Written by Hadi Bah    PDF Print E-mail
Authentic African names have been supplanted by monikers from alien civilizations
News - Culture

Sub-Saharan Africa and Africans have been subjected to exploitation and domination since outsiders from alien civilizations arrived centuries ago. The continent's human resource was enslaved to furnish labor for plantations in the New World. Africa's natural and mineral resources were dug up and used to develop European countries. But the most significant negative legacy is the almost complete disappearance of authentic African names due to the influence of Islamic and Christian civilizations.

kofiFor good or for evil, Europeans always required Africans to discard their original names. To strip an African of his identity during slavery, the first duty of a master was to give his slave a European or Christian name. Using Sierra Leone as a microcosm of what has happened elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, European missionaries who might have meant well believed that the road to eternal salvation included the assumption by Africans of a Christian name after baptism.

Therefore, thousands of freed slaves of Susu, Wolof, Mandingo, or Yoruba origin known as Liberated Africans were simply given Christian names before being resettled in villages with English names like Regent, Gloucester, Charlotte or Wellington. Forever gone were their African names, considered "heathen" by Europeans.

Outside the Christian dominated Sierra Leone Colony, Islam became the predominant alien civilization that thoroughly changed the cultural identity of Africans. Among the Fula and Mandingo ethnic groups authentic African names have completely been replaced by Islamic or Arabic names. Males carry a variation of the Islamic Prophet's name: Mamadu, Mamadi, Momori, Amadu, Ahmed, Mohamed, and Mahmoud while women are often named after some of his wives Aisha, Isata, Khadijah, Kadijatu, Zainab, or Fatima.

In the 21st century, Christian and Islamic naming protocols have remained strong among many Sierra Leoneans and Africans. Some people carry all Christian or European names, some carry a combination of Christian and African (only some last names remain authentic), while others carry a blend of English, Islamic and African names. Ernest Bai Koroma, the president of Sierra Leone has a Christian/English first name and African middle and last names. Victor Bockarie Foh, his vice president has a Christian first name, a Moslem middle name and an African last name.

There have been occasional push backs against the complete disappearance of African names. In 1887, influenced by Edward Wilmot Blyden, a group of Freetown Creole intellectuals formed the Dress Reform Society with a view to shedding European cultural habits and names in favor of African ones. In 1966, late President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire launched a campaign known as Zairianization that urged Zairians to change their European names to African ones. Priests caught baptizing and giving children European names faced long jail sentences. Both the Sierra Leone and Zaire campaigns were short-lived.

In his book Grammar and Vocabulary of the Bullom Language, CMS Missionary Gustavus Nylander, who served in the Bullom shore (known as Lungi today) between 1812 and 1818, wrote that some of the most common names for men were: Hinneh, Furry, Kunny, Shackah, Sabah, Gbannah, Kongbeh, Shembeh, Menkey and Tunkah. For women it was Kumbah, Yirmah, Henny, Kohny, Warrah, Mayin,  Kutah, and Farmah.

Those names along with Kapr, Serry, Vandi, Bai, Konkoro, Boima, Rukoh, and Yenoh have been displaced by Abu Bakarr, Ibrahim, Patrick, John, Aminata, Mary and Elizabeth, Africans mimicking alien cultures.

Alien cultures have never mimicked African culture.