Naming Ceremony in Gambia

January 9th, 2013 by Tatiana

In the past few months a number of people I know have had babies, so the baby talk and prom dresses photos were inevitable. Now with the royal baby on its way, the babyboom subject will be on the news for quite a while. I have already come across some articles predicting the looks and the name of the future royal baby.

Yet in some countries pregnancy is a very discrete subject. In Gambia I found out that a pregnancy is kept secret until the actual birth, as it could endanger the baby’s life. It is also considered bad luck to get things for the baby before it is born. After the birth has taken place at home, the mother remains indoors for a week, throughout which a fire is kept burning in her compound – a collection of huts enclosed by a wall.

When the baby is exactly a week old, a naming ceremony known as Ngente is held. The new mother cheap prom dresses in her prettiest clothes and is treated like a princess and showered with gifts. The women of the compound from early morning prepare food for the guests. The actual occasion is normally held in the morning inside the compound where the guests sit on the chairs. A respected elder cuts a lock of baby’s hair, says a prayer, and whispers the name, as chosen by the parents, into the baby’s ear, while a chicken or goat is slaughtered. Then the name is proclaimed to all those present.

The Mandinka (the biggest out of 9 tribes in Gambian society) nearly always name their first-born son Lamin, otherwise names tend to honour relatives and friends from the fathers side of the family. The lock of hair is buried while everyone present wishes the child good health and long life. Women like cheap prom dresses for party. A big party begins in the evening with music and dancing which can last for several days.

Considering that a birth rate is between five and six children per woman, and that families which are as big as 30 people tend to live together, you can imagine that this type of ceremony happens quite often.

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