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BN Hot Topic: One Man’s Culture, Another Man’s Abomination

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Thanks to the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, this week has been photos galore on BellaNaija. It was fashion at its peek from our favorite celebrities and as always, the comments section is a place for a good laugh on a dreary day.

I noticed a few comments in particular; along the lines of some of the outfits being overly exposing. Some people alluded that our celebrities are slowly embracing the western practice of nudity which was strictly against Nigerian culture. It made me think about what actually constitutes “Nigerian culture”.  For example, it is believed that full draped clothing came with the advent of the West and as such, by logic, the point of our dressing tilting towards nudity is actually “coming home”.

GeneThen I started thinking specifically of some Yoruba cultural practices that I’d learned over the years. For instance; handing over things to someone older than you has to be done with your right hand – that one gets awkward whenever I’m passing by the Lekki toll and I’m trying to pay… my mind does a quick “Is he older than me? Should I take my hand off the gear stick to give him the money? How does this work exactly?” 

This thing called “culture and tradition”- Where does it start and where does it end? Let’s look at some other examples:

A few decades ago, it was believed that twins were an abomination and therefore, they were cast into the forest and killed. Today, they’re celebrated. Which is it really? Has our culture really evolved?

It has been widely reported that in a certain part of Benue State, the wives are sent to entertain the male guests.  Asking a few people from Benue, they said they had heard it being said but none of them could actually attest that it is a practice that actually exists in reality. Someone said “you know how people start some types of gist and some how it keeps getting passed on and then it becomes a thing“. That raised the factor of myths that suddenly become reported as traditional practice. As I dug deeper into this subject, I found something on a website where the subject of culture was being discussed.

“A lot of absurd tradition actually exist and most people don’t talk about. In my hometown [ekuku-agbor in Delta state], when a woman loses her husband,she is to shave her hair. for the next seven days.Also, it is her cry that would wake the entire village up. if she does not cry loud enough to wake up the whole village,she would be fined a white goat. Throughout the duration of those seven days,she is not to take her bath or brush her teeth. She can only eat with broken or discarded plates and cups which must not be washed. After the burial of her husband on the 7th day,she would spend the night by his graveside and then on the morning of the 8th day,the eldest daughter of her husband’s family would then take her to the stream and give her a good scrubbing. Only then can she be said to have honored her dead husband. I have watched two of my aunties go through this but it only applies if you’ve subjected yourself to the traditions before your death.”

So what is culture? Is there a universal “Nigerian” or “African” culture? Who determines what is cultural? Does culture truly evolve with civilization? Is it then really dynamic, as they say? What are some of the cultural/traditional practices that are specific to the area you are from?

Let’s discuss!

Photo Credit: blog.stetson.edu

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website atoke.com for more information.

41 Comments

  1. Prettyme

    March 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Menn…i love dis babe. Geny i love u so much bt dis dressing is on like u. Next time pls dress a little decent like d decent & beautiful lady i knw u off. * muaa* i love u

  2. ZM

    March 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    No culture doesn’t evolve with civilization, culture is the embodiment of our cosmology, ontology and praxis. It’s rooted in our deep structure as Africans, no matter how much we think we are “evolving” our culture will still be the same. Behaviors however changes with globalization. Especially in a country like Nigeria where most of us suffer from double consciousness due to exposure through our system of education (British/American) the media and traveling. So it’s understandable that you will have various kinds of opinion about nudity and indecent exposure in the commentary.
    http://www.uberchicmichi.com

    • LOL

      March 14, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      No, culture changes. Culture is a way of life and the way of life of a group of people can change over time.

    • Iris

      March 14, 2013 at 6:49 pm

      Err…no. First off, one of the things primary school Social Studies will tell you is that culture is dynamic. At any point in time it’s defined as the way of a particular people. If something used to happen a certain way in the past and it doesn’t happen that way any more then the culture has changed (for better or worse depending on your perspective). Behaviour, my dear, is a significant aspect of culture.

  3. meeT

    March 14, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Don’t mind these people. They are quick to throw out “our culture” when it comes to a woman dressing in a way they’re not comfortable with. As if their great grand parents knew what clothing was before western civilization.
    A “culture” that shows more outrage when a woman decides to show off her body than rape, incest, corruption and domestic abuse is a ridiculous one.

    • Funmi

      March 14, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      Took the words right out of my mouth.

    • Cello

      March 14, 2013 at 6:27 pm

      Oka now, Please run around in your birthday suit you hear!

    • Landon

      March 14, 2013 at 6:43 pm

      True Word!

  4. LOL

    March 14, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    I also noticed a few people in the previous comment sections state that exposing some part of the body is actually Nigerian culture sans when you consider some of our cultural dance outfits.

  5. SUE

    March 14, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    Display pix is “UMOJA” fantastic act. I really enjoyed watching it.

  6. Havoc

    March 14, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    All this “African culture” nonsense makes me laugh. Once people don’t agree with something personally they start crying “its not our culture” bla bla bla. Abeg.
    Next.

