Our Culture is Our Shared Identity

“We are a product of our cultures that shape our ideals into the people we are.”

I’m amazed by the tendency of Africans to let go of their cultures in pursuit of modernity and civilization. The challenge I’m always faced with in these circumstances is the fact that in every case, we strive so hard not be affiliated to the community from which we come yet that very community is an embodiment of the ideals we live by. Growing up in the village, I was privy to the teachings of the culture most often learning from my father by the fireplace through stories and experiences on the life he had growing up. It wasn’t perfect but it was an embodiment of the values they embraced and lived by.

Different African cultures had taboos which were aversions against what wasn’t to be expected of an individual as per the teachings of the community. Today I had a moment to reminisce over the same with an elder who diligently shared with me on some of the key teachings of the Kalenjin community and in retrospect there isn’t much of a difference from my very own community. From respect of elders, obedience to patients, a sense of responsibility inculcated in individuals at a young age among others. Listening to the sense of camaraderie that existed in the communities, you realize their oneness that was embraced and promoted among communities for the advancement of the values and ideals of the culture.

With civilization came a desire to ape the whites with blacks embracing an identity that they perceived to be superior with little regard for who they really are. This has led to the erosion of our cultures to a point that I already fear for the next generation that may never get to know about their history that’s slowly being eroded and shunned. I’m not suggesting that civilization came with no gains, it’s had it’s fair share of contributions to our lives but the complete disregard for our ideals and values as cultures isn’t a solution. In the current context people shun cultures in the name of fighting tribalism. How can you fight tribalism by denying who you are? Do you blame yourself for being the person you are or the negative attributes you manifest that disregard the very ideals of your culture yet you are fast to blame them on your ethnicity?

I was recently watching a YouTube video, Chronicles of a Culture, recorded by a group of young people working to document cultures in Kenya specifically the Luo Culture, one that I believe I’ve grown to learn more about. I am worried about the erosion of the culture with only bits being conserved yet even this is diluted by the very western cultures. Even our religious beliefs have been consumed by Christianity and Islam among different cultures. Didn’t we have our Gods? Didn’t we have a belief system? More questions, fewer and fewer answers as always.

I believe it’s time we embrace who we are, shun the negative attributes we place on our cultures, strive to document some of our cultures and at best pass the values on to our children for it’s through them that we manifest our ideals as a people with a common identity and ancestry.

“We don’t outgrow our identity and heredity. It’s always a part of who we are however much we run from it.”

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