Nigerian Bread Seller Accidentally Photobombs Popstar And Gets Modeling Contract

People say fairytale are just for kids, but when they happen in real life, everyone feels the magic. Recently, English musician Tinie Tempah and photographer and singer Ty Bello were doing a photoshoot in Nigeria when they were accidentally photo-bombed by a bread seller. The catch? The photo was perfect, and Bello was enchanted.

“Who is she? Every one has been asking if this lady is a model… It was just perfect coincidence,” wrote Bello on Instagram. The search was on. 27-year-old Olajumoke Orisaguna, mother of two, was eventually found, but the story doesn’t end there. With Bello’s help, she scored a modeling contract, and was just featured on the cover of This Day Style!

Popstar Tinie Tempah was doing a photoshoot in Nigeria when a bread seller accidentally photobombed the shot

The photographer wanted to find her, but didn’t know who she was

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The photographer wanted to find her, but didn’t know who she was

Then, on February 4th, he finally found her

Meet 27-year-old Olajumoke Orisaguna, bread seller, mother of two

“So I found her …our beauty from the @tiniegram shoot and boy have I got a fantastic story to share with you all”

“Meeting and photographing her has inspired us all”

“We can’t wait for the good that will come to her from all of this to unfold”

Just days later, Orisaguna was on the cover of this magazine!

A real-life fairytale

North Carolina students threatened with suspension for wearing African headwraps

Jamaica Gilmer

A group of black students at the School for Creative Studies in Durham, N.C., could not imagine how much controversy would be sparked when they decided to wear head wraps to class for Black History Month.

Afiya Carter says her 15-year-old daughter and her fellow classmates were threatened with suspension after administrators warned that they were in violation of the dress code.

According to the cited policy, “hats, caps, hoods, sweat bands and bandannas or other head wear worn inside [the] school building” are impermissible, with no exceptions being made for garments worn in with cultural or religious significance.

Monday, parents gathered at the school to chant in protest against Durham County Schools’ dress code policy.

“This is not right. This is not fair. We will not stand for it,” Carter says. “This is about supporting these young people and letting them know that their cultural expression is something to be valued, and value other people’s cultural expressions.”

“It says to me symbolically that our girls — and our boys, as well — have to alter not only their attire, but their whole selves in order to seem less disruptive or offensive,” said Dosali Reed-Bandele, whose daughter was among those reprimanded. “This is utterly ridiculous and I am tired of those messages bombarding our babies day in and day out.”

School authorities are now denying they threatened the students with disciplinary action, and the district says that after meeting with the students, the principal decided to allow the young women to wear headwraps — also known as African geles — as an instructional tool.

Durham County School Superintendent, Dr. Bert L’Homme, responded with the following statement:

“I have heard the concerns of parents and community members who feel our policy prohibiting hats and head wear is too strict or that it infringes on student’s cultural expression.

I understand their concerns and assure them that I will share their thoughts with the committee that is currently reviewing and suggesting revisions to our Code of Student Conduct.

In the meantime, I appreciate both the initiative shown by the young women at SCS and the school’s willingness to give these student leaders an opportunity to incorporate their ideas into a school-wide program. The gele, its history and how to wear it are now part of the school’s Black History Month activities for both middle school and high school students.

I can also tell you that SCS had an extensive schedule of Black History Month programs already. Daily seminars for high school students and other activities in middle school. But after meeting with the young women and incorporating their ideas, they’ve added themed Mondays and a Black History announcement as part of the morning messages. The members of the Young Women of Excellence group will be the ones making those announcements.”

“I hope that my daughter and the other girls learn that you should not alter who you are to fit in or assimilate to society’s so-called standards and that it’s perfectly on point to stand up for what you know is right,” said Reed-Bandele. “It is your birthright to be who the Creator made you to be.”

 

 

 

 

 

Ugandan asylum-seeker in UK faces deportation for failing to prove he’s gay

By on November 17, 2015 — 35-year-old Ugandan asylum seeker, Robert Kityo, living in Manchester faces deportation after the UK Home Office turned down his application because he had “failed to prove” his is openly gay

Robert Kityo has been taken to a deportation centre after his latest attempt to claim asylum was refused by the Home Office Jon Super Photo: The Independent

Robert Kityo has been taken to a deportation centre after his latest attempt to claim asylum was refused by the Home Office Jon Super Photo: The Independent

Robert Kityo, a gay Ugandan asylum-seeker living in Manchester faces deportation after the United Kingdom Home Office turned down his application because he had “failed to prove” his sexuality.

