Showing posts with label African cultures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label African cultures. Show all posts

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Danfo Chronicles: When masquerades go to church and gays become criminals

It was a few years ago, at the time citizen news reportage was gaining traction across the nation, that news of masquerades meting out corporal punishment on miniskirt and trouser wearing young ladies somewhere in the Nsukka  axis reached social media.

As usual, the Nigerian social media reacted true to type with that outpouring of anger that occurs whenever vestiges of the ‘devilish’ past of our ancestors appear to be in conflict with the sacred untouchable manifestations of the new religion.

Caught up in outrage, most of us missed the big story, which was not that masquerades enforced a dress code, but that this dress code stemmed originally from the Christian church.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Democracy: An African burden

English: The King of Swaziland Mswati III at t...
English: The King of Swaziland Mswati III at the reed dance festival 2006 where he will choose his next wife.. Deutsch: Der König von Swasiland Mswati III bei dem Reed Dance Festival 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Uneasy, they say, lies the head that wears the crown. That adage, apt for a time when kings were a law unto themselves, when they had the power over life and death, still finds strong expression in this age.

These days, kings, except they are of Middle Eastern or Asian stock (let’s add Swaziland to the number), are largely without the powers to decide the fate of a nation. The powers that made them all-powerful in the past now reside with the commoners; or so it would seem.

Nations, having shed that feudal system that perpetuates the lordship of one family over the whole generation after generation, have now generally embraced the one that allows people to have a say on who rules over them. People now have the liberty to put their views to vote and the purview to remove a leader that is not working up to par—in an ideal scenario.  Democracy, the system of having a say in the selection of one’s leaders, in its ideal sense, is one that cannot be faulted.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Africa’s Development: The Word Is Emancipation

