New Colleague: Hi there, what’s your name?
New Colleague: Loyiso?
New colleague: Noyoliso! Welcome to the school!
If you are a black South African working in predominantly white spaces, this is often the conversations you find yourself in upon arrival. Kids born pre-Apartheid often had an African name and a “Christian” name. The latter was ( and still often is) used at school and later on when you go into the work world. My parents gave all their children one African name. I’m grateful for this because African names tell our stories. When you call me Noloyiso, you declare me Victorious ( the meaning of my name – I was my parents’ first daughter) so, knowing how to pronounce my name is extremely important to me.
I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, I didn’t always think about it at all. In 5th grade, I started at a new school and my new teacher decided that Noloyiso was too long opting to call me Nolo instead. I thought nothing of it at the time and I grew up being called Nolo and introducing myself as Nolo.
Over the past decade maybe, the question of my name has bothered me. Because I introduced myself as Nolo, this trickled down to me being Nolo Lange on official documents and on professional platforms. To an extent, this was my fault; I did introduce myself by my casual half name after all. A new job is an opportunity to reinvent yourself, to be something you were not in the past and so I decided that I would change how I introduced myself at my new work environment.
Listen, it’s exhausting: correcting people and even saying my full name over and over ( 4 syllables is a lot!) But it is my name, my story and I want to tell it. I really appreciate those who have asked its meaning because the appreciation for my name deepens once they know. And no, I don’t have a problem being called Nolo, as long as you know what it’s short for and thanks to social media, those closest to me are in the loop without the elaborate explanation!
So, I guess what I’m saying is this: don’t take African names for granted. They tell ours and our families stories. We learn how we came into being and the situations we were born into. My friend Baxolise says our names are the tasks set out for us by our parents going into the world and it is a huge undertaking. Saying a black person’s name is acknowledging that, reminding them of that and that is important.
Thank you so much for popping in! It’s always lovely to have you here! Have a beautiful week😘