According to The Independent, Home Secretary Theresa May said: “It is not accepted that you are a homosexual and an openly gay man.”

Gay pride flag Photo: cbc

Although his application was supported by church leaders, gay activists and a petition with more than 1,900 signatures, Kityo’s request was still declined.

The 35 year-old faces imminent deportation to Uganda where homosexuality is illegal under a 1950s penal code which prescribes jail for those found guilty of homosexual acts. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Uganda have no specific legal protections.

Kityo, who came to the UK on a student visa in 2011 told The Independent: “I’m very scared. I’m a gay man and in Manchester I am able to be who I am. I have made many friends here who accept me and love me. But I’m frightened that I will be killed if I am sent back to Uganda. It isn’t safe to be a gay man in Uganda.”

BLACK AMERICANS WEARING AFRICAN CLOTHING IS NOT CULTURAL APPROPRIATION

Maya Angelou and Malcolm X

Maya Angelou and Malcolm X in Ghana

The internet has unfortunately become a cesspool for the most simplistic arguments to be sensationalized. The latest finger pointing bandwagon phrase to hit the net is “cultural appropriation.” It’s being slaughtered, with a slew of would be  writers refusing to actually research the meaning of the term before tossing it around carelessly. So is the case with a recent article declaring, that Black Americans were culturally appropriating African cultures by wearing African clothing. It goes without saying, that this bold assertion is as deprived of history, logic and critical analysis as “reverse racism.”

Part I: Let’s begin with the definition of appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is when a dominant culture takes, claims and establishes itself the creator of the cultural heritage and artifacts of a minority and or marginalized culture thereby erasing the history of the marginalized culture.

In Neo-Slave Narratives: Studies of a Social Logic in Literary Form, African American studies professor Ashraf H. A. Rushdy describes appropriation and how it operates:

Something gets appropriated by something else when a productive or expressive form or practices, let’s say jazz or blues or agricultural methods for growing rice, develops within one disempowered cultural group but gets used by and enriches only or mostly another empowered cultural group. The distinction between cultural groups has to do most emphatically with each group’s relationship to power, controlling the means of material production and controlling the means to mental production.

Rushdy continues:

One of the marks of that relationship between an empowered and a disempowered cultural group is that the empowered group is able to take possession of those material products, physical labors, and cultural forms and practices developed within the disempowered group. Once that something is “appropriated” it no longer functions to enrich materially or to empower socially those within whose cultural group that something developed. (p. 175)

Using Rushdy’s explanation, Black Americans as African descendants are not appropriating African cultures by wearing African clothing. The oppressive power dynamics, the enrichment that excludes African cultures, the means of controlling the material production of African clothing on the part of Black Americans is non-existent. Nor can Black American power dynamics with African cultures be compared with the power dynamics of colonial power structures that stifled Africa’s progress as was outlined in Guyanese Pan African scholar Walter Rodney’s, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.

Part II: Black History Is African History

The historical experience of Black Americans does not begin with slavery. It begins in Africa. This is a shocking plot twist to those wishing to disconnect Black Americans from African cultures. We did not emerge out of thin air, but are instead a mixture of African people of multiple ethnic groups predominantly from Western Africa. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and chattel slavery did not erase the cultural legacy of Black Americans anymore than colonialism erased the cultural legacy of African ethnic groups.

During the slave trade and chattel slavery the ancestors of Black Americans, Afro-Latinos and Afro-Caribbean people were often prevented from speaking their African languages and practicing their religions. Furthermore, the dominant Western culture demonized all aspects of Black African cultures. Still, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones founded the Free African Society and later the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1787, which is to date one of the oldest Black American institutions in the United States of America.

They named it the “African” Methodist Episcopal Church for a reason. It was a reflection of how they viewed themselves in America. They spoke no African languages, they wore no African clothing because those things were not readily available to them. But they insisted on embracing everything about their heritage that they had access to.

