Imagine this, you are one out of four siblings and one out of two girls, you were born in the same place as the rest of your siblings. Yawa, Adhyavu, and Koffi Jr. are your siblings names and yours is Kimberly. Yes, Kimberly. It was quite strange not knowing why or how? You got sure an American name, when your traditions and your roots were from Togo. The realization that my brothers and sister had “African” names and I did not hit me in middle school, the seventh grade when my class had to write an essay about the meaning of our names. I often thought to myself, do I even belong? What makes me special? Why only me? Time passed and I decided to find out the value of my names. I finally got my answer.
Kimberly Laura Dessou! Kimberly and Laura were from an American show that aired in Togo. A show that my brothers and sister often watched. When they heard that I was going to be born, they were eager to name me. Due to the fact that they liked the main characters they gave me my first and middle name. Apart from that in Togo, when you are born on a specific day, whether its Monday or Tuesday, you are given a name. I was born on Monday, November 27, 2000. As a Monday-born, my name is Adwoa/Adjoa. Adwoa has a nice ring to it, I wondered why it was not my legal name. Eventually, I figured that it didn’t necessarily have to be an official thing. The idea that it’s my name, the fact that it’s a traditional thing was enough. It gave me sense of who I am and where my family came from. The meaning to when I was born, was represented.
On the other hand there is Dessou, a proverb that originated from a sentence “ede be ye sou” (shortened as “de sou) in Ewe which translates to “the palm tree says everything in me, from the roots to the leaves to the ash, is useful.” Anytime my dad tells me the meaning of Dessou, it brighten my day and brings a smile on my face. The fact that with the parts of the palm tree, every single aspect has a utility, a reason and gives purpose. “The palm tree says everything in me, from the roots to the leaves to the ash, is useful.” You can make baskets from the roots and branches (the feet and hands). You can make the red sauce and red oil (that my mom makes are amazing) from the fruits and yellow oil from the nuts. From the branches and leaves (hands and fingers) people in villages use to build temporary roofs. In addition, the palm tree provides palm wine that is turned into liquor and sanitizing alcohol used in hospitals. The alcohol from the palm tree can also be transformed into gas as a renewable energy to run vehicles. When any part of the tree is burned, you can filter the ashes to get the solution and mix with the red or yellow oil to make hand and body soap.
The palm tree has many functions and uses. It makes me think of the relations between my family and Dessou. How in every family everyone has some type of role. The head of the family, my father and the strong women who gives life and meaning to it, my mother. The multiple use of the palm tree inspires me to build many skills to be useful in many situations in society. I take seriously all the courses and that I study at school and the skills that I learn at home and in community because I strongly believe they will help me to be ready to serve in multiple situations. Like the palm tree, I can engineer things that can serve in various industries, such as food, housing, transportation, health, and household equipment. Talking to my dad about the origin of our family name, gave me a sense of who I am, the cultural background that was hidden, and the multiple purpose role I want to play in society.