oa Nomina Africana: Journal of African Onomastics - Zulu names and their impact on gender identity construction of adults raised in polygynous families in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Volume 33 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1012-0254
  • E-ISSN: 2070-2639



Personal naming is viewed as a significant process of bestowing a name upon a child as a symbol of identity. Unlike in Western culture where names have become more label-like, in African culture an individual’s name is a qualifier, a communal term that indicates their ethnic and clan origins. Nguni culture and tradition avoids open discussion of sensitive issues, hence personal names generally function as a signal to others, or to the family, about issues that cannot be openly discussed and resolved and that is why personal names are much more meaningful. Personal names have undergone major transformation due to sociocultural and political factors, which shows that culture is not static but dynamic and ever-changing. This article explores how naming in polygynous families has a direct impact on the individual’s gendered identity and how there has been a gender shift in the naming practices, allowing more women to be name-givers. The findings are based on a study conducted on the gendered narratives of adults who were raised in polygynous families in the Hammarsdale area in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This article used a qualitative methodology within an interpretivist paradigm, interviewing ten male and ten female participants with at least matric level of education and who were raised in polygynous families. The participants in this study highlighted that their names have a direct bearing on their gendered identity and discussed the implications a specific name had on their personal identity. This article aims to foreground naming as a factor contributing to the construction of gender identities of adults raised in polygynous families and the implications thereof.

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