Tonga and Western Names

Evaluation of African Tonga and Western Names Among the Tonga People of Southern Zambia
[Acknowledgements: This study investigated the evaluation of African Indigenous and Western Names among the Tonga People of Southern Zambia. The study was sponsored by the University of Zambia and the Institute for African Studies.  The field work for this report was conducted in August 1988.  I would like to thank Mr. Dominique Mucimba, Research Assistant with the Institute, for his invaluable skills of interpretation and translation of the Tonga language during field work.  Dr. Lovejoy Malambo, Head of the Rural Economy Department in the School of Agriculture at the University of Zambia, was instrumental in the cross-translation of the questionnaire from English into Tonga language.  MS. Mukahajunza Hacibamba, Secretary at the Institute for African Studies, also contributed to the final Tonga version of the questionnaire.  My sincere thanks are also extended to the government officials and Chiefs in Choma District and Munyumbwe Sub-center in the Gwembe Valley, and all the respondents in the villages for their cooperation and enthusiasm.]

ABSTRACT

The objective of the study was to investigate how a sample of the Tonga people evaluates indigenous Tonga first names and modern Western first names.  A sample of 67 people responded to a 24 item structured questionnaire.  The study was conducted in the Gwembe Valley and Choma District among the Tonga people of the Southern Province of rural Zambia.  Five hypotheses were tested.  The findings confirmed one hypotheses but the rest were not confirmed.

INTRODUCTION

Seventy years of British colonial rule, impact and influence of Western values including Christianity and over two decades of political independence have undoubtedly introduced substantial social changes in Zambia.1 The rest of the African continent has had similar experiences.  One area of dramatic change has been in the culture of and attitude towards names.  Do rural Zambians still like indigenous2 names or do they like or prefer Western ones?  Has the intense exposure to modern or Western life styles introduced discernible cultural shifts in evaluation of names?

OBJECTIVES AND HYPOTHESES

The aim of this study was to determine whether a sample of Zambian rural respondents liked indigenous or Western names.  The study was conducted among the Tonga3 people of the Southern Province.  The objective of the study was to investigate whether the Tonga people’s exposure to Western values of school, Christianity, urbanization, formal employment, mass media, and other aspects of the modern life style may have significantly influenced their evaluation of indigenous and Western first4 names.

RATIONALE OF THE HYPOTHESES

The five hypotheses were based on several assumptions.  First, that in spite of modern influences making major inroads in most urban areas, people in rural Zambia still remain relatively removed from these social changes.  As such Tonga people of Southern rural Zambia would still express great pride and confidence in their African culture.  Because of this confidence in their African culture and heritage, the Tonga people would view indigenous Tonga first names more favorably than Western or English names.  That also within the sample, respondents whose first names were in Tonga would evaluate indigenous Tonga first names more favorably than those whose first names were Western and vice versa.  This was based on the assumption that the individual’s choice of a certain type of first name (Tonga or Western) reflected that individual’s level of being influenced by either culture.  In other words, the more the individual preferred a Tonga or Western name, the more they believed or were favorably influenced by that culture.

The hypothesis about sexual differences was based on the assumption that rural women and men have different levels of exposure to modern influences.  Rural women tend to be less educated, participate less in formal employment, and travel or live in urban areas less than their men counterparts.

This study, for example, found that among 18 percent of the respondents who were illiterate or reported to have no formal education, women accounted for 66 percent.  Also of the 64 percent of the respondents who said they had lived in urban areas, women accounted for only  32 percent.  Because of this differential exposure to modern influences, it was expected that women would evaluate indigenous Tonga first names more favorably than their men counterparts.

The following hypotheses were tested:

  1. That more respondents are going to evaluate Tonga indigenous names more favorably than Western names.
  2. That the frequency of respondents with Tonga first names that evaluate Tonga indigenous first names favorably are going to be more than those with Western first names that evaluate Tonga indigenous names favorably.
  3. Those respondents who have Western first names are going to evaluate Western names more favorably than those who have Tonga first names.
  4. That more women respondents are going to evaluate Tonga indigenous first names favorably than men.
  5. That more men respondents are going to evaluate modern Western names favorably than women.

