Box: Cultures and Traditions.

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This is the first of a series of articles written on a general theme called BOX. When I heard of the theme, I was immediately drawn to it as for a simple 3 letter word, it packs quite the punch. The Box is an accumulation of all the information that an individual has been exposed to since they were born. It can be seen as a comfort zone.

The term comfort zone helps to further explain what the theme is all about and if we hear the term Box, it seems quite sophisticated and so one might be tempted to be okay with settling with it and not attempting to push for more. The comfort zone, however, has already been somewhat demonized over the ages and so that will be a working term for Box which is a lovely term by the way, but I wanted another term that people will be uneasy with. It is a limiter on our persons and should be shunned and worked on to minimize as much as we can.

So now the preamble is over and we have a sense of what this article and the subsequent ones will be talking about, let’s now delve fully into our topic of the day which is a very pertinent one as it greatly affects we Africans in almost all we do whether consciously or unconsciously and that is “Culture and Traditions”.

Before we begin, let me make clear that I do not think that Culture and Tradition is not necessarily a bad thing but it is how we use them that will determine whether it is a limiter on our lives or whether it will be a boon to our lives and make it that much richer. The choice is up to us and with this article I’m hoping that light will be shed on how best to utilize our Culture and Traditions to best effect and even more crucially, I’m hoping that we will see how best to blend our African Culture with that of the modern cultures of more developed Nations which we are already imbibing.
We all know what our topic for today means but there are some definitions that I feel will allow us to see the two terminologies in a better light and we will then see how both can be seen as one.

Culture simply means beliefs, values, and behavior that constitute people’s way of life in a society. It also means knowledge passed on from one generation to the other. It is this second definition that I found the more striking and relevant to our discussion today as we shall see
Tradition on the other hand is a subset of culture passed from person to person or generation to generation which usually differs from family to family. As we can see, the second definition of culture provided is just another term for tradition and this shows that tradition is the cornerstone of culture.
Now that we have our definitions, we can now move forward to show how our African Culture and Traditions actually put us in a box (comfort zone). The typical African values center around “family” while the western values, in particular, center around “individuals” and this naturally occurs as a consequence of how we bring up our children in both parts of the world. I will not focus on the western way of life (their individual culture) as what is our concern is the African way of life (our family-centered culture)
Right from when we are little in Africa, we are taught to respect our elders and see their word as law with any act to the contrary seen as a sign of disobedience and being a “bad child”. This has been taken to the extreme in our society these days as our parents are human and fallible and so are liable to making mistakes but any thought towards that area is quickly crushed and labeled the thought of the Devil.

The formative years of a child is a very key period and this is where the box of our culture sets in as children are naturally curious and so ask a lot of questions of the world but this very act of asking questions of elders seems anathema to our elders who regularly shut the children down with the regular ripostes of “am I your mate?” or “don’t you see your elders are talking?”.
This act of shutting down a child’s inquisitive nature is very damaging as the child then believes it is wrong to question things or his elders and so then begins to accept things as they are, following him/her up to adulthood which forces them deeper and deeper into the box from which there is little hope of escape because the damage was done when they were children.
But as the End Sars protests (may the souls of the departed rest in peace) showed, our parents' generation did not do all they can and we can actually be better than they are so why is it haram to question their word especially at the times when we know it to be wrong by all objective standards?

A pet peeve of mine which the African Culture tacitly allows to blossom is our dislike for taking insurance policies just because of our fear of death which is inevitable and should be planned for as the ones to suffer in the unfortunate event of the breadwinner of the family meeting his/her untimely death will be the innocent children who will now have to grow up with unnecessary hardship and are more prone to fall into vices like yahoo yahoo and prostitution.

If our culture could break free of not taking insurance policies for our children’s future, I daresay that there will be a direct reduction in our children partaking of the above-mentioned vices by some noticeable margin. That’s one area where the individual culture of the western world has us beat and this is one area we need to learn from them in order for the next generation to be catered for even in the event of the unfortunate demise of some of our breadwinners. This is what has happened in South Africa where their insurance sector is the undisputed number one in Africa as they have imbibed some other cultures and still kept their African roots, there is still more work to be done but it has shown that it is possible to blend our culture with others to achieve better results.

With all I’ve been saying so far, it might seem like I hate our Culture and Traditions but nothing could be further from the truth. The African Culture is doing a lot right by teaching us manners, respect for our elder ones, care for our extended family (which is more of a negative on the western world as they mostly concentrate on their nuclear family and neglect the extended), spirituality (though we dey take this one too far at times) amongst others.
My point though is that the way out of the Box of our culture is to blend it with the good aspects of the cultures just like the Asians have done as they have held on to their own culture while imbibing the good aspects of the western culture, that is what we should be looking to emulate and be more open to critiquing our Culture where it is weak or wrong as it is manmade and so liable to have errors as it currently does. We should never be afraid to question things as that is the only way out of the box or as I said, the comfort zone.

To better understand, head on to the origin of this article series…

This article was written by Uaifo (uaifoojo@gmail.com) for Afrikrown.

Culture, Art and Places. _Africa_