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Alba Iulia
Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Tools of colonialism: Names and Language

Columns Tools of colonialism: Names and Language

Let us put it in context. We say that we have achieved Independence, but habits and practices don’t lie. Let us start with the agents (tools) of colonialism.

First, name change. When the colonists invaded Africa, they first changed African names, globalized African heritage and culturized African formations into Western authentics. Thus, for Zambia, for example, we least hear or write about Chuma who traversed the copious forests and provided guidance to Dr. David Livingstone. We hear more and write more about Livingstone. We dub him the discoverer of Mosi-oa-Tunya Falls, which he conveniently renamed Victoria Falls after an English Queen in the far West in England. I am called “Charles,” a royalty name in England. Probably as I write this, a majority of Africans reading are named after European. Their own heritage is forgotten.

Like in the USA where former slave masters still live in the psyche and mentals of their Black slave progenies, they still are remembered through their names which they had bequeathed through their names. In short, their legacy, which, apparently, was enslaving, degrading, humiliating, abusive and name it all, is preserved through names. It is the same in Africa. We are still called by their names. Surely, our parents wouldn’t have pondered much on this, and naturally named us after former colonial enchanters. In future, shouldn’t we be thinking of having more of “Chibesa Kundas”, “Mwansa Malamas”, “Mpezeni Ndhlovus”, “Milupi Phiris,” “Chavula Ngoyis,” and etc.? Shouldn’t we be thinking of renaming some of our streets, clubs, animals, forests, and, indeed, national monuments by our own unique African quadrisyllabics? Think about all that, and more.

Names, they submit to whoever calls on them, just don’t forget that.

Second, language. The Bible gives us a clue: “And the LORD said, ‘If they have begun to do this as one people speaking the same language, then nothing they devise will be beyond them. Come, let Us go down and confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech,’” (Gen. 11:6-7). Three things right there:

  1. Language unifies;
  2. Language breeds success
  3. Language is a weapon of either enslavement or liberation.

Whose language you speak, that one you will always obey. It is just that simple. We may be proud of articulating foreign accents, but the glory is not, eventually, ours. It goes back to the one who owns it. Those who conquered Africa, did it in four ways:

    1. Language
    2. Guns
    3. Bible
    4. Intrigue – call it machinations or diplomacy, it carries the same venom. They still do – we use their language (we have even gone to the extent of justifying its naturalization and nationalization); they have more in their arsenals (they are still producing weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear heads, but they wouldn’t let us do the same!), we have little to nothing; they are still preaching love, when our resources they milk with a globalized ferocity; and they are still measuring us by our bloating debt, their growing capital, and our cheap labour. It is the same old strategy, and it does not fail.

We still read them, about them, for them and with them. We read their books, quote their Quotables and stock up our libraries with their “superior” acumens. Don’t we? Books are not in our vocabulary, but one can conquer an empire, rob your inheritance and send you to an early grave, simply by a book. How many of you even know about my book, “Struggles of My People”? But you had ordered Dan Brown’s, “Demons,” even before it was released. You would have post-mailed, with long, passionate reviews in African newspapers the writings of European and American authors. This is while your own brilliant brains die in graves of illiteracy and neglect. We have idolized Shakespeare, memorialized Chaucer, invigorized Van Gore, and internalize Blake. While, at the same time, we have inferiorized our sages, bards, poets, thinkers and emerging writers. We don’t purchase their works and we judge their mental stability and IQ to be base.

A second language, is just so, second. Everything you do with it will be second. Your best effort will remain second. Your greatest theories will continue to be second. Your best minds are second. Your greatest ingenuities, still second. And even your most eloquent orators, will just be second. So, why not capitalize on your first? Why not speak, write and think in Bemba, Nyanja, Lozi, Luvale, Tonga, and etc., and be first? No European or American power has ever, even remotely, contemplated making an African language first, though Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, French, they may. But here we are: We fill our schools with second-baked enchanters learning to think, believe, behave and act, second. Our problem, “We have many of these languages and dialects!” And the next thing we do is we make it politics, and continue to be only second, even in politics itself.