METHODOLOGY

A structured questionnaire with 24 items was administered to a sample of 67 respondents; 34 men and 33 women.  The respondents were randomly drawn from a total of 22 villages in two districts of the Southern Province of Zambia; Choma and Gwembe Valley.  Their age ranged from 14 to 70.  In Choma District, the villages were randomly drawn from three Chiefs’ areas; Singani, Moyo, and Mapanza.  In the Gwembe Valley, the villages were drawn from Chief Munyumbwe’s area.

RESULTS

The first hypothesis was partly confirmed and the second part was not confirmed.

TABLE ONE

DO YOU LIKE TONGA FIRST NAMES?

FREQUENCY
YES     88.1%  (59)
NO     11.9%  (8)
TOTAL     100.0%  (67)

Table One shows that 88.1 percent of the respondents said they like Tonga first names   and only 11.9 percent said they did not like them.  This confirms the first part of the first hypothesis.

TABLE TWO

DO YOU LIKE MODERN ENGLISH FIRST NAMES?

FREQUENCY
YES     85.1%  (57)
NO     14.9%  (10)
TOTAL     100.0%  (67)

Table Two shows that 85.1 percent of the respondents liked modern English names and only 14.9 percent did not like them.

The findings for hypotheses 2 and 3 show that there were no significant differences between those respondents who had Tonga first names and modern first names in the evaluation of Tonga indigenous first names.

 

TABLE THREE

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TYPES OF FIRST NAME AND EVALUATION OF TONGA FIRST NAMES

DO YOU LIKE TONGA FIRST NAMES?

YES                     NO               TOTAL
Type of          TONGA          29.9%  (20)          6.0%  (4)          35.8%  (24)
First
Name             ENGLISH       53.7%  (36)          6.0%  (4)          59.7%  (40)
OTHER            4.5%  (3)            0.0%  (0)            4.5%  (3)
TOTAL          88.1%  (59)        11.9%  (8)         100.0%  (67)

N = 67     X2 = 1.5     Degree of Freedom = 2

 

Significance Level – 0.58

 

Table Three shows that although there were differences in the frequencies of evaluation between the Tonga and English first name holders, these differences were statistically insignificant at P < 0.10.

 

TABLE FOUR

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TYPE OF FIRST NAME AND EVALUATION OF ENGLISH FIRST NAMES

DO YOU LIKE ENGLISH FIRST NAMES?

YES                     NO                TOTAL
Type of          TONGA           28.4%  (19)         7.5%  (5)         35.8%  (24)
First
Name             ENGLISH       53.7%  (36)          6.0%  (4)         59.7%  (40)
OTHER             3.0%  (2)           1.5%  (1)           4.5%  (3)
TOTAL          85.1%  (57)         14.9%  (10)     100.0%  (67)

N = 67     X2 = 2.22     Degree of Freedom = 2

Significance Level = 0.32

 

Table Four shows that 53.7 percent of the respondents with English first names evaluated the English first names more favorably compared to the 28.4 percent who had Tonga first names.  Although this difference looks substantial, it is statistically insignificant at P < 0.10.

TABLE FIVE

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN AND EVALUATION OF TONGA FIRST NAMES

DO YOU LIKE TONGA FIRST NAMES

Table 5Table Five shows there were statistically insignificant differences in the frequencies between men and women in their evaluation of Tonga first names at P < 0.10.

TABLE SIX

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN IN THE EVALUATION OF MODERN ENGLISH FIRST NAMES

DO YOU LIKE ENGLISH FIRST NAMES?

Table 6N = 67     X2 = 1.74     Degrees of Freedom = 1

Significance Level = 0.18

 

Table Six shows there were statistically insignificant differences in the frequencies between men and women in their evaluation of modern English first names at P < 0.10.