Over the last 228 years, a lot of changes have taken place including the ability to reconnect with aspects of African cultures that were cut off by oppressive systems.

These reconnections are not without complications.

However, claiming that Black Americans are committing the same cultural appropriation as whites when wearing African clothing demonstrates a gross lack of basic level critical thinking skills. One can not compare attempts to reconnect to cultural origins with oppressive attempts to erase an ethnicity’s cultural legacy. Even if some Black Americans may not understand the full deeper religious meaning of various prints or tribal paints, that is completely different from seeking to erase the achievements and history of a culture’s artifacts, which is what cultural appropriation does.

Furthermore, the assumption that all Black Americans do not know the deeper meaning of various tribal prints or paints is without merit. This is especially the case due to the rising amount of African descendants converting to traditional African religions or at least bonding with various symbolic references from these religions. One can not assume, that the wearer does not know the meaning simply because they are Black American. It could be the case that they know the meaning and that’s why they wore it. It’s complicated, layered and not always executed properly, but still not appropriation.

Part III: Africa Is Not A Country, Blackness Does Not Exist In A Vacuum

Nkrumah and Dubois

Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana and Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria, both attended Lincoln University, the first degree granting Historically Black College in the U.S. Nkrumah, an avid Pan Africanist, often cited the interconnectedness among all members of the Pan African World, working closely with Black scholar W.E.B. DuBois. Nkrumah is well known for his vision of a unified Africa with strong linkages to the Pan African World. “I am not African because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me,” said Nkrumah.

Making the statement that “if you do not belong to an African tribe, don’t wear tribal print,” is exclusionary to people that may not know the exact tribe of their family’s origin. It’s even furthermore complicated because as a mixed people, Black Americans actually come from many different tribes. Everyone does not have the privilege of knowing what tribes they come from, but they still carry the cultural heritage of those groups.

I was fortunate enough to trace my maternal lineage, with the help of AfricanAncestry.com’s DNA program. My own maternal ancestors are from the Tikar ethnic groups in modern day Cameroon. Does this mean that I suddenly became the spokesperson for all things Tikar? The answer is no. But it does mean that I have a cultural and ancestral connection that extends beyond the history of U.S. chattel slavery and any attempts to reconnect with that at best can be viewed as cultural appreciation or acculturation depending on my proximity to members of that ethnic group. The artistry and craftsmanship that my grandmother exhibited through her quilts, statues, paintings and instruments represent her heritage as a direct descendant of the Tikar people, even though she did not know she came from this ethnic group.

This can not and never will be cultural appropriation. You can not appropriate that which is your own.

Additionally, there are thousands of different types of African cultures and sub-groups. Ethnic groups on the continent and throughout the diaspora borrow from one another through cultural exchanges. Exchanging languages, religions, foods, musical styles and clothing. Members of various African ethnic groups often wear the tribal prints and jewelry of other ethnic groups simply based on liking the style. There is no reason Black Americans, Afro-Caribbeans and Afro-Latinos should be excluded from this cultural exchange. Additionally, on the economic front, many marketplace sellers and African fashion designers would cringe at the thought of limiting their work to only within the confines of their tribe.

That’s not how this works.

Black Americans and other children of the African Diaspora are included in the Pan African cross-cultural process as evidenced by the spread of hip hop music throughout Africa and the creation of Rastafari communities in South Africa and Tanzania. These are both stylistic and religious exchanges that no reasonable person views as appropriation.

Part IV: Lack of Knowledge Affects Everyone, Not Just Black Americans

Miseducation and Eurocentric thinking taught through colonialism, slavery and Western education affects all members of the Pan African World in varying levels, not just Black Americans.

The need to assert authority over Africanity in the face of other African descendants is a pettiness that stems from the designed disenfranchisement of the Pan African world. It also unknowingly reaffirms anti-Black sentiments by denying the nuanced experiences and cultural heritages of all people of African descendant. Instead relying on a limited non-layered perspective of Africanity.

Additionally, the faux concern about Black American knowledge of African prints would be more believable if critics were offering classes and books that share the deeper meaning on various tribal prints.

Part V: We’ve been told the same lie.

The limited interaction between continental Africans and African descendants is highly influenced by western based miseducation and media (in both Africa and North America) that promotes anti-Blackness at every turn, leaving African descendants and Africans on the continent circling in an endless cycle of confusion and rage uselessly aimed at each another.