Mom's African people sculptureImage by annieo76 via Flickr

Why is Africa underdeveloped?
This question has been asked intermittently over the years and several answers have been provided, especially when African countries south of the Sahara are compared with the Asian Tigers with whom they were at par in terms of development as colonialism winded up, .
While some commentators, mostly Africans and the so-called liberal minded westerners, tend to lay the blame at the doors of the European colonial powers who they say took, and is still taking Africa’s resources while paying so little for these benefits. This group believe the colonialists have been replaced by multinational corporations that have effectively replaced the piece of broken mirror that bought dozens of slaves in the old days with bribes paid in dollars to a few corrupt politicians who then sanction the continuing rape of a much-exploited continent.
Others, less liberal, perhaps less politically correct, contend that the reasons are easily traceable to the genetic makeup of the African, that natural trait that gifts the black race a much lower intelligent quotient than other races, or so they say. For this group, the fate of countries like Haiti and Jamaica, which are not too far removed from that of sub-Saharan African countries, and that of the African American community, is too visible a point to be ignored.
However, another school of thought believes that neither the Africans nor the European colonialists are without blame. For this group, to which I must confess to belong, the culpability of the African in the continuing rape of the continent and the current culture of micro development is of utmost importance to any discourse on the reasons Africa is the way it is.
To this school of thought, Africans, even if a very minute number made up of corrupt politicians and technocrats, constitute the biggest hindrance to the development of the continent. Though they argue that lack of willingness by the political class to implement far-reaching policies contributes greatly in keeping Africa underdeveloped, they are quick too to concede that the western multinationals, through purchased influence, are doing everything possible to keep the status quo, which aids what many have come to believe is their exploitation of Africa.
However, beyond the political class and the multinationals, there is a bigger culpability; that of individual Africans who refuse to heed the call for emancipation from what the late Bob Marley so aptly called “mental slavery”.
To many Africans, mental slavery is a myth, something coined by people who needed something for which to blame the west. However, the truth is more effervescent than that. Without recourse to the dictionary, mental slavery is a concept simply explained to mean a psychological inclination towards self-depreciation. It is a disease that is widespread amongst people of sub-Saharan African decent wherever found--be it in the neon lighted avenues of Hollywood, USA, or in the stone and mortar house neighbourhood of my hometown Nkwe, Enugu state, Nigeria. It has found expression in our way of life, inflecting our speech patterns, our mode of dressing, our dances, and how we marry.
Though many seem not to know it, but the truth is there, we are daily losing ourselves, one bit at a time, to the dictate of a culture that is not perfect by a long haul.
The way we were
Our culture, in the past, was dynamic and tailored to suit our environment and temperament. Our forbearers were wise, very much so. The laws they gifted us, largely forgotten, were all embracing and suited for every foreseeable situation.
Most Africans have forgotten their culture or know so little about it that they easily deride it for being what they term ‘fetish’--a consequence cleaving to an European heritage Christian church that found new expression in Africa.
Even though a woman is not considered married in most African societies until her bride price is paid and other traditional rituals of marriage performed, the norm these days is to consign that act to mere formality, while more effort and money are spared towards a lavish ‘white wedding’ whose history or significance most African brides know little or nothing about.
These days the hype is all about Saint Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, and of late and strangely too, Halloween and thanksgiving. One hardly hears about the new yam festivals, the coming of age festival, new moon and other stuffs that our fore fathers celebrated. We seem to think them too old fashioned.
Sometime ago, I was talking to a friend about the need for us to look backwards if we are to become more relevant, and she countered: “we are not farmers anymore, what would a new yam festival be about?” Anyway, I did not get mad or laugh when she could not explain the reason for thanksgiving, which she was advocating as a replacement.
Therein lay the source of our problems, and consequently, Africa’s continuous battle with under-development--our mental enslavement to western culture.
Our emancipation lies in our languages
The most visible aspect of this enslavement is our dependence on European languages for communication among ourselves.
Many reasons were proffered as to why most African countries chose to use the language of their colonial masters as ‘official’ languages, but most of these reasons, no matter how logical, all point to a belief that the salvation of the African lies without. Hence, the recourse to adopt foreign languages to act as a buffer between African tribes existing within an European demarcated territorial border.
This, I believe, is the greatest obstacle to development in Africa. Many people will readily contest this point, believing, erroneously, that Africans countries using European languages, as official language is a plus in the present age of globalisation. It is my belief that had African countries chosen to communicate with each other and the rest of the world with their own languages; they would have done much better than they have so far.
However, aside the much-vaunted advantages of using an ‘International’ language for communication, there are the dangers and disadvantages, usually under the surface, but becoming more glaring in Africa. Here, one finds that since the end of colonialism in Africa hundreds of languages have died out or become so adulterated with European words that they are now, functionally, hybrid languages – Igbo and Yoruba are ready examples.
Had we allowed our languages to be our medium of communication and expression within our countries, even if not with the outside world (as India and many others did) we would have made more impact at the world stage. The multinationals would still steal, but they would need to learn our languages to do this. The west would still cheat us by making sure we sell raw materials cheap to them and buy same back as fabricated goods, but they will need to program the computers in Hausa or Igbo. Imagine the joy of learning maths in Igbo, discussing theorem and logic in Yoruba or exploring the gray areas of law in Bini.
Yes, we would have had most of our citizen fluent in their mother tongue, with youths more eager to record the thoughts of the elders and write our traditions, largely oral, in the ink that will preserve them for tomorrow.
Years ago, we had a choice between our culture and the western culture, just like the Chinese, Indian, Japanese and many others had. Drawn by lack of respect for our heritage and urged on by the religion of our oppressors, masquerading as liberators, we chose to be more western than the white man was. Thereby consigning our soul to the dregs that history says it is at today.
Becoming western, we lost our culture, and with that loss, went the checks and balances that kept us on a straighter path than the new religions can only hope to dare.
By choosing to be western, we lost a chance to be relevant in the world, hence our underdevelopment.
Now we look on, as the rest of the world continues to run way ahead of us; praying that we someday catch up. We dream on, even as our culture, the messiah we ignored and continue to ignore, loses the battle to survive, every day.
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Friday, June 4, 2010

Homophobic their a*se!

