Original Research

Shifts and continuities in Zulu personal naming practices

Sihawukele Ngubane, Nompumelelo Thabethe
Literator | Vol 34, No 1 | a431 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v34i1.431 | © 2013 Sihawukele Ngubane, Nompumelelo Thabethe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 February 2013 | Published: 19 August 2013

About the author(s)

Sihawukele Ngubane, Department of isiZulu, School of Arts, Howard College Campus, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Nompumelelo Thabethe, Department of Community Development, School of Built Environment and Development Studies, Howard College Campus, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


It is widely accepted that, in all societies, personal naming practices and culture are intertwined. Given that culture is not static, but dynamic and ever changing, personal names have undergone a major transformation due to socio-cultural and political factors. This article reflects on shifts and continuities in the practice of personal naming amongst the Zulu people. Emerging data demonstrate the evolution from pre-colonial Africa to the post-1994 period in South Africa. It is further illustrated that the reclaiming of indigenous names in the new democratic dispensation is perceived as a way for Africans to re-define and re-affirm their identities, thus de-stigmatising their culture. Ultimately, this article makes a strong argument that personal naming, in any society, is not detached from the socio-cultural environment. Rather, personal naming and culture are inextricably linked to socio-political conditions at any historical moment. This is demonstrated in the shift from personal naming practices greatly inspired by communal values to those steeped in contradictions within the epoch of neo-liberal capitalism. It is, therefore, concluded that shifts in people’s consciousness lead to fundamental shifts in personal naming practices.


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