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Organization Seeks to Help Africans Get Rid of Their Colonial Names

Avatar • Oct 23, 2015

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Blacks worldwide are living in the first centuries and decades since the end of slavery and colonization. One enduring reminder of this is our names. While many of us have come to embrace last names that originated in Europe, one South African organization is attempting to reverse the effect of colonialism on names.

The I Am An African Foundation believes that leaving colonial names behind should be an option for South Africans.

We have started decolonising our countries – from changing the names of our African countries, to changing street names – so why are we not changing our names, which is the core of our identity?” Maseko asks.

In African culture a name is not just a name. It has great significance as it tells a story of a person’s life from the day they were born about who they are meant to become,” he explains.

Having colonial names takes us back in history as black people, it’s a reminder of how our great-grandparents names were changed by their colonial masters. Why should we keep names that remind us of such, and names that remind us of how inferior we were. We cannot still have colonial names in our ID books, because our ID – that is who we are,” Maseko says.

As a teacher, Maseko says he’s come across many learners who are on a quest to find their identity. And while he understands that black consciousness goes far beyond changing a name, he believes that having an African name is the beginning of the journey towards understanding who you are as an African.

Ladies, what are your thoughts? Would you consider this if the option was available to you?

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Antoinette Collins
Antoinette Collins
5 years ago

Yes I would definitely want to do this

cryssi
cryssi
5 years ago

Interesting… No, I wouldn’t change my name. While Williams may not be the name of my African ancestors, it’s still a name of pride for my family. My father is a Williams, my grandfather, who was chased out of Mississippi for punching a white man in the 50s, was a Williams. It has strong connection to literally giving “no f*€ks” and standing up for what you feel is right. I can’t claim to know much about my African ancestors or the history behind a name I’ve never known. Or better yet just making up one to disconnect from my heritage. My… Read more »

HisMercy
HisMercy
5 years ago
Reply to  cryssi

lol @ your grandpa’s story. I bet that was a really interesting one!

redpaperlantern
redpaperlantern
5 years ago

Agreed. You can’t be free, truly free, still wearing your oppressors name. Their family lineage may have died out decades ago, but their name lives on through you.

Isabelle
Isabelle
5 years ago

Not sure what he means by a colonial name. Is he talking first names, surnames or both?

CHL
CHL
5 years ago
Reply to  Isabelle

I think surname. It’s like how many black folks have surnames like; Washington, Johnson, Jackson Brown, White, Greene/Green, etc. Like my own last name in Newton. I’d love to change my last name it’d be awesome. My friend is Nigerian but was raised in the US when she was little and goes by Niki instead of her birthname that is Nigerian and I tell her to embrace her given name because she’s lucky enough to have actual known roots and a family tree she can trace in Africa and some people would kill to simply just have a name to… Read more »

Steve Biko
Steve Biko
5 years ago
Reply to  Isabelle

ALL of ’em.

Guest
Guest
5 years ago

I think this a great idea.

Ndumiso Maseko
Ndumiso Maseko
5 years ago

My African people Thank you so much for reading this piece. I would also like to applaud the founder of the blog and her collective. My name is Ndumiso Maseko and I am the founder of the I am an AfriCan Foundation. As an African Consciousness Movement, we thought it is important to contribute into the decolonization of Africa project. The Change Your Colonial Name Campaign is a systematic course that reaches out to black people who have colonial names to change them. It is a polite request, from us, to embark on a journey as a collective, to decolonize… Read more »

maji
maji
5 years ago
Reply to  Ndumiso Maseko

This mission statement is everything! Agree that these modes of culture are important a language gives you a alternate way to view the world.

Guest
Guest
5 years ago
Reply to  Ndumiso Maseko

I applaud you for doing this. I think this is a wonderful idea, even if it’s just a small step in the right direction of ridding ourselves of mental slavery.

Junebug123
Junebug123
5 years ago
Reply to  Ndumiso Maseko

excuse me but you have no place to tell people to change their names. last time are checked there is no one way of being african. there are 3000 ethnic groups in africa and Africa is very diverse. People can help with the names they were born into. Its not their fault.

Junebug123
Junebug123
5 years ago
Reply to  Ndumiso Maseko

excuse me but you have n0 place to tell people to change their names. there is no one way of being African. there are 3000 ethnic groups in Africa and Africa is very diverse. People cannot help with the names they were born into. Its not their fault.

Junebug123
Junebug123
5 years ago
Reply to  Ndumiso Maseko

you have n0 place to tell people to change their names. there is no one way of being African. there are 3000 ethnic groups in Africa and Africa is very diverse. People cannot help with the names they were born into. Its not their fault.

Junebug123
Junebug123
5 years ago
Reply to  Ndumiso Maseko

you have n0 place to tell people to change their names. there is no one way of being African. there are 3000 ethnic groups in Africa and Africa is very diverse. People cannot help with the names they were born into.

Junebug123
Junebug123
5 years ago
Reply to  Ndumiso Maseko

you have no place to tell people to change their names. there is no one way of being African. there are 3000 ethnic groups in Africa and Africa is very diverse. People cannot help with the names they were born into. I’m half coloured half Xhosa my surname is Grobbelaar so what. I’m proud of it,No one owes anyone else an explanation about their name/surname. My Xhosa mother said i must be proud of my surname and i don’t owe anyone else an explanation and i must be myself.

