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Wisdom from the rich African culture, heritage and ethics.

02.11.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Africa is widely regarded by outsiders as a continent of daft, primitive people with no sound morals, selfish and uncultured people. An African is thus seen by many as nothing more than a confused person, with no proper identity often wishing to be another person in speech, dress, and lifestyle. But that is only a compromised version of some modern Africans who have lost the true African identity of the forefathers hence the improper stereotype. A brief cross section of the diverse African tribes, their languages and value system will help to show that Africa's unadulterated cultures and ethics are immensely rich and full of profound wisdom that many people do not understand including many of Africans themselves. The following is an attempt to tell the world what it means to be an African through the long-established ethics, wisdom reflected in the languages, heritage and values of the African people.

In the Swahili language, there is a popular proverb that says: ‘Mti ambao haujikunji hukatika’ (A tree that does not bend will break). This basically means that one should be flexible and must not stick to their own position or opinion all the time.

This is a challenge to the arrogant self oppionated people that gives no room for divergent views. All that is said must be in sync with their line of thinking or else they will not accept it and it does not make sense to them.

From the Zula language spoken by several tribes of Southern Africa, there is a proverb that says: ‘Igula lendlebe aligcwali’…(ukufunda akupheli) translated to mean learning is an endless process. Thus, the ancient African man appreciated that one is ever a learner from birth till death. This challenge the ignorant to unclench such a life-threatening attitude of resisting knowledge and learn to embrace new life improving ideas and concepts. In support of the same, the Tsonga and Changani languages have a popular proverb which says ‘Tindlela tautomi hivutisa vakulu’ meaning to get the way of life we ask the experienced elders. Indeed, there are many people who found themselves in serious trouble because they did not do the simple gesture of asking for advice but ventured their foot upon dangerous precipice and never came back. Today we see companies closing down, economies collapsing and sound kingdoms falling gracelessly because people did not listen to advice.

Another classic proverb from the Kenyan kikuyu says, ‘Muthuri aikariire giti rungu rwa muti onaga haraya gukira kihii ki iguru ria multi.’ Literally meaning an old man seated under the tree sees much far than a young man on top of a tree. This together with many related African proverbs rubberstamped the undisputed need to respect elders. Should modern Africans hold to such important values in a society that is undergoing moral decay, they will be considered a people of mature manners. We are living in an information age. One may not obtain it from elders but from credible sources.

Looking into various practises across the African culture, they display a lot of wisdom behind the reasons why they are done. The traditional marriage ceremony of lobola payment is one such event that has deeper meaning behind it. Bride price is relatively high depending on various reasons among them bride’s family financial status. This helps to make sure marriage is only for those mature and organised enough to handle a family. Marriages entered by immature and financially incapacitated folks usually end up breaking. Thus, the culture of relatively high dowry prices discourages young juveniles from emotionally contemplating marriage when their financial muscle is weak to handle demanding family expenses. Moreover, the time taken to save up money for the bride price gives the two lovebirds time to consider their seriousness to marry each other before finally sealing it. The process of visiting other relatives like aunt and uncles help to get a third eye which the two are usually oblivious to, as emotions usually dominate the place of pragmatic reasoning.

In the African culture, in-laws especially from the bride’s side are revered and respected very much after their consent to give in their daughter for marriage. The respect naturally discourages the son in law from illtreating their daughter. Thus, when properly handled, the sacred nature of how bride’s parents relate with their son in-law helps to militate against male instigated domestic violence against woman.

The emphasis on respecting elders help to establish undisputed lines of authority to promote order. The belief that certain trees are sacredly not for firewood is a mitigant measure against deforestation. The myth that one suffers boils if they sit in the road curbes the risk of being ran over by travellers especially in this generation of automobiles. There is a popular Shona proverb that says ‘Seka urema wafa’ literally meaning one should mock those that are disabled only when they are in the grave. This discourages people from mocking others based on their disabilities, weaknesses and natural limitations. The whole concept gravitates towards oneness, selflessness and being our brother’s keepers. Thus, in Zulu they say, umuntu ngumuntu ngavantu literally meaning a person is a person through other people.

It can be seen that Africa has a very rich culture and set of values that makes much sense when closely examined and applied in the various facets of life. Globalisation has, however, distorted some of these African ways of doing things. Some view certain African practices as primitive but the difficult question to answer is, who is the adjudicator to come up with such a verdict?

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo Credit: google image/illustration

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