Culture is a marker of identity. Every society has its own distinct culture or certain identifiers that makes it different from others.
In this dispensation of globalization, where no country leaves in isolation and there is constant interactions and exposure to other cultures, there will sure be some form of culture integration. In order for a society survive in the fast changing world; it must borrow certain elements from other cultures and shape them to suit their needs. For instance, if society A’s culture employs the use of cutlasses and hoes in farming, but realizes these tools are no longer efficient to feed the increasing population, the society can adapt other people’s farming culture or tools such the use of fertilizers , combine harvesters and so on to increase their agricultural yield. Thus they adapted a foreign technological culture only to solve the problem of low yield and not the kind of crops they produce.
Currently, there is a common practice where people absolutely dump their own culture and wholly embrace other people’s culture. This phenomenon keeps increasing to the extent that you can’t differentiate an African urban lifestyle from that of an American. Societies have sacrificed the characteristics of its own culture in exchange for a foreign. This can be seen in our dress style, accent, food choice, music, religion, clothes, naming and marriage systems, all influence by foreign culture.
The idea of dumping one’s own culture for another is destructive to the society. The society losses its unique identity and core values. This is because of perception and promotion of western culture seen as superior or having more worth than our own cultural values.
To clamp down on loss of identity and core values, the society must integrate other cultures and retain its unique markers of language, food and language, rather than assimilation where it adopts fully the ways of another culture and becoming an entirely different society.
SOURCE; EFIE NK)MM) MAGAZINE. VOL. 4
Culture is a large presence in any society. It influences our ethics and morals, the way that we interact with others and even the way that we think. The power that culture has on our behaviour is undeniable.
Many cultures have historical origins and are based on old traditions. They also usually have a geographical boundary. However, culture is changing. There is a new culture developing and spreading across the world. The technology of the modern world means that the world’s population is connected in ways that it has never been before. More can be shared and had in common.
Popular culture is a modern phenomenon. It can be used to describe popular music, films, book and even popular ways of thinking. Since its beginning, it has been different from other cultures in its lack of historical and geographical foundation. Now, popular culture has a new way of spreading, the internet. Popular culture has more influence today than it has ever had before. While its influence remains most strongly felt in the West, it can also be more easily felt around the world too now.
The internet clearly has a large impact on culture as people share their thoughts and experiences. Songs, videos, articles and images can become viral, thus entering mainstream culture. In this way, a single culture can be shared by a wide range of participants.
People have often been symbols of popular culture; actors, singers and writers have reached extreme heights of fame and have come to represent an era, a feeling and even a way of life. They have huge fan bases and, as a result, a huge amount of power and influence. Nowadays, singers and actors have been replaced by anyone who can use the internet. Without the internet, a celebrity cannot exist. With the internet, anyone can be a celebrity. The current symbols of popular culture depend on their ability to create a social media presence. Rather than any other talent, their personality takes them to fame. Due to this, You Tubers seem to be the new symbols of popular culture.
The influence of You Tubers has not gone unnoticed by the political world. In March 2014, President Obama had a conference with several famous You Tubers. He invited them to the White House to discuss their message for young people. Clearly he is aware of their status as symbols of popular culture and the resulting impact that they can have on the young – the main target of popular culture.
People who become symbols of popular culture are very influential but they alone do not make popular culture. They can spread and endorse ideas and become representatives of it but what comes into mainstream culture is largely in the hands of the public, perhaps more so than ever before. They choose which videos, images and ideas to share.
The culture created by the internet is an extension of fashionable, popular culture in the real world that spreads trendy new words and concepts. The word ‘selfie’, the concept of being a ‘basic’ person, the phrase ‘YOLO’, all have entered mainstream usage and are examples of the way that a shared culture has been created by the internet.
People around the world are sharing the same culture in a way that would not have been possible without social media. A culture has been created through the virtual space that we share and has become an extension of popular culture. The internet has demolished geographical boundaries.
However, this does not mean that a shared global culture has been created. Geographical boundaries have been removed as communication opportunities connect more people than ever before but that does not mean that the popular culture of the internet is embraced by everyone. There are other limits to the spread of culture, such as language barriers and loyalty to another culture. Moreover, there are locations where internet access is limited and so the spread of popular culture is impeded.
