Anthroponyms of Albinos among the Shona People of Zimbabwe

Maxwell Kadenge, Patricia Ruramisai Mabugu, Esther Chivero, Rejoice Chiwara


Naming of newly born children constitutes an important rite of passage in most societies across the world. In African societies personal names are laden with meaning and may well identify the sociocultural, political, professional and religious background of the namers and the named. This article investigates personal names given to Shona-speaking children born with albinism. We specifically focus on the socio-cultural meanings of these names and the social factors motivating the choice of such names. Our data constitutes a hundred personal names collected from the Albino Charity Organization of Zimbabwe (hereafter ALCOZ). Follow up focus group interviews were held with the parents of these children. We put these names into four categories, namely, theophoric names, names of disillusionment or setback, proverbial names and insinuating names. Our findings reveal that Shona anthroponyms of albinos, like ordinary personal names, are not just arbitrary labels but are socio-cultural tags that function as communicative tools. We argue that derisive personal names of albinos are best understood in the sociocultural and religious context of the society in which they are born. The Shona practice of naming children living with albinism largely constructs, maintains and legitimizes societal imbalances in which albinos are viewed as ‘the other’ and are looked down upon. This research is therefore intended as an empirical contribution to the growing field of anthroponomastics.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n27p1230

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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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