My indigenous name is somehow patrynomic and not of Hebraic faith. Whatever it is, it is what whoever assigned, or was authorised to assign it to me, decided I should be called. Largely, names are not appropriated by the bearer.
Someone else usually decides who should have what name.
For a non-relative bureaucrat to decide who should bear what name sounds like what our culture-corroding colonial agent teacher did in 1952.
It was the first year of the implementation of the Kwame Nkrumah (as leader of government business) CPP government’s Accelerated Education Plan. Schools, particularly those by missions, were being opened in many communities without school. So, thanks to the Methodist Church, they came to open one in my community. Our group was, therefore, the pioneering batch of enrolled schoolchildren.
When we arrived in school the first day, the teacher asked my name. Kwasi Kuma I told him. Apparently, there had been an earlier Kwasi Kuma, that being a common name.
Before long, there was a third Kwasi Kuma. To differentiate the three namesakes from each other, the teacher assigned numbers on first come first number basis.
So we became Kwasi Kuma Number One, Kwasi Kuma Number Two and Kwasi Kuma Number Three.
Those were our names as recorded in the register and it is to those we responded: ‘Sir,’ whenever the teacher checked attendance. A few months ago, all three of us met to recall and relive that experience.
Before long, in those good old days, our teacher announced that we were going to be baptised into the Methodist Church. It was a Methodist owned school so why not. As part of the preparation for baptism, we lined up to be named again, assigned Christian biblical names by our teacher without consultation with our parents, to replace the week-day names we were using as first names.
For the three of us Kwasi Kumas, the order of birth was the last name with the teacher-added identifier numeral suffix.
With the teacher’s new imperialist patronymic naming exercise he arrogated to himself without parental consent, he would ask you to tell him your father’s name. To that, he would add a Christian name.
So number one became Solomon and number three became Daniel. Still, the last names of two of us, Number Two and Number Three, still clashed because our fathers had the same last name.
The church was generous enough to have given you school and took advantage to Christianise you by giving you a Christian name. Someone tells me the practice of teacher assigned Christian name discouraged Muslims from sending their children to Christian schools for fear of the children being given Christian or biblical names such as Isaac Issaka or Faustina Amina.
I want to believe children who attend Islamic schools must have Islamic names. Can’t tell if they are Arabic or Islamic or both. And I am not sure they are given by parents not the instructors. Apparently Islamic names are chosen by parents for their offspring and blessed by the Mallam. Christian or Islamic, Ali Mazrui calls it all Hebraic names. I hear there are still leaders of God’s work who will not baptise an infidel unless they have a Christian name. If the Birth & Death register people have heard a couple call their child North West I can’t understand what they are fussing about. I bet if you were to ask them to distinguish between a Christian, biblical and English or European name, they wouldn’t give a damn. Same will be with distinguishing Islamic names from Arabic or Pakistani/Punjabi names. I am aware that some nations regulate naming systems. But often, those actions aim at protecting child name bearers from ridiculing and teasing; or even seen as publicly offensive.
B&DR may have a point in criticising an Akan who calls himself Prince or herself Princess because the father is a chief or the mother is a queenmother.
Those terms are alien to the Akan matriarchal system. One is a royal Ɔdehyeɛ or not. There are no princes and princesses. Those might exist within the patriarchal systems.
Ɔheneba (chief’s son) is a word and can be a legitimate name. So is Ɔhene. One name I remember with fondness is Ɔheneba Kow Richradson. Like him, many who carry abrɔfosɛm last names, retain their Ghanaianness with indigenous first (week-day) names. Indeed, there are names ‘deemed unfit for a birth certificate.’ But that’s often mainly about ‘obscenities.’ Just imagine the name Adolf Hitler is even considered legitimate!
From he who knows what’s a shithole, because he’s shit, we have enough racial insult related self-esteem issues pending.
We lost our esteem by abandoning our soul (names, language and religion).
Let no birth and death certificate legislation add to that by preferring naming by brainwashing faith over indignity.
By Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh