Unlearning lessons of injustice: The conscious decision of spelling AfriKa with a “K”
From birth, my parents wished and bestowed upon me blessings of wealth and prosperity through my name.
I am Giramata.
Born and raised in the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda- the heart of the fertile soils of Afrika.
When I was younger, for every holiday I packed my bags ready to leave my luxurious home to spend quality time on my grandmother’s farm. Waking up at the first call of the cock, milking cows, fetching water down the valley, gathering firewood and learning how to make butter from milk (gucunda) -was my daily routine.
To me, this was one of the most significant events in my life.
However, one cannot simply tell that I am a product of it just because today, I am seen as “Umwana wo mugipangu” and “Navutse amatara yaka” which are terms to define children from an average family that were born after “civilization” started. There’s nothing I despise more than being called these names. It reduces my ability to understand and connect with people outside my socio-economic class and generation. It assumes that I don’t know the history of the Rwandan culture.
Most of my education was in Rwanda. I was privileged to attend an internationally recognized institution. What better way to secure the success of your child in a globalized economy than to give them “world-class education”-I mean Eurocentric education? (My ancestors did it too!- K.W.J Post, 1970, 36)
I learned about the Rwandan history in school until 6th grade when my school decided to remove the national curriculum and replace it with the complete IB (International Baccalaureate) and Cambridge IGCSE (International General Certificate Education) curriculums. However, let me introduce to you the experience of my younger sister. She is a 7th grader, in an institution that hardly teaches her her history or the history of her continent but takes pride in the fact that she will have more opportunities to excel once she graduates because of her Eurocentric education. The only type of Rwandan history she knows is either from the media (which censors 90% ) or the knowledge she gets from the month of the genocide commemoration or the one she HAS TO FIND OUT FOR HERSELF. And honestly, I cannot say I was better than her when I graduated because really how much truth can you remember from 5th grade?
I always had that feeling that my people were not free. I mean how can you be free when you do not know your history? I always had a feeling that colonization stole something so dear to my heart. Something powerful. Something I needed for me to be a free person.
My generation is usually seen as the lost sheep because everyone just assumes we know nothing about our history. It is just so interesting that the blame is always put on us-I mean learning history is a two-way thing. There is a teacher and a student. And yes I was being taught something just not my history.
I was led to believe that the “white man’s” language was superior, his land was more fertile, his ways were more just and I needed to be like him to be “his equal”. An accrued mentality of colonization (James Duffy, p.179).
It was not fair that all my life, I was being made into the “white man”.
That is why I started my journey to educate myself on MY culture because clearly no one was going to.
I had to unlearn these lessons if I ever had the hopes of my people knowing that they were more.
And I started with the naming of my home- AFRIKA!
Many people wonder why I spell Afrika with a “K” and not a “C”. I usually tell them to research for themselves in hopes that they start a new journey as well. I have read many blogs about the activist meaning behind the “K” but before we go there let us start with a few history lessons.
First of all, I am not even sure at this point if “Afrika” is even the true name of my continent. With all the lies I have been fed, I would not be surprised to wake up and find out that it is not (but this is a discussion for another time). However, with the research I have done, I know “Africa” is not the true name of the continent unless, of course, we are continuously translating it to English.
Afrika is a land of thousands and thousands of languages. Most of us can speak multiple languages from our countries plus English and/or French. Languages that carry historical messages from our ancestors to new generations and a sense of pride in our ancestry. However, as these languages are revised and rewritten by Europeans, the messages are erased and we are left with what the “white man” wants us to believe. In many Afrikan languages, the alphabet is rewritten in English or French dialect. However, let us take a look at the origins of some of the common languages and the differences between “K” and “C”.
In Arabic, which is the language the oldest Afrikans of Egypt used, the English constant “K” is represented in three ways. “K” pronounced as “Ki”, “Kh” pronounced as “Ch” and “C” which is a high pitched “a” sound in the English alphabet. “C” is not even “C”
Swahili is a popular language among East African nations. It was originally written with the Arabic alphabet but after colonization rewritten with the English alphabet. In Swahili, the English consonant “C” is pronounced as “Ch”. In fact, to be specific, there are NO WORDS in Swahili with the lone consonant “C”. On the other hand, the English “K” is pronounced as “Kaa” in Swahili.
Yoruba is one of the most popular languages spoken by the Nigerians. In this dialect, “K” is pronounced the SAME way as it is in English. However, NOTE: the consonant “C” along with Q, V, X and Z DO NOT EXIST in Yoruba. Similarly, popular, Igbo from Nigeria have “C” as “Ch” which is clearly seen from famous names like Chimamanda, Chinua Achebe and so forth.