In a way, the new internet culture could be considered as an extension of American popular culture. Television, film and music industries have been dominated by the US for decades and perhaps the internet is experiencing the same Americanization process. Popular culture is largely American culture. It could be argued that any appearance of a shared international culture is just the spread of American culture and America’s influence, particularly in the West and the English-speaking world.
The culture of a people is what marks them out distinctively from other human societies in the family of humanity. The full study of culture in all its vastness and dimensions belongs to the discipline known as anthropology, which studies human beings and takes time to examine their characteristics and their relationship to their environments. Culture, as it is usually understood, entails a totality of traits and characters that are peculiar to a people to the extent that it marks them out from other peoples or societies. These peculiar traits go on to include the people’s language, dressing, music, work, arts, religion, dancing and so on. It also goes on to include a people’s social norms, taboos and values. Values here are to be understood as beliefs that are held about what is right and wrong and what is important in life.
The value of a thing, be it an object or a belief, is normally defined as its worth. Just as an object is seen to be of a high value that is treasured, our beliefs about what is right or wrong that are worth being held are equally treasured. A value can be seen as some point of view or conviction which we can live with, live by and can even die for. This is why it seems that values actually permeate every aspect of human life. For instance, we can rightly speak of religious, political, social, aesthetic, moral, cultural and even personal values. We have observed elsewhere that there are many types and classifications of values. As people differ in their conception of reality, then the values of one individual may be different from those of another. Life seems to force people to make choices, or to rate things as better or worse as well as formulate some scale or standard of values. Depending on the way we perceive things we can praise and blame, declare actions right or wrong or even declare the scene or objects before us as either beautiful or ugly. Each person, as we could see, has some sense of values and there is no society without some value system culture is an embodiment of different values with all of them closely related to each other. That is why one can meaningfully talk about social, moral, religious, political, aesthetic and even economic values of a culture. Let us now look at these values piece-meal, as this would give us an understanding how they manifest in an African culture and the importance being attached to them.
To begin with, we have social values which can simply be seen as those beliefs and practices that are practiced by any particular society. The society has a way of dictating the beliefs and practices that are performed either routinely by its members or performed whenever the occasion demands. Hence, we have festivals, games, sports and dances that are peculiar to different societies. These activities are carried out by the society because they are seen to be necessary. Some social values, especially in African society, cannot exactly be separated from religious, moral, political values and so on. This is why we can see that in a traditional African society like in Ibibio land (Nigeria), festivals which were celebrated often had religious undertones – they ended with sacrifices that were offered to certain deities on special days in order to attract their goodwill on the members of the society.
The second to talk about is moral values. African culture is embedded in strong moral considerations. It has a system of various beliefs and customs which every individual ought to keep in order to live long and to avoid bringing curses on them and others. Adultery, stealing and other forms of immoral behaviour are strongly discouraged and whenever a suspected offender denies a charge brought against him, he would be taken to a soothsayer or made to take an oath for proof of innocence. African wisdom and a valuable part of African heritage”. African culture has a moral code that forbids doing harm to a relative, a kinsman, an in-law, a foreigner and a stranger, except when such a person is involved in an immoral act; and if that is the case, it is advisable to stay away from such an individual and even at death, their corpses would not be dignified with a noble burial in a coffin and grave.
