by Bandie Mogapi
I generally love Setswana names more so the unusual Setswana names that roll off the tongue easy. I especially love poetic Tswana names thathouse deeper, more profound meanings. To me, names represent the state of mind or being that your parent/s were in at the time of your birth or serve as an extension of who you are or what your parents wish for you to be. They are meant to represent your spirit/character that you will epitomize for as long as you carry the name.
My baby girl was born in the winter but we named her Selemo (summer). Confusing, right? I know. When I hear a name, especially a unique name, I analyze the meaning of that name without asking for it and find it fun to imagine how that name came to be. I find poetry in some names when I do that. I wonder if I’m the only one who does that. So imagine my shock yesterday when I had a nurse ask why I gave my daughter this name when she was born in the dead of winter?
It wasn’t the question itself that disturbed me; it was the manner in which it was asked. I find it comical now when I think about it, but it upset me at that moment. This lady told me outright that I must be silly to have given her the name; she asked why I didn’t name her ‘Mmaserame’ since it would suit the situation at the time of her birth, ‘hahahaha’ ensued as I I tried explaining her full name to her, and what it actually means but she wouldn’t listen. So I let her be. It’s not my problem after all, I told myself.
Names are important to me, so when I named each one of my children I gave it much thought. Selemo’s full name is Reneilwe Selemo Mogapi. Her first names are pretty much self-explanatory when connected. Although they have a poetic meaning, the direct translation would mean; ‘we were given warmth’ in the winter. Poetically they have many different meanings to that impression. I’ll let you play around with that but basically we welcomed sunshine in our life when she was born.
My little boy’s name, Temana, means ‘a new beginning in our life’ although to another person it may mean something else. Depending how you look at it, it would always go back to talking about ‘ a different position’, so to us it means just that, a beginning of something new in life. I find myself explaining the names over and over to curious people; I don’t take offence in that. It actually helps the names being appreciated more, other than the fact that they are appreciated for their uniqueness. I feel if Selemo was born in the summer rather than in the winter that would have made her name uninteresting and obvious. With Temana’s name it’s always about, ‘ke temana efe? Or ya eng?’ Meaning which or what verse? I welcome the curiosity.
Temana and selemo are simple Setswana words that we commonly use but when made to be names they become charming and extraordinary. I wish these names remain rare because they are special. There are some beautiful, inspired names that seem boring and uninspired because they became common. These names are all around us, and are absolutely beautiful but they go unnoticed. I hope my children don’t end up with common names. I also hope they grow up knowing and appreciating the ‘real’ meaning of their names.
*Read more on the meaning of names at: