Tag Archives: culture

Sunday Reads

  1. How to read more books this year. I am definitely taking it to heart by reducing my junk TV viewing and making sure I always have a book as I go about various chores.
  2. A reading list on Kenya in case you are interested.
  3. If a story moves you, act on it!
  4. This article on insecurity made me stop and think. Really hard!
  5. Somali nicknames are hilarious ūüôā
  6. So many white tears in this article. I see that they have only a given demographic of foreign spouses married to South Africans.
  7. Also, this IS cultural expropriation.
  8. More on how couples deal with finances.
  9. I didn’t know there were Nigerian Jews in Johannesburg. Today’s fact!!
  10. What does it mean to be a boy or girl? National Geographic asks 9/10 year old kids.
  11. Stealing from one of the comments, “This is by far the best article I’ve read regarding LBGT and the gospel.”
  12. Chocolate cake and another vegetarian pasta recipe.

The Centre Cannot Hold

I recently had occasion to read Things Fall Apart. I thought it would be quite overrated because how can it be that every single person would read this book and fall head over heels with it. BUT, I must say, it delivered on just about every aspect. It was an easy read, well written, timelss and very much classical. I loved it and would happily recommend it to anyone (like me) that hadn’t read it!

Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a ‚Äústrong man‚ÄĚ of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo‚Äôs fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. Source

My overall thoughts?

  • I loved that the story was told through a very flawed but relatable hero.I loved that he took the time to develop other supporting characters and they were not a hollow supporting cast.
  • I greatly appreciated the proverbs and had occasion to smile at the meaning behind some of them.
  • Based on my upbringing whereby I significantly identify with a Christian Culture, I found some of the content quite other-worldly and very steeped in what I would call Witchcraft what with all the ceremonies, the belief in ancestral worship and the blatant worship of idols. That made me very very uneasy.
  • Having said that, it was quite enlightening to see how things ran say Pre-Christianity as we know it . To see how the people ( past and present), their land and their “gods” were heavily intertwined.I believe that we are merely stewards of the earth and that to some extent we have abused it.
  • The last section of the book dealt with the early Missionaries and the Colonisers that came to Africa and I must say it made me so angry.I actually felt like my stomach would turn from the rage.
    • It bothered me so much that Christianity was so heavily intertwined with Western Culture. African culture was not perfect, ABSOLUTELY NOT! But it was unnecessary to introduce the faith within such a narrow slant. I wonder whether it makes White people uneasy how integrated Church is with predominantly their culture. Yes, I understand it is a generalisation as I have attended churches that are truly multicultural but they are often in the minority!
    • I doubt that we speak often enough of the brutality of the Colonial rule. Physically and emotionally, it dehumanised and destabilised people. Something I believe inexorably altered the application of the Rule of Law across most colonialised nations.
  • I loved the sense of Community that was described and in particular the description of one of Okonkwo’s neighbours daughters and how the village chipped in to make the day a success and memorable. This was particularly memorable in light of a conversation I had with friends earlier last week on whether they would go through with traditional negotiations or if they would skip it altogether. There is a communal part to marriage that one must experience -regardless of how tough or difficult it becomes.
  • As a modern woman some of the practices were a tad out of date for my liking and the one that is foremost in my mind is Polygamy. Just no.
  • The ending initially for me felt like a cope out but then as I reviewed it over and again in my mind, I could see how it would happen. Okonkwo had been broken down slowly and then increasingly over time. By the end, he was not himself.

Definitely, go out, read it and share and let me know your thoughts if you have already read it!

 

9. And what is my heritage?

UG independence day

Happy Birthday Uganda!! 53 today and counting ūüôā

South Africa has a Public Holiday on the 24th of September РHeritage Day. There is a bit of a history of this day. There is also ill-feeling around the fact that this has now been White-washed to National Braai Day which cheapens the day. Be that as it may, I would like to commemorate my own Heritage Day and share part of what makes me, me.

