Award-winning Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie, has revealed that she was not born with the name, Chimamanda.
Speaking during the “BlackBox Interview” with Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, the author said she was named after her mother Grace but always felt the name was not hers. Thus, she created Chimamanda prior to publishing her first book.
“I was born Ngozi Grace; my mother is Grace. Growing up, I always felt that I was not Grace, that was my mother and Ngozi felt too common to me. In primary school, I was Ngozi.”
The multiple award-winning author stated that because she did not like to be called Ngozi, she requested a name change during her baptism.
“Being Catholic, one of the joys of Catholicism is that you get to choose a name when you get confirmed. I thought of a name I could choose but the priest said it had to be the name of a saint. I read a novel and there was a character called Amanda, so, I choose the name, Amanda.”
“The priest said it was not a saint’s name but I told the father that it was the name I wanted. I pushed, so, they let me. I was Amanda at confirmation. I was Amanda from secondary school till my first year at the University at Nsukka when I was studying medicine,” the author said.
However, after travelling to the US to further her education Chimamanda came across some people who had the name Amanda in her class.
She told Ebuka that the name did not seem unique to her anymore adding that she wanted a name that separated her from the many Amanda’s in her class.
“It was not unique anymore and the way it was pronounced put me off. I felt that was not me. I started thinking about how I could change the name; remember that I had already changed my name from Ngozi to Amanda.
“For a while, I will merge both. I will call myself, Amanda-Ngozi because I really wanted them to know that I am not Amanda (one of them). It was also a learning experience for me because what you think is cool in Nigeria, suddenly I thought, this is nonsense, wanting an English name,” she said.
The Americana writer said due to the fact that the name Amanda was on most of her document, she had to come up with an Igbo name that had ‘Amanda’ in it, hence, the name Chimamanda.
“Just before my novel was published…I was in my brother’s house in England, in their tiny guestroom, lying on a narrow bed thinking about the fact that my novel is going to be published and I do not want to be introduced to the world as Amanda. I wanted an Igbo name but I did not want Ngozi because I did not feel like Ngozi; it felt too common. Ngozi, I think is a lovely name but it is so common and it did not feel like me.”
“I remember just lying there and it just came to me, Chimamanda. By the way, when I was thinking of a name, I could have just picked an Igbo name but I wanted a name that had Amanda in it so that I would not have to change my passport.
“I already had this identity; I had a passport, driver’s license, bank account with that name. So, it was really about how I could hold on to that name but make it Igbo,” the novelist said.