Brother Pius Kwaku Agyemang, SVD
To understand the topic given to me, I should like us to look at the African culture in general. What is African Culture? As Aylward Shorter puts it, “Culture is a part of the human person – a person’s way of life or mode of being. Culture involves what the person thinks is important – his values. In the colonial period Africans were made to feel ashamed of their culture. They were completely passive. Their very being was conferred on them from outside.
Religious Values: Religion has a central place in the life of the African. In the consciousness of the African, God is ever present. The African offers prayers and sacrifices to God. He does this directly or indirectly through tutelary spirits.
The African recognizes the need for Spiritual values, such as love, kindness, compassion, generosity, peace, harmony and hospitality. For the African, spiritual values play a very important role to him and give meaning to life.
Humanity and Brotherhood: Traditional African cultures recognize the dignity and integrity of the human being as a creature of God. Our common brotherhood is totally linked with our common humanity: There is only one universal family, to which all human beings belong. This family is fragmented, however, into a multiplicity of peoples and cultures.
Communal and individual values: In the cultures of the African people, communal society is conceded basic to human nature and most adequately expressed in the community life.
It is the responsibility of every community to discover the potentials of every individual. Emphasis is therefore placed on such communal values as solidarity, cooperation, mutual helpfulness, interdependence, and reciprocal obligation.
At the same time, however, due recognition is given to the claims of individuality-individual initiative and responsibilities.
Moral Values: Moral values are the principles of conduct and behavior that are considered most important and cherished by a society. The moral values of the African societies are founded essentially of the African people’s experience of living together.
Morality deals with right and wrong. In Africa the ancestors and the tutelary spirits are the norms of the morality for their people. They tell their devotees what they must do.For them this is right. They tell their followers what they must do, and this is wrong. Their followers must do what is right and refrain from doing what is wrong. It is the code of their morality.
The Supreme Being is the overall norm of morality. He has put into all human beings a conscience. People know what they should not do. If they do what they should not do, they offended Him (God) by acting against their conscience. If they do what they should do, they have pleased the Supreme Being by doing what their conscience tells them and therefore, morals are derived from faith of religion and not from experience.
The Family: The family is recognized in African society as a fundamental and highly valued institution. Family in African
society means the extended family, which includes the nuclear family. Values associated with the concept of good African family include love, caring, interrelation, solidarity, mutual respect and mutual responsibility. Family members are conscious of the need to keep the family together and so makeeffort to prevent the fragmentation of these values. The Institution of marriage upon which the family depends for nourishment and continuity is considered so important that young men and women are encouraged to marry before they have children and what is more important, elaborate preparations are made before young people are advised to enter into a marriage – relationship. A marriage relationship however, is regarded in African societies as partially a union of families. The relationship is expected to result in the birth of children who are very highly valued in African societies. A marriage that fails to provide children are regarded as a great misfortune and will inevitably strain the relations not only between the man and his wife but also between the two families involved.
The Economic Values: Despite the communal society structure of traditional African society that is the “Clan” the beliefs and values of private property or enterprise were understood and practiced. Private ownership existed side by side with “Clan”. Families functioning as corporate entities generally operated independently of the chiefs tilling their own lands and pursuing their own economic interest and needs. It is clear, then, that the chiefs, Political heads, or Government, did not control the dynamics of the traditional economy even though they collected and received tributes and taxes from their subjects.
Chiefship and political values: In the traditional African political system, the chief is chosen from a particular Clan and holds the central position. His power is severely limited and he cannot embark on any action without the consent of the people.Even though in most politics, the chief is not directly elected by the people, he has to respect the wishes of the people and he has to rule in accordance with their will. Will of the people is politically infectious. The system allows for free participation in making decisions that affect the village, town or state.
Aesthetic Values: The artistic works are created to excite purely esthetic expression and not just enjoyment.
Art is conceived in purely esthetic as well as functional term: most artistic or aesthetic objects are considered as pleasurable. The objects that are aesthetically valued are works of arts in the field of visual arts (such as painting and sculpture), verbal or literal arts (such as epic and dramatic poetry) and musical arts (such as dance and song). Beauty is the central notion in African aesthetics.
