In contemporary Africa, cultural naming styles have systematically changed due to new civilizations from former colonial powers. The new naming styles are either the combination of both western names and African names or purely western. This is so because due to the culture of globalization of western popular culture, the tendency that South African researcher and writer Mkhosana Mathobela Bingweni refers to as the ‘Cocacolonisation’ of the world, that a Coca-Cola drink has been turned into a global culture. Similarly, the western names became a new Coca-Cola drink.
African communities developed a tendency to value urban residence and adopted it as their new culture. This new culture was inherited from the colonizers who once developed their exclusive residences during colonial times and gave the teachings to the natives, which created an impression that urban cultural styles of living were sound and modern.
Those who rose to the top of these colonial residences continued to praise the old colonial culture exactly in the same way the colonizers did without realising the damage it can cause to their culture of origin. The naming system is not so different.
As black people continued to live in these towns they adopted the colonial style of naming their kids, a modern and Christian culture of biblical names and other European names. This suited the urban languages as colonial languages controlled urban settlements as most of them became national and official languages extending to all the villages.
In these modern days one can find children who speak English in the villages rather than languages of their own.
The new naming culture is visible today when African people experience the superior hate of their own names that they were given at birth; they rather choose to be identified by either their Christian names or other English names such as Gift or Rejoice. Africans are so conditioned to the western culture that it became part of them so much so that they hate their own.
“Endhina ekogidho” is an Oshiwambo lexical expression which loosely translates as “a name serves as a link” between people. This saying is strongly rooted in African traditional systems of name giving particularly in Oshiwambo language because names are believed not only to define personalities but also to link behaviour with personalities because name giving are sacred rituals that connect generations together.
Those born will be named after the current people, for the current were named after the ancestors, so in that way the spiritual interaction between the living, the dead and those yet to come, becomes an imaginative reality. African naming systems reflect Africa’s real dreams, interactions and social imaginations but more often speaks of Africa’s pure knowledge and ancestral venerations – by that way it instils pride in realising self-identity as far as the ancestral historical values are concerned.
Despite the invasion of Europeans who left their signatures through apartheid colonialism and Christianisation, Africans still realise the value of the naming systems and its relevance in today’s world because of the meaning and tone of lexical expressions found in African languages. Africa is experiencing the death of the original African anthroponymic system such as the use of cultural names, hereditary names, praise names and clan names that give the meaningful reflection of true African identity. To be African today means to have both African and European cultural naming elements and confides more on foreign naming systems other than embracing the original naming systems which give us a true meaning, identity, confidence and reflection of sense of self.
In Oshiwambo, for example, the birth of a typical girl in the early morning results in a name ‘Nangula’ meaning ‘morning’ which identifies and reflects the meaning at birth. A name such as ‘Akwenye’ means born in spring, ‘Mhingana’ born after someone had died are rarely practised in urban areas of Africa.
Africa is still to find its own meaning in the new context of globalization since the concept of globalization means dissolving African culture as a whole into European culture. Many African people dream to give birth in Europe and give their children European names but a typical Chinese can travel and live in Nigeria for 20 years, make a family, but all their children will have Chinese names, not even a mixture of Chinese and Igbo. That’s how submissive Africans are to the west.
Like in any culture, the conservation of African naming systems is the social gift of humanity and is a reflection of cultural intelligence of a cultural society. Despite globalization in the digital age which results in different interactions everyday, African anthroponymic systems should stand unique of their own history and should be documented by means of literature by Africans so that the next generation will feed from the cultural intelligence and onomastic of their own ancestors. This is also part of the decolonial thinking to save Africans from the tyranny of a western naming spree that will soon get Africans to name their children after the popular “Coca-Cola” drink.
* Shivute Kaapanda is a Namibian critical theorist and writer. New Era Reporter
2017-11-29 09:30:24 | 2 years ago