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.
For 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African names have completely been replaced by Islamic or Arabic names.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
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.