By Paschal Obi
As our lives unfold as Africans, our generation today experience an uncritical adoption and assimilation of foreign values which are incompatible with our rich African heritage and profound values. The velocity at which our rich cultural values which make us peculiar and distinct from others wear off calls for an immediate attention. There is today a disintegration of the African person; his soul is corrupted and is in crisis and this is expressed in self-alienation. We have lost our sense of the sacred, the sense of communal living and hospitality, the sense of time, the sense of language and proverbs, the sense of respect for authority and the elders.
In the African sense, speaking a language means the ability to express oneself adequately in the proverbs, riddles and idioms of a community. African school children and their parents had developed the impression that English was the language of advancement and therefore disavowal was done to indigenous languages in favour of English. This impression has persisted to the present period. Some graduates cannot read, write or even speak their native language. Some indigenous names are been phonetised in English.
At public events, such as weddings and funerals, typical African women stay a day before in preparation for the delicacies. They cook meat in a large iron pots until it shreds. Pounded yam with Soup, African Salad, yam porridge, and Moi-moi are often served. People served heaping plates of food, often demand for more. Palm-Wine and ginger beer are used to accompany the food down. Today, our women are turning our kitchen into fast-food arena. It’s not a surprise seeing their children developing balloon stomach.
As a kid, during holiday period, I enjoyed the moon light tales from my late grandparents. Always beginning with “Once upon a time.” We heard stories that explained why the crab has a shell, the bat flies at night and also about wars between Spirits and mortals, between the aerial and terrestrial animals, between the hunter and the lion, and so many others. We chanted joyful and sometimes sorrowful songs while we listened. These stories and tales contain deep mysteries that reflect our culture, history and values.
According to an African saying, “The child who carries an elder’s bag has a very good chance of being a wise man.” Under the digital millennium, children no longer gather to listen to wisdom of the ancients. With their phones, they remain in-door, in the name of chatting.
Thus, there is no room for interpersonal relationship among family members.
The colors and patterns of the beadwork distinguished tribes from one another. The styles of beaded clothing have differentiated people by sex, age, and social status. Nowadays virtually everything has been mixed up. Suites are sown in natives, and women wear natives in trousers. Others wear rags in the name of fashion. Women apply cosmetics to the extent that they resemble ‘adamma’ (a masquarde in Igbo land).
Most traditional African music is more than just aesthetic expression. It permeates African life and has a role to play in events; religious ceremonies and festivals. Their lyrics teach, give guidance, and express political approval or discontent. African artists ranging from Fella cuti, Bongus Ikwue, Osadebe, Oliver De Coque (People’s Club), Moroco Nwammaduka (Eze-Egwuebili). Philosophies, valuable truths and facts of life are seen in their songs. Their words of wisdom flows like fountain and their truth deeper than the ocean. The Instrumental rhythm itself contains some powerful tones that elevate the spirit. In “Things fall apart,” Okonkwo the village wrestler got motivated by the sound of the African flute (Oja). In our modern world, Westernization has used musics and movies to gain access to the mind of the youth. They encourage pride, indecent dressing, self-gratification, and immoral acts. These fowl exposures have cunningly gained control of the society. So plausible is its dancing steps that the wiles are not conscious of it.
African has a rich sense of communal living. Africans illustrates this with the analogy of the bambo and iroko tree, saying, ”The bambo trees that stand together in a cluster or in unison easily withstand the onslaught of the whirlwind and thunder-storm, but the isolated and lone-standing bambo or iroko tree are easily destroyed. “Gidi gidi bụ ugwu eze,” this means that unity is strength. “A nyụkọ mamiri ọnụ, ọ gba ọfụfụ,” which means that things function effectively when all hands is on deck. However, Africans live with the notion that ones neighbour is part of the family relation; ‘Ezi Nwanne amaka, nakwa Agbata obi onye bu nwanne ya.’ However, it would be a height of incredible bad manners for one to eat anything however small, without sharing it with anyone else present, or at least expressing the intention to do so.” What makes a broom to function effectively is when the single sticks form a bunch. Like a broom, Africans find the wisdom to lead and the courage to go through life by using their endowments, time, and talents to compliment and complement one another.
The community life creates a sense of amity and security among the members of society. It fosters respect for elders and constituted authorities. Chinua Achebe, a popular Nigerian author, in his book ‘Tale by the Moonlight’ said: “The gathering at the village square by moonlight to tell stories is not because people did not see the moonlight in their father’s compound, but for the beauty of it, they came together, which in turn foster peace, love and unity.” According to J. S. Mbiti’s, in Africa, the individual does not and cannot exist alone except corporately.” Modernization has totally killed the spirit of inter-personal relationship. ‘I don care’ attitude has taken the driver’s seat. People help one another demanding immediate or an exact equivalent in return. Death and suicide is now on increase. Respect for elders is no longer cherished. Individualistic and atheistic living now prevails.
Festivals in Africa are not just only a good time of relaxation, but a key element in the development and promotion of culture. Such festivals include; New Yam festival, mass return, Igu aro, remembrance, etc. The events bring people together, and attract visitors from all over the world. It creates jobs and raises the community status. There is never a dull moment at any festival. Event comprises of drama, music by different artists, dance by different dancing groups, masquerade display, display of art and craft, etc. But today, parents and children no longer attend festivals, regarding these heritages as old fashion, uncivil, primitive, and antiquated. They believe that festivals are only meant for the elderly ones. Indeed, such attitude is inimical to authentic development.
The frequency at which our rich cultural deposits wears off calls for an immediate attention. If we do not uproot the weeds when it is a seed, it will be very hard to stop when it is a tree. Our elders say that the blacksmith who does know how to forge a metal gong should look at the tail of a kite. If we African stand tall it is because we stood on the shoulders of many ancestors. These values and heritage that are superlatively fading away are the African pride and glory.