Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Our cultural heritage is dying!

In so many of our social spheres, good Samaritans and all kinds of volunteers are always forthcoming; and more than willing to save the situation, when things don’t go right. But, as for our custom, and the general cultural practices; that have all fallen in decay; there is no any clear voice, from far and near; calling for its prompt and corrective redress. However, there are some individuals and voluntary groups; that often treat us to some sort of; non-core aspects of our culture, such as “folk music and dance, poetry and drama, folk tales” etc. This is of course, quite commendable, as well as the quotation from the late Sir Seretse Kgama, which has become popular amongst us, that says “Sechaba se se senang ngwao ke monka se latlhegile”. Most of us use this quotation with the appreciation that Sir Seretse Kgama referred exclusively to the sort of performance art, we always see at various official functions. We tend to embrace dancing and singing; as a full reflection of what culture is all about. But, it is far from it, as one may be talented in dance and singing, without necessarily knowing what culture entails. Sir Seretse actually wanted to conscientise us, to take trouble to follow culture to its roots, then select and preserve what is applicable in our present generation.

In an effort to heed his advice; some seemingly suppressed voice can now be heard; from the wilderness, pointing to the unfortunate plight of our culture(s); that the general pattern of behavior amongst both young and the old; leave much to be desired. Those with a concern and contemplations; as to what causes all this, and what remedial measures to take; point back to what others call; out-fashioned socialization processes and practice(the very culture). This concerned group, believe solution to this mayhem is in us, retracing our steps as a society; to re-locate the point, where we missed the cultural step.

I am inclined to concur with this general notion; that we should retrace our steps. No doubt, this unfortunate development of wayward behavior in our society is rightly attributable to lack of vigilance on our part; in terms of commitment to safeguard the values in our culture.

Apparently, with the advent of independence; we became lax in morals, and allowed our cultural fabrics to be permeated by “foreign bodies” (impurities). This was so, because we associated independence more with human equality, and to the detriment of our own cultural identity. The misconception on our part about this was that, a child’s authority was now elevated to that of a parent; so that the latter could no longer give instructions to the former. Though, the blame may be put at the door of our Dikgosi; for their failure to guide us, we too, are to blame, because culture was never an exclusive domain of Dikgosi.

As we got further into modernization, in terms of constitutional and political dispensation, we should have been very careful and stood our cultural ground. Unfortunately, we got carried away and mistook lawlessness; particularly amongst youth, to human rights; as enshrined in the national constitution. We wrongly interpreted it as implying; no order of authority existed between parent and a child. We also tended to be attracted to a notion that, a parent could now, as well be subjected to a child’s authority. As a result, parents now leave under constant fear, of some punitive law, which they believe, is specially coined to punish them, if they don’t succumb to the authority of their children. This state of affairs; let our traditional leaders; who were supposed to be our light and our heart, also fail to understand the true concept of parliamentary and constitutional governance. They simply became docile and took the new system as a total replacement of their previous one; which itself they considered, was now relegated to waste. They just abdicated and completely embraced the new system where they are governed by a job description, salary and office accommodation- factors that made them more complaisant. This system allowed very little space between them and their subjects, on how tribal affairs had to run.

Then, the old adage of “kgosi ke kgosi ka batho” (chiefs strength is in the people) just became irrelevant. Before independence; a Kgosi would spent most of his time on his chair, at the Kgotla (kwa mekgorong ) NOT office, and thus became visible and easily accessible to the village elders (matlhogo tshweu) and others, in turns. This helped a great deal, as issues of particular concern would informally come up earlier, and find space in the Kgosi’s next Kgotla meeting agenda. Presently we experience a bureaucratic red tape, where stringent formalities have to be observed, even between a kgosi and his uncles. This kind of barring protocol upheld by dikgosi has had some very negative contribution to the demise of our culture.

It was only recently, some thirty-five years after independence; and after a serious infliction of damage to our culture had happened; that the government took the initiative to introduce a “Cultural Policy”, which itself took at least ten years, to get some promotional publicity. This policy spells out what its objectives are, and what strategies are to be applied to implement it, and who the stakeholders are.

Despite this good policy guidance; there seems to be a deliberate deviation from it, as we tend to focus more, on the superficial part of our cultural activities-such as stage performance. Over time, I have observed and hoped, our Dikgosi would collectively and singly; take some advantage of this policy, and make their own inroads; in terms of systematic mobilization of their people to introduce some compact cultural programs. But to date, they just displayed the attitude of indifference; in the face of the collapse of cultural structures.

In terms of the cultural policy; the most effective way should be, through the “cooperation and participation” of all the different stakeholders, by way of formal and informal groups, through which debates and research; into our culture, would be conducted. Each and every tribe; with their paramount chief as the centre pin, I propose, must organize small regular gatherings, at both household and subordinate Kgotla level; where elderly community members would be invited to come and give lectures on the norms, beliefs and values in their culture; to both young and the old. Specific topics would have to be put forward e.g., Traditional marriage, funerals, household and Kgotla(family ward) order of authority, parent/child and/or society/ child pattern of relationships, the correct use of mother tongue (language) etc. At these meetings, questions and answers; with free flow of opinions would be encouraged from all the participants. These gatherings should then be followed by; one bigger congregation at the main Kgotla, where the various village groups would make their cultural presentations, from which, some final selections; of what is adopted/discarded as/not a positive component of their culture would be done.

If this approach should have a positive impact on the rest of the community members; it must be given a slot and publicity coverage on both, the national television and radio-like under programs such as NGWAO BOSWA and MOLEMO WA KGANG. We must not forget that what the traditional singers and dancers portray at the stage is just the face of our culture, and NOT its body (roots).

Even though, TV and Radio were not there; this is how cultural knowledge was inculcated and disseminated amongst and to all members of each and every tribal community, in the olden days. It is therefore, imperative that we adopt this system, if we care to revive and preserve the good social values from our ancestral and cultural practices.

The good thing about it all is that, even our “NATIONAL POLICY ON CULTURE” recommends similar approaches, such as the “ESTABLISHMENT OF CULTURAL CENTRES for the promotion of culture”. It also provides for the establishment of National Cultural Council (NCC) which I believe, must accommodate representation from across the broad cultural spectrum of all Botswana communities, if it has to achieve its objectives. If the Council and its sub-committees; should be a true people’s representative “BODY” it must draw its membership from both, the technocrats and the traditionalists; nominated on the support of the respective communities. Already in our mist, we have groups that we may take leaf from their book; such as “DOMBOSHABA CULTURAL SOCIETY”. Dikgosi must play their role, and see to it, that these sub-committees are formed in their respective areas, so as to use them undertake, their (Dikgosi) responsibilities in terms of this policy. It really causes concern, that there is a formal policy in place, but the Authorities do not fully implement it, and make it known to its beneficiaries.

In conclusion; I wish to appeal to the powers that be, to consider opinions herein raised, as sincere and borne out of heartfelt concerns, and may probably be worth it; not to be taken as a mere hallucination.

LOSIKANYANA MOLEMA ÔÇô 72143384/72974737


Read this week's paper