‘My Name’ by Magoleng wa Selepe

African Savanna
African Savanna

I just thought about what happened to our fathers, mothers, grandmothers, and grandfathers during colonial times: to go to school African children were forced by European missionaries to adopt a christian name such as John, Peter (Jean, Pierre), etc… as opposed to their good old African name Nomzimo, Makeba, Ndoumbe, Keïta, etc.  Thus many Africans who would have just worn the name ‘Ndoumbe Mpondo‘ or ‘Binlin Dadié‘ or ‘Um Nyobé‘ had to adopt a European name such as John + their own name, such that they became: John Ndoumbe Mpondo or Bernard Binlin Dadié or Ruben Um Nyobé.  To this day, the tradition has remained… most Africans would have three or four names: their family name, and their given name, plus the European first name and in some cases a European middle name as well.  The poem below entitled ‘My name‘ by the South African poet Magoleng wa Selepe captures this very well.

My Name

Nomgqibelo Ncamisile Mnqhibisa

Look what they have done to my name……..

the wonderful name of my great-great-grandmother

Nomgqibelo Ncamisile Mnqhibisa

The burly bureaucrat was surprised

What he heard was music to his ears

‘Wat is daai, se nou weer?’

‘I am from Chief Daluxo Velayigodle of emalu podweni

And my name is Nomgqibelo Ncamisile Mnqhibisa.’

Messia, help me !

My name is simple

And yet so meaningful

But to this man it is trash…..

He gives me a name

Convenient enough to answer his whim…..

I end up being

Maria…..

I…………..

Nomgqibelo Ncamisile Mnqhibisa

by Magoleng wa Selepe