Edited by Azizi Powell
This pancocojams post is a reprint of a 2003 article entitled "BBC Africa Live Asks, Does Your Name Affect Who You Are?"
Selected comments from this article's discussion thread are also included in this pancocojams post.
The content of this post is presented for socio-cultural, onomastics, and educational purposes.
I republish in this blog difficult to find, obscure, or old online article excerpts, entire online articles, or portions of books with author credits and hyperlinks (when applicable) in order to raise awareness of those articles and their subject matter.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to the unnamed individual/s for writing this article, and thanks to BBC for publishing it. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post.
REPRINT ARTICLE: BBC AFRICA ASKS, DOES YOUR NAME AFFECT WHO YOU ARE?"
Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003; What's in an African name?
“BBC Africa Live asks, does your name affect who you are?
"Ghana's founding father Kwame Nkrumah chose to name his two sons after fellow African leaders.
Sekou Nkrumah was named after Guinea's first President Sekou Toure, while Gamal Nkrumah got his name from Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Nkrumah is not alone in fostering the identity of Africanism - the late President Mobutu Sese Seko dropped his own Christian name and even renamed his country - the then Belgian Congo - which became Zaire.
But 32 years later the late Laurent Kabila kicked Mobutu out, and re-baptised the country the Democratic Republic of Congo.
His reason was to rid the country of all of Mobutu's influence and he felt a change of name was the way to do it.
Naming is part and parcel of the African heritage. It reflects one's ethnic background, country of origin, or simply hope and a parent's aspiration for a child. What does your name mean to you? Does it elicit either positive or negative responses?"
Here are 35 of the 67 comments that were published for this article. Notice that most of these comments are from outside of Africa and outside of the United Kingdom where BBC is based.
Most of the comments that weren't included in this pancocojams compilation didn't reference any name or names, but stated general opinions about the subject.
I assigned numbers to these comments for referencing purposes only.
1. "The Yorubas in Nigeria believe that you look at your home and background before you name a child. A name is like a prophesy. You are what you call yourself. Have you ever heard of anybody naming his child Satan or Lucifer? I named my baby Omowonuola meaning the child has come into wealth. 10 days later I got a project worth about 5million naira!"
2. "My first name means rain from the sky (Deng), the second means the colour red (malual) and my last name means cat fish (leek). I am named after my grand grand fathers."
Deng Malual Leek, New Sudan
3. "My name (Noxolo) means peace in Xhosa. What I like about this name is it reflects which tribal group of South Africa I come from. The Xhosa as well Zulu languages have 3 distincts clicks "X", "C" and "Q" but Xhosas use more clicks than Zulus in their everyday conversations. My family name has a click "C" as well. When my mother was pregnant, she was always fighting with my father and his family; she was in this constant state of depression. When I was born, she gave me this name NOXOLO because she wanted peace. Actually just after I was born, peace was restored in my family. My African name reflects my personality - I hate fights and arguments ; I am a peaceful person."
Noxolo Judith Ncapayi, South Africa
4. "Across Africa names are the person. They indicate the status of the person and reflect the expectations of the community. My surname betrays my British linkage (colonialism and slavery) but the rest indicate that I am a Ga man (Nii) from the sempe clan (Kpakpo) and I am the first male who is expected to lead the rest as indicated by the appellations that go with the name. It literally states that with you, the whitemans departure is no loss."
Nii Kpakpo Bruce, Ghana
5. "I have often felt foreign in my Arabic name, Yasmeen. I wished for the more African/Somali name such as Ladan (Healthy) or Ididl (Complete). But whenever I complain of the Arab influnces in our names, without rejecting my religion I get a negative stare as to say we are Muslims and therefore Muslim names are the way to go. I think many go with such names for the ease and familiarity, but Somali names are meaningful and are often such a comfort specially when the real meaning behind is understood. I also think Africans try to westernize their African names to make it easier for the westerners to pronounce, I would argue that is an extension of the colonization of the mind."
6. "My name means 'Comforter' and has a positive impact in my life. Whatever I do and say I always try to make sure that it makes people feel worthy and happy in their mortal lives. I was born shortly after my maternal grandfather's death and my mother always says I was the silver lining of the dark cloud."
Munyaradzi Majonga, Zimbabwe
7. "A name can spell either a doomed and callamitous or a bright future for a child. As an African I have always scoffed at meaningless names imported from the West. In our family all of us have vernacular names coined after some event or expressing our hope and expectations. For example my name Pacharo means 'on earth'. In the year I was born my uncle got arrested under Dr Banda's regime. As a family we were at a loss. Then I was born. Something to cheer about anyway. So my father says ....well good and bad things happen here 'on earth' hence my name Pacharo. I am 27 and single. I have already decided that all my kids will have local meaningful and christian names. There is this ridiculous belief that a christian name has to be western or be after some Biblical hero. I dont think so. In my language the name 'Wezi' means 'God's Grace'. As far as am concerned thats a christian name! I urge my fellow africans to stick to african names. And as a christian I may wish to add that we need to be careful who we name our kids after. Evil spirits and demons can be transfered through these names. Naming your child Saddam will certainly not help anybody. During the last Gulf War somebody named his child Scud after scud missile!! I believe a name should reflect our hopes and expectations as well as our praise to God."
