My mother 'Emily' was assigned her first name during colonial Nigeria but her middle name is 'Anumozo' which translates as 'I have heard other news'. Her name carries the story that while Emily was being born and the family were celebrating, her grandmother was passing away. This storytelling name beautifully demonstrates how names in my culture carry a family’s history, a legacy in the future of their children
Names given to Igbo children are sacred, they mean something to us, to our ancestors and they are core to our identities.
Despite the pride many of us feel for this powerful tradition: Researchers at Oxford University found that candidates with a Nigerian name had to send 80% more applications than white British counterparts to get a positive response from employers.
There is still an issue with the embarrassment or the prejudice we experience from having African names that are deemed too 'tricky' for people to pronounce. Since I was a teenager I volunteered an Anglicised version of my name in order to fit in and avoid the embarrassing interactions about how to pronounce it. Every time your name is mispronounced it chips away at your self esteem and so I chose instead to control the narrative.
But now I have three children, all with Igbo names (chosen because of the pride I have for my heritage) and I thought about them having to do the same to please others, so I stopped Anglicising my name, yep at over 40 years old (better late than never)! I've chosen to now always introduce myself with the correct Igbo pronunciation and allow others the opportunity to celebrate my culture with me, rather than dim it's light.
Most people at some time or another will have had an awkward interaction in pronouncing names, but if you don't know it's easy and it's not impolite to just ask: Then repeat the name a few times. Mostly, when people can see that you’re committed to wanting to get the pronunciation right, they won't mind the minor wrong attempts.
I have a lot more to talk about on this topic - especially as it carries such an important part of the creation of our next print 'The Journey' but we'll save that for another blog post!
Until then, Jisike.