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African culture, a culture of togetherness and love, is dying away slowly

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African culture, a culture of togetherness and love, is dying away slowly. In the Traditional African Society, ATS, our ancestors upheld many values, principles and virtues, which the average youth today has branded “old fashioned” and “local”. But who is to blame? Us! Yes, you and I are to blame, and not the influence of Western world. We foolishly and blindly pick whatever is thrown our way because we look up to them. I’m not trying to completely disregard western culture. Western culture has got a lot to offer, both positive and negative.

Some of us have gone to school, and some have got good jobs, thanks to the western influence. The cool phones, computers and all forms of technology, we have the foreigners to thank for that. However the problem comes in when we fail to sieve what they send our way. We just grab everything they discard, be it good or bad. It is true that change is inevitable and part and parcel of life, but change has to be positive to be worth it. Naturally African civilization has really got loads to learn from the more technologically and industrially advanced western civilization.

The only problem is that when the door opens up to the good, the bad also gets in. A case in point is the issue of language. Many a time Ugandan youth are heard shunning vernacular speaking in public. For crying out loud, vernacular is our mother tongue, the same language that our fathers and fore fathers spoke. Not the foreign languages being adopted by Africans living abroad. Ugandans of the colonial era took up English because of the need to communicate with their masters and bargain for independence, which they were fortunately able to acquire. Now with our regained independence, after 49 years of being independent, some people still consider English as an accolade of honor, shunning our very own as shaming! Disrespect has become the order of the day.

The youth no longer want to kneel before their elders, because this, according to them, is a sign of “total backwardness”. A mother asks her daughter to help peel the potatoes, and what she gets is “Come-on mum, I just did my nails” or a grandmother asks for a glass of juice, only to be told “Don’t you know where it is?”. The Bagwere have a proverb that says “Eibega tirikira mutwe” (The shoulder can never grow taller than the head.) This proverb indicates that in Africa, the young cannot defeat the old. Elders should be recognized and respected. The elders had power to curse and bless.

They could therefore not use their words carelessly, and the power of their word was taken seriously. Western culture especially the entertainment bit has undeniably had the biggest impact on us. Violence bearing movies have sort of legitimized violence and rap and rock music has done the same for drugs, crime and sex. What we don’t understand though is that these things are supposed to be taken at face value, but instead we try hard to emulate our “role models”. Our fascination with what doesn’t belong to us has been very detrimental to African culture.

Western culture is some kind of typhoon that is eroding our cultural values, principles and virtues. A culture that is eating away at our social roots and values. Those before us fought to keep and preserve our culture, yet we warmly welcome what they militated against. We expelled political colonization but we now stupidly embrace social colonization. Let us be the change we want to see in the world today. Let’s instill these values in our children while they are still young.

The Bakiga have a saying; “Akati kainikwa kakiri kabisi” (A twig is bent while still supple.) Let us teach and form our children while they are still young, let us address and change circumstances before it’s too late. For a change it would be kind of cool, like the youth like saying, to see an African youth in their designer jeans and T-shirts, acting African and not trying to imitate a music commercial gimmick like Lady Gaga or Eminem. I’m going back to my roots, and I hope to meet you there. by Imelda Mirembe

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