Saturday, May 29, 2010

(HERALD) Proudly African!

Proudly African!

I AM a proud African of Zimbabwean decent. There is something in me that cannot be swept away by the storms of life or pleasures of the world. It is that something that made me walk with my head held high across the borders, even when there was no sugar on the shelves.

What kept me going is the knowledge that my identity is not tied to the challenges that I go through. I believe it is the same thing that made Kunta Kinte, a slave in chains, to categorically state, "I am Kunta Kinte of the Mandingo tribe," in the movie Roots.

It is also that something that made a British war plane pilot, during the Second World War, write "If I die think this only of me, that there is a corner of some foreign field that is forever England."

What he meant was that wherever his remains were to be interred, in the event that the plane was brought down, that place would be England.

I believe that this something is what Delanyo Adadevoh calls a positive self image. What he means is that as Africans we should take pride in who we are.

We are worth much more than the famines, the droughts, the wars and the floods that the Western media focus on.

We are a people known for our warmth, hospitality and have a history of organised traditional leadership and governance structures.

I believe that until and unless we Africans take pride in who we are, and have a shared vision, the development and integration of the continent will remain a pipe dream.

I, however, suppose that the collective positive identity is learned from culture. In simple terms culture is the way of life of a people. It includes their beliefs, norms and values, behavior patterns, language and arts. Culture changes and therefore it is particular to a given time.

It is said that culture provides one with an identity; right perception of self in relation to others; lenses with which we perceive and interpret things; standards by which we use to evaluate life; and conditions the way we prioritise things.

Ali Mazrui observed that Africa has experienced rapid Westernisation in the post-colonial period.

This implies that the basis of our identity as a people has been compromised in the global village where we interact with various cultures and subcultures.

Some of these sub cultures have taken root in the mind such that they form the basis on which we socialise our children and shape their lives and ours.

Let us take for instance the Hollywood culture that is promoted through the movies and television. This popular culture has cut across most barriers common in the traditional African way of life.

Things that were seen as taboo in the traditional context just spring up on the screen as the family sits together to watch TV.

This implies that the myth around some of these sacred issues has been shattered for better or for worse.

In the past, parents used very simple ways of telling children what to do and not do. I remember that we were told that if you sit on the road you would get boils.

They knew that if the child sits on the road he/she risked being run over by a car. As children we held elders in high esteem, we saw them as people of integrity and therefore we obeyed without questioning.

This is not so with the children of today they are living in a world of experimentation and justifications. The education system demands empirical evidence.

What has also made it difficult is that some adults of today are not men and women of their word. Anyway that is the dilemma that we find ourselves in and this I suppose is a topic on its own.

Judging by the success of the movie industry, I can safely say that the Hollywood culture is playing a big role in bringing up children. I say this because the television is seen as a source of entertainment and relaxation.

The television influences fashion, behavioural patterns and conditions the way we see ourselves in relation to others, the way we see things and evaluate whether they are good or bad.

Our indigenous languages are facing extinction as English has become the language spoken in school, business and even in homes.

This means that culture has changed drastically as language carries cultural values and norms. In this regard it is possible that our great great grandchildren will not be African.

When I say African I am not speaking of colour because what makes us Africans is far beneath the skin. It is not tangible, I believe, but can be discerned.

I am not saying all that is African is good. I am aware of the negative practices, beliefs and attitudes such as gender discrimination that have taken us backwards.

I also add my voice and say that all those negative practices done in the name of culture should be discarded.

I am talking about those things that define us as a people such as the values of ubuntu or hunhu.

There is a wealth of indigenous knowledge on natural cures, environmental conservation and management, conflict resolution as well as building and maintaining social relations.

I am sure each one of us can add to this list.

It is those things that were we have a competitive advantage over other Continents and therefore need to focus on and develop a brand.

Unfortunately modernisation has created a gap between traditional and modern systems.

In my opinion the people who spend most of the time in urban areas have no time and patience to learn from the rural folk.

People are just busy bodies.

There are also greater chances of the educated elite also perceiving all these traditional ways as primitive.

This means that we as a people have not gone back to our roots to try and tap into and develop the existing indigenous systems and structures.

As a result they have remained very basic.

It is therefore not surprising that as Africans, as the old adage says, we have thrown away the baby with the bath water.

A positive self-image starts from knowing our true identity starting as individuals and then collectively we can rebrand our communities, our nations and then our Continent. As Africans we therefore need to visit the beliefs that we have about Africa.

The Shona people say "Huru inokudzwa newayo" loosely translated to mean people prop up their own.

This means that it is you and me that should believe in ourselves so that AFRICA can realise its potential.

Egpha Jokomo is an aspiring writer and motivational speaker.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home