 

DISCUSSION

The study shows three major findings.  First, that the sample of Tonga respondents liked both Tonga indigenous names and modern English ones.  This finding is problematic if one assumes a certain duality or dichotomy in how people like or choose names.  That is assuming people will either like, choose, or prefer exclusively Tonga indigenous names or English ones.  The finding becomes problematic also if one assumes the Western or modern convention that people only have two to three names which are neatly endorsed in identification documents i.e. first, optional middle name, and last name.  Under this scheme, having more than three names becomes unconventional or problematic.  How can one have five names in a passport, form, or envelope for a letter?  There would not be enough space on the envelope or that application form.

Contrary to these modern conventions about names, the custom of names and naming among the Tonga leaves ample provision for an individual to have virtually unlimited number of names.  For example, respondents in the study5 indicated that according to custom, a person can have up to four or more names.

The midwives might give the baby two names, often from each of their (midwives’) mother’s and father’s ancestors.  Then after a period ranging from one week to six months, the father names the baby.  When the child goes to school, she or he might choose an English first name to use in school.  In adulthood, the same person might also be given or might choose a nickname.  This is besides the person’s family last name.  This example, for instance, includes six names.  This flexible custom or cultural attitude towards names and naming makes it possible and perfectly acceptable for the Tonga to like both Tonga indigenous and English names.

The second finding is that the type of first name the respondent had did not have a significant relationship to whether the individual liked Tonga or English names.  Again contrary to the hypothesis, the findings suggest that the choice of a first name or names among the Tonga might not necessarily be a statement about the individual’s exclusive cultural preference or non preference of a type of name i.e. whether indigenous or modern Western.

The third finding was that sexual status was not significantly related to whether the respondent liked or disliked Tonga or English first names.  There are two possible explanations for this finding.

First that factors that are supposed to have accounted for sexual differences might not really have had a differentiating impact on men and women favorable or negative evaluation of both Tonga and modern English names.  In other words, the lower the exposure to modern influences for women and higher exposure to modern influences for men, reflected in sexual differences in levels of formal education, access to formal employment in the modern sector, and length of stay in an urban area, did not account for significant differences in the evaluation of names.  Perhaps further exploration of these variables directly in themselves and how they are related to the evaluation of names would yield useful results.

The second and perhaps a more fundamental possible explanation is that the rural social structure in the area is not significantly differentiated enough to account and to reflect significant as well as salient sexual differences in the evaluation of names.  Supporting evidence is drawn from an unrelated study the author conducted in the Lundazi District of the Eastern Province of rural Zambia.6 The author found no significant sexual differences in how men and women viewed appropriate technology for food processing, preservation, and storage.  The explanation given was that differences in sexual status did not exclude the sexes from knowledge of what the other was doing.  The notion of sex role task overlap was used to explain the lack of significant sexual differences.

From the foregoing, it can be concluded that social aspirations, knowledge about and evaluation of social phenomenon, including names defy supposed sexual social barriers and instead permeate the entire society.  After all, in spite of differences in sexual status in the social hierarchy, men and women by and large share large proportions of everyday lives.

CONCLUSION

The findings of this study suggest that the Tonga might have successfully incorporated names from Western or modern influence into the repertoire of their traditional cultural environment or outlook; some type of Africanization of Western names.  Such that individuals having both Tonga indigenous names and modern English ones is seen as hardly incompatible.  It is seen as the correct, appropriate, or expected social scheme.

These findings can also be seen as a product of a vibrant Tonga culture which is both assimilating and accommodating the Tonga people’s both historical and contemporary experiences; the influence of the traditional African culture and Western influences through village traditional upbringing, school, Christianity, and other modern influences.  In this respect one might ask and wonder why Europeans who have lived in Africa for many generations have stuck to European names only?  Are they not denying an African experience by refusing to assume both African and European names?

