the ins and outs of name giving in Congo. Kouka is my (deceased) father-in-law's family name, which my mother-in-law also took on when she married him. Esperance does not carry his mother's maiden name. Espe's dad's name was acutally Nkouka, which is a common family name here, but for some reason he dropped the N when he gave the name to his children.
I think name giving is changing in the modern Congo. Previously you could just make up a name for your child so there was no family lineage traced through the name, but rather your name meant something (like something about the circumstances of your birth). But now I think more people are using the practice of passing along a family name. I haven't heard of anyone here using their father's first name as a last name. People tend to have lots of first and middle names (like 3 or 4!). One funny thing is that people's names are often spelled weird because the person who filled out their birth certificate made an error. I can't imagine anyone putting up with that in the US!
Traditionally it needed to be a wise older person in the family who gave the baby its name. And they needed to wait a few weeks to see what the baby was like in order to give the appropriate name. I don't think people in the cities practice this anymore, although some people give their children both a French name and a traditional name. There are also certain names given to twins and to the child who comes after a set of twins, although these are sometimes just nicknames and not officially given. I think there is also a name given to a child whose mother dies in childbirth.
Yes, when women marry here they tend to take their husband's name. Everyone has automatically started calling me Madame Kouka without ever asking if I was taking that name or not. Thanks for the interesting question. I'll ask Esperance to fill me in on the details of name-giving in his culture when I get home from work today!
Friday, December 11, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Hey everybody! It's fun reading your comments on my Facebook photos. So much so I'm willing to painstakingly post them with my slow Internet connection. Here is another set of pics from the wedding. Enjoy!