  1. I am not a refugee. I remember being in lower primary at school and hearing people call me one and I had honestly never heard that phrase and when I dutifully went home and asked my parents what it meant, I saw the disgust in their face and honestly thought it was a swear word. My parents moved to Kenya as part of the East Africa Community and they got jobs in Nairobi. Yes I am a foreigner, but a legal one and really a labour migrant.
  2. The same thing applies to my status in South Africa. I am proudly foreign but also extremely legal and here by choice. Weirdly, I had my own status prior to marrying a local boy. Yes I am aware that marriages of convenience do happen but by the time we got to settling down, they had tightened up all of those loopholes. And they continue to do so even to date. Don’t even remind the number of height of hoops we had to jump through to get married.
  3. Growing up in a very Ugandan home but in a foreign country, was never confusing. Not in the least. Without much explanation, it was always known what happened at home and what was non-negotiable and the level of influence that we could pick up outside and bring home and you just knew what fit where.
  4. Some non-negotiable Ugandan aspects? We always knelt to greet my parents and other visitors, we proudly bore only our Ugandan names- my mom was particularly clear about us using our first names that identified us as coming from my fathers community and not our middle ones that are from her community. Our foods always had groundnuts, we had groundnut sauce, sweet potatoes, amukeke (dried and steamed sweet potatoes),  matooke (plantain), atap (millet),  firinda (beans), obutusi (traditional mushrooms),  smoked and dried beef and fish. Just brought tears to my eyes and loads of salivating as I remember some of these meals.
  5. We also learnt Kiswahili and Sheng’ that was spoken by our contemporaries. We adopted¬†chapati¬†(flat bread),¬†ugali¬†(steamed maize flour)¬†and¬†sukuma wiki (kales). We wrote local exams and went to local schools living and mingling with predominantly Kenyans. My accent? How many times have I been in Uganda and had people walk up to me and refuse to accept that I am Ugandan because of my accent. I think it is now a confusing thing because the most I get is, “Are you from East Africa?”
  6. As I have gotten older, I have learnt not to question too much what makes me me. I have certain core beliefs that I hold dear to me and surprisingly, a lot of them are inspired by my Christian faith as I view that as my first and biggest cultural lens. Thereafter, in light of what makes the most sense to me as an African child. Some cultural practices differ from community to community and indeed nation to nation but for the most part, they are summarised by respect for all, care and regard for all and your enviroment and in some cases, there are gender expectations that you must adhere to.
  7. In planning the wedding, it did get confusing but even then it played out how I order my worldview – get all the requirements for the Church wedding out of the way and then get the traditional/ civil stuff finalised. The traditional stuff was a mix of both my mom and dad’s practices and you would expect it to be similar but it wasn’t and as long as I was told where to stand and what to do,I did and it got done.
  8. As I am getting older/ maybe in the last four to five years, I have seen an increased interest in my traditional dress (ssuka) and I delight in wearing it to special occasions. As a married woman, there is also additional jewelry that I get to wear it with which makes it even more special.¬†An interesting finding for me was also the fact that I asked my dad whether my grandma took my granddad’s surname and he told me two things: (i) in our culture, before the ¬†wazungu (White man) came, we didn’t typically take on surnames because it was taboo to name someone after yourself¬†unless the baby was born when you were going to die or were at war and were expected/feared dead¬† and (ii) names in our¬†culture are indicators of a clan and since a man¬†would never marry a sister (a fellow clanmate)¬†it was never expected that you would take on the new (clan) surname. On that note, I figured why take it on then?
  9. Something¬†I do¬†ask is what is Kenyan culture. What of that background contributes to me. A friend asked me recently, when you say you are going home, where do you mean? Unequivocally, Kenya. I KNOW the people, the context of stories, the language, the setting, so many firsts and memories singly and with others. ¬†It’s a whole part of my life and a part I love with such intensity, it is both exciting and scary. But is all mine to pick and play with.
  10. So happy heritage day and here’s to all the things that make me,me. Cheers!!

PS: If you are from Uganda (the Motherland), please let me know if my spelling of the food is fine – prior to now, I have never had to spell them out.

Motherhood and on women being gatekeepers for “culture”

The otherness

A friend and reader reminded me of this article on a writer and her husband who both decided against having children and it reminded me of a conversation I had with a workmate. (Back story: We work together for the same company not the same projects and stuff like that and we have only ever had conversations around the coffee machine and stuff like that.)

So she found out I am married (how little she knows me, anyhu!) and then asked when I got married and whether I have kids so I say, nah. I am only a newly wed. So she asks again, no kids at all. I was like no. So I am smiling but she has this look of utter disgust on her face and tells me how women that don’t have kids are impatient and so selfish she is looking at me like she can’t even believe she is having to interact with one. And suddenly, all her earlier thoughts of me were usurped by this knew knowledge.

My Aha! moment is the fact that either being married or being married in Africa has meant that so many women (strangers and known, alike) are so invested in my womb.

Always the question, when did you get married gets followed by, when is the baby coming with a pointed look at my stomach. Very¬†intrusive. I cope by giving lengthy timelines, to saying never, to talking about how we shall adopt dogs and the like. But I do get taken aback at the fact that this is a very sensitive topic because couples can fail to conceive for numerous reasons but such flippant questions could be hurtful and emotional for some other folk. More than that, is the fact that the concern is only with me and they don’t grill men half as much.

child-laughter

In the words of Janelle Monae¬†“get off my womb”urrggh!

Story of a Wedding: South African boy meets East African girl

Over the next few days, I shall be reviewing different aspects of the wedding. Please stick around and let me know your thoughts.

series

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So you know how you meet a boy at school, think his difference is fascinating, get to know him a bit and then you say yes when he asks you to marry him and the difference in culture suddenly becomes stark? No? Well, this is what I learnt from planning the wedding about the difference between a wedding in the East (of Africa) and those in the South.

  1. Something as simple as how does the bridal party make their entrance into the reception. In EA, the guests come and join in a single dance with the bridal party and they all dance in together. In SA, the bridal party has to perform a routine that they¬†rehearse and all the guests look forward to. In hindsight, it wasn’t too bad but as I don’t really like to dance, it was a bit of a bummer¬†in the period leading up to it.
  2. Dowry. Obviously both communities pay dowry and I am actually not opposed to it’s payment in case someone wants to comment about how backward/ sexist or whatever else. In Teso, the girls family will usually pick 100% of the¬†dowry from the boys home and that’s the traditional ceremony. Only men are involved and particularly from the paternal side. In¬†SA, the¬†malumes (maternal uncles) can and often get involved, there are quite a few stages to¬†it, gifts are given to the girls and boys family and part of the dowry is paid. This was a very contentious issue and I shall not say anything further about how it was resolved.
  3. Parental involvement. I thought this was more of a family than a South African thing. My parents weren’t super involved in the planning, they just asked about the highlights and the mega details, his parents and family were VERY involved. In EA, we plan weddings with peers who give time, money and their effort to make it a success, I can’t speak of what they do in SA as I never found out.
  4. I found out at the traditional wedding that in Tswana culture, the bride and groom have to spend some time at the boys home following the wedding. I have never heard of this practice back home ! It’s nice to know we can stay over but in reality, we will probably drive home in future rather than stay over at the in-laws just because home is not that far away off.
  5. I always knew that the groom kinda saunters down the aisle with his groomsmen, not so here where the mom/ a sister or special cousin gets to walk him down the aisle.

I am sure there were so many more lessons and I might update this list at a later stage/ as they occur.