The intriguing name Shindana appeared in the U.S. baby name data for a total of three years:
1974: 6 baby girls named Shindana
1971: 6 baby girls named Shindana
1970: 5 baby girls named Shindana [debut] – all 5 in California
Where did it come from?
Shindana dolls, which were manufactured by Shindana Toys.
Shindana Toys was founded in 1968 as a division of Operation Bootstrap, located in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Operation Bootstrap was a job training center formed in the wake of the Watts riots (mid-August, 1965).
Black-owned and -operated, Shindana Toys was one of the first companies to make black dolls with ethnically correct features. The name of the company means “compete” in Swahili.
Though their very first doll was called Baby Nancy (introduced in 1968), many of their other dolls — such as Malaika (1969), Talking Tamu (1970), and Baby Zuri (1972) — had Swahili names. These Swahili names were “defined on the doll’s boxes or accompanying literature.” Malaika* means “angel,” Tamu means “sweet,” and Zuri means “beautiful.”
59 baby girls (11 in CA, 11 in NY, 6 in MI, 5 in DC)
26 baby girls (5 in NY)
10 baby girls + 5 baby boys
72 baby girls (11 in CA, 5 in NY, 5 in NJ, 5 in MI, 5 in OH)
55 baby girls (9 in CA, in 9 NY)
56 baby girls (9 in CA, 7 in IL, 6 in DC, 6 in NY, 5 in MI)
46 baby girls (12 in CA, 5 in IL)
5 baby girls [debut]
37 baby girls (7 in CA)
13 baby girls
7 baby girls
7 baby girls [debut]
8 baby girls [debut]
[It’s curious to me that each of these names debuted a year before the corresponding dolls were introduced. Haven’t been able to figure that one out yet…]
Shindana Toys ended up producing over 30 black dolls (along with other types of toys and games). The company reached peak productivity in the mid-1970s, but slowed down after that, and finally ceased operations in 1983. Today, Shindana dolls are sought-after collectibles.
What are your thoughts on the baby name Shindana?
P.S. If you know of any of the other Swahili names used for Shindana dolls, please comment! I couldn’t find a definitive list online.
The baby name Makeba started appearing in the U.S. baby name data in the early 1960s:
1966: 8 baby girls named Makeba
1964: 5 baby girls named Makeba
1963: 5 baby girls named Makeba
1962: 5 baby girls named Makeba
It saw peak usage in the early 1970s.
What launched the name?
South African singer Miriam Makeba, who was born near Johannesburg in 1932 to a Xhosa father and a Swazi mother.
Her birth name was actually Zenzile, nickname Zenzi. (The English name Miriam was adopted later for career purposes.) According to Makeba, the name Zenzile means “you have no one to blame but yourself” or “you have done it to yourself.”
But “Zenzile Makeba” wasn’t her full name. Her full name was Zenzile Makeba Qgwashu Nguvama Yiketheli Nxgowa Bantana Balomzi Xa Ufun Ubajabulisa Ubaphekcli Mbiza Yotshwala Sithi Xa Saku Qgiba Ukutja Sithathe Izitsha Sizi Kkabe Singama Lawu Singama Qgwashu Singama Nqamla Nqgithi.
Why so long?
The reason for its length is that every child takes the first name of all his male ancestors. Often following the first name is a descriptive word or two, telling; about the character of the person, making a true African name somewhat like a story. This may sound most unusual to Americans, but it is the custom of my people.
Miriam Makeba began singing professionally in the early 1950s. In the late ’50s she met famous Jamaican-American singer Harry Belafonte, who introduced her to American audiences. Her fame grew (both in the U.S. and in Europe) during the ’60s, and she became “the first African artist to globally popularize African music.”
I haven’t had any luck tracking down the etymology of Makeba, but I know the name came from Miriam’s mother, Nomkomendelo Christina Makeba. The name Nomkomendelo means “the one whose father was commandeered” (as she was born on the day her father was forced to join the British army to help fight the Second Boer War).
Do you like the name Makeba?
Makeba, Miriam and Nomsa Mwamuka. Makeba: The Miriam Makeba Story. Johannesburg: STE Publishers, 2004.
But I’ve also got to throw in Tyronza and Tyrhonda — similar names that saw similar rises in usage in 1978.
All three saw peak usage in 1979:
40 baby girls
20 baby girls
13 baby girls
81 baby girls [peak]
27 baby girls [peak]
28 baby girls [peak]
73 baby girls
25 baby girls
17 baby girls [debut]
6 baby girls
10 baby girls
I’ve searched high and low, but so far I can’t figure out what affected these names.
The variant spellings suggest the influence was audio as opposed to visual, and the state data reveals that usage was concentrated in the South (e.g., Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina), but those are the only two clues I can offer.