Culture shock/culture appropriations – the root cause of Nuer people state of confusion – part I

A Nuer man resembling an Eygptian KingTutA Nuer man resembling an Eygptian KingTut

Kai D. Kai

The contemporary Nuer society is fraught with “innovations” of borrowed western culture that have got many of us inexorably alienated from our own culture. As a consequence of dabbling into foreign cultures in quest of knowledge, adventure, or personal fulfillment, many of us are losing touch with the value system that defines us as people.

As the legendary Nuer social philosopher Gordon Koang noted in his latest song, tactfully sounded the alarm, albeit a creative thrust, about the dilemma of the Nuers exposures to western culture rather than becoming a blessing, becomes a mirage, leaving all in state of  quagmire. Culturally speaking, the supposed civilized man is neither here nor there. I have digress.

Arguably, the dignity of any human race is traceable to their cultural heritage and a people without a culture are not people at all. Granted, one of the fallouts of culture appropriations is that every society that embraces modern civilization becomes a melting pot for a potpourri of intermingling cultures, but the worrisome trend is that most societies, unlike other parts of the world substitute their cultural practices with foreign ones, especially those of Europeans or Americans in crucial areas of life such as marriage, fashion, and feeding. Ironically, the supposed model societies merely accommodate, tolerate, or reshape any alien culture they have an interest in without desecrating their traditional values.

Consequently, we are pitiably being alienated from our traditional roots. We are inexorably trapped between two cultures and unable to assert ourselves authoritatively. The dominance of foreign cultural practices over our own traditional African culture has far reaching implications.

Such development poses a genuine threat to the existence of our traditional practices  in regard to cultural ideation or social mores. For instance, the requirement of a court marriage registry certificate instead of evidence of traditional marriage at embassies and other formal settings is a clear pointer to the preference for foreign cultural practices over ours.

In the organization of customary marriage ceremonies, for instance, we have allowed borrowed cultural practices to eclipse with our traditional heritage. Most traditional marriage rites observed at various levels prior to the final wedding ceremony are replications of western society-cum church marriage (court or white wedding) activities which give the impression that anything African is not good enough.

In the final analysis, the western marriage is elevated to the extent that even if it were conducted in secret, the couple or partner with the court marriage registry certificate gets recognized while the one without it who may have met all the traditional prerequisites is denounced as not being properly married in the eyes of the law. Whose law? Certainly, not that of traditional Africa.

The Nuer prided themselves in being one another’s keeper, especially within the family unit where there are no clear demarcations as observed in western culture. That culture is fading fast as many are getting increasingly aware of the differences between a nuclear and extended family, a cousin and a brother, ‘full brother’ and ‘half-brother’, niece or nephew and daughter or son, etc. In other words, kinship ties that were hitherto alien to us now have strong semantic and social implications.

In the aftermath of the cultural shock, a countless number of men are either losing their privileged positions as heads of their families or taking a compromised stance with their wives who double as co- breadwinners -no thanks to the western liberalizes democracy, forbidding the tag of full-time house wives at the home front. Related to this is the rising case of men rendered homeless, especially those deported from abroad, after losing a divorce case or threatened with a legal suit. At the risk of sounding chauvinistic, it appears that the women are taking over the homes.

A lot of Nuer men have also fallen into misfortune as victims of “American legal system” where they had migrated to for greener pastures.


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