In other to make this discussion clear, there is need to explain the meaning of culture before proceeding to buttress on the fixture and uniqueness of what makes African culture to be African.
Culture can be seen as a totality of people’s way of life.
According to E.B. Taylor, Culture is a complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, laws, customs and any other capabilities and habits as acquired by man as a member of society.
Africa is the largest continent that is made up of many countries such as Nigeria, Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Niger, Zambia, Togo, and many others
Algeria is largest country Africa’s while Seychelles is Africa’s smallest country
The African culture is varied and manifold. It is a product of the diverse populations that today inhabit the continent of Africa and the African Diaspora. It has been affected by both internal and external forces. Every African country is a mix of tribes, each with their own unique language and culture.
What Make African Culture African?
Culture is used to refer to the totality of people’s way of life. African cultures smash through deserts, cross trade routes, travel through immigration borders, disregarding our notions of geography and race. Throughout history, names, foods, cultures, religions, genetics have jumped between Asia and Africa from the dawn of humanity with blatant disregard for our social constructions.
But as much as culture drifts on the open ocean of human interaction and technological development, pushed on by the winds of globalization. The ethics of culture are pretty much static. And where Africa is a concern, the centrality of life-systems and functionality have always been at the root of all African cultures. But today some think that culture is who has the most beads around their head while others view the essential part of the culture as dynamic.
African culture is African because includes but is not limited to: The centrality of spirituality, ethics, the placement of music, aesthetic, family formations, marriage rites, both the tangible and intangibles intellectual paradigms. The agents affecting culture are climate, geography, technology, cross-cultural interaction and unfortunately a history of oppression.
Long ago some wise people realized that certain habits bore bad fruit, while other habits, such as marriage bore success in the group setting. It was also realized that at some stage children became adults when they had been fully institutionalized to the ethics of the group’s culture. African cultures have evolved to harmonize with the African soul, body, and mind All are a child of time. Communities enshrine these cultures by practising them and promoting them. And contrary to what Mugambi and Masolo suggest, there is no evidence, in any record, which shows that a people who forget their culture prosper in any meaningful way And part of the confusion are between “modernity” and “culture.” Cultural values can exist in the most technologically advanced spaces, without challenge. It is a false dichotomy to think that rites of passage are incompatible with modernity or dowry belongs in a bygone era. In Africa, Ptahhotep was credited with authoring The Instruction of Ptahhotep, an early piece of Egyptian “wisdom literature” meant to instruct young men in appropriate behaviour in Ancient Egyptian African society. The rites of passage of Ancient Greeks became the first European universities: So institutionalized into the world it is no longer seen as a direct aspect of European culture.
Another almost invisible example is how European Gothic traditions and folklore (witches, vampires and elves) are now transplanted into what is accepted as good Hollywood entertainment. And the same is true for the billion dollar video-game industry. So normalized and obvious that the viewer forgets these are just European cultural folklore in modernity. And the failure to place African cultures in a modern context kills Africa’s ability to extract wisdom, success and development from African cultures.
African Cultural Superior Perceptions
If we are honest with ourselves then solutions become very clear. If we think hard enough we know already why people do not want to be African, or reject African culture, native faiths, and prefer to be something else; It is not really a mystery. And this thing about Europeans demonizing African culture, well just imagine if they came to Africa and found Africans levitating and flying spacecraft, would they have demonized our culture then, sure they might have tried but it would not have stuck? Nobody successfully demonizes a culture that has more power than theirs. And people, of all races, creeds, and faiths, prefer to be associated with what they perceive to be more “successful.” The perception of backwardness, true or false; the perception of unsophistication, true or false, all factored into why things in Africa were replaced often with other faiths, cultures, customs, etc. And it was no different in Arabia, China, Europe and India. What came in, that was perceived to be better was often adopted, integrated, or substituted. People with a higher degree of agency selectively adsorbed new cultures, technologies, etc, and made them their own. People with weaker agency got imposed and had no ability to successfully make these new things their own, often their old ways were demonized and flushed out. That is the way of the world.
While most African cultures can be seen actively on the family level, and the day-to-day way people go about their lives, it seems to cut off when it comes to the corporate level. It does not become institutionalized in education, business, top level trading (stock markets), science, etc. European culture, on the other hand, is from top to bottom, not missing an inch of the surface it interacts with in the lives of not only Europeans but the entire world. So the cultural power of the Zulu people seems to stop dead at a certain level in society. They have no ritual holidays comparable to Eid and Easter, or the Jewish holidays. There is no ancient legacy institutionalized from which to draw new traditions from. And therefore it does not lend itself, outside of the odd ceremony, to the mainstay of the lives of South Africans. Ethiopian culture, on the other hand, does extend itself much further in the fabric of everyday Ethiopian society. It does have ancient traditions from which it draws its modern set up.
Only people with a strong cultural agency can look at new technologies and see the technologies as distinct from the culture of the techno-bearers. They can then skilful take the technology and leave what threatens their self-identity. The more agency the more this happens; the less agency the less this happens. It is as simple as that. If someone is now in a state of zero agencies, such as an enslaved African, then the impact of religion, culture, socialization from the other will produce a greater than 80% conversion into a cultural orphan.
Muslims, Christians and Jews. Romans, Ethiopians, Chinese and Persians. What do they all have in common? They were able to add a sense of prestige to their identity. It was, therefore, something perceived as successful— a brand—that everyone wanted to be part of. To be Muslim in West Africa in the 12th century was a kind of high life club; associated with the rich merchants. And we still see it today in places like South Africa, and even Ethiopia.
- Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah (2006) are Jewish coming of age
- Seun Osewa (2005) Inter marriage-culture – Nairaland