Pacharo Kayira, Malawi
8. "While I was living in South Africa my language instructor blessed me with an African name - "Naledi", which means "Star" in Sepedi. He said it was because I was so bright in class. It was also a popular name on the TV soapie at the time! During my two years in South Africa almost everyone came to call me by that name and I recall it with great happiness. Giving me an African name made me feel like a part of the community and not so much like an outsider. I hope one day I will have a daughter that I can pass it on to."
Lisa "Naledi" Martin, USA
9. "I was born in Sierra Leone. My family has strong Yoruba cultural ties and my name had to reflect the circumstances of my birth as my elder brother predeceased me in infancy. When I was born the name Bami-joko was imperative. It was a direct appeal to me by my parents to stay with them. In Yoruba, Joko is to sit down and the name Bamijoko means "Sit with me." My mother's business associates tagged Tadé at the end of my name because they believed that I should have a regal responsibility thus giving my name a wider meaning "Sit with me and look after the crown." Names have meaning which children are expected to aspire to. There are some cases however, where the name is more of a burden than an aspiration. e.g Durosimi "Wait to bury me." The child has hardly seen the world and an onus is placed on that child to be responsible for sorting out its mother's funeral."
Earnshaw Desmond Bamijoko Palmer, UK
10. "Names can be good marks on us. In my culture, most often, they reflect the life of the bearer. So people make sure their children's names reflect their aspirations or appreciations. I shall remain ever grateful to my late grandmother who gave me the name Chidiebere which in Igbo means God is merciful."
Chidi Nwamadi, Toulouse, France
11. "My name is Manyang, meaning 'bright with lined brown'. It came when my mom's first born died, so my paternal grandmother gave this bull with the colour 'manyang' as a sacrifice and I was born healthy. That's how the name which I love most came about and I will name my kid after my grandfather's name and common girls' name from my tribe Dinka of Sudan."
Manyanga, Sudanese in USA
12. "I was born Gabriel Nebechi Maduabuchi Sunday Ozoude Ugwu, in Enugwu (which is the Igbo spelling of Enugu). Gabriel, though a Christian name, is actually after my maternal uncle. Being the 2nd son, I had to be named after my maternal grandfather Ozoude. I was born on Sunday hence Sunday. So what about the other 2 Igbo names? My mother while pregnant believed that I was going to make a great contribution. In her mind I would be like a 'savior' to the family, hence "Nebechi" - 'look at God'. But in order to remind herself & everybody else that I am not "God Almighty", she also called me 'Maduabuchi' which is Igbo for 'humans are not God'. As far as fulfilling the meaning of my African names, though I am the 3rd child & 2nd son, I was the 1st to go overseas - on a full scholarship, & have been directly or indirectly instrumental for 3 of my siblings coming over to the USA. In terms of my nature, I am very spiritual, not necessarily religious."
Nebechi Maduabuchi Gabriel Ugwu, Nigerian American
13. "My name Besona means a good home and I would never ever trade it for a Western name. This year I was asked by two of my Western friends to pick out meaningful names for their kids, which to me demonstrates their love for our names."
14. "I just feel happy to say that this programme of conscientization is excellent. African names have always been associated with personal identity and personality structure expressed in the hopes and aspirations of the parents and passed on to the individual child. So "Ndubueze" means that "life is king" - to live is to be a king. There we go!"
Dr. Ndubueze Fabian Mmagu, Austria
15. "African names comes with great pride and power. Maduabuchi means Humans are not God. Also: no one can dictate my life, nor my destiny, strong to be God to my destiny and my self. Last name Onwuachimba means Death could never wipe out a community. What a wonderful name; Maduabuchi Onwuachimba (Igbo-Nigeria). In abreviation "ABUCHI" for my Western folks, short and simple is'nt it."
16. "In Most West African countries (Togo, Benin, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire), the majority of Southern people name their children based on their day of birth. For instance in Togo, apart from their original meanings, those names also have other interesting meanings. For example if you were born on a Monday and named Kojo or Kodjo for a boy or Adjo for a girl, you would be taken as a zealous man or woman because Monday is the first day of work after the weekend, and if you were born on a Wednesday and named Kokou for a boy or Akwa for a girl, you were taken as a half-lazy person because people usually work or go to school for just the first half of the day -from 7 to 12- and use the other half as leisure time, and if you were born on a Sunday and named Kossi for a boy or Kossiwa for a girl, you were taken as the child of God, the pure, pretty child because people dress up pretty to worship God at the mass on Sunday. Playing with names really is part of many African cultures."
