Africans used to live in colonies and clans and hence they give a lot of importance to their tribe while adopting a surname. Traditional last names in Africa are mostly their clan's names or are derived from their clan names. Some people keep their ancestral names and some even carry their father's name but a clan name is considered more important than having any other surname. Like any other culture or country, African women also change their surname after getting married, but they still belong to their father's clan and use it with a feminine prefix. Let's take an examples of one of the most popular last names in Africa, the former South African president Nelson Mandela. His full name was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Nelson is a western name, Rolihlahla is an African name and Mandela is derived from his clan, Madiba.
South African last names have a totally unique story. This is because many people from West Africa, India, Madagascar, Indonesia etc. were brought to South Africa as slaves. The surnames which were hard to pronounce and write were changed by the rulers according to their convenience. Some used their owners' surnames, some got their surnames according to the month or day they came to South Africa. There were many women who had babies from the whites. In such cases, the child was given a surname of his mother or father or may be a third surname. Hence, we can say that South Africa has a mixture of last names including West African last names, Indian last names, etc. The last names are just to give a glimpse of some sort of identity. Apart from the description given above many people have their own way of adopting their surnames. Here are some of the last names from different sources available.
- Van de Merwe
- Van nie Kerk
- Van Rooyen
This is not the complete list but we have tried to bring most of the surnames to your notice. The complex African surnames or the last names given in this article remind me of a quote given by Diego Maradona, "My surname is not a burden for me. It might be for others, but not for me." Exactly, no matter how complex or how difficult our surnames are to pronounce or write, they are actually our identity. Regardless of the method used to find or adopt a surname, the main idea behind it is to give a person an identity of his own.