Identity Crisis Among Africans
In this jet age, it is difficult to tell who an African is, the standards that define an African are uneasy to define, as foreign cultures, languages, and philosophies have strongly influenced us to the extent that majority of Africans have abandoned African cultures and languages to imbibe foreign cultures and languages. Therefore, welcome to Africa; a continent where Africans travel to Europe and America to study African culture and languages; Welcome to Africa, a continent with vast agro-ecology and resources, yet her people takes pride in importing foreign food items; Welcome to Africa, a continent where her people abandon their beautiful and unique attires, tag them as archaic to purchase non-African attires; Welcome to Africa, where our mother tongues are forbidden in schools and official gatherings, while foreign languages are the best to understand and speak. Welcome to Africa, a continent where the culture is regarded as barbaric and neglected by her own people and foreign cultures are elevated; Oh welcome to Africa, a continent where children are raised with foreign languages as evidence of civilization. This may be strange, but this is the African experience.
I have travelled to a few African countries, there's a collective ignorance that I see in majority of us which makes us underestimate our identities, and take pride in foreign identities. The disconnect between Africans and their cultures have been traced to a few things which include: colonialism, western education, and influence of foreign media content. Some are of the view that the colonial masters robbed us of our culture by introducing their own cultural values; their philosophies were used to suppress our cultural standards. Further to this, some are of the view that the introduction of western education consisting of western oriented curriculum, our culture, languages and belief systems gave way, as teachings relegated the efficacy of the African culture to Africans. In this age, others believe western media stripped us of our culture. Anyone of these might have influenced the identity crisis faced by Africans today, but we must carefully understand that, our cultural values, belief system and language cannot be restored by blaming a particular race or group of people; after all, none of these foreign cultures were forced on Africans.
The worse irony! Africans abandon free access to their cultures and travel to Europe and America to study African culture with bogus fees. Interestingly, some of these courses in African culture are taught by white people who came to Africa to learn the same culture Africans leave their own soil to study overseas. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in its forecast had warned that if nothing is done, half of 6000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of this century. With the on-going challenge confronting African languages, the continent may have larger share in this forecast. Today, majority of African schools do not offer African languages as a subject. Since foreign languages are the official languages in Africa, our daily communications largely depend on them. More and more, our mother tongues become less relevant. However, UNESCO stated that well-planned and implemented language policies can bolster the on-going efforts of speaker communities to maintain or revitalize their mother tongues and pass them to younger generations. Thus, beyond blames, conscious efforts must be made by Africans to revive their languages and culture.
The diversity and value of African identities should serve as strength in a globalised world. Also, promotion of African contents in our media is very important in reinventing our cultural values. Being African is more than where you were born or grew up; it's a state of understanding our cultural values, living them and speaking the languages. If Africans do not reinvent their cultures, we will continue to travel overseas and pay high fees in foreign schools to learn our cultures and languages, we will continue to read our history written by foreigners. We must liberate ourselves mentally and celebrate our identities instead of celebrating foreign identities, foreign way of speaking, dressing, eating e.t.c. no culture is superior to the other.
Written by Rotimi Olawale