This leads some Black Americans to make illogical declarations like, “I’m Black Not African American,” as if Black Land is a thing that magically exists outside of Africa. Upon asking, when did they stop being African, the response will include some gibberish about not speaking an African language, not having a red carpet laid out for them when they went to Africa and the misguided belief that Jesse Jackson created the term “African American.”

No one has yet been able to answer Malcolm X’s question, “If a cat has kittens in an oven, does that make them biscuits?”

Meanwhile, some Africans will proclaim more pride in being French or British than Senegalese, Ghanaian or Nigerian. Upon asking, why they perceive Western cultures to be superior, the response will include a puzzling look as to why you don’t understand that everything white is just better.

We’ve all been told the same lie, that somehow being African is “less-than” believing that it is more refined to be disconnected from Africanity. This has lead to many of us needlessly tearing each other apart. And make no mistake, all levels of anti-Blackness around the world stems from the historical Eurocentric perspective that African people are subhuman.

As children, Black Americans often used heard the term, “African booty scratcher.” I was called African Booty Scratcher daily, being a little dark skinned Black girl with short nappy hair. This term was not reserved for African immigrants but for all dark-skinned children. Black children were reiterating the negative stereotypes of African people that surrounded us on a daily basis through media, the Western education system and older generations. And it hurt.

In fact, there is a meme floating around the net that says, “You called me an African Booty Scratcher in school. Now you’re wearing a dashiki.”

Yet few who circulate this meme will admit that their parents also held onto negative stereotypes of Black Americans and Jamaicans, often attempting to keep them away. Using their own derogatory terms to describe them.

Though this generation has more opportunities to form cross-cultural bonds than our parents, there are those among us that are harboring hurt. And turning this pain into a “you can’t share my toy attitude.” It’s time to grow up. We’re not on the playground anymore.

We are all hurting, because we’ve been taught to believe the same lies.

In Conclusion:

Black Americans, Jamaicans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, Black Canadians, Afro-Caribbeans, whatever you want to call us, are members of the Pan African family. Wearing African clothing and tribal print is more revolutionary and impactful than upholding any stereotypes, slurs or one writer’s shortsightedness.

Our progress depends on our interconnectedness.

Over 400 years ago, many of us were torn from the shores of our homelands in Africa. We were beaten for speaking our languages, shunned for our skin, raped, murdered and brutalized. Some of us tossed ourselves over the sides of ships in order to see freedom through death. We have witnessed our family members hanging from trees. We have survived a horror like no other and still have the unmitigated gall to walk around in 2015 with our tribal print and paint. Our ancestors are somewhere smiling.

Despite not being born in Africa, like Nkrumah proclaimed, Africa was born in us. Overthrowing the tools of oppressive systems, gaining self knowledge and reconnecting with our origins may not always be perfect or without growing pains. But it is not and never will be cultural appropriation.

It’s a layered, nuanced, complicated triumph.

P.S.

I am a member of the North American Delegation of the 8th Pan African Congress. We are currently in the second phase of the 8th PAC. The North American delegation is hosting a planning session at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, NY this October. We’d love for you to attend. To be included on our mailing list email OurLegaci@gmail.com.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is a writer, social justice advocate and the founder of Our Legaci. Learn more about her work at JessicaAnnMitchell.com. Follow JAM @TweetingJAM and Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

WOMAN’S AFRO SEARCHED AT AIRPORT, AS SHE CRIES

By Jessica Ann Mitchell

MSNBC Reports:
Dallas resident Isis Brantley said she was stopped on Monday at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta after she went through security.

Brantley said an agent asked her if someone had checked her hair. She said no one had and continued on her way. She then heard someone yelling as she went down the escalator to catch her flight.

“I just heard these voices saying, ‘Hey you, hey you, ma’am, stop. Stop — the lady with the hair, you,” she said.

Two TSA agents told her she could not go any further until they checked her hair for explosives, Brantley said.

She said she reluctantly allowed them to do it. The agents patted her hair down right there instead of asking to return to a private area for screening.

“And so she started patting my hair, and I was in tears at that point,” Brantley said. “And she was digging in my scalp.”

