Traditionally, African parents would insist that their children, upon reaching adulthood, would marry or get married.The primary reason being to bear children and continue the family name. If by chance, a couple failed to bear children for health reasons or otherwise, the society had a right to frown upon them. It was normal and naturally so; a tradition.
Over the years, there rose another tradition that countered this African belief. This was from the West, the Eurocentric traditions that were introduced in a very sage, stealth and unpredictable manner.
Allow me to digress. Just a little, I promise. Jomo Kenyatta wrote an ethnography titled ‘Facing Mount Kenya‘, in which he reflected his first hand experience of the Agíkúyú culture. Having been born and brought up during the early colonial days, he experienced how the whites came into the country and gained roots. They build mission schools, hospitals and church in every missionary station they settled at. This, common sense dictated, would cater for basic human needs: health, education, and spiritual need.
An oral confession from my grandmother who was also lived in those early days is very much in order with Kenyatta’s written confession: that no one would be treated without attending the mission church and all teachable children and grown ups were taken to mission schools. Among the perks church goers enjoyed were clothes made of imported materials, unlike the hide-skin they would wrap their nether regions with. This attracted more converts because, unlike anyone could imagine, those who were now affiliates of the mission activities: school, church, and hospital services, had started looking down at the ‘wearers of hides and skin, users of nothing but oil in smoothening skin, and givers of birth by the Riverside’ in the words of my grandmother.
The contempt for those who continually revered the traditions they had been born to and inherited, those who ‘refused the light’ even after it had been brought to their doorstep was fast growing. The division between Africans was becoming rife by day. Soon after, the Christian brothers and sisters could not see each other ‘by eye’, because the tradition was evil, a veil of darkness whose respecters could never see heaven. New Christian families came up; families of people who came together for the purpose of seeking light. They, in one faith of commonness, ‘left their families, lovers, friends,’ and went to the family of Jesus. There was no need to continue in the traditional family that one was born in. The definition of friends, friendship and neighbors shifted in meaning. Strangers thus, became one in belief.
Jomo asserts that, those who came as missionaries to Africa were ‘third rate citizens who could not have been afforded any use in their countries.’ This is another way of saying that, they were given the bible as their last resolve, because they could not handle economics, Mathematics, Philosophy, Scientific Research, Architectural studies, Creative Arts; or any other field that is relevant to solving the problems faced by humanity. Thus, they were sent sailing across seas with the Bible, a book of fantastic stories of old. When they came to the Continent of the kind people, great geographical location and natural wonders of the wild, they were welcomed wholeheartedly and given some space to ‘place their heads for the night.’ That would become years of stay, dominance, and colonization of Africa; the years of gain by the ‘third rate European’ citizens.
For Africans, they’d be years of slavery, loss of culture, loss of sense of belonging, of land, of family systems and worse, of reverence to alien traditions. The formal education, church and health sectors would develop to what they you see next to your doorstep. In addition, political systems would be installed so firmly and conspirators to the killing of the ‘African Sun’ would be placed in place with the arms of the dominating whites.
The post-independence generation would never know that children did not get immunized for polio at birth. They would not know that a group of elders would pray for rain, sacrifice a goat under a Múgumo tree and before they turned to go back home, rain would fall in torrents and hailstones. They would never know that it was important to continue the family name, through bearing children and naming them after their parents or close family relatives. They would not know all that unless books, and more books were written about our authentic Africanism were written. What they know, instead, is appearing at church or mosque during the ‘ordained’ days of worship, throwing some coins in a basket and muffling a prayer to the deities.
With Eurocentric systems controlling most human endeavors including economics and power, it has become difficult for the African Man to continue with his tradition. His African identity. It has become difficult to, for example, bear enough children to name all the family members.
Present civilization has created class divisions. Those who have received education cannot readily accommodate those without, and instead, frown upon them. As Africans, our native identies are lost to us.
We live by the European economics, designed abroad and installed in Africa.
We live looking at and judging each other from a Eurocentric perspective.
We live thinking about each other based on euro-designed templates.
We no longer revere what belongs to us by eternal right.
When my nephews and nieces came to visit their granny, my mother, I thought: she’s definitely so happy to have her grandchildren around. She is loving their wit and the new things they’re teaching her. She now knows how to take a ‘selfie’ from all angles. Well, they belong to a an older generation. As I watch them, I am confronted with the thought: with the economic struggles today, with the primary bar of success reading a good house, a big car, great education, enough money; and no less- of course occasioned by systemic changes over years that supposedly will or might never be reversed, will I ever get the enviable opportunity to settle for a home?
Will I continue my family name? But yes, I have a ‘digital’ response, a refuge to the nagging question: I owe no one a wife. No children either.