Owéna and Theron: putting faces to the (let’s face it, rather strange) names

A friend who’s just finished reading For the People got in touch to say that my mother “sounds like one helluva lady”.

That, indeed, she is.

But it also reminded me that many of you who are reading the book won’t know what she looks like. So here, to put some faces to the names, is a picture of her and my dad, taken last year at the East Head Cafe with the Knysna lagoon in the background.

Names are a bit of a theme in the book, and I loved finding out the meanings behind some of the African names that I’d grown up hearing: names like Vulindlela (Voo-lin-DLE-la, meaning ‘open the road’) and Thembalethu (Tem-ba-LEH-too, meaning ‘our trust’).

My parents’ own names are quite unusual too, even by South African standards. My mother, Owéna (Oh-WEE-na) was expected to be a boy – in which case she would’ve been christened Henry Owen, after her British-born grandfather. When she turned out to be a girl, her parents simply changed it to Henryetta Owéna (to her chagrin in later years). My father, on the other hand, goes by his middle name of Theron (Te-RON), which was his mother’s maiden name – and is now a pretty well-known surname thanks to a certain Charlize.

Any family ties to Charlize are, however, sadly unverified.

Ma en Pa

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