Out with old, in with the new: Negotiating identity in re-naming a Xhosa umtshakazi
Umtshakazi (singular) is a bride and abatshakazi (plural) are brides in isiXhosa language. The word is derived from the word ‘tsha’ which means new in isiXhosa. The word is popularly known as Makoti in other African languages, such as isiZulu. In short, a bride is a woman about to be married or newly married and thus a “new member” of the husband’s family. In a South African context, naming is not reserved for new-born children as there are circumstances whereby older people get new names. In Xhosa re-naming of abatshakazi, is a religious practice where name-givers bestow a name on a newlywed and then expect brides to live up to their newly acquired names. Like most things cultural, the brides have no choice but to accept the new name, embrace what the name entails and live up to the family’s expectations. Through the re-naming process the bride assumes a new identity which means taking the responsibility that comes with it. This article examines how such a process gives brides new roles to play; how brides make a conscious effort to live up to the name and how this changes their identity. This article is going to take a phenomenology stance. The phenomenology theory is a theoretical proposition which focuses on people’s perceptions of the world in which they live and what it means to them. It focuses on people’s lived experiences. This theory is essential in this article as the article focuses on the individual experiences of Xhosa abatshakazi in the naming process.
Key Words: gender, culture, names, identity, marriage
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