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Image First steps

African ceremonies


Birth and initiation


First steps : in traditional african societies, the passage from one stage of life, to the next is marked with important rituals and ceremonies. Fromp the moment of birth, an African is connected to family, to community and toi ancestors. The arrival of a child, is often seen as a reintroduction of the spirit of an honoured ancestors back into the world. The first breath of the life, , however is not always, drawn without complication. The fon people of Benin, believe that some babies may refuse to be born. Just before birth, the eldest of a set of twins, is said to peek out of the womb to survey the outside world. If it determines, that the world is unsafe it returns to the womb, to report to its sibling, the twins may then refuse their delivery. The fon who experience high infant mortality use this explanation of a stillbirth to soften the blow of loosing a child. To ensure survival during their most fragile years many Africans babies are protected by talismans. Whether they consist of a leather pouch filled with blessings or a collection of special beads these talismans connect the child, to the ancestral powers as well the spirits of nature.

Among the nomadie Woddabe of Niger, firstborn children are sometimes cared for by womens who are not their mothers. The nomads consider firstborn children so sacred that a mother may not trust herself to nurse her child instead others mothers will suckle the child for the first few day of life, furthermore a mother and father are not permitted to speacks theirs firstborn name throughout its life because woddabe believe that the spirit of death cannot see a child without a name

For many Africans the process of naming a bay is often, too risky to be done at birth, when a child’s life is still precarious. Babies are often names only when it is evident they will survive.

The wooddabe give all their children a nickname, seven days after birth and formally name then when they are twelve. The temporary name bestowed at birth is often associated with the condition of the baby arrival. For example Bango a woddabe boy, was named after the word bangol which means long migration, he was born during an especially challenging journey, throught the desert,

The krobo in Ghana follow a similar custom, naming their children in relation to their position in the birth sequence family, the day of the week on which they were born? And any notably physical characteristics. Afi dede a krobo name means friday firstborn girl, dede gaga mean firstborn girl tall.

In African pastoralists societies , such as the surma of Ethiopia, and the dinka of southern sudan, a boy is named at puberty when he receives his namesake ox. He is named after the color of markings of this favorite animal. This naming creates a simple and effective bond between the boy and the natural world a vital link to the animals that are key to the survival of all nomadics pastoralists.