THE AFRICAN BOOK OF NAMES
5,000+ Common and Uncommon Names from the African Continent
Askhari Johnson Hodari, Ph.D.
THE AFRICAN BOOK OF NAMES: 5,000+ Common and Uncommon Names from the African Continent (Health Communications, Inc.; February 2009) by Askhari Johnson Hodari, Ph.D., shares names from 37 African countries and at least 70 ethnolinguistic groups, and provides in-depth insight into the spiritual, emotional, social, and political importance of names from Angola to Zimbabwe. It is the most current and comprehensive book on the subject, in which Dr. Hodari offers more than 5,000 names organized by theme — from religion, birth circumstance and physical characteristics. This timely and informative resource guide vibrates with the culture of Africa and encourages Blacks across the world to affirm their African origins by selecting African names.
It is clear that Dr. Hodari loves African names. She truly appreciates their sounds and meanings, which are different from names of North America. “Each time a person calls me by my African name, they remind me that my roots are indeed in Africa,” says Dr. Hodari. In the last twenty years she has consulted in the naming of hundreds of babies, and in the renaming of hundreds of children and adults. She explains in THE AFRICAN BOOK OF NAMES that naming in African societies is more of a communal process than in other societies; in fact, it is common for parents, young people or adults to consult with community members or African Studies practitioners before bestowing a name upon an infant, or upon themselves.
Dr. Hodari explores the various circumstances under which a person is named, and the factors that come into play. For example, she helped name a child Jasir Dia, and explains that each time a person speaks to Jasir, they are calling him a “fearless champion.” Dr. Hodari says that this name helps and influences Jasir’s life, and that the expectation is for him to become all that his name implies long after his parents and other family members have passed on. Choosing an African name does not have to happen shortly after birth, and new names can represent various stages of development as one grows and matures — Sojourner Truth, Muhammad Ali, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar all took on new names as adults.
Dr. Hodari promotes the use of African names because she says that the importance of African culture is often minimized, leading to the exclusion of African names from many baby and name books. This negligence, she explains, deprives parents, researchers, students and other readers of the philosophy and wisdom of African societies. Also, since many traditional and modern African societies tend to rely on and emphasize oral communication more than written communication, Dr. Hodari wanted to contribute to as much of a written record of African names as possible, particularly since Africans are no longer in one large space, but are scattered across the planet.
Despite enormous cultural variety throughout Africa, there are central themes common to African naming. A name evidences the day of birth, time of birth or the birth order, such as Akua (Wednesday) and Layla (born at night). Conditions and circumstances of birth also are taken into consideration, like Alfryea (born during good times) or Lesa (child born unexpectedly). Location of birth event or season of birth, religious concepts, desired characteristics and even physical traits can play a role in the naming process. With 16 percent of the world’s population residing on the African continent, Africa has given birth to millions of lyrical, intriguing and significant names — thousands of which are listed in THE AFRICAN BOOK OF NAMES.
While the birth of a baby is a joyous time that creates a need to choose a name, THE AFRICAN BOOK OF NAMES does not focus solely on “baby names.” Readers of any age can embrace this collection to select names for themselves, events, or other entities. Dr. Hodari believes that the use of African names must be guided by a love and appreciation for African culture. “However, it is not my duty to judge what may or may not be an appropriate name,” she explains. This book provides a diverse and comprehensive selection of names. The rest is up to readers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Askhari Johnson Hodari, Ph.D., is a practitioner of Black/Africana Studies and regularly studies and travels the African Diaspora. She has visited numerous countries in Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. She is the co-author of Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs.
THE AFRICAN BOOK OF NAMES: 5,000+ Common and Uncommon Names from the African Continent
Askhari Johnson Hodari, Ph.D.
Health Communications, Inc.; February 2009