OurLegaci Response: My braids were checked at the Syracuse Airport in Syracuse, New York. When they asked to check my braids I was thinking, “Are they serious?” But they really did look through my pony tail and checked between my braids. Of course it was the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of.

TSA seriously needs to figure out what they are going to do concerning hairstyles because I seriously doubt that many Caucasians with big curly hair are getting stopped and embarrassed at airport check points. Once again, black people are being perceived as dangerous. Even our hair can not escape the criminality.

‘Sceptical Third World Child’ meme reignites debate on internet

By Arthur Chatora on November 3, 2015 — An image depicting a cynical looking boy standing next to a woman giving her ‘the mother of all side-eyes’ has set tongues wagging on the internet on the boy’s identity and meanings associated with the picture

An iconic picture dubbed the “Sceptical Third World Child” is undoubtedly one of the world famous and most widely shared memes and BBC Trending has sought to explore the identity of the boy and meanings associated with the image.

The picture has been unwittingly edited and shared on various social media platforms.

In the picture, the unidentified boy is, “wearing dirty clothes and a wry expression, giving the mother of all side-eyes to a woman squatting next to him in the dirt,” whom the BBC identified as Heena Pranav, a 28-year-old doctor who lives in Chicago.

The image was taken in 2012 when Pranav was a medical student and she had travelled to Gulu, Uganda, on a project where she met the boy at a local market and guessed he was about two or three years old.

“I was with a group of other medical students at the time, we were walking around and I saw this little boy, he seemed really sweet,” Pranav said.

“His mom was nearby working in the market. I went up to him to play with him and say ‘hi’… he was the most animated child I’ve ever met.”

The boy reportedly didn’t speak English and his encounter with Pranav was captured on camera by another member of the group and shared on Reddit. It eventually went viral making the boy one of the most recognisable faces on the internet.

Source: BBC Trending

African attire isn’t “proper” attire?

By on May 6, 2014 — Despite African and African-inspired attire being all the rage and trending internationally, Africans in America can still be refused entry to nightclubs because of their attire. “Isn’t African dress equal in all respects to European dress?,” asks one writer.

The author in Washington, DC, as he typically dressed during his last 22 years in America

The author in Washington, DC, as he typically dressed during his last 22 years in America

I’ve worn tailored West African clothing exclusively for twenty years—no jeans, no slacks, no tennis or button-front shirts. My outfits range casual to formal, in traditional to contemporary African styles. Being an “African-American”—I prefer African-in-America, Diasporan African or American(ized) African—I’m often asked, “Why do you dress like that?” (The questions come from people of all stripes in America, black, white, young, old, American, African in America; I’ll touch on this in part 2). The long answer is a fervent proclamation delineating my sociopolitical ideology. The short answer is, “I look good in it.”

At a time when African and African-inspired fashions are trending, I’m refused entry into a Washington, DC nightclub for wearing West African apparel. I’d been turned away from nightclubs years ago, appertaining to elements of my attire, but never regarding my entire ensemble.

“This is what rich people wear in Africa!“
In Dallas, Texas, 1996, I’m twice interrogated over aspects of my outfit before finally being allowed to enter one of two different nightclubs (where everyone’s Black, including the bouncers). On the first occasion the gatekeeper halts me for wearing open-toed sandals. I inform him of the price of my stylish mules ($125), their similarity to what female patrons are wearing and that I’m an out-of-towner with limited wardrobe options. Reluctantly, he grants me entrance.

On the second outing I’m told I can’t enter because policy states I must wear a collared shirt—I’m wearing silk-like fabric with intricate embroidery. Understandably, the rule addresses those wearing t-shirts, but “you don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.”

DC Saturdays at Air: The author with friend out on the night in Washington, DC, in 2003

It’s 2012 and I’ve lived in downtown Washington, DC, for twenty-two years. I’m still wearing stylish West African clothing and designer footwear. My female companion and I decide to go clubbing Thursday evening, May 12th. She’s a visiting Nigerian national from a prominent family and it’s her final night in the city. My two closest Nigerian friends will join us—a prominent physician and a successful entrepreneur. Both are US citizens. My companion and I arrive at The Park at Fourteenth (920 14th Street, NW; a Black club, although the guys at the door are of Middle Eastern or Indian heritage) and my entrepreneur friend is inside procuring a table. My companion presents her Nigerian government-issued identification to the young sentinel who says, “I’ve never seen this before,” and summons the manager. We giggle at his naïveté—her identification requires the manager’s authorisation in an “international city,” filled with “foreigners?” Clearly, we’re both beyond any age restriction, but he’s just doing his job.

