Weekly Column: 10 Things Africans Celebrate

By Samuel Chamboko

1. Ageing – Ever wondered why in western culture it is considered rude to ask a woman her age? African women flaunt their age. Traditionally there is a status that is only acquired with age. The older you get the more respect you command in society (ceteris paribus). Where I come from if you fail to observe this, local mamas will rebuke by saying ‘don’t you see I’m old enough to be your mother?’ That’s a huge indictment.

2. Gaining weight – It is considered perfectly healthy to have a bulging stomach and a double chin. It is considered a sign that you are eating well and your mind is at peace. In my mother tongue, Shona, friends and family will compliment you by saying ‘wasimba’, which literary translated means you are looking strong. Weight loss is usually associated with poverty and ill-health.

3. Mothers-in-law – Western culture has this obsession with dislike to in-laws especially the mother-in-law. We love our mothers-in-law. We even slaughter a chicken or prepare a very elaborate meal when she comes to visit to show that she is welcome to stay as long as she wants. She has a very special place in the societal hierarchy.

4. Death – In Western culture, funerals are considered private affairs. There is this thing about giving the family space to grieve. In Africa you don’t have to be invited to a funeral, you have an obligation to go. Funerals are public occasions and we celebrate a person’s life, not only by expounding on how well they lived their life in graveside speeches, but also by having a huge feast, with lots of food and drink. It is considered shameful, in traditional African culture, not to slaughter an ox when an adult dies, especially the man of the house. While there are tears and mourning, there are also re-enactments of the mannerisms of the deceased, or the way they spoke, they to make mourners laugh.

5. A woman with a big bum – You never hear an African woman complain that her bum has grown big.   African women flaunt big bums. Have you ever noticed that most African dances concentrate on moving the mid-section?

6. When a neighbor takes a 2nd wife – In other societies this is a considered scandalous. A man who takes a second wife has done an honourable thing. He has taken responsibility for the woman and the children she will bear him. His relationship and his children all become official. I must point out though that taking a second wife, in traditionally African culture, was usually done with the knowledge, and sometimes consent, of the first wife. A

7. Burping – yes burping, especially after a good meal. African villages, clan praise poems follow a burp. It is generally accepted that you only burp when you are full and this is used as an occasion to thank the ancestors, that’s why one follows it up by just mentioning their totem or clan praise name.

8. Unexpected visitors – you don’t have to call, sms or write an e-mail to say you are coming to visit, surprise visits are very much a huge aspect of African culture. As with anything when an unexpected visitor arrives, all the stops are pulled to show the hospitality that Africans are renowned for. Even if someone arrives unexpected, there is still an expectation that a good meal is prepared for them and people celebrate life.

9. Industrial action – and protests in general. In Africa, most peaceful protests are very celebratory, drums, vuvuzelas, singing and toyi-toyi. In contrast to protests in the west where people either shout expletives or are silent. We go on strike and we celebrate being on strike.

10. The birth of an 11th child in the family – we don’t care where the food to feed that child will come from or college fees, we celebrate another gift from the Almighty.