‘No I Have No Culture’ – Essay 1

‘NO I HAVE CULTURE’ – Essay 1

To Kagayi Mutanga Peter; My Musoga Poet Friend.

A few days back, I was rather struck by a paradoxical piece of literature you presented to the Lantern Meet – The circle of in-bred literates.

The poem presented more questions than there could be answers. In out-witting your unmatched literal talent, you perhaps started the process of a debate that we prefer to find cunning and chaste but wanting in a society living devoid of its soul and heartbeat. The true mark of a poetry genius – For that I congratulate you!

Before I can purport to delve into the poem, I want to start you off with a piece of writing recovered among many literal writings that Mahatma Ghandi – The father of ideological religion and its relevance to politics – wrote in his last days. That to believe is not a status but a process; it starts not from the existence of something but rather the doubt of it. Humans are, by nature of their creation, able to traverse a journey of soul searching, a journey best fuelled by doubt!

Your poem sets in motion the process of belief which is doubt!

“You asked me to write about my roots or some primitive practice,

You ask me to understand my culture;

You ask me to make an effort ,

To make some space within me and fill it with that gibberish of language, of customs,of taboos of drink,

Food and of dress but for what purpose? It will not get me anywhere

Atleast not near the reason to justify you patronizing me”

By definition, or rather agreed upon description, culture refers to that set of values learnt and carried on by a particular society. What you live on today and by this I mean the birth, going to school, getting a degree and finally getting a job is in itself a culture.

For society to preserve a form of culture, there were developed taboos which we today call laws to punish,reform and remind society of the importance of the culture.  For a better understanding of the debate on a culture, one ought to shift it from mere definitive and literal actions to the relevance for which those stood for.

When Tooro kingdom was threatened with food insecurity, each clan of the Batooro was assigned a particular crop to grow, they were not allowed to feed off what they were assigned to grow. For example the Bagabu clan was to grow a type of nutritious banana – which is extinct lately – the ‘Nkira’ it was believed that this banana grew in the least possible time and produced more clusters than the ordinary banana, all this was to feed into the major food basket of the Kingdom and thus the totem for Bagabu became the ‘Nkira’. The bagabu were thus not allowed to feed off the Nkira as this would render them  individualistic in production and would live society at a stark divide.

If we transported this form of culture without context of its relevance, it would more or less mean nothing or rather gibberish – to use your word.

Picture a society today that grows food for the society and not personal interests, would we have the perennial hunger label that Africa carries today? Would we have energetic young men sitted on Kampala streets shouting stage names for 500shs.to make a lunch meal? Perhaps not!

I certainly make this argument well aware of the full effect of societal development; I am awake to the stages of development of human nature right from Barbarianism through the slave holding society down into the feudalism days and industrial capitalism to where we are today.

What presents a hope that we can create an atmosphere that allows for a new culture, one in cognizance of both embedded African beliefs and modern tides of development is that, the Barbarians too defied the Roman slave holding  state, the feudal lords were shredded by the serfs so were the nobilities torn apart by their own folk.   It certainly cannot be us, of greater knowledge and means, us of deep thought and reflection to fail in such an easy a task as set the chimes of nature in motion.

“tell me chief commentator,

Where was this culture of yours when your ancestors stood by

As we lost land to white men?

Where was this culture when kings burnt thousands of innocent people for not greeting then the right way?

Where was it when your beloved chiefs sold their people

To sodomy to slavery”  

Culture as we have seen in the define above is a set of values carried on generation to generation. It certainly could not have been a set of values that people lose their land and get enslaved.

A difference needs to be struck between the culture then and the failure of humans living at the time. When we create this distinction, it should not be to glorify the strength of our culture and neither should it be at the detriment of it. By virtue of being human, we are bound to learn from mistakes.

When a king takes on greed as a value to enrich himself at the expense of selling his people does he remain a leader? When a father abandons his child for a silver coin in a giving hand, does he remain a father?

African culture disqualifies such! The failures of the leaders at the time largely influenced by the new culture of amassing wealth for personal benefit spread by merchant industrialists does not define our culture, it rather pushes us to question the loop-holes of our culture in building honest leaders.

Certainly you will agree with me that we cannot sustain, if we cannot assess weaknesses. Everybody does it, the church today tests its priests on the virtues of the holy spirit, the Capitalist states sit back, take stock and reflect on how successful their ventures have been. We (Africans) cannot be the only ones awaiting others to decide for us. We must sit back, take stock and reflect about these hundreds of years we have strayed away from the spirit of African forefathers have we been any successful? Are we more developed as a society than we could have been if we had the principles of our forefathers at heart? The more we question ourselves on these, the larger the conviction we shall have to create the atmosphere.

But certainly it cannot be all merry, lip-swerncing and rose-dressing on our culture. Some of the practiced culture defied the odds of human accepted reason, we had communities that clipped women’s clitoris all in an attempt to keep them away from sexual pleasures whilst their men were away. The method of approach was disheartening but the principle underlying it was honest.

By virtue of human development we are to face the darks of our history with our faces and change where the need be.

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