MORE OR LESS TRADITION?

  I am Joseph Sambi, the host of this column. And this season’s theme is whether there should be more or less dose of traditional practices in our lives today! Of course as Africans we grew up hearing that tradition teaches us where our ancestors had come from and where we’re going. Apparently without tradition our lives wouldn’t be good and clean.

Hence since the day we were born we had been taught to embrace our parents’ traditions, religions, values, conventions, politics, and perceptions. Indeed we had no choice but to conform because our traditions do empower the whole village to raise one child.

Nonetheless, why this particular dialogue you may ask? Well, I’m obliged to mention that personally I also didn’t know that traditions can be updated where necessary until I studied and eventually worked abroad is when I discovered how other great nations on earth had reformed their traditions to make room for modern civilization. Yet that made me realise that we don’t do that in Africa. We don’t fix traditions in Africa. A tradition to us is sacred. A tradition controls people; people don’t control traditions! For argument’s sake, as a Niger/Congo family branch of the Bantu-speaking farmers in Southern Africa, traditions we have here had started in West Africa long before 3000 BC. I guess even I wouldn’t interfere or tamper with such traditions that appear to have a full grown life of their own. Under such conditions, therefore, it’s easier to conform and leave traditions alone than trying to change them in any way. Unfortunately our African traditions leave much room to be questioned because they are completely in contradiction with modern civilization. The moment we start talking about modernization, commercialization, and globalization in terms of development, our traditions go out of the window straight away! Either way we look at this argument, the fact still remains that some of our traditions need a quick fix because they are utterly outdated. After all, they were designed over five thousand years ago for farming and survival purposes.

Those days polygamy was completely accepted and therefore normal for a man to marry multiple wives so as to grow sufficient crops, yet men in our society today are still allowed to marry as many women as they can afford due to our perpetual traditions. By the same token, it was also fitting for men to pay LOBOLA those days as a measure to strengthen marriages, but men today after paying LOBOLA do take it for granted that they have just bought a woman, hence enslaving her throughout her adult life. And it was absolutely normal those days for parents to speak local languages with their school-going-children at home because they weren’t educated, yet due to our traditions, it’s still highly inappropriate today for traditional parents, regardless of their unmatched level of education to speak English with their school-going-children at home or elsewhere!

 

 

 

 


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