In general, names are employed largely for identification. Names in religious and cultural contexts transcend identification and enter spiritual or situational expression, while remaining attached to their fundamental function of identity. The latter is true in Africa.
The African naming system is extensive among Nigeria’s Igbo-speaking population. People give out names when the situation calls for it. A father whose children die in infancy is likely to name his offspring Onwuegbu (death will not kill this), Onwubiko (death please…), or, when all hope is lost, Onwuka (death is larger). The Igbo imbues names with emotional meaning. Consider the names Ekwutosim and Ikwutosim, Nwanyibuife and Onyebuchim… Consider Chinasa, Chimuanya, and others.
Most Igbo names, such as “Onwutalobi,” have symbolic meanings and are grammatically formed, meaning they form a complete phrase.
“Onwu talu obi” literally translates to “Death has eaten up a kingdom” and has a fascinating meaning. Igbo names are symbolic and usually reflect the early circumstances after a child is born to a family. It is a powerful, evocative reminder of the family’s thoughts before and after the child is born. It is usually religious in nature.
Igbo names were traditionally bestowed depending on circumstance, emotion, myths, events, facts, and historical reasons. Most of the time, such names imply nothing or appear hazy to a third party, but the meaning of the name can be quite enlightening and highly appreciated if told. For example, if a kid is born into a family that becomes suddenly affluent or sees financial increase… if the newborn is a girl, she will be named “Obanuju,” which means “You met us at a good time.” In another case, if the parents have had a death experience during childbirth, they may name the following kid “Ozoemena,” which means “don’t let it happen again.” I have a cousin with the surname “ogbogu” who was born shortly after the Biafran war. Ogbogu implies that his arrival has put an end to the fight.
The origins of the name Onwutalobi
On that note, Onwutalobi, as an Igbo name, has a mythological explanation that the bearers of the name largely claim to be sufficient for the meaning. The majority of Igbo history is based on oral tradition. For centuries, our great-grandfathers have been told this narrative, which has now become a cultural memory. Oral tradition was significantly more prevalent in people’s lives before the introduction of written language and the spread of broad literacy than it is today. Storytelling covers the relaying of a people’s history and ancestry. The story behind the name Onwutalobi was told by one okenye (late Vincent Onwutalobi (1898 – 1972) of a particular Igbo kingdom. He said that the name “Onwutalobi” was given to an only child of a man in one Igbo kindred (obi), whose kingdom nearly went extinct due to an untimely series of death of their entire kindred.
Fortunately, a new kid was born to their family after several years of this hard period; it was a joyous moment in the history of that Community. The community named him “I ga adi makana Onwu talu obi” during the naming ceremony, which means “You have come to stay as death has eaten up our entire family members.” With the force of the elder’s spoken word. This name has a strong tone… as the Child is reminded that his existence will preserve his kin’s heritage, and his name will be a booming command to nature to allow God to preserve his kin’s lineage. As a result, the infant did not die, since the name answers the prayer and restores the emotional expression intended.
Usage of the Name Today
Although the full meaning is in sentence form, the word has been reduced to “Onwutalobi” in recent times. The name preserved the family bloodline, and over sixty people in that village, today hold the name.
Onwutalobi Thomas(1870-1970), Onwutalobi Vincent(1898-1972), Onwutalobi Isaac(1925-1985), Onwutalobi George(1923-1994)
p style=”text-align: justify;”> Etymology of Onwutalobi
Igbo People of Nigeria, Matt VanderSluis 2008
Igu Aro Ndi Igbo, Nwokoye Chukwudi 2008