A friend of mine warned me not to write this. Or at least not to title it that way. Apparently Joseph Kabuleta is one of the greatest writers/journalists/thinkers in this country and to many, he is beyond reproach. His intelligence and awesomeness are some type of journalistic dogma. Thankfully, I am no journalist. Neither am I one of the many. But because I love people that manage to achieve that kind of stature, I will write this piece with all due respect. In fact, as an absolute and flossy show of good faith, I shall call the good thinker Mr Kabuleta. Forget the title.
Mr Kabuleta recently published a to-whom-it-may-concern titled ‘WEST KNOWS BEST’. I found it on his Facebook wall, being honored enough to be one of his Facebook friends (thank you Zuckerberg et al). I will not reproduce it here. It was fundamentally lambasting all so-called elites that feed, breath, walk, talk and do everything ‘Western’. To these elites, and much to Mr Kabuleta’s ire, Western culture is everything. These pretended intellectuals have unabashedly thrown all Africanness to the dogs, and allowed themselves to get cuddled by all things Western. Mr Kabuleta was quite illustrative and was nice enough to give us a few examples of this unfortunate state of affairs. As you would perhaps presume, Stella Nyanzi made it to the list of examples. She has become the contemporary poster child for everything disagreeable about ‘intellectuals’. If you do not know who Stella is, abeg! Look her up. Mr Kabuleta argues that her nudity and profanity should never have shocked us senseless, after all, these things are representative of the continuously eroding African culture among African academic elites. He did call out people that ridiculed Allen Kagina for agendaring ‘prayer’ in UNRA meetings, and was irked by the elites’ lack of respect for African morality, decency and decorum. Homosexuality was also thrown into the works, well, as a matter of course.
For the record, Stella Nyanzi is one of the few culturalists I know in this country. At a time when it is Herculean to be all ‘African’, she really tries. Much much more than the rest of us. Her clothes are what we call African fabric (Bitenge), her hair is kinky and locked, her children bear no ‘white names’, she is a Buganda fanatic, and she incessantly reminds us that she is explicit because her culture demands so. Anyone that has met Mama Stella knows she is everything but Westernised. And this is where the problem is. What exactly is African culture? Or Morality? Or decency? Or decorum? Where is the West? It is quite interesting that what most people call African culture is what they have been socialised to believe is moral. We have continuously mistaken morality for African culture. And what we think is moral, more often than not, is what these Western colonialists that we hate so much told us is moral. For example, when did nudity become un-African? When did profanity become un-African? Africa was a nude continent in the garden of Eden before these reptile-esque, slithering, bad-mannered colonialists told us to throw some clothes on. Go to authentic, organic African communities and see how dressed up they are. Profanity? Western? How? Can you envision British royalty being as explicit as Stella? You know why people are scandalised by Stella’s language? Because we find it uncivilised and unbecoming. We the elite. How can an educated person speak like that? If anyone has been through the system, we expect ‘better’. That should be language of raw, uneducated people. But have you been to kuzina balongo? Have you heard Baganda Ssengas’ and Kojjas’ talk? These are cultural things.
The problem is we mistake the USA for all the West. Most of what we call Western culture (the nudity, the profanity, the religiouslessness, lack of ‘decorum’) is much more prominent, and quite honestly, much more driven by the USA. USA was also a mere colony and its culture is its way of breaking away from the colonial chains to create its own identity. But look at Britain. Our founding mother (LOL). Look at their culture and norms, and you will see that what we call our culture is actually their culture. What we call African morality is what the Victorian English said was moral. Nothing to do with ‘African culture’. ‘African culture’ says the Kabaka of Buganda should sleep with virgins as a ritual (or something like that-that Nakku custom). African culture says a man can be as promiscuous as he wants. ‘African culture’ says a lot of things we would, in good conscience, find unfathomable and downright disturbing. So what Mr Kabuleta and his cohorts are championing is not ‘African culture’. It is actually socialised western culture.
It is rather ironic and absurd that the same Mr Kabuleta that was berating people for abandoning ‘African culture’, was the same person berating Kadaga for going to a shrine, and applauding Kagina for praying to Jesus Christ. How does that make sense? How do you champion African culture and in the same breath champion Christianity over traditional shrines? Christianity might not have originated in the West as we know it, but it sure as hell isn’t African! Traditional shrines are! So Mr Kabuleta, please choose a struggle. You’re either for African culture, or you’re not. Other wise, I suggest that you remain humble like the rest of us, and accept that the ‘real’ African culture has been overtaken by events, and we have to make do with what is around. This business of selectively being African, and accusing people who are not your type of African of being westernised is tired and exhausting. If our fore-mothers found you wearing jeans they’d be shocked to know that you’re pro African. And guys, there is no single African culture! Let’s stop saying African culture. It does not exist. We have a multiplicity of them.
For what it’s worth, I do think Mr Kabuleta was more concerned about us not supporting home grown innovations as much as we support the foreign. That is true. And sad. And unfortunate. And has nothing to do with African culture. We’re just a sad lot.