Language conquers everything, just don’t forget that.

By Charles Mwewa

23 COMMENTS

  1. Ba mwewa you have put it well.Indeed Africa must come to realisation to be real and proud of who we are…Yes why pride in second when we have our first.Thumbs up from me.

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  2. imagine if the other languages in zambia decided to call the seven major local languages taught in schools as a colonisizer’s tool.

  3. Just start with the examples of names this Mwewa is using, they are all his own Bemba/Katangese ones. Whether it’s colonialism by Katangese Bembas or David Livingstone, it is colonialism and it will be defeated by any Zambian from Tonga, Lozi or Kaonde areas. Ultimately, this country will be split into two. I mean, look at that ECZ meting for political leaders, what manner of man and woman in their right sense of mind would vote for Lungu, a full cycle *****ic fool, leaving HH? It’s shows tribal bigotry trancends everything sensible in this country, Bembas and Nyanjas cannot keep on dragging us all into the abyss, luhanile!

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  4. We hv emotional attachment to language but it is not possible to own it. A language is not property that u can sell. It’s just a means of communication btwn humans and a carrier of all the knowledge and cultural practices of a community that speaks it. Language is affected by distance, time, technology, the environment in which the people who speak it live etc. No language is immune from change. A language is a living thing and continues living as long as there are people to speak it. Language is an emotive subject in all countries made out of previously discrete communities. It’s regrettable that Mwewa doesn’t mention the imperialistic tendencies of some speakers of African languages that are imposed on others. In Kenya there’s Swahili as a local lingua franca. But where’s unity in…

  5. Where’s unity in Kenya despite the existence of Swahili as a lingua franca? All Rwandese speak Kinyarwanda. But that didn’t stop the 1994 genocide.

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  6. (My point ) I would say Mwewa is much wiser than you and there are many people who are like you who don’t go far in thinking , my point you couldn’t see anything wrong there , but me and many more others can see what is invisible to you , if you cannot see anything wrong with colonialism then you cannot be a leader , however it is wrong for you to think that what satisfies you is every ones cup of coffee.
    What you don’t know is that the same colonialism has taken all the resources which would have benefited you and a lot more Africans , up to this time people continue to die due colonialism which has put systems into place that steals from the African people.
    The french president knows better how he keeps resources for 14 African nations in the French banks while Africans…

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  7. “……I am called “Charles,” a royalty name in England. Probably as I write this, a majority of Africans reading are named after European……”

    So why don’t you change that name to an African name ????

    Africans are very good at talking , yapping and complainining but do nothing about what they are complaining about…..

  8. True – we speak English & have adopted
    English names, but it’s not all doom & gloom. Learning other languages (without forgetting your own) can be advantageous. Now, at least, we know colonialists didnt do anything for our benefit, but theirs! Knowing this, we cannot fall into the trap again!

    As for names, it’s too late to change mine; I would find it difficult to answer to a new name at this point. However, the young generation can change things, by valuing their heritage & everything that goes with it; names, skin colour, hair structure and most of all, knowing they are not second class to any other races.

  9. Sparka and our friend mypoint , I can easily say that there many groups of people every where in this world and we cannot change that because it can do so much harm to some groups of people.
    At the bottom we have people who are too lazy to think , and therefore accept anything that they are given and have no problem or in situation they born into and they cannot improve on anything .
    At the top we have that group of people who make things happen and they are not afraid to think and analyse everything these are the drivers of change and development .
    These are not only groups of people in society who are in between the two groups of citizens this world doesn’t only consist of docile individuals had it been we couldn’t be where we are .
    In conclusion we shouldn’t stop them to be…

  10. The diasporans followed people who colonised their ancestors..how do you follow and decide to live in a country owned by people that treated your fore fathers as inferior