Let us take it to home of Mandela, in the beautiful dialect of Zulu spoken by the South “African” people. Just like Arabic, “K” is represented in different forms. English consonant “K” is pronounced and written as “Kh” or “K” and Zulu “K” is pronounced as either “g” or “K” depending on the sentence. However, “C” in Zulu represents a “click”. Zulu “C” is the click pronounced as “ts ts”.
I cannot end without introducing the sole language spoken by my people, Kinyarwanda. In Kinyarwanda, while the letter “C” exists, the pronunciation is “Ch” like many other Afrikan languages, for example, a grandmother in Kinyarwanda is “Umukecuru”- where the “C” in the word is pronounced as “Chu”. Otherwise, is NEVER an independent letter- it is always escorted by another consonant like “cy”. With the example of “umukecuru”, the letter “K” is pronounced as “Kee” as it would in English. Names such as Kayizali, Kayiranga, Karenzi, Kayirebwa or Kamikazi, ALL present “K” as the English pronunciation.
So, honestly at this point I am asking myself how or why in the world, I started spelling Afrika with a “C” when numerous Afrikan dialects do not even have “C” in their alphabets. Anyway, where does the “C” come from? You guessed right- COLONIZATION.
In the English and French languages, there does not exist a strong pronunciation of “K” as “C”. During colonial times, the British and French colonial powers, changed many words with “K” to “C”. To answer the curious question of why “Afrikaners” kept the “K”, it is because only GERMAN/DUTCH languages have a hard “C” in the alphabet.
There are many other words that support the non-existence of “C” in Afrikan languages. For example, KONGO changed to Congo and Akkra changed to Accra. The substitution of “K” with “C” along with the substitution of “KW” with “Q” is NO SURPRISE. The process of substituting native Afrikan dialect is not an old thing, it still happens today. So many times, non Europeans will have to readjust, shorten or change their names to make it easier for Europeans to correctly pronounce. However, rarely will you find a European change their name to accommodate non-European accents. In stead, you will be called incompetent or simply uneducated. You will HAVE TO LEARN their names.
Therefore, the conscious choice to spell Afrika in its original form, first off, is to acknowledge native Afrikan dialect in its purest form. To acknowledge the languages in which our ancestors used to ensure that our history and cultures survived generations after generations.
Spelling Afrika with a “K” is acknowledging the existence of Afrika and its narrators before colonization.
Refusing to be called a savage and labelled barbaric.
Denying the “White man” the right to refer to you as the “curse” of Kane (The Hamitic Hypothesis)
Destabilizing and eventually breaking the myth of “Orientalism” which is “The process of the West defining itself as a superior civilization by constructing itself in opposition to an ‘exotic’…” (Andrea Smith, 2012, p. 88).
Refusing to be satisfied with the single narrative of Afrikan history. And in turn, the silencing of the truth.
Refusing precolonial Afrikan history to be simplified and made irrelevant to the formation of the Afrikan people. Refusing to accept that the formation of Afrika starts during and after colonialism.
DEMANDING TO IDENTIFY yourself rather than to be identified.
Refusing the false claims of Afrikans and the Afrikan continent.
One of the things that aided colonization to thrive in the Afrikan continent was through the division of its people and spelling Afrika with a “K” is also symbol of bringing back the pieces together to form a stronger and wiser continent. It is rewriting its history while painting it with all and any colors you wish.
It is important to understand that the conscious decision made by many to spell “Afrika” with a “K” is supported by the evidence of native Afrikan linguistics. I want people to understand that I have a reason I chose to stand for the things I stand for. I did not wake up one day and decide that I would not spell Afrika with a “C”.
I deserve to know that I am enough and able.
I deserve to know that I do not need to be like the “white man” for me to be an equal or successful.
I deserve to know the truth about the journey of my people.
I have a right to the messages my ancestors sent me.
My name is Giramata.
I am from the wealthiest and most fertile soils of Afrika.
In a land of a thousand hills, Rwanda from the capital city of Kigali.
I spell my capital city with a “K” and I will spell my home with a “K”.
So, Dear Google, when I wrote AFRIKA, it was not a typing error.
Do not autocorrect me.
We deserve to know that we are
enough and able.
To know that we
do not need to be like the “white
man” for us to be equals or
successful. To know the truth about
the journey of our people. We have a right
to the messages our ancestors sent us.
Editors Note: Amata has given Hartman House Media permission to republish her blogs from her personal website located here. We strongly encourage readers to visit her website as we will be featuring some of her writings this month.