It’s nothing big, or earth-shattering at first.
But I do think it will speak volumes for our progress as an African nation and address some of the nagging bits of racism that rears its head every now and again.
There was a time when it was unthinkable for a black person to have only an African name.
The reasoning was, how would us English-speakers address you, if you didn’t also have an English name?
Of course, that is thankfully some racist nonsense of the past.
And all over the world, indigenous people are giving their children exclusively indigenous names.
It is our duty to learn to say that name. It isn’t their duty to make it easy for us and our lazy tongues.
But I digress.
The movement I want to encourage is for those of us with exclusive English names, to adopt a Nguni name; a name that we can proudly publicise and even tell a story about.
I am not suggesting you legally adopt an African name, but I reckon it would be great if you went that far.
For now, just ask around about names and meanings. Get your Xhosa or Zulu colleagues to help you pick one out that suits you.
It would be a conscious choice. And I think it fits in well with the debate around what it means to be African.
This idea was sparked in me when I met a young white girl years ago, who introduced herself to me as Zindzi.
It is the name of one of Nelson Mandela’s daughters and for many years after his release from prison, Zindzi was everyone’s favourite female African name, myself included.
Nikiwe is another popular name for white and coloured girls; I suspect it’s because it can be shortened to Niki.
Contrary to the famed adage, there is in fact a lot in a name.
We are one of the few indigenous peoples in the world that discard and disregard our local heritage in favour of the tenuous, dubious and suspect connections we have to Europe.
We will treasure our European family names and even arbitrarily name our children after soapie stars, but never our own beautiful local history.
I am guilty of this myself, but it is something I am changing.
I know there are many nuanced arguments that I am ignoring, but I think that’s OK.
Here is a simple way for all of us to embrace something very obviously African. For all to see.
So I have gone to Google and asked for help to translate my surname, Brown into Xhosa. The name it has thrown out is “Ntsundu,” which sounds beautiful to my ears.
I haven’t fully settled on it yet, because I want to ask a few more questions of my Xhosa friends. I also want to explore more options.
Forcing new names upon us was the first step towards colonising our minds.
It should be the first step towards taking back ownership.