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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Azizi Musical Roots (33) RE: Musical Roots 26 Mar 05


You're welcome, Michael.

Cleaning out files last night, I came across notes on African history which led me to this book that I had quoted upthread:

Cheikh Anta Diop, The Cultural Unity Of Black Africa", Chicago, Third World Press, 1963, originally published 1959 in French}.

I would HIGHLY recommend this book for those interested in learning more about that subject.

I'm posting a rather long excerpt from this book which is slightly off topic. Yet it addresses in part the topic of documentation of life in historical West Africa, and provides some information on naming practices. Note my comment regarding the word followed by an asterisk..

"The Islamisation of West Africa began with the Almoravidia movement in the tenth century. It can be emphasized that it introduced a sort of diving line in the evolution of religious consciousmess, first of the princes, and as a result, among the people...

In West Africa, the adoption of the father's name for the children seems to stem from this same Arabic influence; As a matter of fact we have just larned from Ibn Batouta that in 1253, children took the name of their maternal uncle, that is to say, their mother's brother: the children did indeed take the name of a man, but the regime was purely matrilineal; it only ceased to be so from the time when, according to Islamic custom, the name of the father was substituted for the name of the uncle.

It is important to note that, beginning with the same period, detribalisation was an accomplished fact in West Africa; this is proved by the possibility of an individual bearing his own family name and not the name of a clan. In regions of the continent which are not detribalised individuals only have a first name; when their proper name is asked for they reply that they belong to such a totem clan, whose name can only be born collectively. It is only when members of the clan are dispersed that they could retain as individuals, in memory of their primitive* culture, the name of the clan, which could then become their family name.

It is, however, necessary to stress a particular fashion of naming a child which seems to proceed from a dualist conception of social life. To the boy's names is added that of the mother and to the daughter's name that of the father; for instance: Cheikh Fatma means the son of Fatma. Magette Massamba-Sassoun is the daughter of Massaba-Sassoun. It is certain that this does not come from Arabic influence."

-end of quote-

Along with this book I found note written on loose leaf paper with no book or page attribution. However, it provides some interesting information on this topic:

"For Bantus ** to know a person's name is to know that person' essence or profound nature. Traditionally Bantus would take care not to reveal their names to strangers..

end of 'quote'..

I also wrote this note to myself on that paper: Traditionally African
people had birth names, circumcision names, nicknames, and praise names by which they are known.

* "primitive" here means something like 'from the earliest of times'
and has no negative valuation.

** Bantus: the plural form of the referent 'Bantu'; a large division of ethnic groups [which are further sub-divided by ancestry and language] in Central, East, and South Africa..Many but not all ethnic groups in these areas are Bantu.


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