Junebug123
Junebug123
5 years ago
Reply to  Ndumiso Maseko

you cant tell people to change their names. there is no one way of being African. there are 3000 ethnic groups in Africa and Africa is very diverse. People cannot help with the names they were b0rn into. I’m half coloured half Xhosa my surname is Grobbelaar so what. I’m proud of it,No one owes anyone else an explanation about their name/surname. My Xhosa mother said i must be proud of my surname and i don’t owe anyone else an explanation and i must be myself.

Junebug123
Junebug123
5 years ago
Reply to  Ndumiso Maseko

you cannot tell people to change their names. there is n0 one way of being African. there are 3000 ethnic groups in Africa and Africa is very diverse. People cann0t help with the names they were b0rn into. I’m half coloured half Xhosa my surname is Grobbelaar. I’m proud of it,No one owes anyone else an explanation about their name/surname. My Xhosa mother said i must be proud of my surname and i don’t owe anyone else an explanation and i must be myself.

Junebug123
Junebug123
5 years ago
Reply to  Ndumiso Maseko

you cannot tell people to change their names. there is n0 one way of being African. there are 3000 ethnic groups in Africa and Africa is very diverse. People cann0t help with the names they were b0rn into. I’m half coloured half Xhosa my surname is Grobbelaar. I’m proud of it,No one owes anyone else an explanation about their name/surname. My Xhosa mother said i must be proud of my surname and i don’t owe anyone else an explanation and i must be myself. Stop trying to dictate other peoples lives.

Junebug123
Junebug123
5 years ago
Reply to  Ndumiso Maseko

there is n0 one way of being African. there are 3000 ethnic groups in Africa and Africa is very diverse. People cannot help with the names they were b0rn into. I’m half coloured half Xhosa my surname is Grobbelaar. I’m proud of it,No one owes anyone else an explanation about their name/surname. My Xhosa mother said i must be proud of my surname and i don’t owe anyone else an explanation and i must be myself. Stop trying to dictate other peoples lives.

Ms. A
5 years ago

My grandfather changed his name because his own father wouldn’t claim as a child. It should be a choice to carry a name with pride because that’s your identity. This world is so predjudice though — names carry much weight in influencing where you work to how you are treated on a daily basis.

Cosita
Cosita
5 years ago
Reply to  Ms. A

My family has also changed last names over the years. They didn’t change to an African name but I’m proud it’s a name we choose and not the name of some white slavemaster forced on us.

maji
maji
5 years ago

I would do this and I always tell folks if I have a kid mine would definitely have African and Native names. I believe names have power.

unsure
unsure
5 years ago

How would I know if my name is colonial in origin, where do you look to find this information? Please someone tell me where to start.

Intombi Yomzulu
Intombi Yomzulu
5 years ago

Viva! I support this, NdumisoIht

Ke motswana
Ke motswana
5 years ago

I am Tswana and both my name and surname are in the local language. My Middle name is Western and I use it together with my first and wouldn’t get rid of it. I was named after my grandmother who is what we call coloured, in this part of the world, and she was named after her grandmother. Even if you legally change your first name, most likely people will refer to you by the name they know. My relatives and childhood friends still call me by my childhood nickname, no matter how much I have tried to educate them… Read more »

eljjai
eljjai
5 years ago
Reply to  Ke motswana

Dumela, o teng?
It’s very different for us, we don’t have the negative history with white people. But you’re quite right, they should be tryign to reach the kids who have yet to becom parents.

maralondon
maralondon
5 years ago

When you think about it a lot of us are carrying names which belong to kidnappers, rapist, paedophiles just all out abusers. These people had no mercy and no respect for the African, hell they didn’t even have respect for themselves.

Junebug123
Junebug123
5 years ago

smh

Junebug123
Junebug123
5 years ago

no

Sabrina black
Sabrina black
5 years ago

I like the sound of that! ? Good eyes and ears. You guys are coming up?

Isabelle
Isabelle
5 years ago

I don’t really agree with the idea that having a Western last name is necessarily something one should want to be rid of. My last name is Western because my great grandfather was a Scot. Although I consider myself to be black West African, my so called “colonial” last name is inherited by blood. I know this to be the case for many African families; why would we want to deny our history? And anyway, the whole idea of surnames is very much a Western concept. Even today, many people in West Africa struggle with this concept. My father in… Read more »

maralondon
maralondon
5 years ago

I purposely gave my daughter a first African name after much research and her dads’ family are from West Africa with an African surname which she also carries. I still have my European name although I did contemplate changing it about 25 years ago but haven’t, I know many people who have though. I have heard how many Africans have had white priests refuse to baptise their children unless they change their names to European ones well after colonisation. This is a positive move in realising our true identity.

Steve Biko
Steve Biko
5 years ago

Great initiative. The next thing we should do is eliminate colonial languages in our homes. Once you remove a person’s language, you change how he perceives him/her-self. Only AFRICAN languages should be spoken in our homes. Period.

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