The Burden of a Last Name

Amna Eliot Abdelmahmoud.

That is the name of a little girl born in Canada just a little more than a year ago.

Her father Elamin Abdelmahmoud is from Sudan and he and his wife named her together.

He wrote to her of their shared last name in a glorious piece:

It’s long, and it’s bulky, and it can’t be ignored. That’s also by design—my clunky gift to you. I wanted you to have my last name. And I wanted it to be a burden.

He continued that when he moved to Canada he had family members with him also from Sudan who could remind him of where he is from. But he worried that the

full force of Sudan would be completely inaccessible to you if you didn’t carry a reminder with you every day that at least a part of you isn’t from here—that your blood contains a history of elsewhere.


He continues:

And blood is a burden, love. It should be. It should be heavy, a weight you carry. All of us carry that unshakeable chain. We come into this world tied to a lineage, and therefore a part of an ongoing story. All of that is in your last name: you, an Abdelmahmoud, in a place like Canada. You don’t know it yet, but every time someone asks can you spell that? you’re going to feel the sting of lineage, the gentle hand of ancestry.

Elamin continues how the name he carries has not been easy for him and won’t likely be easy for her but then he makes a bare and bold proclamation:

We cannot be indifferent to names. Names are alive and they ask things of us—sometimes too much. And while asking you to battle for my last name is a big ask from anyone, it’s the ask I make of you. It’s the ask my parents made of me when I was younger, too: my father, sitting me down and teaching  me the names of all of my ancestors, and then repeating  them again and again, until I could rhyme them off, in order and in reverse. I didn’t understand the lesson then, but I do now: this may feel like a burden in this moment, but it will protect you later.

Every single person who has ordered from Primal Derma…I have packed the box and seen your name and written a small note to you about the kindness you offered by supporting this venture. I have read all of your names and I have wondered, if even for a moment, where your people are from. Even if your last name isn’t ‘a burden’ it likely reveals where your ancestors are from and what they crafted, who they associated with, how they were known among their people, where they were from and the like.

You reading this is a testament to all their prayers and labors and efforts of being worthy. And while you may not do the work of smith anymore with anvils and hammers or trade in precious metals or cut down trees or nail things together I think it’s worth remembering that your ancestors did. Their eyes saw something in the world that maybe we can’t see in the world anymore even if you never are called to pick up the tongs or the scales or the saws or the mallet yourself.

Remembering where things came from and the fortunate burden of that is central to what Primal Derma is about. Our tallow comes from real cows that died that lived full lives and we try not to skip over that and honor the ancestry of this worthy venture the best we can.

If a newsletter can call you to any sort of action I’d ask that you wonder a bit about your name and the worthy weight it might set upon you. Who knows what happens after that?! If anything comes up that is interesting…I’d love to know what you found.

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