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”.
Then 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?
Photo Credit: blog.stetson.edu