Being an Indigenous womxn, my identity has been tainted due to colonization on a personal level and more importantly, on a larger scale. Our identity as humans is where we find our inner strength, confidence and stability. A name is just a word we use to identify or refer to a person or thing , a label. But do we find power in the names others give us? I am sharing my story of identity.
In social and professional settings, sometimes our "non-anglo" names are exoticised, but for the most part we're discouraged to use our given names. We are told 'thats too *insert race*-centric', ‘thats ghetto’. We are told we won't get a job with that name. 'That's too hard to pronounce, can I call you Becky?' No Steve, my name is Maroochy, my name is Anatjari, my name is Jedda, my name is Gayandinyam. If you can pronounce Svetlana, you can pronounce my damn name.
I was given a name at birth by my Kima (Grandmother). But before I could learn the meaning of that given name, I was taken away from my culture and my Kima passed on. As a child and coming into my adulthood, I was given another name by my Nganjan (Father). Gayandinyam. "Always playing in the water"
In my youth, growing up in a westernized South Sea Island family, I was never made aware of the name that my father gave me. I grew up with Christianity and not Culture. The name on my so-called birth certificate was a foreign name. A colonized name that my parents had gave me.
It was in my early 20's when my sisters and I reconnected with our culture and our father, Gulburrubun, Magpie. I will never forget the day he sat us down and reminded us of our names. That, for me, was a powerful moment that is etched in my identity. Coming out of my depressive teenage years spent in toxic colonized spaces and into a pure spiritual awakening that was conjured by ancestral knowledge. I was piecing together a new identity and coming to my power.
I was a water baby (Pisces moon, in Chinese zodiac).
My fondest memories of my youth were near or in the water. From the breathtaking rainforests of Gugu Yalanji to the saltwater paradise of (Mackay). Into adulthood, I'd moved to Meanjin, away from my home in north queensland but closer to my Kami (Grandfathers) country, Minyungbal Yugambeh and closer to my nganjan. I was hungry to relearn my culture. Every chance I got, I'd escape the city to visit my nganjan and sit by him and listen to him pass on ancient stories especially through painting. There was power in his paint brush. The more of my culture I learnt, the more self-confidence and self-esteem I felt. I was truly falling in love with myself.
Witnessing the collective consciousness within the black community is constantly empowering me on my journey. We are waking up from the spell that was placed on our elders and our ancestors. We are waking up from that nightmare. Knowledge of self and self love is the first stage of that awakening, it is the beginning of the destruction of systematic racism. When we become autonomous again, relearn our knowledge of self, we birth into our own self-identity.
So I guess the questions I ask are,
What name have you given yourself?
What are you doing to regain/maintain self-love and self-identity?
What power, if any, do you gain from your given names?