Africa Decolonized: Native Place Names, No Borders

Endonyms of Africa. Map by Jordan Engel

The map of Africa that most of us know today was drawn during the era of European colonialism – from the borders which divided the continent, to the erasure of indigenous place names.

This map seeks to remedy colonial cartography by erasing the borders, orienting to the South (in the tradition of 11th century Amaziɣ cartographer Muhammad al-Idrisi), and labeling locations in their predominant native language.

The Africa Decolonized map by Jordan Engel can be reused under the Decolonial Media License 0.1.

Below, you’ll find a list of all locations on this map:

Abidjan – Abidjan (Ebrié)

Accra – Nkran (Akan)
Addis Ababa – አዲስ አበባ / Addis Abäba (አማርኛ [Amharic], “new flower”)
Alexandria – الإسكندرية / al-Iskandariyyah (العربية [Arabic])
Algiers – ⴷⵣⴰⵢⵜ (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber])
Antananarivo – Antananarivo (Malagasy)
Atlas Mountains – ⵉⴷⵓⵔⴰⵔ ⵏ ⵡⴰⵟⵍⴰⵚ / Idurar n Waṭlaṣ (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber])
Cairo – القاهرة‎ / al-Qāhirah (العربية [Arabic])
Canary Islands – ⴽⴰⵏⴰⵔⵉⴰ / Kanaria (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber])
Cape Town – //Hui !Gaeb (Khoekhoegowab [Khoekhoe], “where the clouds gather”)
Casablanca – ⴰⵏⴼⴰ / Anfa (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber])
Comoro Islands – Komori (Shikomori [Comorian])
Conakry – Kɔnakiri (Sosoxui [Susu], “other bank”)
Dakar – Ndakaaru (Wolof)
Dar es Salaam – Dar es Salaam (Kiswahili [Swahili])
Drakensberg – uKhahlamba (isiZulu [Zulu], “barrier of up-pointed spears”)
Durban – iTheku (isiZulu [Zulu], “bay/lagoon”)
Harare – Harare (ChiShona [Shona])
Hoggar Mountains – ⵉⴷⵓⵔⴰⵔ ⵏ ⴰⵀⴰⴳⴳⴰⵔ / Idurar n Ahaggar (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber])
Horn of Africa – Geeska Afrika (Af-Soomaali [Somali])
Johannesburg – iGoli (isiZulu [Zulu])
Kalahari Desert – Kgalagadi (Tswana, “a waterless place”)
Kampala – Kampala (Oluganda [Luganda])
Kano – Kano (Hausa)
Kinshasa – Kinsásá (Lingála [Lingala])
Khartoum – الخرطوم / al-Kharṭūm (Arabic)
Lagos – Èkó (Yoruba)
Lake Chad – Sádǝ (Kanuri)
Lake Malawi – Nyanja ya Malawi (Chi-Chewa [Chewa])
Lake Tanganyika – Ikiyaga Tanganyika (Kirundi)
Lake Turkana: Anam Ka’alakol (Ng’aturk(w)ana [Turkana])
Lake Victoria – Nalubaale (Oluganda [Luganda])
Luanda – Lwanda (Kimbundu)
Lusaka – Lusaka (Chi-Chewa [Chewa])
Madagascar – Madagasikara (Malagasy)
Maputo – iMaputo (SiSwati [Swati])
Mogadishu – Muqdisho (Af-Soomaali [Somali])
Mount Cameroon – Mongo ma Ndemi (Kpwe, “mountain of greatness”)
Mount Kenya – Kĩrĩnyaga (Gĩkũyũ [Kikuyu], “where God Lives”)
Mount Kilimanjaro – Ol Doinyo Oibor (ɔl Maa [Maasai], “mountain which is white”)
Nairobi – Enkare Nairobi (ɔl Maa [Massai], “Place of cool waters”)
Namib Desert – Namib (Nama, “vast place”)
Niamey – Niamey (Zarma)
Ras Dashen – ራስ ደጀን / Rās Dejen (አማርኛ [Amharic], “head guard”)
Sahara Desert – ⵜⵉⵏⴰⵔⵉⵓⴻⵏ / Tinariwen (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber], “the deserts”)
Sinai Peninsula – سينا / Sīna (العربية [Arabic])
Thabana Ntlenyana – Thabana Ntlenyana (Sesotho [Sotho], “beautiful little mountain”)
Toubkal – ⵜⵓⴱⵇⴰⵍ / Tubqal (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber])
Tripoli – – ⵟⵔⴰⴱⵍⵙ / Ṭrables (ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ [Berber])
Zanzibar Island – Unguja (Kiswahili [Swahili])

Map: Jordan Engel. As always, the Decolonial Atlas’ original media can be reused under the Decolonial Media License 0.1.



  1. You could use Coptic names for Egypt like ⲣⲁⲕⲟϯ (Rakote) for Alexandria, ⲕⲁϣⲣⲱⲙⲓ (Kashromi) for Cairo and ⲥⲓⲛⲁ (Sina) for the Sinai peninsula. You should also add these cities:

    • Khartoum (Kaartuɔ̈m in Dinka)
    • Windhoek (ǀAi-ǁGams in Khoekhoehowab)
    • Port-Gentil (Mandji in Myene)
    • Aïr Mountains (Ayăr in Tamasheq)
    • Ouagadougou (Wagadugu in Mossi)
    • East London (eMonti in Xhosa)
    • Dar es Salaam (Mzizima is the Swahili original name)
    • Nouakchott (Nwakcoṭ / ⵏⵡⴰⴽⵛoⵟ in Berber)
    • Bié Plateau (Viye in Umbundu)
    • Huambo (Wambu in Umbundu)


  2. Why should Johannesburg be called after its Zulu name, the Zulus never stayed here, the town came about because of gold found in the area. There was never a town there before, even Langlaagte, the town closest to it at the time was founded by the settlers.
    Same with Cape town.
    Interesting concept, must have taken much work and thought


    • white colonists invited themselves . By default they were invaders whom the Zulus wanted out. Still today they do.


  3. A valuable exercise, and a difficult one too – thank you – so I hope these comments come across as constructive criticism. (1) Given the prevalence of multi-lingualism, and population movements and shifting political boundaries in the time before colonialism, how is it possible to chose any one name and decide that that is the ‘indigenous’ one? (2) Why is Arabic ‘indigenous’ in NE Africa but not in NW? (3) What about the name and concept of Africa itself? Isn’t that also colonial, to extend the old Roman and then medieval Arabic name for a part of northern Africa to places and peoples that historically understood themselves in completely different ways? And by insisting on Africa as a ‘natural’ unit, aren’t we obscuring the fact that it was never cut off from the rest of the Eurasian landmass and various peoples interacted with “Europeans” and “Asians” in numerous ways without “realising” that they belonged to different continents? Would it be possible to conceive of maps that free us from what is after all a Eurocentric way of looking at the world?


  4. I find using the Xhosa name for Cape Town on this map problematic – Xhosa is no more an indigenous tongue of the Cape Town area than English or Afrikaans are. Better to use the modern name for it in the Khoekhoegowab dialect of its original indigenes – //Hui !Gaeb . Or the name for Table Mountain, Hoerikwaggo


    • When Arabs entered Sudan( an Arabic name ) , The country was called Nuba according the Bagt agreement signed between Arabs and Nuba . We need our native name back . Even Pharoah Tot ankh Amon used the Taw Nob ( Gold lands ) which according to him was divided into two administrative regions : Kush and Wawat .


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