Welcome, dear people, to Open Mic Friday! The format is simple. Every week there will be a featured “reading” in the body of this post. In the comments, you’re warmly invited to share some work of your own — and it doesn’t have to be text. To keep conversation and creative spirit flowing, please applaud and cheer for others’ offerings just as loudly as you would at a physical reading — by commenting on their work and giving props to everyone.
- Writers, if your work is lengthy, I recommend posting it elsewhere and including the link in the comments (with a sentence of description so we know what we’re clicking for).
- Comments are threaded, which means you can reply directly to each reader by hitting the “reply” button within that comment box. Converse!
This week I’m delighted to feature an autobiographical piece by my dear VONA friend Kuukua Dzigbordi Yomekpe. Three of Kuukua’s essays, including this one, were recently published in African Women Writing Resistance: An Anthology of Contemporary Voices, a book more than six years in the making.
All Because of a Name by Kuukua Dzigbordi Yomekpe
Claiming your name with all its baggage of ancestral memory brings with it a certain comfort that is very cathartic!
It is 12:16 a.m. on Wednesday morning—the day on which I was born. To us Ghanaians this is very important since most of us are named according to this day. I have just finished reading the preface and some of the introduction to a book written by one of my professors from college. I finally sign my name in a book that I have owned for almost 4 years. Without thinking, I sign “Kuukua Dzigbordi Yomekpe” with oomph; I realize that I like the sound of my own name, my African name.
Why I had never given any earlier thought to protesting my European name was beyond me. Of course, most people I knew in Ghana strove to be regarded as “white” or Europeanized. From my maternal grandmother who tried to make proper ladies out of my sister and I, by teaching us the proper use of cutlery at Tea or the mannerisms of a lady, to the nuns in habits who charged us 10 Cedis for speaking our native languages during recess, everyone made it their business to ensure that this new generation of children were brought up right; trained to fit into the mold that the colonizer was creating for the so-called “educated African.” To top it all off was the Anglican, and later, the Roman Catholic Church, to which my ancestors were probably forced to convert, that demanded that all baptized children of God be named after saints; of course, it came in handy that most of these saints had English names! So, with all these forces working against me it was no surprise that my name was, and had been for 24 years, Melody-Ann D. Yomekpe and not Kuukua Dzigbordi Yomekpe.
I can recall feelings of shame when called upon in class to enunciate my “full name” or to tell my teachers what my middle initial, D, stood for. The teachers, also victims of the colonizer’s brainwashing, didn’t make these feelings any easier to deal with, ridiculing the sound of my names. These names, inherited from my father, originated from the Ewe tribe, who occupied the eastern part of Ghana, who, historically were not counted among the most assimilated and Europeanized of the Ghanaian tribes. I grew up hoping and praying that someday I would be married off to a man from a place outside of Africa and then my last name would change and I would never have to blush when asked to pronounce my last name again! Yes, it was a traumatic experience for a child who strove against all odds to be Europeanized. There were even occasions when I denied the existence of that side of my heritage. Denying my association with my father’s tribe always cost me dearly because quite a few of my fellow students in class were also members of this tribe and this denial was always seen as a betrayal. I would think to myself that they would do the same if they had names like mine that meant “grave stone”…
Continue reading at Kuukua’s blog, ewurabasempe.wordpress.com.
Thank you for reading and applauding Kuukua’s work! She’s currently working on a culinary memoir, so keep your ears open for more from her in the future!
And now… it’s your turn. The comments are open!