Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

The Appropriation of African Cultural Values and Practices as a Strategy in True Nation Building in Post-Apartheid South-Africa: Model and Lessons from Lawino and Ochol Relationship

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

The Appropriation of African Cultural Values and Practices as a Strategy in True Nation Building in Post-Apartheid South-Africa: Model and Lessons from Lawino and Ochol Relationship

Article excerpt

Stop despising us, my man, don't look down on us,

Africans have traditions that are good

Don't fool yourself that your ways are bad

African cultures are solid, not hollow,

Neither thin, nor weak, nor light and flimsy.

But Ochol, although you have read up to university

You are big for nothing, you have no weight

You cannot guide us, addicted as you are

To copying foreign ways

As if your people have none of their own:

We have nothing to expect from you now

You deserve a beating for your loose tongue.

The cultures of other people I do not despise:

Don't you look down upon your own;

Borrowed stuff can never become your staple food

Don't uproot the culture of your land.

The above-mentioned stanzas are from a book titled, The Defence of Lawino, by Okopt 'Bitek, which has been translated from Acholi language spoken in Uganda to English by Taban lo Liyong (2001: 9). In a form of prose, with the council of elders as her audience, Lawino the wife of Ochol the prince of Ocholi people pleads with her husband to refrain from insulting her and his people. The prince possessed by the "demons of colonisation," that has got into him through Western education and religion, turns his back on African indigenous culture and starts to refer to every part of it as stupid and backward. To totally dislocate himself from his cultural heritage, he becomes estranged from the princess and marries a new wife, who like him has imbibed Western school education, has a Christian name, has gone through Catechism, and appreciates the music of foreigners and can also dance like them.

On the other hand, Ochol as a prince in an African village is expected to be the guardian of the shrine, meaning the protector of the African cultural values and practices, the people and its fauna and flora. However, typical of a disorientated and disorganised African persona instead of finding the good and the bad from both cultures, he completely divorces himself from his origins and everything that defines him as a person in time and space. He blindly embraces the whole of Western culture, in a manner that Lawino describes as the worst white apemanship that she has ever come across.

With this background as a point of departure of our submission as it will unfold here-under, it cannot be easily disputed the fact that apartheid is a socio-cultural and political system that was engineered towards the total subjugation and domination of the indigenous people in South Africa. It thrived on its use of culture as a tool of oppression and dehumanisation. As in Ochol's case, through Western religion and education, the colonised became alienated from their indigenous cultural heritage. Worst of all the colonised communities through the acts of the coloniser became polarised into the civilised and the uncivilised. The former being represented by those that became fully immersed in foreign ways and the latter by those that like Lawino remained rooted in their own indigenous cultural values and practices. As Ngugi wa Thiongo (1986: 16) rightly points out the "economic and political control can never be complete or effective without mental control ... [precisely because] ... to control a people's culture is to control their tools of self-definition in relation to others."

Therefore as an antithesis it should be acceptable that in order to address adequately a situation in which there has been a forceful encouragement of ".a disjunction in cultural continuity as a result of the western presence" (Seda 1994/95: 50) that the assertion and affirmation of the essential elements of African cultural heritage be recognised as an indispensable strategy necessary for the total socio-cultural transformation process in the postapartheid South Africa.

Then, the aim of this essay is to identify and analyse a few of progressive African idioms, specifically from Sotho languages, that refer to true nation building efforts and equity conscious relations. …

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