It was my intention, this morning to write a flash fiction about the coming independent anniversary for Myne Whitman's naijastories.com.
But as I browsed through the day's news and took in some opinion pieces in a Lagos based newspaper, I suddenly realised how much we as a people have drifted, carried away by what I see as an ill blown wind, fanned by an overreliance on western opinions.
First, I read a piece where a woman, way into her fifties by her picture's reckoning, speculated about the coming of what she saw as a new fad, a first of its kind; denim jeans cut to fit the African woman's waistline. Timely, she says of it, but then she went on to complain about the route it took - from the west via China - and bemoaned it for not being African enough, as if trousers were ever African in the first place.
I was about to consign that experience to the dustbin when I was drawn to another article, this time the accompanying photograph placed the writer, also female, somewhere between late twenties and early thirties. This time the topic was food and she was complaining about our local foods, which she said she abhores because of the high calorie content. I would not have picked issues with her had she not gone on to reel out healthy food lessons that she obviously copied from a western fashion magazine, more or less calling diets that kept our forefathers strong and healthy, poison.
I would have screamed aloud if decency allowed it.
However, I actually let out some curse words (sub vocalised anyway). We seem not to know it, but our society, our Africanness, that thing that makes us whole, is slowly fading away and the painful thing is that we are doing nothing to fight this trend.
Yes, a society is supposed to change with time, to evolve.
This may or may not mean assimilation with another culture. In our case, there is little assimilation going one. Truth is, what we have is a one-way thing, with our culture being suppressed and overshadowed by imported values. Our gods are mostly dead, starved of the worship that all spirit beings need; our dances are mere show things; our customs are being shoved into the dust bag of history by youth who deem them too local and outdated, even as they embrace those of another, believing them to be new age, pristine.
I talk not for talk's sake, but to draw our eyes backwards, to return our souls to those days when we sought very little, when in harmony we breathed with the land we live, not the degeneration that people call modernity. Imagine, an African woman calling African food poison, all because a doctor who has never breathed a lungful of African air told her so.
We might not have the resources of the west, but we still have, or should still have, our head firmly on our shoulders. How can anyone say garri is poison, or call palm oil an artery clogger?. The fact that some of you have forgotten how to live in harmony with the earth does not mean the earth has changed.
I will tell you what the poison is. The poison is easy living, from air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned offices. From comfy couches at home to comfy swivel seats in your offices. The poison is those lumps of dough you buy in your high-class fast food stores. The poison is the lack of exercise that is big money's gift to you. The poison is processed sugar that you stock you refrigerator with. That is the poison making
Africa fat, not our traditional cuisine.
As for fashion, well...a woman above forty really should have little or nothing to do with fancy jeans and whatnot. It is this misplaced fashion sense that has turned our young ladies into scarecrows. Yes scarecrows, with fake fingernails, fake hair, fake skin tone, fake eyelashes, fake lips, fake bosom held in place by padded bras and the like and fake accents.
We are not just losing our selves to this new elite-driven-western-hobnobbing, but our souls too. These days it is more fashionable than not to espouse ideas by the likes of Paris Hilton and the Kardashian sisters. Our ladies make their lifestyle choices based on premiums set by a society that is continually seeking to recreate what is already perfect. We try to dress like the western media tells us is best, mostly without recourse to our weather conditionality; we force our feet into extra high heeled shoes, regardless of the discomfort inherent in our mostly unpaved roads.
Africa, we need to wake up before it is too late. We should be exporting new ideas to the west, not embracing their junk. Now is the time to start, why don't we all start by not rubbing those foul smelling relaxers on our hair?
This piece was published in the passion for fashion page of Next newspaper on