Being Ugandan born and South African raised really made it difficult for me to associate with a cultural group and the traditional practices of an ethnic group. First of all, I’m from the Buganda clan, making me a Muganda by birth. I grew up in the Eastern Cape among the Xhosa, and now live in Johannesburg with its interesting diversity.
Growing up, I wasn’t really concerned with getting to know the ways of my ancestors, and the average black kid would describe me as an A-grade coconut. My parents always told me that one day, I’ll start looking for a sense of belonging, and that day came, when I asked the question: who am I? At this point, I started trying to correct the “wrongs” of my past and trying to associate myself with my cultural heritage by learning the language, the customs, the traditions, so that I too may become an A-grade child of the soil.
But then as time went on, I started questioning the very heritage I was seeking to become a part of. The question was: why are we as Africans so focused on continuing the traditions and customs that have been passed down from our ancestors?
From a young age, a child is taught that this is the way things were done, the way things are done, and the way things should continue to be done. That child grows up teaching his children the very same thing, and this is passed down from one generation to the next. We think this breeds pride, but truthfully, this breeds stagnation. Without ever questioning what is done, there is no room for innovation, leaving little room for the advancement of society.
I am not implying that our history should be thrown out. History is good and forms the foundation for innovation. Knowing the current state gives a base for improving things, and gives an opportunity for progression. Many people look at this and say this is throwing African culture away and embracing European culture as superior, but even that is representative of the blind conformance toculture that I have been speaking of. Blindly following any culture, African or European, is anti-progressive and will continue to hold this continent back.
Yesterday, while watching CNN, it was encouraging to see the English starting to question the relevance of the monarch. It would be encouraging if we as Africans, quit looking back all the time and start moving forward to advance our society and the continent as a whole from the traditions of our ancestors to a better environment than what they left.