I’ve always described myself as proudly African and maintained that being African is a soul definition and inexplicable connection one felt to the continent- void of skin tone, hair texture and dialectical specifications. However, I’ve recently come to assess several cultural norms, habits and ways that one may consider particularly African. Indeed there are distinct cultural differences across various African countries, for instance having twins in East Africa is seen as a blessing, whereas in some parts of Nigeria they are seen as a curse and in ancient times newborn twins were rejected and even sacrificed at birth. However, there are also several shared beliefs across many African nations, that one may generally deem “being African”. Here are a few examples:
- Treating a visitor as “king”, ensuring they are well taken care of and receive the best of everything the host can offer. This recently became a topic of discussion when two of my South African friends (also teaching in Korea), spent the night at an African American’s apartment and were casually offered the floor while the host comfortably collapsed on her bed- leaving them wide mouthed and in utter disbelief.
- Treating elders with utmost respect, even if they occupy lowly societal or occupational positions.
- Ubuntu- Umuntu, Ngumuntu, Ngabantu.. I do not need to delve too deeply into the meaning of this; however it is interesting to note that in several texts it has been described as “humanity, compassion, and goodness, regarded as fundamental to the way Africans approach life”. Whether, we as African’s truly embody this concept the way we should, is another article altogether.