AFRICANGLOBE – Names are important and should not be taken for granted. Even the Bible clearly gives a profound teaching on the importance and the significance of names in the living of humanity. The book of Genesis talks about a beautiful story of Jacob, whose name meant “a swindler”, which God changed to Israel after he had asked to be blessed and God could not bless him until the name was changed.
The Bible also records many other instances of people whose names God had to change or rather who had to change their names so as to get a blessing from God.
Two other examples are that of Simon whose name was changed to Peter and that of Saul who changed his name to Paul.
A prolific writer by the name Joseph A. Bailey once gave a powerful analysis on how Europeans, during the slave trade, managed to remove a sense of identity from enslaved Africans by giving them new names.
“The slaves were given numbers or classical Greek names.”
“This had a profound impact on the selfhood of each of the enslaved – disrupting one’s presumed mission in life, as indicated by one’s name; shattering the sharing of personal and historical experiences, attitudes, and spirits towards life; and putting in disarray the philosophy of life framework and common sense values by which all Africans lived,” said Bailey.
According to Bailey, the changing of names left the enslaved without an identity, and, perhaps even worse, robbed them of a vital link to their heritage and ancestry.
Bailey also explains that, instead of being called by the traditional and often very beautiful names that were so much a part of the culture they left behind, the enslaved Africans were given names that were even mocking in nature, names like “Buck” and “Wench”, “Filly” and “Shoat.”
A century after the slave trade, Whites came back to Africa, with a not-so-different agenda, this time to colonise the continent.
Among other tactics they used, one was that of changing the names of places, sites and even those of people, for example they changed Shungu Nyamutitima which was also called Mosi-oa-Tunya to Victoria Falls.
History also has it that the people they baptised were given new names like Peter, John, Samuel, Joshua, Jeremiah, to mention but a few.
There are many other schools like Prince Edward, Allan Wilson and Roosevelt that still hold colonial names and it’s sad.
What the country is doing is simply honouring the legacy of colonialism.
Regarding names, a Spanish author, Miquel de Cervantes, once wrote: “A good name is better than riches.”
Cervantes was spot on.
This is because a name maintains a sense of identity in a human being, and having an alien one means otherwise.
Many scholars who have written theories on the identity crisis that have hit and ravaged Africans say it is because of colonial hangover, of course citing other causes.
These scholars state that a powerful country uses cultural means to achieve or support the political and economic ends of imperialism that were historically attained through military force and occupation.
They call it cultural imperialism.
By imposing names that uplift their legacy and perpetuate their history, Europeans and Arabs managed to even colonise the Africans even more, and Marcus Garvey called it mental enslavement.
In a recent article titled “Zimbabwe To Rename Victoria Falls In Anti-Colonial Name Bid” Janet Shoko quoted President Mugabe saying:
Institutions bearing colonial names must be changed and be given indigenous names . . . School syllabuses must also change. We should teach our children about Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, General (Josiah Magama) Tongogara and other gallant fighters of our liberation struggle.
War veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda also had this to say:
“We still have institutions like Allan Wilson School, what an insult, considering what that man did to our country.
“David Livingstone was not the first person to see the Victoria Falls, they (the Falls) must be rebranded Mosi-Oa-Tunya. We have soldiers living at KG (King George) VI (Barracks),” he thundered.
“How can we have our barracks continue to be named after a foreign king?”
Names and the identity of a people are two inseparable things hence there is serious need for the Government to look into the matter and start implementing rather than just talking.
The late Oscar Wilde, who was an Irish playwright, unknowingly described the situation in the country and Africa when he said:
Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
By: Best Masinire