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  • Yaa at Talking Drums

The Power of Names - Happy Mandela Day!

Names have deep meanings in many African tribes and cultures.

I am proud to have a Ghanaian (specifically Akan) first, middle and surname, and to be named according to Akan traditions. I am also filled with joy when a non-Ghanaian person can identify my heritage just from hearing or seeing my name, for example, I have had immigration officials in East Africa ask me about Ghana and talk about historical politics and football, all based on identifying the origins of my name.

Names are important, names have meaning and I was so struck by an exhibition on Nelson Mandela in South Africa, that highlighted all his names and the meanings behind it - an undeniable testament to his life:

- ‘Rolihlahla: n. pulling the branch of a tree or the one who disturbs the established order. The name given to Nelson Mandela at birth.

- Mandela: n. birth name of Nelson Mandela’s grandfather, which became the family’s surname under colonial rule.

- Nelson: n. an English name given to Nelson Mandela on his first day of school.

- Dalibhunga: founder of the Parliament, name given to Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his initiation into manhood.

- Madiba: n. Nelson Mandela’s popularly known clan name, which means reconciler’.

Happy Nelson Mandela Day!

What does your name mean and what is the history behind it?

Please comment below.

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