African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 196


Decolonizing place-names: Strategic imperative for preserving indigenous cartography in post-colonial Africa

Nna O. Uluocha
  • Nna O. Uluocha
  • Department of Geography, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 26 June 2015
  •  Accepted: 08 August 2015
  •  Published: 30 September 2015


Indigenous cartography existed in various forms in pre-colonial Africa. Unfortunately, the indigenous cartographic heritage of the continent suffered a major setback during the period of imperialism and colonialism. A foremost threat to the traditional cartographies of the African people has been the colonization and deformation of original local geographical names. As an enduring legacy, toponyms are revered by the people for their cartographic, cultural, ethnographic, social, historical, linguistic, economic, political, spiritual, intellectual, scientific and geographical significance. The distortion of the toponyms is a serious threat to the indigenous cartographic heritage and cultural identity of the people. This paper, therefore, x-rays the importance and indigenous cartographic role of African toponyms. The processes of place-name deformation in Africa and the cartographic implications of such deformation are discussed. The paper equally identifies place name decolonization, which is currently going on in some African counties, as an essential strategy for reinstating, preserving and promoting the indigenous cartographies of Africa. Some probable challenges to the decolonization process are also identified. The paper charts the way forward by outlining a number of steps that could be taken to restore the continent’s distorted place-names to their original form, for the preservation of indigenous cartography in post-colonial Africa.

Key words: Indigenous cartography, toponym, Africa, place-name distortion, decolonization.