Tuesday, December 07, 2010

It is all in a Name

For the past year I have employed a very skilled gardener. He has faithfully arrived at my door every Thursday and cheerfully kept the garden in shape. And every week I have known him as "Patrick." Until now.

While saying farewell to him yesterday I discovered his full name: it is Abednigo Moeketso Ntsere. When I asked him why he did not introduce himself using his birth names he said that a "white women" had once told him that they were too difficult and so she decided to call him Patrick. Since then he believed that white people cannot say his name and so he just uses another name.

This is (sadly) a typical story of our land. Ever since white settlers arrived in the Cape Colony they have stripped black people of their names.

The first Khoisan man to visit Europe was taken in 1629 by ship to Batavia, where he was given the name Harry. When Jan van Riebeeck arrived to lead the small Dutch settlement in 1652 he records using "Harry the Hottentot" as his interpreter.

In the same way the Rev. William Shaw would baptise the son of Chief Kama and change his name from Xhanti to William.

Throughout the dreadful years of the hated "pass system" black people were given white names for their official documentation - and Rolihlahla Mandela would become "Nelson" when he went to school.

And so I meet a humble son of a Xhosa father and a Sotho mother and have spend a year calling him a name that is unknown to his parents.

God bless you Abednigo Moeketso Ntsere.
Sent via my BlackBerry

1 comment:

Barbara Shallue said...

So sad. I'm glad you know his name now, though!