Our identity as a people is our culture—the distinguished values and patterned way of life that manifest in what we collectively hold to be true: what we wear, what we do and how we do them. But now when radical relativism, and unrestrained cultural assimilation are the order of the day, I worry that the erasure of our culture and consequently, collective identity as a people may be at hand.
It can be safely stated that there’s no society without a culture that binds it together, guarantees its continued survival and in whose absence would stem constant dissension and discordance. However, it is a fact that culture is dynamic, it is ever susceptible to change through assimilation, the social process of absorbing one cultural group into harmony with another through interactions.
The flexibility of a culture, according to Idang, can be observed in the pre-European-contact African pattern of trade—trade by barter—that changed upon the invention of currency as a standardized means of exchange. Equally, Africa’s ignorant and superstitious value surrounding multiple birth as a harbinger of evil which enforced the killing of twins and their mother prior to the arrival of Mary Mitchell Slessor (1848-1905) was rebuffed; a result of which is a modified African culture that allows the inclusion of twins and their mother in its society.
Every change in an aspect of a culture can be perceived as either benign or inimical by a part or a majority of the people of the influenced society. The case of the discontinued killing of twins and their mother is perceived largely as progressive, however it is noteworthy to mention that not all African customs are negative and harmful.
The traditional African culture is collective in nature and places much value on kinship ties. Families hold their members close through meal and farmland sharing and building of houses in the same vicinity. This collective nature deepens love and harmony and its abandonment for the western individualistic style has led to estrangement among family members.
Africans in this modern era are constantly changing in their ideals and beliefs but much of what is responsible for our change are not formulated by us.
For example, the belief in the existence of God, god or gods is a generic trait in Africa. In fact, every ethnic group in Nigeria has a deity or deities it worships and believes in. Now however,
in tandem with the increase of atheists in the western world— America and Europe— the population of atheists in Africa has been noted to be on the rise.
Traditionally, Africans are subscribers of natural order of things, such as the belief that only man and woman should come together as a couple. However, this too is changing as the population of African sexual minority groups have been observed to be on the rise concomitantly with the increase of sexual minorities groups in America.
Modern Africans are educated but hard to find among us are individuals who have pioneered at least a single, truly independent quest for national and world social development or promote an independent ideology relevant to their nation and continent or the world at large. Rather, we relay information and experiences on another’s authority but never from our original investigation.
From the foregoing, it can be observed that the African culture is changing due to unrestrained western cultural assimilation and that the modern African people are losing their identity to trends.
A culture is generally an unwritten standard agreed upon and lived by, by members of a society and in whose absence abound constant dissension. And although culture shifts by nature to accommodate new discoveries and modern demands, it can only accommodate so much before it loses all its original traits and eventually crumbles. In this vein, I fear that the African culture would soon be lost, should the African people continue to propagate derivative truths and ideologies instead of forming theirs based on what is relevant to their society; should they continue their unrestrained cultural assimilation and should modern Africans fail to recognize and discontinue their servitude to trends.
It is imperative at this juncture to state that the true African culture is already broken. I mean much of what defines an African today, are handed down to him: from the title, African man, the nationality, Nigeria, in fact, to the language of this essay and the gadget used to compose it.
Hence, this essay is not an appeal to revert Africans to the primitive age where we use spears and arrows to hunt for food. Rather, it is an appeal for cultural independence which is imperative for the survival of the African culture in the global age.
A smart phone and a passable internet access make for easy interactions with people from other culture in this global age. This, coupled with our history of slavery and our perception of anything foreign as better than ours are responsible for our easy susceptibility to assimilation and trends.
The consequences of Africa’s continual unrestrained cultural adoption are cultural modifications—which is prominent in our new understanding of social norm and debased values and mores—and a shift from collective truth to radical relativism— the theory that conceptions of truth and moral values are not absolute but relative to the persons or group holding them.
It is important that we Africans protect our identity should we desire for our culture to remain relevant. And this can be achieved through:
• Deliberate selective acceptance of foreign cultures by individuals.
• Promotion of own culture and heritage on daily basis by individuals, celebrities and government through fashion, music and art.
• Campaign for positive attitudinal change of Africans on African bodies and products.
• Inclusion of African heritage in modern inventions such as digital games, web themes, mobile app interface etc. by African programmers, game developers and software experts.
• Encouragement of local inventions by African leaders through funding and market creation.
• Youth dissociation from the crowd mentality and discontinuation of their loyalty to western trend.
1. Gabriel E.I. African Culture and values, University of South Africa (UNISA Phronimon), 2015, Volume 16, Print ISSN 1561-4018, pp. 97–111, pages 106 & 109.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_Africa2. Wikipedia, April 29th, 2019, Irreligion in Africa, accessed July 01, 2019.