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We should be proud of our African names!
By Lawrence Moindi | Updated Jan 22, 2020 at 14:10 EAT
Naming a newborn (Photo/Courtesy)

Names tell more about who we are, where we are from, and our cultures. It is sad that as Africans, we do not take much pride in our names.

Indians, Arabs, Koreans, Japanese, Europeans, and many others have gratification in their names.

Let's be real and honest. What is the problem with giving your child three African names without an English first name? Must all of us become Brian, Divock, Sheryl, Monica, Cynthia, and Yvon?

Names tell more about who we are, where we are from, and our cultures. It is sad that as Africans, we do not take much pride in our names. Indians, Arabs, Koreans, Japanese, Europeans, and many others have gratification in their names.

Conversely, our African identity has been wiped out to a deep extent owing to the rejection of our naming cultures and traditions. What we have now is a show of British imperialism and brainwashing. It seems that giving your child African names without a first Western name is uncool. This is terrible!

Hardly do you see non-Africans giving their children African names. It is almost unheard of. Yet, Africans are unsatisfied with their names. We collect names from everywhere, mainly from our colonizers. British colonies in Africa use British names, and French colonies use French names. Keep in mind Africa is not the only continent that was colonized. Even the now mighty China was colonized but has since independence emancipated herself from the colonizers' cultures.

As a continent, Africa seems to have lost its identity. We do not seem to have recovered from the effects of colonization, and perhaps that explains our poor problem-solving approaches. No wonder Africa has a high level of dependency on other countries.

Perhaps, this self-loathing plays a role in how our leaders treat us. If we hate ourselves, country, and culture, how can we invest in our future? The failure to appreciate who we are, what we stand for and our values and aspirations contribute to the current state of Africa.

Our leaders don't trust the capacity of the people. They do not even believe that the lives of our people matter; no wonder they can't invest in basics like education and healthcare. They do not see the need to build capacity to boost innovation because, hey! Can we even innovate as Africans? We fail to appreciate who we are, and consequently, we are in a vicious cycle of poverty and stagnation.

Names such as Elizabeth, Victoria, Adams, and Smith are deeply English. They are not our names. So why do we still need them? For validation?

It is understandable for Africans living abroad to use Western names for obvious reasons. They live in a world full of racism, prejudice, and bias. Africans abroad have had to find ways of navigating such a world because, after all, it was not designed for Africans. When you go to the West, you might as well behave like the Western people to get access to their jobs and opportunities.

Some might argue that the naming culture is aligned to Christian faith, which is predominant in many sub-Saharan African countries. This is untrue, especially as many Christians are not naming their children from the Bible. Names such as Brian, Lawrence, and Victor have little to do with the Bible. Yet these are common among African Christians.

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As Africans, we need to love ourselves more. We need to stand up and identify with our culture by starting with the little things. We should be honest enough to see that ruracio is our way of doing weddings. We don't have to do another on top of that!

Our African names matter and identify us with our land and culture. There was no King of England called Mwangi. You can't hear people in Russia being called Wafula or Kituku. It is time for us to be content to call our children three African names without a Western name to restore our Africanness.

Now, this is not to mean we should be anti-Western. This is purely a matter of a lost culture, pride, and identity; and how that affects our present and future. The world is moving towards a more global and less national and continental phase. We have to embrace globalization and all its goodies. We can't abandon scientific knowledge and technology. That would be not very smart! But as we embrace these global benefits, we should be able to own up to who we are. When we travel abroad, we should proudly say we are Odhiambo Okoth Okong' o or Rehema Zawadi Juma. People should stop and ask where we are from. They should not hear our names and on seeing us think we are phonies who can't accept out blackness and Africanness. Do you agree that Kenyan parents should give their kids three African names?

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