  7. 5'5

    March 14, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    these same ‘culturists’ will goo oogle at the xhosa girls in the Umoja show as they are topless and barely covered.
    kmt!
    The conflict with nudity and culture is actyually between nudity and religion because before we learnt how to spin cotton and make yarn, we barely had what today is refered to as clothing. so how is nudity not part of same culture?!

    What makes us cringe is religion. religion makes us conservative, culture gives us roots, they are two very separate things.

    Next time please say “in our Religion….” and not ” in our Culture…”

  8. YVONNE

    March 14, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    And are the umoja’s not exposed too??

    • SUE

      March 14, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      they are my dear, in fact live boob and to think that before the white man discovered us the women were walking around topless #KMT

  9. Partyrider

    March 14, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    My take is simple:I am all for decent dressing,but when people decide to say “it’s not part of the Nigerian culture” or “morals in Africa” I begin to laugh out loud. Why?
    Morality is DEAD , in Nigeria,in Africa ,in the west, world wide! This is a fact. Look at our generation and all the evils and you would agree..
    Some of the people saying things like these are those that commit adultery ,fornication and all sort,even the “smallest” sin included e.g lies (I am not judging cos I’m a great sinner myself) ,so is that part of our “culture” or “morals”

    Lets just face a simple fact,this generation is a mess.the world today is a mess,Africa included.
    Again i say: Morality is dead in Nigeria,in Africa,in the world..Evil and sin abound.

    Do what is morally and culturally right for you,believe what you believe,live and let live.

    • Partyrider

      March 14, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      And if you want to go the line of religion: live by what your religion preaches to the FULL..no half measures. Don’t choose what to abide by and want you think you can bend.

    • ermmm

      March 14, 2013 at 6:18 pm

      I agree with you….the people criticizing religion are also doing the same with picking what type or part of culture that suits them when arguing…if you ant cultural then do it fully…if you want to be religious do it fully also…but then again we are humans….mistakes are bound to happen……the end of the day whether cultural or religious..Morals are dead…live by what suits you…

  10. Mariaah

    March 14, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Please the Benue state thing has been over flogged!! Firstly, it the Tiv people who “supposedly” has that “entertainment” culture. Its so annoying when the moment you say you are from Benue State, one ignoramus will be looking at you somehow.
    LOL! True story, when I was dating my Yoruba BF, we went somewhere and met some of his friends during introductions naa “so this is my girlfriend, Mariaah, omo Naija nii, omo Benue nii….” Wide stare*** Foolish grin ***I had seen that face many times so I knew what it meant.. The BF nko; when we started dating intially he asked!! LOL..

    Funny thing is my own tribe, Idoma has a strict tradition on marriage vows (involves d wife shaa) so its annoying when a tradition (myth) that involves another tribe is ascribed to me.. URgggghhh…

    Secondly, its a MYTH!!!

    NB: Even if it happened (yes! past tense cos aint no man gon’ give you his woman) it doesn’t happen anymre…

    Rant over 🙂

    • Ready

      March 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      Haha. I dated a Benue guy and that came up when we were with friends. He got so pissed and his whole demeanor changed. Oun lomo, how I no go ask?

  11. tutu

    March 14, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    lovely article, the problem is not culture but religion, people forget that while Nigerians try to adopt different western ways as a way to modernize and adapt to the globalized world. The country still remains very very religious. The dress jenny wore is very beautiful and properly fitted which many people in her field can learn from when it come to the fit of a dress. The outrage over the dress comes from the fact that we live in a country that would be forever be attached to its religion

    • Italian Princess

      March 14, 2013 at 5:47 pm

      Sweetie’m, what religion is that? Is there a national religion?

  12. ermmm

    March 14, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    LOL…I knew BN was going to do an article on this when i read the comments……why didnt you use a pic of Karen Igho to justify the topic?..lol…..anyways the same way there was a time it was an abomination for a woman to be dis virgined before marriage and also there was a time where men would marry whoever they defiled or had kids with, women were made to respect and not talk back to men etc but now?………I actually like Genevieves dress but my point is that the same way we criticize peeps for being overly religious and hypocrites as they pick what they like….its the same way some people tend to pick what part of culture is suitable to them or when to use culture or the whole ‘before westernization we were this and that’ argument……..we are all critics one way or the other…different opinions is the spice of life…live and just laugh off things and do what suits you..we are humans , mistakes are bound to happen…..some people would shout culture, while others would start preaching bible abeg…….everyone used to be naked in the past at some point not just africans…

  13. prefer fashion to xes!

    March 14, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Oh pls don’t use my Genny as the point of ur post….she is classically nude!

