Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Umbundu Lesson of the Day

Okasi logo panga nwe? Okasi loco sucula!

Umbundu is the language of Benguela and Huambo provinces, among others. I would love to learn it but I haven't had the opportunity. I try to pick up as much as I can from colleagues. I can say the basics, like "Thank you," "How are you" and "I'm just doing the wash" (see caption of picture above!). Today I learned the following:

Sikaleta- Bicycle (play on Portuguese word for bicycle, bicleta)
Jamba- first born twin
Ngueve- Second born twin

I learned these because we were paying project salaries and these words were all people's last names. As in, Pedro Bicycle. Julia First-Born-Twin. Awesome!

Last names here are very interesting to me. There seem to be three major classifications of last names: Portuguese, first names, and traditional.

Portuguese: A lot of Angolans with traditional Portugues names (Esteves, Semedo, Oliveira, etc.) have some familial tie outside of Angola. Some might have Portuguese mixed blood or might be from Sao Tome or Cape Verde, where the majority of last names are Portuguese.

Traditional: Several Angolans (the majority?) have traditional last names, like Ngueve, Kasisa, Catumbela and Tumbulo. They are descriptive of the places they were born (Catumbela is a town) or of birth order (aforementioned Ngueve). There are lots of other meanings, but I unfortunately don't know enough Umbundu to know what they mean.

First names: For a long time, this confused me. A lot of people have first names as last names, like Manuel Jose (Jose being the last name) and Isabel Maria (Maria being the last name). I asked my boss, Francisco Eduardo (FE), why this was and he told me the following story.

FE was a smart student, so his father decided to send him to the best school that he could. Before he did, his father said, "There's no way that you will be successful with that Umbundu last name. Aquilo n
ão da!" So his father, Eduardo, gave him his own first name as Francisco's last name for official documents. Apparently this was rapant during colonial times, when being seen as from the "interior" (i.e., not the city, not Westernize) was a very bad thing indeed.

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