Out with old, in with the new: Negotiating identity in re-naming a Xhosa umtshakazi

  • Evangeline Bonisiwe Zungu
  • Nomvula Maphini
Keywords: gender, culture, names, identity, marriage


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


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2227-5460
print ISSN: 2225-8604