Months ago, while in a conversation with my friend, Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto, he mentioned to me that his mother had a new book coming out in no distant time. Anyone who knows the Ohaeto family knows they are a family deeply steeped in the tradition of books, literature, and academia from their late father who is a famous poet, and his surviving wife—both of who are professors and children who are towing the same path. Chinua talked about this new book with a sense of pride. And when I probed him on what it was all about, I saw why the pride was not far-fetched.
Titled, Afamefuna, which means in Igbo, “May my name not be lost” the book is a cultural compendium of about 5000 Igbo names and their meanings. It is a project meant—as the name implies—to preserve the various names among the Igbo people, some of the deeply philosophical in their meanings.
Naturally when Chinua told me about the book, my interest was piqued and instinctively, I knew the lacuna this work of art was going to fill in the cultural sphere. It is an attempt at retaining culture. Among the Igbo, a wise man never asks, “What is in a name?” In the Igbo culture, name has a deep significance and from the Pre-colonial Igbo society, names have had depth and a strong presence of spirituality.
This book aims to bring to the light, thousands of forgotten Igbo names with deep spiritual and philosophical meanings, which do not only espouse the Igbo worldview in parts, but also tell profound stories. It aims to do this by compiling these thousands of names and their meanings.
With Chinua’s help I got to interview Professor Ohaeto, his mother who is the author of the book. When she gave a nod of approval to my request to interview her, I was very excited because obviously, it meant a lot to me to have a sound academic as her as the first guest on my recently launched show, “Off the Cuff with Anyafulugo.” When I called my mother who was a student of her husband in UNN, she reiterated the Igbo adage to me that a child who washes his hands well will eat with elders.
We fixed the interview two times and both times they failed because of busy schedules until as fate would have it, the interview held on Saturday 25th September 2021.
Today seemed like the day I was finally going to engage a professor on camera for an interview. Various emotions and fluctuating morale. The scheduled time was 4 PM and I have in previous times shown my chronic late-coming. I was determined to not repeat my late coming, but I could not because of circumstances beyond my control. The camera guys had canceled on the dying minute because of rain and proximity and other things.
On the other end, Chinua was calling me repeatedly and I was unable to pick because my phone was far from me. Then he texted me to know where I was and I explained to him, in sparring details, the situation of things.
Despite the setback, I was determined to make it to the venue of the interview because I needed to treat myself to the experience after an exam that is entirely in the hands of God and all his angels.
The interview finally begins at about past 7PM and despite the time wasted and near-cancelation, Prof affords me her graciousness and warmth. She is kind to the camera crew and partakes in our conversations off-camera and laughs at some of our jokes, During the interview, the dialogue flows like an impatient stream running into the arms of a river.
At the end of the conversation I ask her when the general public will lay their hands on this book and she tells me that the official launching will be on the 7th of October 2021 at the university.
The igbo people believe that a good ware sells itself and it is the case for this literary home run which I know will shake the author with its unprecedented success.
Written my Mark Anthony Osuchukwu.