What’s in a name?

So I was having a conversation with someone about the deeper significance of changing your African name to an English name. Their point was that there was no deeper meaning…some people just prefer an English name. I said yes but why? What is the deeper reason behind that? This extract from Lord Macauley’s address to the British parliament on 2nd Feb 1835 explains the cause of this perfectly.

“I have travelled the length and breadth of Africa and I have not seen one who is a beggar, who is a thief such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country unless we break the very backbone of this nation., which is her spiritual and cultural heritage and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Africans think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation“.

Although, there has been much dispute about the authenticity of this quote with many stating that he was talking about India, not Africa, that is irrelevant to me. These are the same tactics they deployed to conquer all nations, nevertheless, psalms 82 3-5 comes to mind;

“They devise crafty schemes against your people; they conspire against your precious ones.“Come,” they say, “let us wipe out Israel as a nation.We will destroy the very memory of its existence.” Yes, this was their unanimous decision.”

If you follow me on Facebook you already know who I feel the original Israelites were…but be patient, I’ll do a full post on that soon. Anyway back to Lord Macauley’s address; this calculated plot to essentially destroy a great nation and her people worked a treat and is still rampant even today. Africans believe that everything foreign is better than what they possess. If it is not foreign. They mock it. Not realising that their continent and all it encompasses is phenomenal. Some people change their African names because they don’t want to be associated with being African. They dont want to seem uncivilised. Or they feel like they will not be afforded the same opportunities with that name.

I am guilty of this. When I was younger I would use my middle name instead of my first name on CV because it was English. I knew I stood a better chance of landing an interview. Some argue that it is not that deep. People simply change or don’t use their African names because in certain industries it is good to adopt a stage name. Granted. But why are stage names English? Why adopt an English stage name? Do u ever see an English man adopt an African stage name? For example certain news anchors do not use their African last names. This is not by accident. It could be that they do not want to be associated with being African or it could be that they knew they would be more appealing and successful with English names. May even be a combination of both.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not disputing that people are allowed to change their names, adopt stage names etc. Some people even do so for religious reasons. My point is whenever they change their names from African to English it’s because they feel like it is better more superior. This is something that was engrained into us. To be ashamed of who we are and where we come from. It is no mistake. It was planned. The whole media and entertainment industry is whitewashed. The use of the term mainstream even. Once you’ve cracked mainstream then you’ve made it. Mainstream is who? A predominantly white audience. You can’t sound or act ‘too black’ whatever that means. To be white is accepted, to be unapologetically black or African is not. You have to dilute your ‘blackness’ or African heritage to truly make it. Be ‘urban’ enough to where you are seen as ‘cool’ but don’t go OTT with it. Heaven forbid you fully embrace your culture. Now back to those who change or hide their African names because they feel it will give them a better chance at getting ahead. I used to think the same way. In fact they are right. People would much rather employ an english sounding name than an African name. This stems back to slavery and colonisation (or unshackled slavery as I like to call it). The slave masters wanted to strip the slaves of all form of personal identity. So they forced them to bear English names. Those who insisted on bearing their African names were punished into submission. The house slaves especially saw the bearing of their African name as some sort of disloyalty to the slave master. This passage comes to mind,

“and you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance That I gave you; And I will make you serve your enemies In the land which you do not know; For you have kindled a fire in My anger…” Jeremiah 17:4

Some tell me ‘it’s no big deal Tes if it helps you get ahead who cares about a name?’. I do. I care. I’ve come to the point in my life where I will not compromise my culture or heritage to get ahead. Never. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your African name that holds so much meaning. It’s a reflection of your rich and colourful culture. The pride I feel for my culture and people is colossal. It has taken me decades to understand certain things and understand the level of destruction they’ve caused especially emotionally. I’ve spoken to various African Americans who are deeply upset that they do not have African names , they do not know where exactly they are originally from. They still bare names given to them generations ago by slave masters. I feel blessed that I’m not in that position and you should do to. It’s saddens me when I see people ashamed of their rich heritage. The richest in the world even. Those who mocked and rubbished our culture see our greatness they just don’t want us to see it ourselves. So they can continue to benefit from us and appropriate the hell out of our culture. Without Africa the west would crumble. Period. From our natural resources to our minerals to our basic commodities. They see the value. We are a blessed land. A rich and vibrant culture. Own it. #Becauseknowledgeofselfisnirvana

5 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. This is an interesting post. I agree that people should be proud of their African names and even go as far as making people learn it. Don’t pronounce it funny, don’t shorten it, say my full name. If can learn your english name then you can definitely learn mine. Its not that difficult.
    With that being said, I’m just curious. Your name “Tes” or “Teso” is a shortened version of your African/Cultural name right? Why not share & be known by your full name instead, on the blog & other platforms? Is it a nickname or did you shorten it to Tes so that others can pronounce your name easier? I would like to know as that can be easily taken for the english name.I actually thought it was your english name. The reason I ask is, you might be doing the same thing you’re preaching against without even realising. 🙂

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    1. Hi thank you for your feedback. My name is a shortened version of an African name. I have been called Teso since I was little. Even when I lived in Nigeria as a child. The nickname was Teso. When I went to England at age Seven my siblings all decided to use their English names. I refused. I said no. Call me Teso. I have never heard an English person called Teso. I have heard tesa but never Teso. It’s like if your full name is oluwakemi and you are called kemi for short. Is that an English name? Or even olufela who is known as Fela. . A shortened version of a name is nothing to do with changing or hiding your African name. I am asked all the time where my name comes from and what the full version is and means. It’s a question I always reply to with the utmost pride. My post discusses people feeling the need to be addressed by English names as opposed to their African names. Not a shortened nickname version of a name.

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