“My family is from Nigeria, and my full name is Uzoamaka, which means “The road is good.” Quick lesson: My tribe is Igbo, and you name your kid something that tells your history and hopefully predicts your future. So anyway, in grade school, because my last name started with an A, I was the first in roll call, and nobody ever knew how to pronounce it. So I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, “Why?” I said, “Nobody can pronounce it.” Without missing a beat, she said, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.” – Uzo Aduba
Resonating understanding, empathy, and a new perspective on my last name.
I felt as though I had found an eloquent, and kindred reassurance as to why my Nigerian last name mattered just as much as any other name.
There is no direct translation of “Atakpa” to English; but from what I gather from what my father has said about its meaning, I take it to mean “irrepressible”.
Irrepressible. What an appropriate meaning for my people, my family; a full name for a full spirited girl like myself.
The Ibibio* pronunciation, the correct pronunciation, is low, insistent, and smooth. The first two syllables sound like a rolling wave alternating in accented importance and the ‘-kpa’ of the last syllable is pronounced as more of a ‘-gba’. And the harshness of the ‘K’ is replaced by an inexorable stableness of a round, slightly mouthy ‘-gba’ through passing roll of the tongue and purse of the lips.
I wear my last name now as a proud and unrelenting marker of my heritage, my struggle, and my resilience.
And no matter the time it takes, the frustration it may create, or other’s ulterior and self-satisfying motives. My name, henceforth, will be pronounced correctly.
*Ibibio is my father’s language