Originally published here
noun. the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief and behaviour that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.
What is it to be African? To wear loincloths? To borne meaningless traditions through centuries all in the name of “preserving culture”?
Before race, religion, gender or tribe, we are human. The very essence of who we are is to evolve, to learn and to be better than what we were before.
But how do people grow if they are blindly grappling onto their failing cultural practices? If the point of humanity is to grow from a previous state of being, how then can we blame Africa for remaining stagnant throughout the years, when many of us still believe that the only way for us to move forward is by going back?
Colonisation left a societal vacuum. It became evident that our once strong cultures could no longer keep up with the people that we had become, and so a confused set of ideals grew to fill the void – the idea that one must be either strictly western or African and nothing in between. And being African was being the African that remained untainted by foreign influence. That ideology would have worked if our way of life had not completely shifted from what it had been before.
The patriarch who flourished in the days of hunting for virility no longer existed in the Africa that the colonialist gave birth to – his role in the home and in the society had been levelled down. This patriarch had to learn that he is equal to a woman. He had to learn that aggressiveness and physical strength no longer equalled to prosperity. But how can he learn if his people are still holding onto the flimsy strings of their past?
There is an unspoken fear that once we let go of “our culture” we will lose ourselves – we will cease to be a people of Africa and instead become a people of nothing. The colonial master would have won. But is that truly the case? Take wearing waist beads as an example – agonising for a woman to wear and humiliating for her to remove. Their purpose is solely to mould a woman’s body so as to please the man. Their whole meaning is a direct manifestation of the unjust patriarchy that exists in our culture. However, a 21st century woman, who is trying desperately to assert her equality to a man will refuse to remove these beads again in the name of “preserving culture”.
But is it your culture or the culture of your forefathers when they did not know better? It is the culture that they adopted as it was the only life they knew how to live. But now you know better and the times have changed. Change with them. How can one justify culture even if its existence completely obliterates the progression that your Africa is meant to have?
Culture may well be one of the many reasons that Post Colonials tend to have identity crises. One becomes torn between who they want to be and who society has forced them to be. It is what says, “You cannot do this because you are not white,” or “you are African so you must do this”. It is what will blindly dictate your future until you begin to lose your bearings.
Being born of Africa and being of African descent makes you African enough. Letting go of traditions that are detrimental to the progression of society does not make you any less African than your forefathers. It is not some terrible taboo. It simply means that you have grown and learnt from those that came before you.
Anything that is not growing is dying. Remember that.
African renaissance lies in a cultural revolution. But this does not mean unearthing the past to try and fit together fragmented histories. It simply means defining your own way of life by the way that you actually want to. Make it distinctly yours. Because if one truly believes that the key to our freedom lies in the ghosts of yesterday then we might as well “unlearn” all the things that we know today.
Disallow society from forcing you to be a certain way because you are “African”. There is no such thing as a generic “African”. Out of 54 countries, one billion people and millions of other tribes – it would be a gross representation of the peoples of our continent to label them all under the same term.
Africa is my home – not my tradition.
My name is Tapiwa Gambura and I am a proud 15 year old Africanist.
Source: Tapiwa Gambura