Thankyou for returning to my blog- I am sorry for the hiatus. Life happened… had to take a step back and pour back into myself. I’m glad I’m here now and ready to journey on!
This week’s conversations as far as the Winter ABC challenge is concerned, are all about Culture and Fashion. Particularly, this blog post is centered around culture. I will be responding to the question: Is the African Culture building the Africa we want? This is inspired by a debate we had at my place of work on Africa Freedom Day.
Before we dive into the substance of the blog, here is a befitting song to add melody to the reading:
To begin with, I believe Culture is better seen or experienced than reduced to words of a definition. However, the Center for Advance Research on Language Acquisition does a great job in defining culture as, “shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs and understanding that are learned by socialization“. From the definition it is understood that culture entails a form of uniformity in peculiar to a group of people in as far as behaviours, interactions, food, music or clothing is concerned. In one word, I would say culture entails identity.
The African Culture, I believe cannot be accurately captured as it is also far too wide and diverse. In my poem titled, “A story is told of a land” I say this about the African Culture:
A story is told of a land…
Whose vast culture is almost impossible to capture
If culture was a currency, this would be the richest land
The abundance of expressions and traditions passed on through generations
The culture, a sculpture of a tree that’s deeply rooted yet blossoms in various impressions …
However, without disregard to the various and diverse impressions of the African Culture, I would argue that some common traits of the African Culture (relevant for some of the arguments I’ll develop in this blog) include:
- Respect for elders
- Unity and Solidarity
- Creativity, art and skill
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Child Marriages
What really is “the Africa we want“? – In my very honest opinion, I believe the Africa we want has been lost in translation. With the coming in of technological advancements and the worldview of the “global villages”. This is evident especially that the power scales of African Countries weigh in favour of countries closer to the western world’s development standards.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the digital era and the efficiencies of technologies. However, I wonder if this is really the Africa we want or it’s a standard that was imposed on us. (This is one of the reasons I had unpopular mixed feelings towards the Wakanda movie. It seemed to suggest high level technology in the utopia version of Africa. But, I wonder… would it have been a problem if Africa continued with it’s hunting and gathering lifestyles? Would we have not been content? Is our lack of satisfaction rooted in our moving further away from ancestral ways?)
My view aside and with all due respect to the subjectivity of answers such questions may pose, I will dwell on the African Union (AU) objectives to serve as some form of guide of the Africa we want. The AU lists the following as the hopes for Africa:
- To promote the unity and solidarity of the African States;
- To coordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa;
- To defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity and independence;
- To eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa; and
- To promote international cooperation, having due regard to the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Is the African Culture building the Africa we want?
I choose to take a neutral approach in responding to this question as I believe that in as much as they are components of the African Culture that may be aiding in the building of the world we want, there is a lot of cultural practices we need to move away from.
I believe the African Culture is building the Africa we want to the following extent:
- Stemming from the roots of working together to fight colonisation, it is without a doubt that co-operation and togetherness are not strange tenets of the African Culture. There is a deliberate effort in creating regional groupings from a political-economic level to a social level. A number of organisations and groups (such as Afrobloggers- wink) are channels through which unity, solidarity and togetherness are promoted in Africa.
Another example can be seen from the mourning of the late Dr. Kenneth Kaunda (MHSRIP), various African States are mourning in solidarity with Zambia. This culture of community mourning can be seen from the grass root levels of most African communities. It definitely ties into building a united Africa we want.
2. I believe we want a developed and economically thriving Africa. The African culture is helping to build Africa in this light to the extent that most of our cultural and artistic skills marketable and revenue generating. The Nigeria Film industry (Nollywood) is an example of how far reaching the African Art industry can contribute to revenue generation.
Admittedly, we still face a number of set backs with regards development- lack ofgood governance and corruption being among the cross cutting limiting factors.
3. The African inspired fashion industry is economically and socially progressive for the Africa we want. From bantu knots to chitenges/kitenges it is without a doubt that now more than ever, African inspired fashion is very marketable. The Africa we want as per the AU objectives shared speaks to eradicating all forms of colonisation, I believe there’s a level of mental strength required to move past western standards being the golden standard. The embracing of African fashion is definitely contributing to the Africa we want.
In it’s objectives, the AU lists, “achieving a better life for the peoples of Africa” as a desired goal. I believe in this regard a better life is the most simplistic standard for the Africa we want.
In light of this, I believe the African Culture is not building a better life for the people to the following extent:
- Child Marriages– in most African Cultures in their purest forms, child marriages were normalised and not frowned upon. The number of disadvantages this led to especially for the girl child are unfathomable. It is without a doubt that holding on to such cultural practices would not be for the advancement of the Africa we want.
2. Gender Based Violence- again, most African Cultures are rooted in viewing women as property. In marriages it was rarely frowned upon when husbands beat their wives. I believe we have had to be deliberate in moving away from such practices in order to promote the building of a better Africa.
3. Female Genital Mutilation (FMG)– This practice is deeply rooted in mist African Cultures and I sternly believe it does not in anyway contribute to the Africa we want. In his blog titled, A girl should be a lady A girl should be a lady , Benjamin details the types of FGM and the dehumanization it comes with. He states that, “Female Genital Mutilation takes very many forms, there people practicing it and don’t even know. FGM involves any kind of procedures that lead to the removal, reduction, lessening, and alteration of external female genitalia or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons according to WHO. I will not name the African countries where the practice takes place simply because it’s not just a few of them; it’s the whole continent that Mwene refers to as one big country. Note it is also practiced in other parts of the world but that cannot be an excuse for Africa.”
In conclusion, just like the yin and yang, I believe that there are both bad and good tenets in the African Culture. In order to build the Africa we truly we want, we have to decipher what is good from what is bad. We should be ready to keep the good and move away from the bad.
What is your take on this topic? I’d like to hear your views.
Can’t wait to catch up on the days missed so far.
Live long & read on!