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Say Their Names

A Spoken Word piece performed in English and Tigrinya in response to the question "What is the meaning of your name?"

Created as a part of the BBC Words First Showcase with Neu!Reekie! 2020, this piece explores themes of legacy, heritage and culture. In particular, how we carry the names of our fathers, yet our mothers are rarely remembered. This piece is a celebration of their names, some of the women in Feven's own lineage, both past and present as well as speaking in the mother tongue.


The name, ፈቨን [Feven]

Though said to have become popular

In post independent days,

Still sears through the page

With its depth

And richness in history.

ፈቨን:: [Feven]. They say it could be translated

As Phoebe in Greek

A goddess of oracle and prophecy,

But the layers of meaning



When seen

From the names

ሞቦኮል:: [Baptism/Beginning].

ለተስላሴ [Letiselassie]

ስላሰ ብሰለስተ [Selassie like Seleste]

ሰለስተ [Seleste] meaning three

ሞሎኮትም ሃደ [Spirit Unified]

Trine of the forces that be

One with the air

And the earth beneath my feet,

Formulating B.A.S.S.


in the family tree.

I trace

ከመይ ኢሉ ዘልዓል [How it is raised]

In the extension of every branch,

From the inner most phloem

To the outer strips of bark.

Connecting each facet

to the sum of its parts,

ፈቨን :: [Feven.]

meaning messenger

A conduit in projecting speech.

በታሪኽ [historically] seen as divinity,

Helping Apostle Poulos

Profess what he needs to preach

Found in the books

That make up Romans 16,

ፈቨን :: [Feven.]

Born to a lineage

of healers

and radiant Queens

ኣልማዝ [Almaz]

ነገሰት [Negeset]

ኒግስቲ [Nigisti]

ኣብርሀት [Abrehet]

ተበርህ [Tebereh]

ዘውዲ [Zewdi]

ሉላ [Lula]

ኢታይ ብርሃኑ [Etay Berhanu]

ገርግስ [Gergis]

ደመት [D'mt]

ብግምት ኢንዲሕር ክይድና [All taken into consideration]

ብኩሉ አዩ ፉሉት [Every aspect shows the apparent]

ኢዘን ኣደታት [Our mothers]

ዝገብሮኦ ጸሎት [With prayers made]

መረት የንከትክት [Shakes the ground with quakes ]

Who loved us, their children

no matter what it took.

Our mothers of mothers

At times

needing to survive

on ጸበል [holy water] sipped.

Finding dignity within

despite conditions being squalid.

ደመን ንጹህ [Bloodline sincere]

ልበን ጽሩይ [Hearts beating clear]

The seeds finally reaped

A culmination of their dreams,

The final form taken

woven into the prayers they speak.

Whispered silently into waters

So their tears are not seen,

ውዳሰ ማርያም [Veneration of Mother Mary] in the morning

ምህልላ [Prayer Beads] before they sleep


I say their names

As they did for me too

Like a mantra that is exuding my truth.

I say their names

and I say their ዓዲ [Motherland] too,

Till I make sure

That they are repeated

In my history books.

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