Aware of the vast history of the Yoruba people, I invested time in finding the perfect name for my character “Alicia”– who is 1st generation Nigerian living in London. Like many Nigerians, I wanted Alicia to have both a western name and Yoruba name. Oluwafemi Alicia Ife Adewale.
If I’m honest I chose those names because of how beautiful they sounded together, and was shamefully unaware of what they meant.
This all changed when Bas (a Yoruba translator) recorded the name and asked me if I was Yoruba. She then proceeded to ask me: “Do you know what that name means?”, I responded sheepishly, “no, I did not”. She then gave me a history lesson of the Yoruba people, what the name I selected meant, and the meaning of my own name. Talking to Bas enormously enforced my writing process and expanded my knowledge of the Yoruba people and our naming practices. I will never forget Bas saying: “Yoruba peoples name have meaning. They are clues to where we have come from. Our family’s history. My name means my family were officers, yours means you come from royalty. All names mean something and are there for a reason.”’
Spending almost two hours learning the meaning behind names, I knew that I had to share this knowledge with my audiences, so within a section of Quarter Life Crisis the character Alicia finds out the meaning of her name:
“Elders take pleasure in reminding us that our names are clues the journeys we’ve made Oluwafemi = God loves me, Alicia = Noble one, Ife = love, Adewale = Crown has come home”
Alicia, Quarter Life Crisis by Yolanda Mercy
I remember asking my mum, why did she give me the name ‘Yolanda Mercy’, and her response blew me away. “I realised the huge importance of names, because in Nigeria you are given a name for a reason. I wanted your name to be a great one, which meant you had to aspire to big things.” Knowing that from the day I was born, my mother had the hopes of me fulfilling the destiny of the name which she had assigned to me affected me hugely, especially as I know that in many cultures naming a child is a huge family event.
"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet" - Juliet, Act II Scene II Romeo & Juliet , William Shakespeare