Vol. 62 No. 4 (2014)
Research Article

Xhosa Onomastics as Part of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS)

Published 2014-12-01


  • Native American place names,
  • Miami-Illinois language place names,
  • Shawnee language place names,
  • Great Miami River,
  • Scioto River,
  • Piqua,
  • Ohio,
  • Illinois and Miami Indians,
  • Shawnee Indians,
  • Shawnee clans,
  • Algonquian languages
  • ...More



The idea of indigenous knowledge has gained conceptual and discursive currency only recently in Africa and has become a popular subject. It could presumably be traced back to the origin of humankind. Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) consist of many components, all of them intrinsically linked to particular traditional cultural phenomena. Most of these systems have been in place over centuries, and continue to exercise their influence among the people where these systems are found.

This contribution argues that name-giving conventions among the Xhosa as practised by those involved in the process and the responses of the recipients to those names could be considered as part of IKS (or at times IKS-derived). The data is mainly from questionnaires that were disseminated among students at the University of the Western Cape.

The original name-giving process probably derives from a strongly embedded tradition that has been in existence for centuries and that could not only be linked to IKS, but should also be considered as an integral part of IKS. As life progresses, however, other name-giving traditions come into play that reveal a high percentage of uniqueness and creativity only vaguely linked to an IKS system. It seems to also focus on a more inter- or multicultural approach, that would also be more acceptable globally.


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