Sarah Nyanchera Nyakeri-Mureithi: Culture and Identity

If I told you my first three names, High chances are you will confidently call me Nyancheri or Nyankeri minutes later. This is from data collected over 20 years of my life. The few who says any of my names correctly are hardly forgotten. There is something about saying someone’s name correctly.

Being african, Why would I include Sarah as my identity? Truth is I am not Nigerian or south African but Kenyan. Kenya is my identity. In most christian Kenyan homes, they have an English name as their first name.

Nyanchera is a long unique beautiful name that identifies me as a Kisii woman. it also shows that children are named after people in their lineage who have died in my Kisii culture. It also states that Kisii culture does not allow the naming of children after the mothers family the way Meru and Kikuyu families do. It also shows my dad could not adjust to my mother’s culture. In my younger years, people called me Nyansuguta, now they refer to me as Nyanchez. I love Nyanchez. Any man who calls me by my second name melts my heart. I just hope English dictionaries would pick it up as a name and stop the red decoration.

When I was about to register for my KCPE exams and they needed three names, I was about to write Nyabuto when I thought to myself to consult my dad. He said it should be Nyakeri. Nyakeri is also his surname. I just didn’t understand why I had to take my clans name instead of my fathers name. Nyabuto sounds more exotic and unique than Nyakeri. Nyakeri is also too common and when I see people called Nyakeri anywhere, it haunts me reminding me that I do not know my family members but truth is, that’s my last name. I am not a fan of it.

As an unconventional woman, I thought to myself that taking only Kisii names is not enough. I don’t speak the language. The way I eat, act, look or anything else is a sandwich of two places, not just one. I even remember asking my mother to give me a Meru name the way she gave my sister though unofficially. She said Muthoni, but she has no idea now that that is the name she named me. Instead of insisting on something, I thought Mureithi sticks better and in the documents.

Mureithi is the relatable synonym of the actual name: M’arethi pronounce as Ntwarethi. That is the surname of my mothers family- the name of the father to my mother. I wonder why it’s not a clan’s name. Something different is that in Meru, people take the surnames as their father’s middle name. Maybe that’s a Kisii Meru difference in the culture I have no idea about.

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