Naming myself by zamantungwa

zamantungwa | April 12th, 2009 | inspiration | No Comments

I have been doing some online research on how to build traffic for this website and I came across a blog by Steve Pavlina. This has been a very helpful site. It has been particularly helpful because Pavlina takes the quality and truth angle. He talks about generating quality content instead of resorting to marketing and advertising tricks. It is because of Pavloina’s site that I’ve decided to blog on Poetry Potion as opposed to any other website.

I want to use this space to explore my thoughts about self-determination. Self-determination is part of the vision of Zamantungwa Media. As expressed in Kwanzaa, kujichagalia (self-determination) is about naming yourself, define yourself, create for yourself and speak for yourself. What does it mean to self-determinate? How does one self-determinate? Since writing is an act of thinking and seeking understanding, I’d like to use this space to think… out loud.

I’ll talk about my name first ince I’ve only been Zamantungwa for about four years. As a poet, I used the stage name Ndlovukazi. It means queen mother, mother of the king. I wanted to feel beautiful, command respect and make sure that I’m taken seriously when on stage. But this name wasn’t a perfect fit and I discovered there were a few more Ndlovukazi’s out there. I didn’t want to be one of but rather wante to define myself better. I wanted a name that fit me and was unique. Both on and off stage. So, I was on a hunt for a better name.

When I was born my mother had lost her mother a few years before, so my birth brought comfort to her. She named me Duduzile which means ‘she has comforted me’. But when I was younger I always wondered why my parents hadn’t been more creative: “Ma, why didn’t you name me this or that or after my grandmothers?” I wanted to name myself and I toyed with a few names but never found one satisfying. Duduzile is such a common name and my grandmothers had such beautiful names. Mamazane or Nobathakathi sounded better. Eventually, I found a name… or did it find me? I was inspired and I started to perform as Zamantungwa. This one means daughter of Mntungwa. Mntungwa is my clan name. Everytime I went on stage I would chant the praise poem of the Mntungwa people (the Mabaso people to be exact) and end it with: “Yimina uZamantungwa, ngiyindlovukazi” (It is I, Zamantungwa; I am a queen). I was taking my family’s legacy and adding my legacy to it. I was honouring them and letting them that are no longer with us, abaphansi, know that I was aware of them and wanted them to be aware of me.

There’s a second name, I should say christian name. This name, which I will not tell, I used for all of two years in my life. I used it only because I decided that white kids wouldn’t be able to wrap their tongues around Duduzile (actually, I was wrong because I had known white people all my life who pronouced my name, albeit with English vowel sounds, properly). It is really because of this other name that I was on a name finding mission, see it never fitted perfectly. See, Afrikan peoples have a history of being renamed by white people. In South Africa, they would do it when they converted Afrikans to their religions or the first time Afrikans applied for the infamious dompass. There’s a well known poem about this experience – My Name (is Nomgqibelo Ncamisile Manqhibisa) by Magoleng we Selepe. This woman is applying for her pass book (pre-1994) and the government official, a white Afrikaaner man, doesn’t even try to get it right. He just renames the character Maria – something easier to pronouce. This sort of thing would also happen when children enrolled for school. So, these Christian, school, slave names were imposed on us. Names from the bible or English names that didn’t mean anything to our parents or us. That is why our parents started giving us English names – took back some of their power although was never a complete reclamation of power. That’s why there are a lot of people out there named Goodness, Luxury, Existence, etc. Afrikan people don’t name their children lightly. They don’t just choose a name that sounds nice (of course, some do). Our names often have a meaning hence they are usually more beautiful and my English name wasn’t. It might have had a meaning back in the beginning of time but it wasn’t my name. But I was neither christian nor did I care to make some lazy tongues life easy. It is not impossible to learn to pronounce any name in any language correctly.

Zamantungwa was growing on me.

I started to wonder if I could make this my permanent and official name – not just an a.k.a. It was time to name myself. The grown up in my knew what Duduzile meant and I wasn’t going to mess with it. It was time for the slave name to get out. It was time to name myself. I wanted a name that I was proud to shout out, a name that didn’t make me cringe every time someone called me by it, a name that pulled into the present a long heritage. Zamantungwa. Everytime I write it, say it, hear it said, it reminds me of me. Not some Latin Saint, white actress or some mlungu somewhere with a tongue too lazy to call me by my Afrikan name. When I asked my parents for permission in that ‘what-would-you-do/say-if-I’ sort of way. My dad sort of smiled and ma said it would be ok. I know they are proud. Ma loves to say to family members “Dudu’s other name is Zamantungwa!” I certainly never heard her say: “Dudu’s other name is A-(the English name).” The day I got my new ID I couldn’t stop smiling. I’ve managed not to run around town shouting out my name or showing everyone one I know my ID. Zamantungwa is my name and I love it.

Names may be just labels. But I say I’d rather have a label that’s my own not decided on by some other person. A name that has great meaning. A name that I’m proud to be known by. Get it right; I’m not Zama! I am Zamantungwa… but you can call me Za.


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