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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Whither our African culture?

6th March 2012

Africa has many cultural practices. Some of these are good and indeed exemplary to others, especially non Africans who also have their own ways of doing things.

Take for example the utmost importance we give to the respect of our elders. Every child growing up in Africa knows in no uncertain terms not to disrespect his/her elders or else the consequences are too forbidding to speak of.

As children grow up, the element of respect is drilled into them daily in different ways and any departure from this is viewed negatively by society.

Indeed, there is no sparing the rod in Africa where respect is concerned.

General good behaviour is also highly emphasized and treasured in Africa. Bad behaviour is squarely blamed on the parents, especially the mother and such behaviour is distinctly frowned upon by society.

Therefore, every parent tries hard to bring up their children in the right manner. That, in a nutshell is our African culture.

Well, there are a few aspects of our culture that need to be done away with. They portray us in a bad light to the rest of the world. And some of them are downright wrong.

Take for example, female genital mutilation (FGM). This abominable mutilation of girls’ bodies is still going on in some parts of Africa despite various campaigns against the practice.

FGM is a cruel and indeed inhuman procedure. Wherever it is still practised governments should redouble their efforts and use whatever means to stamp it out.

This could even include imposing prison sentences on those who insist on inflicting this misery on defenseless young girls.

Having said this though, the dubious cultural practice that really takes the biscuit is the infamous Reed dance festival which takes place annually in the kingdom of Swaziland.

At this queer spectacle, the British educated King Mswati III, clad in a leopard skin loin cloth, eagerly surveys tens of thousands of bare breasted young virgins, who dance for him in the hope of catching his attention to become his new bride. Mind you, at the last count the king already had a whopping thirteen wives!

To make matters more outrageous, according to Swazi tradition, the king is always meant to have a bride in waiting.

Consider the fact that this takes place against the backdrop of a country which has high rates of HIV/AIDS.

Well, it seems then that someone here needs to be reminded that we are now in the 21st century and it is highly inappropriate to revert to Middle age practices in the modern era.

This just goes to show that blind devotion to certain cultural practices, which are definitely outdated, makes us stick out like a sour thumb in the modern world.

It seems then that while others are moving forward, we remain rooted in the past. This is indeed unfair to our people and a betrayal of their aspirations for progress.

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