While many people think Decolonization only means breaking away from the colonizers and getting political independence, there’s more to decolonization than your average minds can ever comprehend. There are many forms of decolonization, decolonization of the mind, the education, etc. This piece is on ‘True Decolonization’.
I am not going to write on political or economic decolonization but on cultural decolonization which I believe is the first step to take in the decolonization process.
True Decolonization to my understanding means erasing any trace of colonization in your country, just like how colonizers erased every trace of your past and tried to make you believe your history started with them discovering you by writing your history for you, calling you a barbaric savage with below level intelligence.
When it comes to Decolonization, one of the African leaders who pushed for true decolonization was Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso. When became president of what is now Burkina Faso, the country was using the name given to it by colonizers. The name was Upper Volta, in an attempt to rid the country of foreign influence of colonization, he changed the country’s name to Burkina Faso meaning ‘Land of the Upright Men’. Culturally, all countries colonized has their own traditional names which were changed by the colonizers.
Like Africa and many other countries that were once colonies of European countries looking to expand their power and empire, many of our islands were named by the colonizers. We had our own names of our places, rivers, mountains, islands, etc. Colonizers in the exploration era and in the fight to conquer undiscovered lands and claim them, named the newfound lands after their Lords, Kings/Queens, Emperors, cities, etc.
Example; New Britain and New Ireland, named after Britain and Ireland. Port Moresby and Fairfax Harbor, named by Captain John Moresby. Papua meaning frizzy haired like the Malaysians and New Guinea because they thought we looked like the Guineas in Africa.
This was how you claimed a land, you give it your own name and say you’re the first one to discover it. You name it, you own it. The Colonizers knew that there were already people dwelling on these lands and had their own names for it but that didn’t matter. To them as the most civilized society in the world, these others peoples and lands they discovered were primitives, they respect no culture. Being Euro-centric, all cultures were inferior and primitive to the more civilized European culture.
The attempt to conquer unknown lands would not have been possible without the help of religion, especially Christianity. Christianity tamed the wild people and made it easier to take their lands.
Remember when John Waiko wanted to rename Papua New Guinea to Paradise? We called him crazy and stupid when he in fact was trying to erase traces of colonization in our country, he was seeking TRUE DECOLONIZATION even though the name he suggested was not fitting.
I was surprised when I came across Papua New Guinea’s highest mountain’s original name in the native tongue, I always knew Mt Wilhelm had a name in the native tongue but didn’t know till now. The original name is Enduwa Kombuglu or Kombugl’o Dimbin meaning Black Stone.
The name of the mountain needs to be changed back to its original name to maintain its cultural connections. The mountain has no connection to the Germans, neither is it on German soil. It’s on Simbu soil and should be called by its original traditional name.
With the foreign invasion and the introduced Western cultures, most of our people now bear Western and Christian name. Traditional names or native names bore meaning and had significance. In the next 20 years, we won’t have our traditional names, we will have first names like Simon and second names like John. Simon John, John Steven, Paul Michael, etc.
Our traditional names are unique unlike Western/Christian names; no different tribe can have the same name. We cannot have a Highlander with the name Kila, Kila is a coastal name and vice versa. While with Christian names, we have John all across the country.
We now carry Christians and Western names. John is not your ancestor’s name, Kaupa is, Kawage is, Kagul is, Kila is, Renagi is.
Time to start the cultural decolonization by embracing your roots and giving our children our own names, names our ancestors carried. Stop naming your children after someone’s ancestor from Europe or a prophet in the Bible.
I don’t know where my parents got the name Duncan from and named me. Tumbuna blo mi mas Duncan ya
I didn’t choose the name I carry, it was given to me a birth but believe, I will choose to have my children carry traditional names. I will have all my children named after my ancestors and carry on the unique names of my people to ensure the survival of my rapidly dying culture.