Footnotes

1The terms “African” and “Zambian” will be used interchangeably in this research report.  Zambia is a subset of Africa.  So in many cases when I refer to the “Zambian” I automatically, and where applicable, also mean “African”.  The social changes are evident and obvious everywhere.  For example, Zambia now has 45 percent of her population living in urban areas.  Western influences are evident in the use of the English language in school and all official communication.  Western style clothing, establishment of communication links with the Western and other parts of the world through the telephone, satellite television, cinema, home video films, and other mass media, modern health services, wide use of modern transportation like the car train.

2”Indigenous” in this research proposal will refer to names that are commonly used in a particular Zambian locality and have a traditional Zambian or African origin.  This excludes names that derived from Western and Christian names.  For example, in the Eastern Province of Zambia, the English name Martha has Malita as the Nyanja equivalent.  Mary has Mariya as the  equivalent.  Joseph has Yosefe as the Nyanja equivalent.  This definition also excludes Arabic and Moslem names.

3The Tonga people are situated in the Southern region of Zambia.  They are part of the “Bantu Botatwe” group of three related tribes which constitute the Tonga, Ila, and Lenje.  The Gwembe Valley Tonga gained wide exposure in the academic world through Elizabeth Colson’s pioneering anthropological studies in the 1940s and 50s.  The numerous studies she conducted include:  Elizabeth Colson, The Social Consequences of Resettlement:  The Impact of the Kariba Resettlement Upon the Gwembe Tonga. Kariba Studies IV, Manchester:  Manchester University Press.  1971.  Elizabeth Colson, “Life Among the Cattle-Owning Plateau Tonga:  The Material Culture of a Northern Rhodesia Native Tribe,” (1949)  The Occasional Papers of the Rhodes-Livingstone Museum. Nos. 1-16 in One Volume, Manchester:  Manchester University Press.  1974.  Elizabeth Colson, “Residence and Village Stability Among the Plateau Tonga.”  The Rhodes-Livingstone Journal:  Human Problems in British Central Africa. Number 12, 1951.  Southern Province was arbitrarily chosen for the study.  The plan is for the study to be eventually conducted in every province of Zambia if the University of Zambia will continue to provide the modest funding required for the field work.

4First names were the focus of this study because this is an aspect of names in which Zambians show variations.  As a rule, or what has become custom, black indigenous Zambians show tremendous variety in the choice of first names.  The first name can be virtually anything, it can constitute a social commentary, criticism, or a concept more especially in urban areas.  But black Zambians have an indigenous second or surname.  This is usually a family clan name that links individuals to specific origins usually of a rural provincial area, village, family, tribe, and in many cases many of the indigenous Zambian languages or mother tongues.  These customs mean that an indigenous black Zambian can have both indigenous names such as Musadane Phiri.  He or she can also have a name such as Mary Zulu or John Mulenga which are combinations of a first English name and a second Zambian name.  But a black indigenous Zambian rarely has  name combinations such as Mary Smith or John Philips.  The combination of both Eastern first and surnames is thought to suit whites and other people of missed race.

“Western names” in this study will refer to English names.  Since Zambia is a former colony of Britain, Zambians are most familiar with English names as opposed to French, German, Spanish, or Italian.

5This study covered many aspects regarding names and naming customs among the Tonga people.  Other aspects will be covered in further detail later in separate research reports.

6The study expected differences in how rural men and women viewed appropriate technology for food production, preservation, and storage.  The lack of sexual differences were attributed to the possibility that in their daily sex role task performance, men and women share much more than is generally recognized.  As such it should not be surprising that men and women exhibit more similarities than differences.  Mwizenge S. Tembo.  Conceptualization of Appropriate Technology in Lundazi District of Rural Zambia. East Lansing:  Michigan State University, 1987.  p. 88.  (Ph.D. Dissertation)

REFERENCES

Adamic, Louis.  What’s Your Name? New York:  Harper and Brothers.  Publishers, 1942.

Asante, Molefi Kete.  Afrocentricity:  The Theory of Social Change. Foreword by Kariamu Welsh.  Buffalo:  Amulefi Publishing Company, 1980.