Does an English styled lounge suit make me more intelligent, more productive or more “professional?”

While we await approval, my entrepreneur friend exits the club and we explain the situation—he’s amused. Finally, an executive dispatch determines her identification to be legitimate. Traversing the velvet ropes, an arm impedes my forward progress. The young sentinel informs me that I can’t enter because of my outfit. I’m draped in variegated Batik—long-sleeved, knee-length, tree-button placket shirt, matching pants and fila (Yoruba men’s cap, for anyone wondering). On my feet are $200 designer loafers—no sandals.

Disbelieving, I question, “My clothes; why?” Another adolescent watchman launches a prepared speech pontificating on the club being a “private establishment” with a “business casual” dress code and the “right to refuse . . .” Outraged, I insist on seeing the manager, immediately. Waiting, we see throngs of young women enter and exit the club in tiny, tight dresses and steep stacked stilettos—the kaleidoscope of hair weave and breasts cleavage is even more piteous. The most popular article of clothing is jeans and an extremely tall man exits the club wearing shorts. “Business casual?“ Finally, a woman appears and repeats the prefabricated “business casual” dress code nonsense (She’s White, but speaks with a “Black girl with attitude” voice). Everyone verbally engages and a West African brother-man passerby loudly advises, “This is what rich people wear in Africa!“

Disgusted, we depart for another popular nightspot and are warmly welcomed. My physician friend meets us and we recount our ordeal—his eyes widen in amazement.

A recent shot of Asar in Lagos

Black folk maintaining racial stereotypes
Born in in the United States, I’m a descendant of enslaved West Africans. What happened at The Park at Fourteenth is an assault upon my African cultural heritage. Washington, DC—centre of the world’s political universe—boasts of diversity and liberalism, and is the capital of a nation that pontificates on democracy, freedom, equality, justice and its strength in the amalgamation of peoples. To the contrary, the policies and practices of The Park at Fourteenth convey to African peoples that the city of Washington and the nation it represents are racists, hypocritical and rude.

Western “business” attire is just another aspect of European capitalist cultural domination

To be fair, what happened at The Park at Fourteenth could be an isolated incident—Not! “Business casual . . .” For 20 years, wearing West African clothing, I’ve endured innumerable similar affronts. “Business casual . . . “ Does an English styled lounge suit or French cut jacket and trousers with a pretty ribbon (neck-tie) tightly fastened around my throat, make me more intelligent, more productive or more “professional?” Isn’t African dress equal in all respects to European dress—Why not? Western “business” attire is just another aspect of European capitalist perpetuation of its cultural and political domination—it makes white folk feel comfortable.

“Business casual . . .” Be assured, the doors are open for Black folk maintaining racial stereotypes by dressing “hoochie mama” style or “thugged-out” in sagging crotch jeans and exposed underwear. However, if you’re proudly robed in tailored West African garb—unapologetically Black/African–The Park Entrance is “Clothed.”

What is an African name?

By  on September 15, 2015 — How Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire’s adoption of his mother’s name led him to question the Africanness of names.

Photo UN cover pic

I was born on a Friday, one November in the late 1980s. And so I was nick-named Friday. But when I started school, the name that was written on my exercise book wasn’t Friday. Friday wasn’t my real name, apparently. I had two other names, including Bwesigye, which I would later learn was a surname.

In the path of growing up, I met people who had family names. Bwesigye isn’t my father’s or mother’s name so it could not be my family name, and neither was the other name I was given shared with either of my parents. It soon sank in that I had no family name; I just had a surname. My other name, the given name, or the first name – and what Ugandans curiously call the Christian name, or the English name – happened to be such a popular name for our generation that I found a namesake in almost every class or group I became a part of. If a name is supposed to be one’s unique identity marker, this particular name wasn’t. I slowly started resenting it. Some of the namesakes were great people that I admired and I was proud to share a name with them, but some were also people no one would love to share a name with.

