A few things about me

Being African

Now and then, I swing by Mashada to get my funny bone tickled and sometiimes, like this time, I find some interesting discussions. On this occassion, a poster asked:

"Why are Africans so quick to lose thier culture when they move/relocate to the west"

Varied points of view were expressed and most of them were quite intelligent. The  general concensus was that Africans and more so, Sub Saharan Africans are quick to disassociate or distance themselves with thier culture. The reasons for this varied from a lack of pride, to the need for assimilation and "evolution" for the sake of survival. One poster thought that the reason for this was due to the fact that "africans do not know who they are and what they are because they have never been taught why they do what they do and the breakdown of the matricarhcle system brought about by colonialsim was part to blame". His response ended with the question,

"What does it mean to be an African"

The discussion made for some good thought and for the past two weeks I have found myself taking a closer look at my own life and what it means to me to be African.

I have always held the belief, that when growing up, I was always, first and foremost (insert tribe) and then Kenyan/Ugandan and then African. When I came to Europe, I learnt that people saw me first as African and then Kenyan/Ugandan and lastly and most insignificant was my tribe. However when I moved to Uganda, I was never x-tribe enough. This was due to the fact that I apparently did not look like a member of that tribe and did not speak the language(later I spoke it with an accent) and therefore could not be from that tribe. To illustrate the absurdity of this issue here is a small ancedote.

Some time in 2005 summer while shopping in a clothing store in England, I heard these two ladies speaking our language. I was real excited and decided to approach them. (yes, I am one of those people who will come up to you and talk if I think you are african.. yup that's me). So I politely engaged them in conversation. The lady was glad to meet and proceed to ask me if I lived around. I was getting excited because to me this was potential friend. The next question was what part of Uganda I came from and what tribe was I. So I said where I was from and my tribe and immediately her face changed, "Really, nah, you can't be". I confirmed I was and the whole atmosphere changed, like there was nothing more we had in common. I made a hasty retreat.Since then, I always approach with caution..(some people learn the hard way) 

 That question has been gnawing away at my brain. On one hand, I think I am over analysing the whole thing and there is nothing to it. I am african because I was born in Africa, I am descended from African parentage and I am affiliated to a particular african culture and practice (not really though, I am a city girl) certain customs and speak certain african languages. That makes me African. In my particular case, I even know why we do certain things.

As to the question  why we as a people are so quick to distance ourselves from our culture. My take on this is simply a lack of pride and never having being taught at an institutional level that we are a great people.

The guy who, in response stated that this happens due to the need to survive may have been on to something. 

Have a very african weekend! 

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Comments on: "Being African" (6)

  1. acolyte said:

    I do get you on some of those issues.It is when I came here to the states that I found out the true meaning of tribalism.At home even though we were of different tribes, we got along and spent time.But here the first thing I am asked when I meet many other Kenyans is what tribe I am,where I am from and what language I speak.I think this division does very little in the long run esp since we are in a foreign country and should stick together.Have a good weekend!

  2. When children come here (west) though they are fluent in both Swahili and mother’s tongue, they quickly forget the languages as soon as they go to school – so that they do not stand out., so that they sound like the rest of the crowd. My nieces and nephews sound like they were born and bred in Souf London (althought they understand Swahili – but can’t speak it). Most people do not want to be different. although we retain a lot of our cluture.

    Have a lovely and blessed weekend

  3. Aco: I always insist that their is a difference between being tribal and ethnic proud. The tribes are part of who we are, the problem is in pushing a supremacist agenda like my people are better than yours..my people must eat. that is what is wrong rather than defining yourself as a member of a particular tribe.

  4. Guys, I read with Interest the discussion on “Being African”, quite informative. I would like to highlight to you that Being African is neither a function of one’s skin colour nor is it one’s geographic location…rather, it is about the values and principles that one follows, believes and practices. I will highlight here the ten pathways that define “Being African” as espoused by one great African Scholar, Professor Mandivamba Rukuni:
    1. Know where you come from, know and respect your family, relatives and your ancestors.
    2. Know where you are going and fulfill the gifts that your God bestowed on you
    3. Hold yourself with a long heart and happiness all the time – manage your emotions to keep a positive attitude!
    4. Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly, with all your strength and courage. This is the only way to build a real world.
    5. Help others, give to others, receive from others and be thankful in giving and receiving from others.
    6. Develop an insatiable curiosity for knowledge in life.
    7. All God’s creations are sacred. Celebrate, respect and appreciate nature and all of God’s creations.
    8. Have fun and games with others from time to time. This is the way in which your body, mind and spirit come together. Fun and games build your ‘Unhu-Ubuntu-Botho’ spirit.
    9. Regularly sit down and have consultative discussions with family, neighbours and relatives. This is the surest way to build functional relationships in life.
    10. Follow the Unhu-Ubuntu-Botho spirit. This is the way of life, valued by your ancestors and that unites you with God.

    To the participants and those who contributed (and wish to contribute) to this discussion, the challenge is, as Afrikans, do we live by the principles and values of “Being African” as highlighted above, or we just follow the tag “African” either by association, colour or by historical accident. As I see it, “Being African” is a sum-total of the ten pathways, lived and experienced by a people, where colour is the last determinant, and values and principles reign. Is “Being African” the answer? For more information please follow the link: http://connactionzim.com/index.php option=com_fireboard&Itemid=33&func=view&id=7&catid=6. If you have problems with the link, please type: http://www.connactionzim.com, then click on ‘Forums’, then choose the forum ‘Being African’. The discussion in the link is based on the book entitled “Being African” by Prof Mandivamba Rukuni, published 2007.

    I found the book challenging and interesting, and the discussion forum enticing!!!

  5. […] 15, 2008 at 7:01 am (General) Over two years ago I wrote this . A guest commented quiet a bit on it and I felt that I should bring his comment to the forefront […]

  6. jourbussy said:

    Przede niedowolnym nie wnosia aapcie. Rzeczywiacie, jej lato natomiast cieknijciea sa siekane but na zupeanym awiecie. Jednakowoa jeali rozmyalasz o uzyskanie kurs jazdy, naleay aapaa sia sobie blianiego palcami, skapego buty chroniace niedoaadze tudziea przystaa na godziwe manewry. Nie lecz cieknijciea miea wyglad nieletnich, natomiast plus wykonywa, ae ​​oporniej jest doradzia siebie spoarad samochodu pedzie waaaciwie. Moana przeceniaa ewentualnie nie lubia napar jest dozwolone ulokowaa na nich. Opracz tym, zdoaaja one dodatkowo utknaa opodal contraptions.
    http://nomadmobileguides.com/member/49606/ – chwilówka okres

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