    • FirstThingsFirst

      March 14, 2013 at 11:15 pm

      yes o..lol

  14. charming

    March 14, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    With the heat in Nigeria I eish Adam didn’t sin ,infact I dnt like cloths @ll, bt I love shoes nd perfs, which I considr gualking witout shoes wud b more bloody. Lol. Dat bin said, d only reason. Y pple tend to “critise” acts like dis is bcos dre ar sumtins ,basic instints dat God habe consious of

  15. gistyinka

    March 14, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    culture is way of life,but the civilization as bring many issues in our environment… gistyinka.com

  16. Dee

    March 14, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    i always laugh when i hear people say things like as Africans we have culture and so let us stop copying the west with nakedness. Sorry, but wasn’t it copy copy that led to wearing clothes in the 1st place? Sango was weaving his hair centuries before music videos but you will hear people say how it is ‘unAfrican” for a man to weave his hair. Truth be told we are a very confused lot!

  17. wiklo

    March 14, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    I hope to see this same fervor of defense for Karen Igho next time she bares her cleavage, knockers or butt on the red carpet….I also guess fellas with their briefs/pata showing is acceptable culture now… smh

  18. Idak

    March 14, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    The fact that you need to write a long epistle to defend that outfit says it all.

  19. Angel Deco

    March 14, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    I just taya o. Karen Igho shd nt b scolded bt Genny shd. I fink its just bcos Genny’s always been tagged ‘d gud gal’ But den again, y soo much noise??? I used it as ma DP n pple went “whaaaaat? Watz dat???” D dress’s cool, dou d bobby friendly tin isn’t. M even plannin on stealin d design #i go modify am sha cos me wnt b caught dead wearin dat#

  20. suzi

    March 15, 2013 at 12:03 am

    how an confused dis article mainly looking @ the nigerian culture nd belief hence addressing wat genny wore @ da awards but da picture above is of a zulu culture nt nigerian! am lost…anyway we r ol africans @ da end of da day.LOVE LOVE GENNY U R DA BEST wat u wear dont change da fact dat u inspire nd motivate ol african women nd internationally

  21. Tesonma

    March 15, 2013 at 12:42 am

    BN commenters always like to act learned. No distinguised decent lady will come out with
    their privates out. Look around you, you know the decent artists from how they dress.
    Mo Abudu wont dress like this neither would Michelle Obama or Oprah or Onyeka Onwenu
    or Dakore or Omoni Oboli or Stephanie Linus or Uche aka Bella Naija,
    the list is endless. Role Models answer that name for a reason. Abi is she now the new Cossy

    • Gigi

      March 15, 2013 at 3:33 am

      wen i c comments lyk dese i know that not every one is smart…

    • Istidele

      March 15, 2013 at 5:00 am

      Cossy vs genny in bobby dept? Dont compare sleep with death, Ko jo ra won ra ra………

  22. Drpeperempe

    March 15, 2013 at 5:40 am

    Indecent is indecent regardless of culture, religion etc. the West u are so quick to refer to doesnt expect women of a certain higher class n calibre to bare their PRIVATES.

  23. Na u sabi

    March 15, 2013 at 5:45 am

    Tesonma park aside……saw mo Audu once with a dress that was short and I felt embarrassed cos felt it was too old for her at that age………u obviously have not seen some pictures of Stephanie Okereke…..so my dear rewrite Ur list…..my take ia all that African tradition crap is hogwash, u have no better morals like the western world cos all sins committed abroad we have them in our backyard…..you do not need to have all your body exposed to be beautiful, but anybody who wants to keep exposing dia breast and – in the name of expressing dia fundamental human rights that is their cup of tea…

  24. dianalicious

    March 15, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Effortlessly chic!

  25. @ajiriavae

    March 15, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Culture is constantly changing. There was a time when the culture was to go around bare chested. Then the Oyinbo man came and called it savagery. The culture was to worship the gods of our ancestors, Oyinbo man said it was demonic. So what, actually is our culture? Our home grown, chest baring one of our forefathers, or this new ‘decent’ one that actually is less than 200 years old?
    ajiristyle.blogspot.com/

  26. lele

    March 15, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Nigeria is a nation of many tribes…talk more of Africa…what is the guarantee that all tribes were naked?…yes we were not fully clothed but how sure are we that all tribes were bare chested?…so yes to some peeps it might be culture

  27. Droom

    March 15, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I think we should be open to different cultures to,imagine these scenario as a Yoruba when I lost my young mum,in her own culture when they come to see a grieved husband or wife,you entertain the ppl with food,wine and drinks,imagine the strange look on my Step fathers face when her ppl demanded beer and food,I hated them and it took me yrs later to understand,it’s their own way of life!

  28. Angel

    March 19, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Culture or no culture,the one thing that is important is ur religion , some northerners might be free to go bare chested but c’omon u are not a northerner GENNY. U dont just embrace a culture that is not yours and throw ur religion away.Besides u didnt do this when U were much younger in the industry so Y now???????. So many ppl are luking up to u not just because u are intelligent but but because of ur carriage and dress senses. SO Girl u are not in the class of tonto, and the rest that dress dat way, go back to ur class that will bring more respect to U.

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