17. "I love my name to death. My first name is from the bible as Christanity was an old religinon in Ethiopia/Africa. When we come to my dad's name "Negussie" it means "my king" and my grandpas name "Aberra" means "it's shining" so when you read my entire name it has a meaning of "Daniel my king shines." Yeah, I hope I will shine forever and be a man for a change."
Daneil Negussie Aberra, Ethiopia/USA
18. "Given the importance of names in my social background (among the Dinka people), I am proud to be one of those named after the "famous" legendary ancestor of the Dinka people of Sudan, Deng, who was believed to be the direct decendant of Adam (Garang) and Eve (Abuk). Any child named after the above names is a blessed one whom the community expect to live up to the due reputation e.g has leadership qualities and being honest."
Deng Mador K-Dengdit, Sudanese in Australia
19. "When I was younger, I thought of my name as a burden - no one could pronounce or spell it correctly, and few were willing to try. I felt that I was in the US, not Nigeria, and I wanted an "American" name. Now that I'm an adult, I recognize my name for what it is: a life-long blessing that my parents gave to me. (Uchenna means "desire or will of God" in Igbo. I also know now that taking the time to learn someone's name is a sign of respect and intelligence, and I take the time to demand that respect from others, and confer it upon others myself. I know now that when I have children of my own, I want them to have Igbo names as well. Even if they don't appreciate their names right away, the meaning will carry them through their lives, and that is very important."
Uchenna Ukaegbu, USA
20. "Knowing exactly what the word "taban" means in Arabic and Kiswhali, I asked my parents to tell me why they decided to give that to me as a name. Was it me or my mother who was "tired"? My mam first laughed and said, "you are really a trouble". She narrated that was her first experience of pregancy. She was tired and complained throughout that my Dad kept calling her Mrs Tired until she had me. Then tiredness turn out to be my popularly known name. Now, I find out that my name affects me in a positive way, because I'm more of a trouble and in trouble than tired. Again came "Alexander' which my dad named after Alexander the great with a thought that I would become like him, so they are still waiting!"
Taban Alex Donato, Sudanese/Australia
21. "I'm glad to have a father who always had time for me, not only to answer my questions but to explain and it stayed in my mind. It all started even before my first grade as all of my friends from my country had English first names. My father told me that my name related to my origin and culture. He told me that I could be known to someone by them just reading my name. I am called Mukupa, a Zambian name which means strong material, the outer skin of cattle used for making drums. And my last name Mulombwa is a very rare, big strong tree which I last saw when I went see my grandmother in the village. I like the challenge that people go through to pronouce my name here in USA, and they always ask me where I come by my names and not by the way I look like."
Mukupa Mulombwa, USA
22. "I find it very interesting that there is a strong vogue now in Africa to abandon Christian names and use only African names. Take the Kenyan President, the Honourable Mwai Kibaki, who has a Christian name, Emilio, but which the majority of Kenyans did not know about until the day he was sworn into office. What is particularly striking is that this is only fashionable amongst Christian Africans. Muslim Africans would never dream of giving up the Arabic names Mohamed, Abd'alla, Yusuf etc in favour of a more authentic African name. Why are African Christians so ashamed of their Christian names in comparison to Muslims who have pride in their Arabic Islamic names."
Vince Gainey, Kenya
23. "I'm very proud of my culture. My first name was selected from the bible. Christianity dates far back in my country. Many people do not realize this and may be believe that my name is "Americanized." My last name shows my ethnic origin. I plan to give all of my children Eritrean names, so that they can know where they are from. It's very important that everyone is proud of their African names. It makes them unique."
Miriam Haile, Eritrean/USA
24. "I am so proud of my Igbo name that I prefer being addressed by it than by my other name. I believe that those who find it difficult pronouncing our indigenous names should make time to learn them. Time was when we were forced to take on European names at baptism because our names were 'pagan'. Now we know better."
Elochukwu Okafor, USA/Nigeria
25. "I have always wondered why my parents gave me this name, Amos. I know Amos was a prophet in the biblical sense, but that is it. I am no prophet and I owe no heritage to prophetic origins. That is why I plan to drop Amos when I get back home because Kiplimo (born after the sun rises and cows/goats have just left for the pastures) is meaningful enough."
Amos Kiplimo Kipyegon, Kenya/USA
26. "Names do have a positive meaning as they tell where one is from and identify one with one's heritage. That is the reason why I decided to drop the foreign name I was given by my parents in the name of Christianity. I have decided to take my rightiful and meaningful African names because even Jesus did not change his name to something else when he was baptised so why should we as Africans change our names to Western names. I think it is a subtle colonialism of names which we should get rid of. My name Chishimba comes from a guardian spirit of the Chishimba Falls that is found in Northern Zambia. Milongo means "queues". I think my great grandfather had a lot of children so he was named Milongo. What does John or Joseph mean?"
