Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Unga People: The Only Zambians With English Surnames

By Paul Shalala in Lunga
Chief Kasoma Lunga (l) of the Unga people and Ms Kabanshi

They are the Unga speaking people of the Bangweulu swamps.

They speak Bemba language but it is uniquely different from the Bemba spoken in Muchinga and Northern Provinces.

This may be due to their isolation from the rest of the Bemba speaking people.

When you move around the main islands in Lunga such as Kasoma Lunga,
Nsamba, Bwalya Mponda and Kalima Nkonde, one notices something unique
which no other part of the country has.

In all the islands, Kasoma Lunga is the area where most people use English names as surnames.

Apart from Nigeria and Liberia where English surnames are prominent due to the presence of families emanating from freed slaves from the western hemisphere, Zambia may become a third country on the continent to embrace English surnames.

People here have first names in English and surnames in English.

Others have first names in Bemba and surnames in English.

Even under five cards for children show how people here cherish
English names for their surnames.

A further investigation into the history behind this practice shows
that people in Lunga adopt the first names of their father as their
new surname.

This has led to many people having surnames such as James, Johns
White, Maurice and Jefferson.

But how did this practice start?

Some old residents of Lunga recall that when Europeans came to Lunga,
several adults were employed by these white men.

"I got my Willy surname from my father. Willy is actually his first name and I adopted it as my surname. The practice is everywhere here in Kasoma Lunga," said Jessica Willy, a local resident.

Local men started adopting English names from their masters and later
this became part of the culture of the Unga people of Lunga.

"These English names came from Europeans. They are the ones who came to build most of these structures you see here. They gave us names and we are happy to have adopted them," said John Benson, a 67 year old resident.

Unique as it may sound, the people of Lunga are trendsetters.

They are unique and their names are unique but they storm form an
integral part of Zambia.

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