I am vexed. But that is just the half of it. The source of my anger is something that is not politically correct, at least from a western point of view.

I am annoyed at being referred to as a ‘f**king homophobe’, whatever that means, by an American 'used-to-be' friend who couldn’t understand my support for the incarceration of a Malawian gay couple. To him, my American ex-friend, I am one of those Africans who are yet to take advantage of their professed education to lift himself above petty things like gay hating.

Well, what can I say... the Yank is not too farfetched in his summation. If my emancipation means leaning over to be poked through a passage meant for something the west considers so dirty, it is social taboo to mention in polite conversation, or allowing people’s wanton desires run amok, then I am altogether happy to remain an educated ‘bushman’.

My ex-friend, like most westerners and, of late, so-called sexually emancipated Africans are so caught up in their misplaced proselytising for free will and free choice that they miss the point totally; that this is not a battle (yes o, it has started) about an individual’s freedom of sexual orientation, but the right for an organized society to exercise the law as their constitution allows. Now, don’t start with that over flogged argument that Malawi and indeed Africa has more pressing problems than sexual rights. That does not cut the cheese either way. The brothers (abi na sisters) broke the law and got punished for it. Yes, public humiliation is a cultural way of punishing law breakers in most part of Africa; I bet my Yankee ex-friend didn’t know that.

There is still that question most Gay rights activists want answered, are Africans Homophobic? I will answer in the typical Nigerian way, why is this so important?
True, we have always had people who tumble in the sheets with like poles, yes ke, but does that excuse it?

Even in our traditional societies and – here I will agree with the gay rights people – it wasn’t introduced by the colonial masters or Arab traders. But the fact still remains that the traditional society abhorred this act enough to impose stringent penalties, which includes death in some cultures, to curtail it. And yes, these characters are not hidden, in Igboland we call them omekanwanyi – he that acts like a woman. But they don’t get to cross-dress or solicit men on the village streets. Even if they get to tumble in the sheets, it is not public knowledge, just like any straight couple’s tumble isn’t. I think this is important, no?)

In Naija we all know about what goes on in same-sex boarding schools. How the school mothers and fathers experiment with their sons and daughters and how sex thrives after lights out within the boarding house, but this was usually seen as a passing phase occasioned by boredom since most of the partakers drop the act after school and go on to have fulfilling relationships with the opposite sex. Though there are still others who fail to outgrow this and continue partaking even in the wider society.

And yes, there are openly homosexual people in many towns in northern Nigeria – the dan dawudus – who are very much integrated into the society. They may not have the kind of freedom most gay rights activists would wish for but they walk freely in the street and even get to cross dress to an extent (girly head ties and all) but who is really free in the world... another days talk, that.

Aside from serious Bible and Quran carriers, I doubt if anyone really bothers about what gays do with one another here, as long as they keep it among themselves and not break the law, don’t provoke the citizenry (sex in public is an offence even in the West, right?) and don’t try to convert children under the age of consent (that will be breaking the law anywhere I bet).

On my part, I don’t care much for homosexuality and think it is all about sex (sorry, I don’t buy that love crap) and believe giving people right to do what they please is tantamount to inviting chaos on the world. Soon people will ask to marry their progenies or even pets all in the name of over some hyped love, shouldn’t the government grant them that boon?

Perhaps I am biased, I have not had the privilege of meeting an openly homosexual man, but I have met a couple of female bisexuals (don’t know if that counts) who became good friends of mine – that’s how homophobic I am.

Arguments aside, I feel Africa should be wary of these gay activists. They are too powerful to be dismissed with a simple wave of the hand; at least they have conquered part of the Christian church, Bible and all. Now, openly homosexual priests preach the way to hell and salvation which I hope lies not through the s**t hole of some man.