Chishimba Milongo, Zambia
27. "I remember two and a half years ago when working in the lab for my masters degree and I asked my fellow lab mates what the meaning of their names were. I had known for a long time what the meaning of mine was - royalty with wealth (Ademola). They were unable to say what their names meant. For the next quarter to third of an hour, they literally disappeared from the lab and got on the internet to carry out name searches for the meaning of their names!"
Ademola Adeyemi, UK
Note: These are Yoruba (Nigerian) names.
28. "What a wonderful and a proud topic for Africans. Names are usually given after tragedy like several still births or after the religious belief of the parents or after the grandparents. My sister is called Bamijoko. She came after 2 previous still born babies. (Bamijoko-come sit down and eat with us) My name Adefemi, means "Big man came to town" "
Kenneth Adefemi Hamilton, Sierra Leone / Canada
29. "I am exceedingly proud of my name! It is a bit annoying that I have to spell my name whenever I call somewhere. But I must say that many, especially elderly people, associate my name to the late Emperor of Ethiopia, HIM Haile Selassie I. That fills me with pride! Yared is a biblical name meaning "Sent from heaven" and Yared was an Ethiopian Saint in the 6th century, who composed the Liturgical chants of the ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. And it's a name that isn't difficult to pronounce for foreigners. Haile Selassie means "Power of the Holy Trinity". So you could translate my name as "The heaven sent power of the Holy Trinity". My two brothers have two even more fitting names. The first is called Maren ("forgive us" Haile Selassie (for what we did to you...) and the second is called Kedus ("Holy" or "Saint") and with the surname this is "Saint Haile Selassie" or "Holy Power of the Holy Trinity". I wouldn't change my name for nothing!"
Yared Haile Selassie, Ethio-Swiss / Switzerland
30. "I recently returned from 3 months volunteering in an orphanage in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. During my stay I was given a Zulu name by the children of the orphanage. They called me Mandla, which means power and strength because I could lift the children above my head and carry them on my shoulders!! I was so proud to be gifted a name that actually carries meaning and love the way the zulu people reflect their hopes and aspirations for their children through the name. This is a tradition that should be preserved and used to maintainan an African sense of cultural identity."
Paul "Mandla" Taylor, UK
31. "My name is Hezekiah an Old Testament name that belongs to a king of Judah and means 'YAHWEH strengthens'. My 4 brothers have the names, Azariah, one of the three Old Testament men the Babylonian king ordered cast into a fiery furnace and means 'YAHWEH has helped'. Zechariah, a minor prophet of the Old Testament, author of the Book of Zechariah and means 'YAHWEH remembers'. Isaiah, a major prophet of the Old Testament the author of the Book of Isaiah and means 'YAHWEH is salvation'. And Malachi one of the minor prophets in the Old Testament, the author of the Book of Malachi and means 'my messenger'. Born in a religious family in Ethiopia (Orthodox Christians) our parents gave us these biblical names, but it wasn't until recently (7 years or so ago) that we became Christians and are now happier with our names."
Hezekiah, Born in Ethiopia, Live in England
32. "My first name Beteselam means house of peace and my last name Tsegaye means my wealth (not necessarily of worldly possessions). Together it could mean my wealthy house of peace. I love my name, I m really a peaceful and calm person and my name makes me feel wealthy."
Beteselam Tsegaye, Ethiopian in U.S.
33. "'Bradley' is a name my father gave me because he like his headmaster in the colonial days of Kenya. 'Ngana' was my grandfather's brother's name and seems to have no meaning - at least I haven't found one to date. 'Kisia' is my dad's name and means born after twins. My father was born after twins. African names sound good and give us a sense of where we come from, especially in these days when we are taking up a Western culture without trying to understand it."
Bradley Ngana Kisia, Kenya
34. "A little bit of care is needed when we name our children after big events. These events may not last long. Names like 'Abiyot' meaning 'Revolution' were very common during the early days of the Ethiopian revolution. It is now futile!! After the new Ethiopian government came to power names like 'Ifoyta' meaning 'quietude' appeared. The revolution is calmed down!! And in the future..."
35. "My name does not really symbolise anything, BUT from the region where I come from which is Kisii the following names are symbolic: Kiage - Someone born during a heavy harvest where Kiage means Granary; Makori - One born on the way(roadside) for a man and Nyanchera for a woman; Ondeu - One born with small body size; Omache - Some one born near a river. African names are good. For example in a party when people introduce themselves, it is easier to identify one who comes from your locality. This therefore means a name is an identity."
Paul Gisemba Atisa
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