In addition, religious values are also very important. Religion in African societies seems to be the fulcrum around which every activity revolves. Hence religious values are not toyed with. African traditional religion, wherever it is practised, has some defining characteristics. For instance, it possesses the concept of a Supreme Being which is invisible and indigenous. It holds a belief in the existence of the human soul and the soul does not die with the body. African traditional religion also has the belief that good and bad spirits do exist and that these spirits are what make communication with the Supreme Being possible. Above all, it holds a moral sense of justice and truth and the knowledge of the existence of good and evil (Umoh 2005: 68). African religious values seem to permeate every facet of the life of the African and the African believes that anything can be imbued with spiritual significance. The worship of different deities on different days goes on to show that the African people hold their religious values in high esteem. Sorcerers and diviners are seen to be mediating between God and man and interpreting God’s wishes to the mortal. The diviners, sorcerers and soothsayers help to streamline human behaviour in the society and people are afraid to commit offences because of the
Another point worth mentioning is the aesthetic values. The African concept of aesthetics is predicated on the fundamental traditional belief system which gave vent to the production of the art. Now art is usually seen as human enterprise concerned with the production of aesthetic objects. Thus, when a people in their leisure time try to produce or create objects that they consider admirable, their sense of aesthetic value is brought to bear. If we see art as being concerned with the production of aesthetic objects, then we can truly say of African aesthetic value that it is immensely rich. Let us have an example: the sense of beauty of the Ibibio people is epitomised in their fattened maidens whom they call mbopo. These fattened maidens are confined to a room where they are fed with traditional cuisines. The idea behind it is to prepare the maiden and make her look as good, healthy and beautiful as possible for her husband. This is usually done before marriage and after child birth. The Western model of beauty is not like this. It is often pictured as slim-looking young ladies who move in staggered steps. This shows that the African aesthetic value and sense of what is beautiful is markedly different. Aesthetic value is what informs a people’s arts and crafts as it affects their sense of what is beautiful as opposed to that which is ugly. The aesthetic value of a society influences the artist in his endeavour to produce aesthetic objects that are acceptable to the society in which he lives.
To conclude, since values are an integral part of culture and culture is what defines a people’s identity, then the values that a people hold are what differentiate them from other people. It does appear that cultures always try to maintain those values that are necessary for the survival of their people. Also having looked at some of the values that characterise the African culture, it is important to state here that these values are inextricably bound together and are to be comprehended in their totality as African cultural values.
Laws are established to protect the citizens of a particular group of people. In other words, laws exist to protect the right of the members of a society and to ensure that they do not have to protect those rights through their own actions. The law has generally two parts, the spirit of the law and the letter. The former deals with the reasoning behind the establishment of the law while the latter deals with wording. Long ago, before the establishment of the constitutions, our ancestors had to find a way to protect their citizenry. Our wise elders and chiefs had a way of doing so and although not documented, they were well communicated, respected and obeyed. They were obeyed widely due to the fact that they had punitive consequences. Taboos as we know them were an effective way to protect citizens. They served as laws for our forefathers and tools for solving problems.
These days, taboos are no longer feared and respected as they used to be as people have come to find out that there is no real supernatural punishment and hence they can go scot-free even when they flaunt them. However, there are reasons for the establishment of these laws. A taboo is defined as a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake, under threat of supernatural punishment. Most taboos were respected due to the supernatural punishment one feared would come to them. Some taboos and their reasoning are as follows below.
To begin with, no hunting, fishing and farming on specific were commonly seen in most Akan and Ga communities where some days were considered bad days for these activities. It was believed that the gods will strike one dead if he or she did. Our elders constructed this taboo to preserve the environment and its inhabitants. If one hunts or fishes each day, then one day all the animals in the forest will be extinct and all the fishes in the sea will be gone. If one day was preserved, at least they can be protected. Sometimes even a whole season was reserved so that fingerlings and infants in the forest will grow and also multiply.
The second to mention is the “don’t sweep at night” taboo which was very common among the Akan people. It was believed that one’s mother will die if one was to sweep at night. It was also believed that the gods would be very angry with you. But the simple reasoning was you might sweep and dispose your valuable items if you slept the room at night. Given that our ancestors did not have the privilege of enjoying electricity and proper lighting; it was common for them to sweep important items away at night. Therefore, preventing people from sweeting at night in poor vision would go a long way to prevent such incidents.
Another point worth mentioning is the taboo of night whistling. This which was common among the Akans saw mothers to suffer the wrath of the gods if the child or children of that mother whistles at night. Again, our ancestors did not have electricity and hence their communities were usually quiet during the night. The reason behind the taboo was whistling would travel far at night disturbing the whole community to the extent of waking up people who were already asleep. Whistles are usually loud as well know so in the event of preserving peace, this taboo was put in place.
