By Djanie, Akua
New African , No. 507
Globalisation. What exactly does it mean? According to the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, globalisation is "the fact that different cultures and economic systems around the world are becoming connected and similar to each other because of the influence of large multinational companies and of improved communication." The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, however, defines globalisation as when "social and cultural influences, gradually become similar in all parts of the world." Notice--"becoming connected and similar" and "become similar".
I agree the world is becoming more connected. But similar? Umm, I don't see it. What I see is the dumbing down and devaluing of other cultures, and the shunning of age-old cultural traditions that were passed on from generation to generation. Globalisation on the cultural level is not about the different cultures of the world becoming similar. It looks more like brainwashing for everybody to become the same. And yes, there are many cultures in the world, but I don't see the West shutting down for the Chinese New Year, although we all shut down for New Year as marked in the Christian calendar. For this piece, however, I am focusing only on Africa.
To emphasise my point, let me quote from the responses of two readers (NA, April 2011) to my reflections about the loss of African culture (NA, Feb 2011). The first reader, Stephan Brenner, wrote in from Ghana that globalisation is "providing a look beyond one's own traditional heritage, that should allow anyone to embrace other cultures and traditions openly in order to decide which pieces of a foreign culture are appealing or even enriching."
If this is a true definition of globalisation, than we have no problems. I have no issue with Africans embracing other cultures and traditions and taking on board what they find "appealing or enriching", as long as it does not devalue authentic African ways of life. Seriously, if Africans want to dance salsa all day, I have no problems with that. But when we start dancing salsa all day and refuse to see the beauty in African dance, that is where I have serious issues. Right now in Ghana, the youth are all about salsa. But ask the same young people to go to African dance sessions and they will turn their noses up at you. This is a problem because if all African youth across the 53 countries of the continent embraced foreign dances to the detriment of their own dances, the future of African dance would just be stories of what once was.
The second reader, Mikhalia Cupido, from Rwanda, mentioned the fact that I talked about Chinese girls in Ghana having their hair braided. She suggested that if they can do this, then it is acceptable for African women to take such an approach. Look, Chinese girls on holiday in Ghana deciding to braid their hair for a bit of fun can hardly be compared to what is going on in the minds of black women worldwide--the denial of their true self. Everywhere in the world, black women are wearing false hair as their daily look. This is their daily self-image. Black women are not wearing false hair as a bit of fun now and again. They are weaving false hair over their natural hair as their natural identity. Think about it. Really. Stop for one moment and really think about it. Black women worldwide cornrow their natural hair into a beautiful style, then with the aid of glue or a needle and thread, they add onto their natural hair the hair of a woman, dead or alive, from India, Brazil, Thailand and the like. Then and only then do they feel complete (well, some go as far as adding plastic nails and eyelashes!).
Do you not find something wrong with this picture? Chinese women worldwide are not taking on board African hairstyles as part of their daily appearance. Have you seen Chinese women, en masse in China, or the UK or France or anywhere else in the world, rocking Afros, braids, locks, nubian bumps, etc, as their daily image of themselves? …