Colonial names disrespect heroes and heroines


ONE of the stories in our Heroes’ Supplement titled ‘The heroes missing on our billboards’ has taken me back to a subject I am passionate about, names and naming.
As we remember and celebrate our heroes and heroines as well as our defence forces, I cannot help think of all the names we had during the liberation war.
In the bush, we had names replete with meaning.
There was no Cecil John Rhodes Camp, there was no David Livingstone Camp, there was no Alfred Beit Camp.
These were our enemies.
Whenever these names were mentioned, it was to remind our people of their evil, it was to remind the masses of the suffering that had been wrought by these men and their kith and kin.
Some today may ask what is in a name?
There must be something in it if everything we named during the liberation war highlighted, showed, explained and described the vileness of the imperialists.
Businesses in the then Rhodesia carried indigenous names.
We had Maziveyi Omnibus Services; Mboma Super Buses headquartered at Stand 6058 Western Triangle, Highfield; Masiyandaita Buses, Store and Bottle Store located at PO Box 141, Beatrice; Kuwanda Kwakanaka Restaurant at 7049 Chitubu Shopping Centre, Glen Norah; and Pelandaba Transport operators and General Merchants.
The above are just a few of the many African-owned businesses that carried indigenous names.
Our people were proud of their names.
No black business or black-owned school would name itself after our colonial masters, it was unthinkable and unimaginable.
As we celebrate during the holidays, let us remember that the manner in which we map and name our physical spaces is of critical concern.
How could we be talking of David Livingstone or Cecil John Rhodes institutions in a Zimbabwean narrative that celebrates Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, Mukwati, Chaminuka and Lobengula.
I have always said, and will always say, the act of naming is an act of possession where the name-giver claims physical, social and political space.
To name, indeed, is to control, define and demystify.
By naming a thing, we make it knowable and controllable.
The colonial names that we continue to embrace were of the imperial power wiping and erasing the histories and cultures of the indigenous peoples.
English names made ineffective our ancestors and our values.
The act of colonial naming sealed the physical conquest of our people.
So we gather to remember and celebrate our heroes and heroines, who died fighting colonialists, in buildings with colonial names.
Whenever we ask for our spaces and institutions to be renamed, we are calling for an act of redrawing our ideological and cultural spaces that were brutally erased by the coloniser.
Our names were substituted in the name of ‘anglicisation’ or ‘civilisation’.
Where is our pride?
The names of the indigenous businesses I mentioned above carried a package of meanings and legends that narrated, and indeed celebrated, their endeavour.
A name is a social beacon, an anchor placing a person or an entity in some cultural or historical context.
There are histories and traditions around the names as well as memories and emotions that they evoke.
As a nation, ours has been and still is an exciting history.
We have been through the forge and have emerged stronger.
Our names and naming must reflect this exciting story of our country, of a resilient people.


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