Our Root; Africa! Ancient Names of the Continent

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The African history has been a long journey indeed following a complex diversity of migration, civilization and trade. Over the past 400 years the continent has experienced series of European influences right from the 16th century which saw mainly trade activities between Africans and the Europeans through to the 19th century which saw slave(human) trade, colonization and exploitation of the rich natural, human and capital resources of the African soil.

Even before some of the countries in Africa were colonized, it’s continent has seen several phases with regard to the naming of the continent and this is widely due to the various or different dialects of the world.

The name Africa is believed to have emanated from the Egyptian word ‘Af-rui-ka’ which means “Motherland or birthplace”.

It is also believed that under Roman Empire or rule, when the Romans conquered Carthage in the Third Punic war (146 BC) The inhibitors of the land were referred to as ‘Afri’ meaning the land was inhabited by the North African people, people west of the river Nile or people south of the Mediterranean thus Ancient Libya. Africa Proconsularis was a name used to refer to Africa by Carthage the then capital of the province.

There is also the assertion that it was named ‘Epher’ (Genesis 25:4) after a grandson of Abraham whose descendants are believed to have invaded Libya. (1st Century historian, Flavius Josephus).
It was also referred to as ‘Afar’ a Phoenician word meaning “dust” and ‘Ifri’ from a Berber word meaning “cave”

According to African Etymology, the name Africa is believed to have originally been spelt Afrika. Hence the Dutch’s spelling of Afrikaans. Thus spelt with a ‘k’ instead of a ‘c’ which is widely used in present day after European colonization.

It was also referred to as Afraka and its people Afrakans meaning ‘First-Sun-Soul’ by the Do(h)gon’s idea of West Afrakans civilization in Mali. (African Etymology) The name Do(h)gon has metamorphosed into Dogon an indigenous ethnic group found currently in the central plateau region of Mali, Niger and in Burkina Faso.

There is also trace of the name in Arabic words which translate as separate, divide or conquer. And this is ‘frik’ or ‘firk’. Mainly due to the spread of Islam into Northern Africa and as some will argue into sub-Saharan Africa through migration and trade.

Africa also originates from a Latin words ‘Aprica’ which means Sunny. Other scholars believe the name was also derived from ‘Aphir-ic-a’. There is also the Latin word ‘Africus’ which means “south wind” (Africa- Wikipedia)

It also originates from a Greek word ‘phrike’ which means “land free of cold or horror”
Other school of thought believe Africa was also formally referred to as Alkebu-lan which translates as “mother of mankind or garden of Eden” according to the history of Ancient Kemet. Other ancient names of Africa are Ortigia, Corphye, Libya and Ethiopia. Some scholars believe and debate that this name is the oldest and most indigenous name of Africa which was “used by the Moors, Nubians, Numidians, Khart-Haddans (Carthaginians) and Ethiopians” (Dr. Cheikh Anah Diop as stated in The Guardians, 2020)

Though the dispute and discourse of the Ancient names of Africa continues, it is worthy to note that despite all these historical changes the continent has experienced it has grown unabated amid foreign influence and is today the second largest population and continent in the world.

The African continent can currently be said to be going through a decolonization process from the 20th century to this modern day and can also be said to have chalked notable developmental progress.


CITATIONS:
Africa Etymology-Away to Africa
https://www.awaytoafrica.com/know-african-roots/
Africa-Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africa
The Guardian (2020)
https://guardian.ng/life/what-is-africas-original-name/




1 COMMENT

  1. […] Insight: According to African Etymology, the name Africa is believed to have originally been spelt Afrika. Hence the Dutch’s spelling of Afrikaans. Thus spelt with a ‘k’ instead of a ‘c’ which is widely used in present day after European colonization. Read more. […]

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