In addition to the taboos is the abomination to get pregnant before marriage. With the absence of television, radio, social media and other entertainments, sex was a common thing to engage in. to save the situation, there was the establishment of a taboo. Having sex before marriage was a taboo and getting yourself pregnant will lead to your banishment from the community.
To conclude, most taboos are now things of the past. But the question is if they had still been in existence, would the indiscipline level in our society these days be reduced? Taboos had reasons and good reasons as that.
Culture is said to be the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations. Ghanaian culture is one which is rich in heritage and has been passed down from generations to generations, it is one which is quick to embrace change when it is good and do away with anything negative.
From a distance the general outlook of a typical Ghanaian society is one which is very conservative but in practice or reality, it is one which is very progressive. Like the famous Akan adage which says “when time changes; you have to change along”. In Ghana every ethnic group has its own traditions which evolve to deal with human situation of the time. Some become so obsolete that, the ethnic group may have no good reason to continue the practice. Some may also be found harmful in the perspective of modern scientific knowledge. Harmful traditional practices are hurt, injure and humiliate people even though the practitioner may not consider them harmful. In Ghana examples of such practices includes female genital mutilation, cruel widowhood rite, tribal marks, trokosi system and imprisonment in witch camps. At this point in our country’s history, the call by well – meaning Ghanaians that these practices be abolished completely, although they are already extinct and happen in isolated area, should be seen as a step in the right direction.
Cocoa is not indigenous to Ghana, it was brought to the “Gold Coast” from an island called “Fernando po” in the year 1876 by Tetteh Quarshie a Ghanaian agriculturalist and a blacksmith. Our farmers adapted and adopted cocoa production since 1893 when the first two bags of cocoa were exported. Ghana was once leading producer of Cocoa, termed a “traditional” export in Ghana, a major foreign exchange earner for the economy and contributes significantly to the gross domestic product of the economy. Ghana’s Cocoa beans and processed material are still of the highest quality worldwide.
Ghanaian culture is one which is quick to accept change and make it as “Ghanaian” as possible. Our music is no exception. Traditional Ghanaian music may be divided geographically between the vast savannah northern and the fertile, forested southern coastal areas. The music of Ghana often reflects a Caribbean influence yet it still retains a flavor of its own. During the Gold Coast era Ghana was a hotbed of musical syncretism. Rhythm especially from “gombe” and “ashoko” guitar styles such as mainline and Osibisa, European bass bands and sea shanties were all combined into a melting pot that became highlife. Highlife spread like wildfire via Ghanaian workers to other English speaking West African countries like Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Gambia.
Because of how dynamic the Ghanaian culture is, in the late 1990’s a new generation of artistes led by Reggie Rockstone discovered Hip life. Hip life is a fusion of rap in the local dialects over westernized beats or English rap over African beats. Hip life has since proliferated and produced stars like sakordie and Obrafour. Either ways whether hip life, high life or contemporary, High life has a foreign element about it but it is traditionally Ghanaian. This shows how progressive the Ghanaian culture is in this ever changing world.
Food is central to human life regardless of where you are in the world. The Ghanaian cuisine is very much influenced by the natural possessions and surroundings of Ghana and by the local climate of the country. The existence of many rivers and lakes, the tropical, warm and rainy, weather, lead to a great evolution of agriculture. All local plants and fruits are highly used as bases of the main foods. Fruits such as banana avocados, papayas and coconuts are not only used for sweet meals, but also as the main course, besides the Ghanaian traditional stew. Fishing is also a main activity in Ghana and that is why so many meals are based on fish; from soup to snacks and main course. There are diverse traditional dishes from every ethnic group, tribe and clan from the north to the south and from the east to the west. Food also vary according to the season, time of the day, and occasion. Ghanaian main dishes unlike others are organized around a starchy staple food, which goes with a sauce or soup containing a protein source. This is largely influenced by the weather conditions experienced in Ghana.
