‘Let’s be proud of our culture’

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BRAZILIAN novelist Paulo Coelho wrote: “Culture makes people understand each other better.
And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome (the) economic and political barriers.”
With this in mind, whites knew that to succeed in conquering Africa, they had to obliterate the African culture.
Before the arrival of whites, Africans had their way of life; a way of life that ensured peace as well as promoted unity and development.
As a united front, Africans posed a threat to Western influence.
Something had to be done.
Efforts were made to disrupt Africans’ way of life.
Traditions and rituals promoting unity in societies and helping Africans identify with one another were denigrated, condemned and replaced.
They were demonised.
In his book Things Fall Apart, renowned Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe says: “But he (the whiteman) says that our customs are bad; and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our customs are bad.
How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us?”
Achebe aptly describes the demise of African traditions as a result of colonisation of Africa by whites.
According to Wikipedia, culture is defined as ‘that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society’.
Traditions, as defined by Wikipedia, are ‘beliefs or behaviours passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past’.
Examples of traditions include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes, but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings.
Western communities still observe and uphold holidays such as Halloween and Thanksgiving.
They take pride in going through rituals guiding such holidays with no compromises.
Achebe writes: “A man’s life from birth to death was a series of transition rites which brought him nearer and nearer to his ancestors.”
African societies have, since time immemorial, had guiding principles when celebrating the birth of a loved one, marriage, conducting rain-asking rites, prayers or funeral services.
Societies now shun these traditions.
Blacks are ‘ashamed’ and ‘despise’ such rites that go against their new-found religion; Christianity.
Despite being a liberated people, it appears blacks are still suffering from mental colonisation.
Many take pride in identifying with the whiteman’s culture, values and norms.
Whites have ridiculed African rituals thereby devaluing them.
For instance ‘rain-asking’ ceremonies have been wrongly termed ‘rain-making’, meaning a process of producing or attempting to produce rain by magic.
Author Taazadza Munhumutema says there is need for Africans to uphold traditions.
“Our culture is our identity,” he says.
“Our traditions and beliefs promote harmony and they ensure communities work and support each other.”
In local societies, the birth or death of a family member not only affects the immediate family but the whole society.
Through functions such as nhimbe societies helped each other in the fields, thereby promoting a culture of hard work and team spirit.
In his book, Mhuri yeZimbabwe, Munhumutema says for culture to be preserved, it must be documented.
“Kushaikwa kwezvinyorwa zvehupenyu nehugaro hwevanhu kunokonzera nhamo huru kwazvo, kumazera anotevera, ekushaya ruzivo rwakakwana,” he wrote.
“Ruzivo rwekugamidzana zera nezera, rune magasva mazhinji kwazvo maruri, nekuti panenge pasina zvakanyorwa.”
It is important to note that traditions can persist and evolve for thousands of years.
Art theory and philosophy expert Dr Tony Monda believes societies and cultures should be permitted to evolve in their own space, pace and time.
“When the pride attached to a young girl mastering how to carry a pot precariously balanced on the head is looked upon disdainfully by Western feminists, then Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole, has lost its identity and knowledge of self and notions of true freedom,” said Dr Monda.
“It is time our indigenous rapier of knowledge and experience cuts through the deception of colonial trappings that has rendered our culture insubstantive.”
Dr Monda said society as a whole had to investigate and decolonise manners and other significant expressions of our philosophy of life.
“Our greatest strength is in our custodial heritage,” he said.
“By not using our traditional artefacts and heirlooms, we have adopted a different language, customs, dress, beliefs and even religion.”
African-American writer Baratunde Thurston, in his book How to Be Black, also urges Africans to unite: “My Afrikan brothers and sisters I have something to tell you.
“Beware of the whiteman; I’m not saying be scared of him or to cut off communication, but beware, because when we realise that we should not be fighting each other the tide will turn.”
The more Africans keep drifting away from their culture, the more they lose their sense and need to defend the continent and its resources.
An African proverb goes: ‘When two brothers fight, a stranger comes to inherit their father’s estate’.
With Africans united and identifying with each other, they can defend themselves.
It is said no culture is superior to another, hence it is ignorant of blacks to abandon their culture in favour of that of whites.

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