The Changing Trend of Baby Names that are inspired by African Heritage

African Baby Names
African Baby Names
(image courtesy)

I don’t like my first name very much. That is actually an understatement. I no longer use my first name and no longer recognize it as it is not relevant to me anymore.

My grandmother (God rest her soul) gave me that name when I was baptized and I used it till 2005 when I decided to drop it and adopt my mothers name instead. I have written numerous poems on this phase of my life and do not wish to paraphrase the poems here. If interested, look for my book.

Things got tricky after we had our second born, who, being a girl, was named after my mother. We thus had 2 Wangaris in the house and most of our friends wondered why I was naming our 2nd born after myself.

The subject of first names makes for interesting debate especially as times have changed and a new generation of parents who are not as religious beget kids in  more cosmopolitan urban spaces where certain traditions are no longer upheld.

For the longest time, most kids born of  African parents living in countries colonized by the British were given names straight out of the Bible. This practice still continues mostly in the rural and to an extent, a good number of urban homes especially in Kenya.

There is however a growing trend that, interestingly, has its roots in the United States from the African American community.

According to Wikipedia, one very notable influence on African-American names is the Muslim religion. Islamic names entered the popular culture with the rise of The Nation of Islam among Black Americans with its focus on civil rights. The popular names Aisha, Aaliyah, Malaika, and Tanisha have origins in Arabic and/or Islam.

A number of African American celebrities began adopting Muslim names, such as Muhammad Ali, who changed his name from Cassius Clay in 1964. Other celebrities adopting Muslim names include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (formerly Lew Alcindor) and Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones). Despite the origins of these names in the Muslim religion and the place of the Nation of Islam in the Civil Rights Movement, many Muslim names such as Jamal and Malik entered popular usage among Black Americans simply because they were fashionable, and many Islamic names are now commonly used by African Americans regardless of religion.

Some names of African origin began to crop up as well. Names like Ashanti, have origins in Ghana. The Black Power movement inspired many to show pride in their heritage. Harvard University sociologist Stanley Lieberson noted that in 1977, the name “Kizzy” rose dramatically in popularity in 1977 following the use of the name in the book and televisions series Roots.

Back to Our Roots
This self pride by African Americans to take back their African Names and use their names as a symbol and declaration of their pride in their heritage has taken root with the Kenyan middle class and many other Africans who are becoming Afrocentric.

Lately, baby names from Kiswahili and  Zulu languages in Sub-Saharan Africa have become very popular not just with Africans but also with African Americans. Names from Ghana such as Kofi, from Mali and other West African countries such as Nigeria.

While speaking to VOANews, Proud father Toki Mathe named his first son Karabo, which means “answer from God” in the Southern Sotho language.

“The new generation, we’re trying to bring back that African, more of an African name, that you know what it means. Our parents were forced to give us names that are English and they don’t know what they mean,” said Mathe.

Ideas for Names
With the internet being readily available. Most parents who are expecting a baby and have made the decision not to go through the bible for ideas, there are some websites that give ideas on African names to give your new born be it a boy or a girl.

However, its important to avoid the very popular names and get a unique name. It s also important to know the meaning of the name lest you choose one that means something bad. E.g if you choose to use a Zulu name, Search the internet for the meaning of that name. Most of the baby name sites give you the meaning to the words. I have noted though, that some sites might have wrong meanings to some of these African names thus its important to counter-check with various other sources.

1. Nameberry
Best Feature: Best for Girls Names

2.She Knows
Best feature: It gives baby names and meaning

3. Belly Ballot
Best Feature: One can search by region and by sex

4. Babble
Best feature: Tells you Famous people who have the same name

5. The Baby Name Guide
Best Feature: Has a comprehensive list of African Baby names and also gives tips on naming.

(image source)

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  1. Pingback: Johnson's Baby Introduces a New Haircare Range for African Children - AfroMumAfroMum

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