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What’s in a Name?

Singer Miriam Makeba tells the story of her name

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Miriam Makeba


I want to tell you how happy I was with the article in the Feb. 1 issue [SHOW BUSINESS]. It was very gratifying.

I did notice that there was a slight error, which I do not think you will mind my calling attention to. It concerns my African name, and if I may, I would like to spell it correctly for you.

Zenzile Makeba Qgwashu Nguvama Yiketheli Nxgowa Bantana Balomzi Xa Ufun Ubajabulisa Ubaphekcli Mbiza Yotshwala Sithi Xa Saku Qgiba Ukutja Sithathe Izitsha Sizi Kkabe Singama Lawu Singama Qgwashu Singama Nqamla Nqgithi.

The reason for its length is that every child takes the first name of all his male ancestors. Often following the first name is a descriptive word or two, telling; about the character of the person, making a true African name somewhat like a story. This may sound most unusual to Americans, but it is the custom of my people.

Miriam Makeba, NEW YORK CITY