The Christian/Western Name
When we were little, we always got pissed when they’d call us in our native names. Some of us would be so pissed that we’d refuse to answer. And others? Well, we’d get into fights with people who called us by those names. Even recently, I saw my elder sister get a bit pissed because I called her by her native name, Sih. Growing up too, it felt like only those who were older than us or at least, old enough to be our uncles or parents, were reserved the right to call us by our native names. What (if anything) has changed?
Even in the days when pan africanism was at its peak, most forerunners of the ideology proudly wore their European names and it felt as if the movement was for everything, but names. Growing up still, it was commonplace to not get baptized unless you adopted what they called a “Christian name”. People had to change from Kum Gong Buh to Kum Gong Buh John. Admit it, that John at the end gave it some sort of finesse or at least, used to make us believe it did.
Strangely, we got to a point where we became proud to flaunt these names. Maybe it’s from the influence of Chinua Achebe et al, who used their native names more. Maybe we have just grown into that consciousness that our names constitute a great part of our cultures and identities. Or maybe, these native names have finally become “vogue”. One thing I know is that Africans have been following the rest of the world to proudly bear their names. You see less of Johns and more of Kum, Fonyuy, Chiambah, Ayuk, etc. Even those with the Western names have learnt to use them less.
But there are a few people in this modern era who ascribe to the school of the Trevons and Jaydens. In this era of political correctness, we can’t judge nor condemn people for choosing to name their children whatever they want. But we are at least glad that we now have the ability to carry our cultures and identities on our heads without feeling embarrassed. We are mostly happy because we have learnt to love the meanings and responsibilities of our names.
But if anyone asks, my name is Conrad NN. I might be the people I am preaching against and if you care to know, my children will proudly bear their native names as I have learnt(or not) to bear mine.
“They saw us, And said: They have not changed!” — Extract from “Ancestral Faces” by Kwesi Brew