As a general tradition, people from the Luo community, I believe like most African communities, would name their children in ways to keep away evil roaming eyes or evil spirits from their new born children. The aim, ensure the children grow to adulthood to keep the family lineage pulsating through the ages.
When I was born my grandmother came to see me. “What an ugly child!” she remarked, spat on me stuffed something in my hand and then took me from my mother’s arms and prayed over me. I know cruel right? No! She was deceiveing the roaming eyes. You see when she called me ugly she was ‘informing’ the evildoers that I was unpleasant and there was no reason to be envious of this cute chocolate bundle, so no harm befell me!
Traditionally most of these evil doers where people who had either been cursed and wanted to return the favour to society or were barren and well… would like to cause harm and pain so every woman in the village felt that way. You know! The list goes on, it was an angry woman who had a pitch fork and a bad ass attitude and potion to boot to kill any happy cute children. So in short I was a cute baby, grandma was protecting me.
Then we had a neighbor, Jaber. Jaber was well…like what ugly was to me not very Jaber to Jaber. Jaber in Luo is ‘beautiful’. I believe ugly is a strong word even to use on a warthog. Jaber was, what can I say? He was special. When his grandma picked him up while he was nursing as a baby, the story is told, her actions changed his life! His grandmother lovingly lifted him and uncovered his face and shrieked almost dropping the poor child. And to cover up her shock, because her daughter believed, her ‘Benjamin Button’, was the most adorable child in the village. She appeased her daughter by calling him Jaber. The evildoers got wind and paid a visit.
Needless to say Jaber got even ‘cuter’ with age. His drooling did come to a stop but his ape like ability to grab things from other children never stopped. Fast forward 30 years Jaber may have 12 toes and Dracula buck teeth, but with one of the most remarkably talented women in Kenya today by his side and drop dead gorgeous children, maybe the positive reinforcement from his stunned grandmother gave him the genetic boost he needed.