I eventually decided to take on my mother’s name, dropping the every Tom, Dick and Harry name and including in my name the fact that I am the son of my mother. I did not think of the Africanness of my new name when I asked her if I could adopt her name. Africanness or Pan Africanism, or Afrocentricity, whatever theory it is about naming wasn’t anywhere close to my mind. Even Warsan Shire’s words were not on my mind.

Photo: News 24

“Give your daughters difficult names. Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. My name makes you want to tell me the truth. My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right”, said Warsan Shire

But once I made public this decision to change my name, and adopt my mother’s name, in the newspapers, in the Uganda Gazette, on my Facebook, once I acquired a new passport in my new name, I found myself tagged in conversations about names and the meaning of an African name. I also found myself being acclaimed for the ‘great step’ of dropping a colonial name. With hindsight, I think I should have foreseen this. The personal has never stopped being political. One’s personal choice to change a name is thus a political choice. Unfortunately, the real feminist politics behind my name change were not the point of discussion. African identity was and I did not know how to explain.

We know that for Chinua Achebe the choice to lose his Albert, for Okot P’Bitek his Ezekiel, and for Ngugi wa Thiong’o his James, important anti-colonial statements were made. In liberated lands, formerly enslaved people choosing new names is also a great moment of personal and political freedom. But when we talk about African names in contemporary terms, what do we mean? What makes a name African? What makes my adoption of the fact of being mother’s son into my name African?

Photo: Malawi Ace

Does Friday, the name given to me because I was born on that day of the week, qualify to be an African name? Naming children after events is not something that came to Africa through colonialism. In Ghana, the name Kofi, I am told, is given to children born on Fridays, and there are particular names for children born on each day of the week. How is that concept different from my having been given the name of Friday? Is it just because Kofi is an Akan word and Friday isn’t? Is the Africanness just a matter of language (form) or of the concept (substance)? Or both?

The Bakiga people and others normally use nouns as names. Bwesigye, for example, means Trust. Had I been named Trust instead of Bwesigye, would Trust qualify to be an African name? There are many people whose names are nouns. I can’t list all the people I know named Faith, Hope, Peace, Mercy etc. Some names also double as adjectives. Happy, Precious etc. These nouns and adjectives can be translated into Rukiga. Kwikiriza (Faith), Masiko (Hope), Peace (Busingye), Mercy (Mbabazi), Mashemererwa (Happy) and Kyomuhendo (Precious). Do the Rukiga versions of the names qualify to be African names more than the English versions of the same names? Or are these non-African names altogether?

With the spread of Christianity, some names that Africans hold are derived directly from the Bible. Names like John, Jacob, Joel, David and others. In the process of translating the Bible into various African languages, the names were also translated. Thus John in Rukiga is Yohana; Jacob, Yakobo; Joel, Yoweri; and David, Daudi. Do the Rukiga translations of the names thus qualify to be African names whereas the English versions do not?

Photo: Noteworthy Notes

The proselytism of most of the early Christian missionaries also brought with it a concept of Christian names as opposed to Pagan names. Thus, people who already had names were, on baptism, given new ‘Christian’ names. For a while the definition of a Christian name meant a Biblical name or a saint’s name, but much later this evolved to actually mean given/first/other name as opposed to family/last/surname. Names that do not appear in the Bible and may also not be of any saint, such as Robert, Roland, Rose, etc. could be taken at baptism. Eventually, names with a Godly/Christian meaning, even if in an African language, came to be accepted as Christian names, even if they do not have to be first/given/other names, by the baptizing priests. Thus names like Byaruhanga, literally meaning the things of the creator, can be considered Christian.

The effect of Christianity on naming can be said to have been Africanized, whether through translation (form) or substance (concept). In my opinion therefore, an African name is one that follows a contemporary African naming method. Africanness is not one thing that is tied to and sealed in history. The pre-colonial, pre-Christian methods of naming have evolved and taken on influences from the colonial, mission-building historical periods, creating contemporaneous realities that are as African as anything else. Contemporary African naming methods obviously have their uniqueness, compared to European naming systems, but there are not necessarily one fossil-style articles. My Friday childhood nickname is as African a name as Masiko, Precious, Yohana, and Byaruhanga.