Heritage: What’s in a re-Name Change ?

How do I know who I am?

‘You know a person loves you by how they say your name’ Anonymous 5yr old.

I never really understood just how important a name is until I changed mine.  On facebook, recently and in other places a long time ago and counting…

With the recent name change, the public is generally concerned. They don’t know who they are talking to anymore it seems; who this new person (name) is, if the person behind the name is still the same person they knew before or if the person has changed with the name.  I understand how confusing this must be.

But spare a moment for me.  I was born with the names Lindiwe Popane Zulu.  Lindiwe because they were waiting for me,  Popane my great-grandmother came  in a  dream holding a baby, and said to my mother  I am bringing you a gift.  Zulu because that was my mother last name when she was born. She also took her mother’s last name.   Later on my last name was changed from Zulu to Ramalapa, because we were all going to live together with my mother and father and two younger siblings whose last names were Ramalapa. I was in my early teens by that time.

In the mean time, I was still getting used to be being called Lindy at school.  Growing up, at home I was called Popi, short for Popane, and I liked that name because it meant doll. I looked like a doll just like my grand-mother, mamani and her mother, my  great-grand mother Popane.   There was a time I thought my name meant doll until I was told my  name is Popane actually and Popi came in part from the name Papane,  and also because when I was born it was said I was so beautiful, I looked like a doll. Popi = doll.

At school they always used your first name as it appeared on the birth certificate not asking  which name you preferred the first or second or last. I think I asked why I couldn’t be Popi at school.  But Lindiwe was my name too.   I always got a fright when I was called it at school by the teacher because; it was often not said with love.

My grand-mother mamani, used to have a special name for me, one is Venessa, whose origins can be traced to Greek Mythology, which would mean “buttefly” or Latin, which means “to be”.  My mother also had a special name for me which I didn’t understand when she started calling me by it, but now that I know what it means, am more aceepting of its qualities. Ruby, is said to be the most powerful gem stone in the universe, of royalty and has healing properties, its a stone of Love and Sexual Passion.

I remember asking my mother why certain people called her with a certain name and she preferred another. My mother had three names. Like me. One which her family used, another known to the world, and one which existed only in the green pages of her ID book.

One day she decided that all her names, the one she was called at home, known by and the one which only existed in her ID book, did not define her.  And she said we can also choose our own names too, we can be whoever we want to be.  I thought for a long time about what my new name would be.   And finally decided on Jedidiah,  a name given to King Davids’ second s son with Bathsheba  – King Solomon when he was a baby, meaning God’s beloved or blessing. But King Solomon was never known by that name at all. It’s a name that only existed between his family and the one who gave him that name.

For me it was unique sounding name one that I had never seen or heard of up until that time I was searching for a name in the bible.  Jedidiah I figured would be too long for people to try and say so Jedi would be easier I thought. I had to write it down a few times with different hand writing to try and see if I liked the look and sound of it.   Then I tested it, and it stuck – I became Jedi Ramalapa.  But this name only existed on the lips of the public and not officially on paper, so Lindiwe Popane would still pop-up every now and again, which required  some explaining to do, so where does Jedi come from?

I still have a cheque of 45 pounds, which I could use today, but cannot cash because it was signed to   Jedi Ramalapa who only exists on the airwaves.  At the time I had been reporting  on another international mining incident in South Africa. Miners were had been trapped underground for days.

Not only that, when I  chose the name Jedi, I hadn’t yet travelled to the Middle East, where I learnt that  Jedidiah was a name given only  (or mostly) to boys,  and its meaning changed depending on where  you were.   Arab Muslims had a different interpretation of the name so did Jewish Arabs.  The name itself however has its origins from the bible and that’s a whole other story. T the shorter version of my name Jedi, was a cult name for followers of star-wars, it’s even considered a religion by some.   So as a result some people have taken to calling me Jedi Knight or Jedi with some additions like ‘may the force be with you’ etc. Even though Neither I or my parents   are star war fans!  This also meant that I often had to explain my name. What’s your name Jedi, Jelly, Jane, Jay, Jd, oh?  What does it mean, where does it come from? Then I have to tell Solomon’s story.

I once went to home affairs to have it included in my ID book so that I become Jedi Ramalapa in life and on paper.  The forms required my mother and my father’s names. I hesitated and called her and told her that  I was at home affairs, and was thinking of changing my name to Jedi Ramalapa and I had a few forms to fill which required information I wasn’t sure of.  She said you know we agreed on this. And I said okay, and made the application to change my name to Jedi Ramalapa.  I called home affairs and they told me they lost my application, unfortunately, if I have the original receipt I should go back and re-apply this time for free.

I had lost my ID and could not wait for another application to get lost so I decided to forget about the name change and move on with my life as Jedi Ramalapa (Lindiwe Popane Ramalapa).  Until I went to Senegal, where I answered to Lindiwe when on official business because it sort of made sense and required less explanation, I knew how to pronounce it properly, and I knew exactly what it meant. Also everyone kept calling me Zulu, Bayede! Etc because they were all obsessed with Shaka Zulu – he is a great man in Africa.  Ah I was actually Lindiwe Zulu, but I just couldn’t use that name to my advantage. Also Zulu is not on any official document.

But honestly I am confused. Jedi Ramalapa is an important  part of who I am, it’s a name that I identify with, and which everyone knows,  there’s no other Jedi Ramalapa I know about but me in this world.   Lindiwe Zulu was last heard of in my teens.   Lindiwe Popane Zulu is almost infinite in scope and breath, but it brings up other stories which require even more explanation and research, and other people just don’t want to hear those names.   I like it, the name Jedi Ramalapa. It has nice ring to it. But when I look into its history its someone else’s story, it’s not my story,  and each time I say my name because I am a story teller, I am telling a story. So whose story am I going to tell? And if I am telling my story where does my story start or end.  Which name sounds good to me? Is it just about how a name sounds – many people change their names all the time – in changing your name are also changing your destiny?  If I decided to call a car a bus would it make a difference to how the thing the car is used or perceived, should it even matter to the car or bus what its name is?  People are not inanimate objects true.    But we give names to things in order for us to know what they are for.  A cup, a pot, a plate.  We change names for things whose use has changed too, sometimes. Can a chair still be a chair if we use it to put things on it? Or will we have to change its name to a table because we’re using it for a different purpose? Has my purpose changed from Lindiwe Popane Zulu to Jedi Ramalapa?   That is my question. But in order for me to be comfortable in my own skin, with all its triumphs and have to be comfortable with all my names,  but can I possibly be all this at the same time -: Jedidiah Jedi Lindiwe Popane  Zulu Ramalapa – that’s a mouthful even for me.  I don’t want a new name. The ones I have and have accumulated over the years are enough.

I just want to simply simplify my story.   Call myself with a name that calls me to my purpose that gives my life meaning.  One I will be proud of.  But I can’t have it both ways. One of them has to go and I don’t know which one to let go of.  Apparently no one else will accept me, if I don’t accept myself.

There are several schools of thought; one says life is not about finding yourself but creating who you want to be…

And then I walked into Les Jardin, and as I am about to log on to update today’s blog I stumble on a book by Karl Sabbagh called remembering our childhood, how memory betrays us…

I remember my favourite conversation starter years ago amongst friends often used to be ‘What is your earliest memory? So you can’t help to ask oneself, how far back can we really remember and how accurate are the events we recall?

With all these questions swimming around in my mind;  I understand now in a more powerful way the importance of keeping accurate records of  my (our) history, so that  I (we) have something  another than our own recollection of events, which can be deceiving, to help us understand and put things into perspective.

How do I know who I am?

I’m already in love with the name Ruby.

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