Maclean Arthur Is My African Name
My full name at birth was Maclean Kwamena Holdbrooke Arthur! Yeah, that’s quite a mouthful so I have resorted to using Maclean Arthur these days. To many (with the omission of Kwamena) my name is as English sounding as an African’s name can get. I have been urged on many occasions by some “conscious” friends to adopt a more African name. They have done so themselves. They tell me they have been on a journey of self-discovery and now feel more connected to the motherland because of their new names but I have always refused to change my name and I have two reasons for this stance.
Firstly, these “conscious” friends argue their new African names, asserts their true Africanness. This sort of argument really makes me laugh. If the sound of your name is the sole essence of yourAfricanness, then you are very much mistaken.
I am all for African parents giving their children African names. Adetoun Dosunmu, YaaAsantewaa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame Nkrumah – beautiful names with very deep meanings. When I do have children someday, they will definitely have African first names. However, we should be careful not to define our Africanness by just the sound of our names. OurAfricanness is much more than the names we bear.
Our Africanness is measured by how much we give back to our motherland. That is what it means to be a true son or daughter of Africa. Having a full African name does not make you more African than Casley Hayford or Nelson Mandela! And these two individuals with European sounding names have done more for Africa than any of these “conscious” African-name-bearing friends. If you ask me, Bob Geldof is more African than these friends of mine.
The second reason for my refusal to change my name is born out of its historical relevance. Maclean Kwamena Holdbrooke Arthur, as I always explain to my “conscious” friends, it’s as Ghanaian as Kwabena Fosu! It holds as much meaning and historical relevance as any other Ghanaian name. Mention my name to any Ghanaian and they will recognise it. They will even be able to tell which part of the country I originate from.
My name tells of a period in our history when our forebears welcomed the European traders into our land. Many settled along the coastal regions of Ghana. They married the locals and had families with them. It is therefore not uncommon to meet Ghanaians with English names like Greenstreet or Hughes or Dutch names like Van Dyke or Vanderpuye. These names acknowledge a connection to our European ancestry. We do not bear these names because it sounds good and can open doors as others would like to think.
We bear these names because it is part of who we are. It is like the St Georges cross and the lion that appears on the coat of arms of Ghana. It is not for mere decorative purposes. It is for historical relevance. It is an acknowledgement of our connection to the British Empire. It is and will always be a part of our history as a nation. So I will keep my very African name – Maclean Kwamena Holdbrooke Arthur. It is very much a part of me and my history.
By Maclean Arthur