A poem about the meaning of our names

Our journey begun in the spirit of MUFURUKI – an immigrant – in our case, one who crossed borders in search of a solution to the leadership challenge of East Africa and Africa as a whole. The spirit of MUFURUKI combined with ZUHURA – a beautiful scented flower – to entice us into a BOMANI – a kraal or ward of blessings.

Iteso homestead as documented on the book: “Iteso” by J.C.D. Lawrence

We came into the BOMANI with MAEDA, OBATH, CHALE, ODIDO, KYANDO, MCHECHU, MBUGUA, KIMANI, AMIN, KERENGE and KABAGEMA, names that we do not know what they mean; or those that we thought had no meaning.

In the BOMANI was added DUNLAP – a fortress at the bend of a river – a river that flowed with wisdom, which DUNLAP guided and guarded so jealously.

This is Uganda @ Emmanuel Owaraga

The wisdom of BERWICK – a city in England – was part of the river. The wisdom to understand that the LUYOMBO – the big quarrel, argument and dispute – over BERWICK by the English and the Scots had to end in NDAGANO – an agreement; and so, in his wisdom, BERWICK appreciated that as an Englishman who married a Scot, he had to declare that the Scots had won.

BERWICK, DUNLAP, NDAGANO, assisted by LANGE – an angel – nurtured us through our memorable journey. Some of us who may have felt to be KABUSHENGA – a squatter – need not have had GICHURU – fear of hot porridge – for our lips were not burnt.

Karimojong pastoralists of Uganda @Emmanuel Owaraga

We got to learn of NYIMINGANGO – a great warrior and MIRENGE – a great wealthy chief. We were taken back in history and we learnt of GAPERI – a name that originated from the word ‘captain’ as used in ‘Captain Lugard’. We learnt of KAVUMA – a small man aspiring for bigger things. We appreciated that like ULANGA – a mineral and NYABOKE – honey, we are the wealth of Africa.

We were together with a AKINI – a child of the morning dew; MUCHIRI WAHOME – an attorney from the homestead; OGEGA – a rich man; SSEMWEYA – a clan leader; and SEBBAALE – a strong stone that is the head of the heart clan. Together we shared and enriched each other’s lives.

Our journey has enabled us to become EYAKUZA – a grown-up – who has been converted to believe in humanity and the need for us to rise up to the challenge of providing good leadership. That we will aspire to become MUSOKE – a rainbow which saves people from floods. For this journey has made us close to SALIM – unbreakably perfect.

Photo credit: Rainbow in Uganda @ imb photo library

Our whole journey has been TUNU – a gift. So, KANYESIIME – let me be happy – for we have received NSANZABAGANWA – we are welcome in the family of great leaders.

This is the story of our journey as told by OWARAGA – a knowledgeable person who knows how to tell interesting stories and is also ALINGA – a beautiful, clean and tidy woman.


Sometimes back, I was privileged to be among great leaders from East Africa and beyond. At the end of our fellowship programme, as we graduated, I was requested to give our graduation speech on behalf of our class. I accepted the challenge, and since the great leaders I had journeyed with so inspired me, I decided to write this poem using the meaning of our names and thus it was the speech that I gave.

Featured photo credit: Dove @ Emmanuel Owaraga

7 responses to “A poem about the meaning of our names”

  1. This is the most glowing tribute to the rich diversity of African identity, that I’ve seen in a long while. The poem taps into the flowing depths of cultural symbolism, ethno-geographic metaphor, and social aspiration which define our quilted continent. Norah, this is an A+, inarguably!

    Liked by 1 person

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