The slow death of Surnames

Your name is not only your identity; it’s also a chain that links you with your past. Today some Africans have severed it by replacing their Surnames with foreign names—finding parents naming their children, Mark Dickens or Caroline White is becoming common. 

Your name is not only your identity; it’s also a chain that links you with your past. Today some Africans have severed it by replacing their Surnames with foreign names—finding parents naming their children, Mark Dickens or Caroline White is becoming common. 

It is believed that these Christian or English names were incorporated into African societies by colonialists who were not able to pronounce African names. Therefore, they insisted that Africans to acquire Western names. This was set into motion by enforcing Western names for Africans in their employ as well as for those who desired to get an education through the elite missionary schools.

“I am Christian and I don’t want to name my daughter after something that will link her with dead ancestors or even give her some name that is one mile long and won’t fit on her ID,” said Dorothy Uwase a 28-year-old hairstylist and mother of two.

Jean Damascenes Gasamagera from Ruhengeri in the Northern Province of Rwanda is said that when he moved to Kigali he met Cynthia a young orphaned beautiful woman, they fell in love and decided to start a family.
Eventually, God blessed them with a baby boy whom they named Walcott Bieber.

According to Gasamagera the fact that they were both young parents who had no close relatives is what influenced their decision—Gasamagera is a soccer fan while Cynthia, the mother is a music fanatic—which, explains their son’s name Walcott Bieber.

This simply implies that Jean Damascene’s surname (Gasamagera) which has been passed on for hundreds of generations from his ancestors has come to a dismissive ending.

Many traditionalists may say that Jean Damascene does not understand the value attached to his African name because it means nothing to him, but he assures that the fact that their son is named after famous people carries value as well.

Bwiza Uzamukunda on the other side said she is lucky to know the value and significance of her name.
“I’m proud of the fact that I am named after my father’s sister (aunt), who is named after my paternal great-grandmother, who was also named after her maternal grandmother. I am proud of the fact that we were able to keep a tiny portion of our family tree alive by keeping our naming traditions alive,” said Bwiza.

Bwiza said that it was only right to confer with family members or elders before dropping a surname that has been passed on for generations.

martin.bishop18@yahoo.com 

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