Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican-born black nationalist leader who sought to connect people of African descent worldwide once said,” a people without the knowledge of their past history,origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
The 2nd edition of the Acoli Cultural Festival started today at Kaunda Grounds in Gulu with immense dignity and pride of the Acoli people.
As they say, humans are cultural beings. Everyone has a cultural identity. While there were numerous sparkling dances, foods and drinks, the sight of two boys caught my attention as they played Coro. Coro is a cultural game similar to board games. Just that, this time the holes are made on the ground and stones are used as marbles to drop in a sequence in each small hole. (See Picture)
What came to mind was; where are other children? What are they doing? Rightfully thinking, they could be watching T.V or playing video games or possibly reading story books.
Children need to be exposed to their culture at an early age. The sounds and sight and text of life as seen in the different cultural songs and dances need to be experienced firsthand for children to develop a creative mind.
Books are wonderful but not enough. Why are we not concerned that our children’s value systems, beliefs and ways are like all they watch on T.V or in their video games? Is that the culture we want to inculcate in our children?
Culture helps children to learn to communicate and understand the world through the context of their languages, traditions, behaviours, beliefs and values.
Our cultural experiences and values shape the way we see ourselves and what we think is important.
That is why in the past as a result of low self esteem, many children from the north tried to convert their names to sound like they originate from central Uganda.
Traditions, beliefs, food and even the way a particular culture dresses influences a child’s development. Values are established and set by cultures.
Exposing children to culture teaches them about different points of view, different ways of seeing things, which makes for a well rounded child.
For instance, many modest people detest witch craft however the only person without a tent that never lacked guests despite the rain and hot sun was a lady claiming to have powers to predict any ones future by consulting our ancestral gods.
Why would people not leave her alone since they detest witchcraft? It is because they are searching for meaning in their lives; the things that books and humans could not answer them convincingly.
Culture reminds us of our history in times of trial and unease. It gives one a sense of structure, ritual and habit.
One of the most outstanding dances during day one of Acoli Cultural Festival was the Otole dance from Pabo in Amuru District.
This team distinctively looked serious like worriers heading to battle; they held real spears and shields and made patterns like taking positions at war time.
Certainly, this did not only remind us of our history of war dances but also helped guests understand why they sing and dance to war. Otole is the Acoli war dance.
As parents, we don’t know what exactly a child is going to be passionate about or good at. Exposing them to different things help the child discover themselves.
Conclusively, in my personal experience, when people move to a new country, they inevitably hold on to their original culture more tightly, even when embracing the new cultures.
Most of our youths today never got a chance to identify with their culture at an early age because of the war.
Don’t make your children serve the same verdict if you can expose them to their culture to enable them discover themselves and learn their true values, beliefs and identity.