To begin with, looking at the eastern coastal belt the weather is warm and comparatively dry, the south-west corner is hot and humid and the north of Ghana is hot and dry. The climate of Ghana is tropical and there two main seasons: the wet and dry season. Due to this fact, some crops strive in other regions of the country while others fail, hence resulting in the different cuisine enjoyed from one region to another. For instance, in the south, local drinks and beverages such as “asana” made from fermented maize are common. In the Volta and Ashanti regions, palm wine extracted from the palm tree can be found, but it perishes quickly. It much easier to fine “Akpeteshie” a local gin distilled from palm wine, as it is nonperishable and highly potent. Among Northern communities “ fula” “Burkina” “bisaab” toose” and “lamujee” are common non- alcoholic beverages whereas “ Pito” a local gin made of fermented millet is very popular alcoholic beverage. In urban areas cocoa drinks, fresh coconuts, soy milk, among the rest are very popular. In addition, Ghanaian distilleries produce good quality alcoholic beverages from cocoa, malt, sugar cane, local medicinal herbs and barks. Hence, Ghana has a wide variety of local beverages which pertain to various communities. There are also many local savory foods which have marginalized due to their demand and preparation processes. Ghanaian savory may be fried, barbecued, boiled, roasted, baked or steamed.
In Accra, fried fish is a favorite meal, together with okro, groundnut soup, beans stew or red red popularly known as “yor- ke – gari”, “tatale” and rice balls also known as omo-tuo. In the western region, avocado is very common, snails and mushroom light soup and “Akyeke”. In central of the country, the main dishes includes kenkey with fish and gravy, palm nut soup, jollof , “fante fante” with palm oil and fresh fish, mashed yam and coconut juice. In Ashanti, light soup, the “Akantee” meat, the “Abun Abun” and palm nut soup, yam and cocoyam. In the Volta region, the “Akple” with okro soup, and “Abolo” with shrimp or herrings. Brong – Ahafo is famous for its “Nkotomire soup, cocoyam, “Ampesi” and also their popular drink palm wine. The Northern region is also best represented by thr “Tuo –Zafi, omo-tuo with green leave soup, beans or cowpea with shea nit oil and pepper called the “Tubaani. The upper East and West normally enjoy the same kind of foods. These include rice balls, “Tuo Zaafi”, “Koko” eaten with” koose”. Besides all these, “Fufu” is a meal founf in all regions.
African food joints, locally known as chop bars, serves the country’s staple foods such as grilled tilapia, banku and fufu among others. But chic new breeds of restaurants serve traditional African food in a modern, stylish setting. Prices can range from very cheap to upper end, depending of course on the area and types of restaurant you choose. The best place for eating out in Ghana is Accra; with no end of restaurants and bars, you can grab a bite to eat at any time of the day. Visitors can enjoy the opportunity of testing traditional African meals in the bars and restaurants of Ghana. There are a variety of places to see and a multitude of exciting things to do in Ghana. Good Ghanaian food and great drinks are the other attraction for travelers and tourists in Ghana.
To conclude, Ghanaians are recognized as one of the friendliest people in Africa and the rations they have with the guests us very important to them. Serving food to their guests is a way of expressing themselves and their relations with others. Food is also part of our culture. “All Ghanaians people are cooks” as food is a familiar and hospital way of being friendly, even to strangers or tourists.
There is a new of speaking that is gradually creeping into our way of speaking which gradually affecting our language culture particularly in the city of Accra and other capital towns in Ghana. Very often you will hear families and friends in a conversation speaking Ghanaian language and mixing it up with English phrases and even on our radios especially the radio stations that use Ghanaian languages as a medium of transmission. At other times, you will realize that some school children whose parent are Ghanaian are unable to speak their own dialect hence we have become lost in our own land. One thing we should know as Ghanaians is that language is a special element in our which reveals who we are as people. It serves as an identification of our heritage and lineage thus through language people are able to link up with their root and take pride in it and build upon it. The study of language is language is beneficial to every society because it also promotes national unity and harmony within a state and ensure continuity of culture. However some aspiring parents and parents prefer their wards to have a medium of communication at home and even school. They say they prefer an English medium of instruction at home and school because they know for the fact that all the people within the best jobs in government and large corporation are expected to operate in English. How can we then promote our mother tongue when its contact has been diluted with English phrases?