Chuks-Orji, O.  Names From Africa:  Their Origin, Meaning and Pronunciation. Edited by Keith E. Baird, Chicago:  Johnson Publishing Company, Inc., 1972.

Colson, Elizabeth.  The Social Consequences of Resettlement:  The Impact of the Kariba

Resettlement Upon the Gwembe Tonga. Kariba Studies IV, Manchester:  Manchester University Press, 1971.

Colson, Elizabeth.  “Life Among the Cattle-Owning Plateau Tonga:  The Material Culture of a Northern Rhodesia Native Tribe.  (1949)  The Occasional Papers of the Rhodes-

Livingstone Museum. Nos. 1-16 in One Volume.  Manchester:  Manchester University Press, 1974.

Colson, Elizabeth.  “Residence and Village Stability Among the Plateau Tonga.”  The Rhodes- Livingston Journal:  Human Problems in British Central Africa.  Number 12, 1951.

“Don’t Discard African Names.”   Zambia Daily Mail. Lusaka, 19 November, 1981.

DuBois, V. D.,  “Zaire Under President Sese Seko Mobutu.  Part I:  The Return to Authenticity in Africa,” in Research Methodologies and World Views. Vol. XVII, No. 1 (Zaire), Central and Southern Africa Series, January 1973.

“How Western Names Came to Africa.”  Zambia Daily Mail. Lusaka, 11 November 1981.

Lambert, E. and Pei, M.,  Our Names.  Where they Come From and What they Mean. New York:  Lothrop.  Lee and Shepard Co., Inc., 1960.

Mabuduike, I.,  Structure and Meaning in Igbo Names. Buffalo:  State University of New York,

Department of Black Studies, 1974.

Mazrui, Ali, A.,  The African Condition:  A Political Diagnosis. New York:  Cambridge University Press, 1980.

McKinzie, H., and Tindimwebwa, I., Names From East Africa. Harry McKinzie, Publishers, 1980.

“Writer Was Off the Mark,”  Zambia Daily Mail. Lusaka, 3 December, 1981.

“Why Should We Keep European Names?”  Zambia Daily Mail. Lusaka, 7 January, 1982.

Zabeeb, F.,  What is in a Name?:  An Inquiry into the Semantics and Pragmatics of Proper Names. The Hague:  Martinus Nijhoff, 1968.

THE UNIVERSITY OF ZAMBIA
INSTITUTE FOR AFRICAN STUDIES
EVALUATION OF AFRICAN INDIGENOUS AND WESTERN NAMES
AMONG THE TONGA PEOPLE OF SOUTHERN ZAMBIA

By Mwizenge S. Tembo,* Ph. D.
Research Fellow, Institute for African Studies
Preliminary Research Report No. 1,

21st September, 1988

*AUTHOR: B. A. University of Zambia.  M. A. and Ph.D.  Michigan State University.  Currently a Research Fellow/Lecturer at the University of Zambia.  Institute for African Studies.

Acknowledgements: This study was sponsored by the University of Zambia and the Institute for African Studies.  The field work for this report was conducted in August 1988.  I would like to thank Mr. Dominique Mucimba, Research Assistant with the Institute, for his invaluable skills of interpretation during field work.  Dr. Lovejoy Malambo, Head of the Rural Economy Department in the School of Agriculture at the University of Zambia, was instrumental in the cross-translation of the questionnaire from English into Tonga language.  MS. Mukahajunza Hacibamba, Secretary at the Institute for African Studies, also contributed to the final Tonga version of the questionnaire.  My sincere thanks are also extended to the government officials and Chiefs in Choma District and Munyumbwe Sub-center in the Gwembe Valley, and all the respondents in the villages for their cooperation and enthusiasm.

EVALUATION OF AFRICAN INDIGENOUS AND WESTERN
NAMES AMONG THE TONGA PEOPLE OF SOUTHERN ZAMBIA

By Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.
Research Fellow

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