As the title implies, The Naming of Femi’s Brother is about a child-naming ceremony. In this book, published by George Ronald Publisher, Kiser D. Barnes shows how tradition and religion co-exist harmoniously. The family at the center of the story, the Aladetan’s, are not only Yoruba but also members of the Bahá’í religion. But their religious persuasion does not make them discard their traditional way of naming their children.
The ceremony, taking place eight days after the baby’s birth, is heralded by preparations such as the preparation of pounded yams, bean cakes, cooked rice, and peppered agusi soup. Decorations that are used only on special occasions are hung up and Femi’s house is rendered flamboyant. The village is abuzz with excitement and expectation.
On the morning of the event itself, the compound in which the guests are to be received is swept clean before traditional drummers arrive, drumming and singing traditional songs. Femi’s parents and grandparents, well-groomed, take their place in welcoming the guests, also in their best clothes. Five–year old Femi and his friends, all sprightly, all spick-and-span, after gathering briefly at the village meeting place, which is under a giant Baobab tree in the centre of the village, take their places at the front of the crowd and join the rest in watching expectantly as the ceremony unfolds.
The ceremony opens with prayers and readings from their Holy writings and is then followed by highly-spirited singing. Then the ceremony takes on a traditional turn, during which the baby is made to taste various substances – water, the source of life, thus wishing him long-life; honey, symbolizing sweetness in life and hence wishing him a happy life; bitter cola nut, not only to make him aware that life might be bitter, but also to serve as a sign that the child must develop a strong character in order to withstand any tests and difficulties that might come his way in life. He is also given some salt, pepper, palm oil, etc., – symbolizing various life-experiences he is expected to go through in life.
The climax of the day arrives when the master of ceremonies christens the baby, “Jamal Olusegun Olinga Aladetan”, a blend of names from two backgrounds – the first and the third, purely religious, and the second, both traditional and religious. The name “Jamal”, because he was born on a Sunday, for Sunday, according to the Bahá’í calendar, is called “Jamal”, meaning “beauty” in Arabic; “Olinga”, in remembrance of an outstanding, Ugandan Bahá’í teacher to Central and West Africa; and “Olusegun”, a Yoruba name meaning, “God is victorious”, “Olu” meaning “God”, and “segun” meaning “victorious”. Thus the name, “Olusegun”, though traditional, yet embraces the religious belief that God is victorious. Aladetan is his family name and has been borne by his ancestors far into the past. Femi finds an opportunity to announce that his own name is actually “Olufemi”, which means that “God loves me”, but is shortened to “femi”. This aspect of the christening ceremony is followed by traditional music and feasting.