Africans race against time in preserving their heritage

Thousand of people gathered at Fountain Valley to walk to the Union Building on Heritage Day. People were dressed in their traditional clothing to show of their culture.
Thousand of people gathered at Fountain Valley to walk to the Union Building on Heritage Day. People were dressed in their traditional clothing to show of their culture.
Image: KABELO MOKOENA

September is Heritage Month when we celebrate cultural practices and traditions inherited from previous generations with the hope of preserving them.

The celebrations evoke a question of what it is that was inherited and needs to be passed on, and to whom it needs passing on. Young people play a vital role in the preservation of heritage lest the celebrations be seen as an exercise in futility.

As such, current generations have an obligation towards the younger and future generations. This is a responsibility that, among others, includes inculcation of morals necessary for the survival and development of the society.

However, one is inclined to opine that the immediate past generation negated its responsibility of passing over unifying moral values that define who people are as families, communities or a nation.

A generation that negates this responsibility towards the next poses a possible cultural and psychological crisis for the younger and future generations. This is likely the case in current times.

We live in times where certain defining and unifying values of families or communities have seemingly lost relevance.

On the other hand, the corresponding consequences to individuals, families and communities have been a cultural and psychological crisis.

These phenomena describe a state of inability of one to recognise and relate to their culture.

The opposite of this tendency as seen in current times is cultural appropriation, loosely understood as the adoption of foreign cultures, especially those of the Global North who strategically occupied positions of dominance over cultures of the Global South since colonial times.

Accordingly, local cultures have been decentred and the remnants, if any, are now visited on during specially marked days including wedding ceremonies and national Heritage Day. Decentering of one's own culture is tantamount to an erasure of own identity, which alienates an individual from the self, resulting in psychological crisis.

While psychological crisis may be understood in various ways, the best explanation is to point out to people's lived realities. Where marriages are concerned, many would identify with a man in their family who has cohabited with a woman for years without having followed due cultural processes for such an arrangement.

What does it say about the definition of marriage in the cultural context and what inheritance would children born in such a set-up have regarding marriage practices and tradition?

Many would also relate to a situation in their families or circle of friends of females who prefer to wear other people's hair, mainly to conform to certain foreign standards of femininity. If this perpetuates, will future generations know of the spiritual value of one's natural hair?

These are plentiful examples of cultural and psychological crisis that bedevil many African communities, giving rise to myriad social challenges that throw Africa into a dark abyss.

This is a challenge that calls for the strengthening of institutions of moral regeneration from which current generations can get the impetus to resuscitate what used to be culturally defining and unifying values as a people.

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