Knowledge and Wisdom: Generally, knowledge and wisdom are highly appreciated in traditional African societies generally. Practical knowledge seems to be more stressed and pursued than theoretical knowledge or knowledge for its sake. Even though practical wisdom is cherished, theoretical wisdom is also appreciated because it can serve the purpose of man and his society.
Human Rights: The concept of human rights in the traditional African society is anchored in the ideas of human dignity and integrity and rooted in and supported by fundamental values, cherished and pursued by the African society.
African social, moral and political thoughts and practices recognize rights which implied human dignity and respect for persons that is; the right to freedom of speech, the right to political participation, the right to remove rulers, the right to food and protection against hunger, the right to the use of lineage, land and thus the right to work, the right to own private property, the right to receive fair trial and thus to receive justice and so on. These and other rights are recognized and protected in the Traditional African society.
Ancestralship and Tradition: All people whatever their culture, pay some attention to their past, and hence to their ancestors or forbearers. They show appreciation for the achievements of their ancestors through statues and plagues, Remembrance days, names given to children and other forms of Memorials. In Africa however, apart from the celebratory activities and practices, the believe that these ancestors are always around to provide help of various kinds which has led to an essential and constant attention to the ancestors.
We must surely remember and praise our forebears for their achievements.
Religion: The African is extremely religious and naturally spiritual. Before the coming of the Europeans, the Africans had their religions – that is they painted the African religion/culture as evil/black with all its values and norms making us believe that, the religion of the European is the true, genuine and authentic religion.
They also made the African believe his religion is inferior while the God of the “Whiteman” was superior because it is a revealed religion and religion of book.
Confrontation: The rituals, methods, media and approaches, the African used in worshipping their God were condemned by the European as fetish, ungodly and satanic. But these means, media approaches to worshipping the “Whiteman” God are not any different from that of the African. Some of these are the sacrifices offered, prayer style and pattern, hierarchy of prayer (through ancestors, spirits and to God) as opposed to that of the European way (through Saints, Angels and to God).
This is the point of confrontation. Does it also mean that African values such as love, forgiveness, hospitality etc. are evil as claimed by the Europeans painting everything African as black and evil?
Marriage: Human beings are social beings. So we are bound to interact and socialized in order to know our better halves for those destined to marry.
The traditional African marriage began with a background investigation of the couple to be done by the various families involved. This is because marriage is not just about the couple but also includes the families of the couple. This investigation was important to know the nature of family their ward was going to marry from or getting into. This helped curb indiscipline people from entering into certain families and also for the couple to know themselves better.
Unfortunately with a globalized world today, people feel and think they are more civilized so this important aspect of marriage has been thrown to the dogs. The consequences are the rampant divorces being witnessed all over and marriage disputes and troubles we are bombarded with, each day and night.
Secondly in the African culture, the traditional marriage is recognized as complete marriage lacking nothing only if all the required and essential rites are performed. However in the eyes of the Globalized Society an European Marriage Culture called wedding is proper marriage. So to the African it is double marriage which is not necessary. Today this “wedding” has “gotten people mad” so much so that they no longer value the African traditional marriage proper to our culture. A clash of culture indeed! Can the State not make a provision where traditional African marriage will be recognized so that within this rite the State plays a role to confirm and finalized this marriage than contracting double marriage?
Naming Ceremony, Outdooring and Procreation:For a person to be part of any group, he or she will have to be welcomed and received into the group. This is why in some African cultures like Akans (Ghana), the new born child is outdoor after eight days to welcome him or her to the family and the community and given a traditional name to be part of the family. However, in the name of globalization and civilization, many people have abandoned this essential African culture and gotten stuck to Western and Foreign style of naming and outdooring children. Others even down play it and replace it with infant baptism and dedication in the Church and also give foreign names to these innocent children. When the African begin to despise his or her own name now, where will his or her place be in this globalized society? What will be unique about the African? What will be the identity of the African?
