How important is a Sissala name? Perhaps many Sissala have asked this same question in private or publicly. But it is even more appropriate to ask, 'How important is a Sissala name to a Sissala?
A great number of people have lived on this earth since the human race began-billions and billions of them, including Sissala people. And over every head, just as over yours and mine, has dangled that familiar sound or word called your name. A person's name is special and uniquely his. A name connotes a sense of identity and a bit of your cultural heritage. Names form an important part of the intangible cultural heritage of every society. Sissala names are no exception to this truism. Sissala names are as unique as the people. In any sea of names in the world, the unique characteristics of an indigenous Sissala name can help others to identify the Sissala easily.
It is refreshing to see Hilla, Jawol, Dintie, Luri, Batong, Sulia,Kanton, Nansia, Balu, Baka, Chieminah and many more Sissala people carrying with them a piece of their intangible culture with them wherever they go. Dr. Hilla Limann, the President of Ghana in the Third Republic, even in his grave still carries his Sissala cultural heritage in the history pages of the world. Many Sissala people who abandoned their indigenous names for foreign names have had mistaken identity problems during the processing of documents or financial transactions in the past. The forebears of the Sissala people during their time attached a lot of importance to the names they gave to their children because of the spiritual, moral, philosophical, experiential, descriptive and ancestral connotations these names have in the Sissala cultural milieu.
Has the importance of Sissala names waned among succeeding Sissala generations? The answer is not a straight yes or no. Subsequent to the introduction of Islam and Christianity into the Sissala land, the use of Sissala names among the Sissala people declined. During this period it was fashionable for new converts into these new religions to adopt Arabic and English names to distinguish them from the traditionalists. The children of these converts were also given foreign names by their parents. These children now had both names being foreign because their parents had for them foreign names as surnames.
In recent times however, a new wind of change is blowing over the Sissala land. Many Sissala people, especially the educated ones are beginning to adopt indigenous Sissala names for themselves and their children. This change in attitude is partly borne out of a cultural consciousness that is gaining root among the Sissala people. This effort was further enhanced by the publication of a book entitled, 'Sissala Names and Meanings' in 2009. This publication follows the documentation of over 4000 indigenous Sissala names and their meanings, with funding from the Cultural Initiatives Support Programme and European Development Fund.
The following attributes of Sissala names make them suitable and relevant to the Sissala people:
• They are easy to pronounce by the Sissala people.
• They teach moral lessons.
• They serve as useful addresses in certain cases for Sissala people.
• They help to preserve the intangible culture of the Sissala people.
• They represent Sissala philosophy and mythology.
• Reduces the risk of mistaken identity.
• Sets in motion the law of attraction.
As Sissala Heritage Foundation marks the first anniversary of the launching of the book, 'Sissala Names and Meanings', it is important to ask whether the question posed at the beginning of this article is still relevant to the cultural aspirations of the Sissala people. If the answer is yes, then, let's join the crusade to promote the use of indigenous Sissala names among the Sissala people in Ghana.
Source: Chieminah Abudu Gariba
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