  11. This story is so 1964, the world speaks English as its the business language, whether your Bemba or German. soon we will be using Chinese in every thing , Just look at the Chinese signs all over Lusaka and the rest of the country. funny you bring up the bible well that’s not even our religion , that’s from the middle east. then you talk of guns, well how many African leaders control their citizens by the gun made by the Chinese. we invite the Chinese and others to build our roads, bridges, Airports and Power stations. we have in 55 yrs never built any of this ourselves. change your name from Charles to some Bemba name by deed poll , quit being a Christian and write your books not in English. you are all talk and no action, the story of Zambia.
    Enjoy Independence day as soon we will be…

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  12. Bashemi no Ngombala Ikandulwa, please go back and re-read your history. The Lozi or the Luyi were infact the very first people to migrate from Kola the original home of the Linda Luba empire, then domiciled in Angola. So when you say Benba/Katangese, you refer to the one group which is ethnically the closest relatives of the Lozi.

    Now, what I write above is the very reason the writer penned this work in my understanding. See how language or tribe has been effective in dividing our nations?

    The lesson here is that as Zambians or Africans, let us embrace each other instead of labelling ourselves Tonga, Kasonde, Tabwa, Goba or Lungu.

    Let us instead see common purpose (development and economic prosperity, for example) as a vehicle for integration as One Zambia, One Nation where our…

  13. (Edited, corrected) Bashemi no Ngombala Ikandulwa, please go back and re-read your history. The Lozi or the Luyi were infact the very first people to migrate from Kola the original home of the Lunda Luba empire, then domiciled in Angola. So when you say Bemba/Katangese, you refer to the one group which is ethnically the closest relatives of the Lozi.

    Now, what I write above is the very reason the writer penned this work in my understanding. See how language or tribe has been effective in dividing our nations?

    The lesson here is that as Zambians or Africans, let us embrace each other instead of labelling ourselves Tonga, Kaonde, Tabwa, Goba or Lungu.

    Let us instead see common purpose (development and economic prosperity, for example) as a vehicle for integration as One Zambia, One…

  14. Let us instead see common purpose (development and economic prosperity, for example) as a vehicle for integration as One Zambia, One Nation where our names are not John Mumba or Peter Daka, Eustace Mwenda or Janet Muchimba but Hichaambwa Mumba or Munukayumbwa Madyenkuku, Musonda Sapele or Nakawala Musiyabantu.

    The absence of colonisers names will eventually wipe out the external values we today embrace and enable us teach our children Zambian values from a young age so that they grow up with a solid and firm basis of who and what their priorities are.

    Prosperous nations today ike Japan and China preserved their culture and language to be where they are.

    I end here in peace

  15. Scotland joined England in a union called the United Kingdom in , wait for it, 1707. Today there’s a political party called Scottish National Party whose ultimate goal is independence for Scotland from the UK so long it is voted for by Scots in a referendum.

  16. I was 10 in 1964 and a colonizer’s child. I still have the celebratory coin. It’s a long time since 1964. It is long overdue for Zambians to decide where they want their nation to be in another 55 years – I sincerely hope not a colony, be it British, Chinese or whatever. If you cannot decide and act then you are destined to be the plaything of powerful nations that HAVE decided what they want!

  17. Kaizar Zulu, in one of your postings you told us that you own property in UK, if I may ask, why follow the colonisers and buy property in their country, the country you have deep repugnance for? What does this say about you?

  18. Well Charles, it might be news to you but your name literally means ‘free man’ the same name appears all over Europe (Carl, Karel, Charlotte) and has so for millennia, one of the most notable bearers of the name was a Charlemagne (Charles the Great) an emperor that ruled over the western europe in the 9th century. Your name by its most ancient roots is not a slave name, rather a name that was taken by someone that was freed from slavery or given to a child that was born free after its parents had suffered from slavery. I suggest you use your freedom and change your name to something more culturally appropriate if it makes you this unhappy.

  19. But ba Charles amashina ubwingi mu Africa mwayabulamo ilya ba mwisa. Finshi mulwisha? Even Hakainde can be a better first name than Charles

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