Puberty Rites: Life is in stages in African society and so like a ladder, a girl has to go through these rites and stages and climb to the highest place. Virginity is the pride of every traditional African girl hence the reason for protecting it. One of the stages of life in the African culture is puberty rite. Here, a girl goes through certain rites so that she canduly be recognized in society as such. But with a lot of influence from other cultures through the various media – T.V., social media, internet e.t.c. many of the young women before they reach the age of puberty rite have already lost their virginity. And others do not even want to go through these rites because they think they are outmoded and irrelevant. This has resulted in sexual promiscuity among our teens culminating in teenage pregnancies and numerous abortions now. Indeed the African culture is being confronted. Is the African ready to stand up to the task to be counted?
Political System and Governance: Like any other culture, the
African society also had her own political systems in place,
concerning how she governed her people. It concerns the
chieftaincy system and kingship or the cephalous systems. The
families and clan heads equally placed vital roles in governance in
the Africa society. All was because for the African “we are,
because you are and you are because we are.” That is to say
communal attitude was strong in the Africa culture. However the
wave of globalization sweeping through Africa left behind a
political system called democracy which is foreign to the
African culture. Democracy as a governance system not
harmonious with the African values. It is a direct confrontation to
the original chieftaincy institution which not natural with the Africanculture.
Today in the name of democracy in globalized society people
who have no manners and values are elected into leadership
positions. And leadership in this era is not about service but powerand money.
Will Africa be able to meet this challenge by fashioning a political
system unique to our culture which can brace this global wave?
Folklores and Folktales: In Africa, knowledge and wisdom are
passed from the elders to the younger generation through
proverbs, riddles, wise saying stories, folktales and other games.
This is especially done in the evenings and moonlight periods.
During these periods the children are entertained and educated
through the above media. And so, these children also grow with it
and pass it on to the next generation.
However, having been caught up in an era of globalization with its
sophisticated operation in areas of science and technology,
information and communication Technology, internet, e.t.c.the
Africa culture is being confronted by the global culture. The
African is more interested in what happens on T.V. and the
internet, than the proverbs, songs, wise sayings, riddles, folklores
and the talks from the elders. They prefer to play games on the
internet, watch movies, get stuck to computers and be on the
social media. So most of the time, the African choose the global
culture, foreign to him or her and not the African culture.
Funeral: Dead for the African is not the end of life but a
transition to the next life. Hence some of the African culture say
“the person has been called by the ancestors to the village” Since
itis a transition, it is very important that the dead is given a
befitting burial. So most of the funerals among Africans are
solemn occasions enriched with rites and rituals to send the dead
to the ancestors in the next world peacefully.
However, today in this global world with its own culture, the
African has borrowed a foreign culture which is noisy, full of
eating and drinking, and sometimes spending lavishinglyon
unnecessary things. It is during this times that people make
money. The African is fast losing the essence of funeral and the
meaning of death as well as the need for that befitting burial for a
peaceful transition to the ancestral world. Where then is the
destination of the African, if we are losing what we hold dearly andcherish most to the culture of globalization?
Food and Drinks: Africa is green and natural, hence a healthy
continent. This used to be an attribute of our beloved continent.
The African eat from what he or she has cultivated, natural and
fresh from mother earth. He or she drank from the beautiful and
clean water which watered the fertile land.
Today in the so called global world, most of the food and drink on the
market are packed foods which are “junk” foods. They are filled
with chemicals and are no longer natural to possess their
essential nutrients. But surprisingly enough, many Africans prefer
these “unwholesome” foods because they feel and think
they are of a higher quality than our African natural foods. No
wonder scary and dangerous diseases which used to be heard
from a distance are flooding our continent day in and day out. All
because, we have lost our local dishes and accepted foreign
dishes; Hence the numerous continental dishes prepared by
restaurants and hotels all over the continent. So what do we
prefer, is it what is ours or borrowed materials?
What does the future holds for Africans as far as the globalized
world is concern?
This is a very important question that faces us all the time.
- What are values in general?
- How many sets of values do we have?
- What are African values?
- What new modern values have added to African values?
- What influence have they had upon our African value?
- How do we get the influence of the globalized society to refine the African values?
- What African values do we see in the past that our forefathers handed over to us?
- What African values are practicing presently?
- How do we marry the traditional African values and modern value (Western Values)?