I remember vividly that in our Social Studies class back in school, we learnt that culture is the way a group of people live. This means that eating, dressing, talking and many other normal daily activities not only form how a group of people live but they also define the way they live. Hence issues of food, language, clothing, marriage and even art instills so much pride in many cultures across the globe.
Focusing on names as a distinct form of culture, we come to realize that peculiar names automatically register in our minds as synonymous with certain cultures. The difference between Henry and Henri is not just the i and y at the end of the two names but the glaring realization that while Henry may be an anglophone, Henri is a francophone. Kim So-young is mostly a name from the South East Asian community, Padmini is most probably Indian and Vladimir is most likely Russian.
Names in Africa form a vital part of the culture of many tribes, clans and ethnicity. Names in Africa are usually adopted from ancestors, illustrious individuals, deities, birthdays, towns and natural phenomena. Our names are peculiar to us and they differ in every region, town, village or clan. However, colonization, assimilation, religion, modernization and globalization has led to the adoption of foreign names. Most Africans go by European first names. For a long time (between 1880s to 2000s), African names lost their appeal to many people.
Growing up with a strong African name, it was often daunting when people proudly mention exotic names adopted from different cultures. It took a long time for me to get to the stage where I feel proud to bear my name. Nowadays, many people with exotic names have gone back to their roots and taken back their indigenous African names. With the advent of pan-africanism and the post independence struggles, Africans began to yearn for the appreciation of our indigenous culture. It took a long time, but many people are now buying into the need to be proudly African.
Part of the pride of being African, is to display our beautiful African names. African names often stand out globally. The advantage of an African name is that once it is recognized, other Africans feel an immediate relation to you and rally behind you in support.
With an entire continent of names to choose from, I encourage a choice of some of our rich traditional names for the next time a beautiful angel is born. Sites such as babynames.net/all/african offers a lot of diverse names and their meanings. In Ghana for instance, the Akan tribe has a name for each day you are born. This has inspired many artistic expressions such as www.creoconceptsgh.com/ghanaba/
There are many names to chose from. I am fond of names that glorify God which the Ewes are famous for. An example is Elinam which means God is with me. There are also names that come with modern pet names such as Ifeoma or Iffy for short (Nigerian), Osinachi or Sinach (Nigerian), Baaba or Barbie (Ghanaian) and Kekeli or Kelly (Ghanaian).
There are many Africans in Hollywood who proudly showcase their African monikers. People such as Adewale Agbaje, Akosua Busia, and Chiwetalu Ejiofor all bear their strong African names. There are also some stars whose names are derived from the continent. My favourite is Taraji Penda Henson’s name which is adopted from Swahili and means Hope (Taraji) and Love (Penda). Kenya Baris and Kanye West also have very similar African derived names. Nowadays, the continent is inspiring some very unique names among the stars.
So, tell us your beautiful African name, the origin and the meaning in the comment section. You may just be the inspiration behind someone using one of our many beautiful African names.