To begin with, on our educational grounds that the use of the mother tongue be extended to as late stage in education as possible. In particular, school pupils should begin schooling through the medium of the mother tongue because they understand it best and also beginning their school in the mother tongue will make the break between home and school life as minimal as possible. The mother tongue is a dialect of an individual. This dialect is the language spoken by ones forefathers and has been passed on from generation to generation. In Ghana, there are about seventy dialects that the indigenous Ghanaians speaks. However, currently we have forty – four of them that are currently spoken in our schools and communities. In addition, students at the basic level are supposed to learn how to read and write these languages in various schools while those at the secondary level study it as elective subject if they happen to read general arts. However a school of thought have the notion that children can always learn to speak their native languages easily at home since socialization starts from the family.
Research has found out that students struggle with scientific concept regardless of their being taught in English. A study conducted in japan and china proved that students who are taught in their mother tongue understands scientific and other complex concepts better. This goes a long way to prove that children learn better from the known to the unknown. Therefore, there is a need to use the Ghanaian language as a medium of instruction. In order for primary school teachers to provide a successful learning experience to the child, they have to build the known foundation of the language to experience of the child, once a solid educational foundation is laid in the child’s first language, the child can expand his or her wider environment. It will enable us to preserve our linguistic diversity. This is because every language in its own way expresses a unique way of communication between people and helps to preserve the history of a group of people more especially minority language in a society.
Another point worth mentioning is that African countries should begin to use their indigenous language for the express effort of promoting and sustaining socio economic development in their countries. Language is a vital development domain through the years of schooling irrespective of the child’s linguistic culture or social background. It is through the mother tongue that every child learns to formulate and express his or her ideas about himself and about the world in which he lives. Every child is born in a cultural environment. The language is both a part an expression of that environment thus acquiring of the mother tongue is a part of a process by which a child absorbs a cultural environment. It can then be said that language plays a very important role in molding the child’s early concept. He will therefore find it difficult to grasp any new concept which is alien to his culture and social environment if he or she can easily express him or herself properly in the mother tongue
In a nutshell, I will urge African governments, families and the society at large to ensure that there is continuity in our language culture because man himself is the cause, transmitter and recipient of culture; his language reflects the reflects the culture and personality of the individual as well as groups. Vernacular paus either as a subject taught or particularly as a vehicle for transmission of knowledge so let us cherish it.
Culture according to lan Robertson is “all the shared products of society: material and non – material’’, that is the totality of learned, and socially transmitted behavior. It includes ideas, values and customs of a society culture is related with food, language, religion, education, technology, external influence, norms and values among others. Language and culture constitute the medium by which individuals can communicate, be identified and distinguished from one another. The use of language is the most efficient way of integrating people into their culture.
Culture and language are inseparable. Effective teaching of Ghanaian language and culture motivates people to accept, love and be proud of their own culture no matter it is performed. Ian Robertson views “language as the keystone of culture for without it, we cannot pass on the collective experience of society and the lessons it teaches for survival.
If language is the keystone to culture, what then should be done to promote the Ghanaian language and culture, recent assessment of the Ghana language situation in Ghana is a reflection shame which is a burden to every Ghanaian man or woman. One may ask why some children of Ghanaian parentage only manage to utter few words or none at all in their dialects. This is because most home try to imbibe their kids with the English language rather than their own native language .Most of our school have refused to add up the Ghanaian language to their curriculum and subjects for teaching which shouldn’t be so. Our first language we should learn as Ghanaians should be our native languages before any other.
We should be proud to speak our language because it is a reflection of our identity. But the Ghanaian man or woman is least proud of his or her language and often times feels ashamed to speak or acknowledge our heritage. We speak English to one another even though we come from the same area.
In spite of the use of English as an official language or the lingua franca, local languages must not be neglected. Language as a means of communication holds a key to our culture, we would lose one of the major things that enrich our collective experience, the wealth and survival of societal norms. The family should be the basic platform for easy appreciation and study of language but what do we see in most Ghanaian homes, English seems to have displaced the local dialects as the first language resulting in the present unacceptable state of their own societal language.
In conclusion, knowing how to speak your mother tongue helps you stay connected with your culture and origin. Every language is important. It is still very essential and useful to hold on to your first language spoken by your tribe and society.