Growing up as an African child, I was made to understand the role “names” play in one’s life. The name one bears is very vital and is even believed to influence the major activities or occurrences of a child’s life. I also discovered that names in Africa are not just for posterity sake but that names are also given in remembrance or as a mark for something that happened during the course of delivery.Names are also given to honor great men and women that have gone to the great beyond and are believed to have “returned” through these young ones.
In Igbo-Land Southeastern Nigeria, apart from the name given by the parents,there is also the “village name” which is used as a mark of respect to the father or grandfather, mother or grandmother of either of the parents of the child whether dead or alive. In general, Africans value names and hold it in very high esteem, that is who we are!
It is also in the history books of myths that during the colonial era, due to civilization which came with religion, Africans also adopted foreign names after some of us accepted the new religion(s) that the white-men brought with them, those days men and women that bore those names were regarded as demigods because they had come in contact with the white-men and therefore were well-respected in their community, though some Africans still fought against them. But gradually as the years rolled on and schools, roads, churches, the clothes, the tobacco and other social instruments were seen everywhere, and more Africans embraced the white-men and their religion, then the industrious ones became rich and sent their wards to schools and development came with the new\foreign names that were given to the privileged ones.So many years and decades has gone by and now in Africa,majority of us have foreign names attached to our local African names and we love it, because we are all part of the global village.
Presently there could be more Africans with foreign names attached to their African names than those who don’t.
It’s not a problem,as far as our identity is still represented, there are even some that don’t have African names again but that is not a major problem, at least not yet.
The only disturbing development is a situation where someone is ridiculed or thought to be a less human being, uncivilized, just because the person has a 100% African name, this is very unfortunate and disturbing. I’m not sure how many people may be going through this, but I for one is a witness to this. At the moment and even after this moment, my name is and will always be totally African, Igbo to be precise. I don’t know how it happened because my parents are Christians and I am but seriously I just love the name.
Let’s see, I have a friend, there has been jokes about him, he had been ridiculed in the past, now too maybe. Whenever he has to write down or say his complete name both in official and unofficial matters, it is quite a scene. Puzzling and confusing anytime this happens. Questions like: “are you a christian? “where were you born?” always comes up, our friends have even proposed foreign names for him because they don’t seem to understand why he has only African names in this “internet generation .All these reactions and so many embarrassing and funny encounters he has had, with Africans in Africa,has really got him got thinking.
My question now is why should we ridicule our own local names because of foreign ones? I’m in no way saying we shouldn’t bear foreign names, no! very far from that: but the issue is that some Africans(some Nigerians,because I have a better knowledge of the situation there) believe that those with 100% African names are somehow backward & unexposed .If that’s the case then i think we are all in the same problem, because we live in a continent where we don’t believe you are exposed or civilized unless you dress, eat, sing and do so many things just like our colonial masters; we are truly independent, yes i agree!
My conclusion in this matter is that Africans should give their children names as they wish, if you love to make it all foreign: go ahead,you want to mix both African and foreign: it’s all yours and if you want to keep it African: that’s fine,but nobody should disregard or think of the other as a lesser being just because of bearing a name or names, after all the essence of life is to achieve our goal of living a great legacy behind and the name you answer,depending on your belief may or may not affect you. Say NO to “name discrimination” in Africa, in Nigeria.
My name, is Ifedichinmamere