mashilo masemola

Erosion of Black Tradition
[The thesis you are about to read is largely influenced by objective and to a larger extent my subjective observation of what is generally referred to as Black tradition – or the Black way of doing things]

In an endeavour to eliminate any form of misinterpretation from the subject, perhaps it is fitting that one draws a distinction between tradition and culture. Tradition is a way of life which remains intact and largely constant from one generation to generation, whereas culture is something which is often informed by contemporary influence. For example the Irish have the river dance as a traditional dance of the Irish folk, it has remained constant over the years; on the other side there’s the contemporary culture of spending weekends in sports pubs indulging their palates on good Irish beer.

Now that I have made an attempt to distinguish between tradition and culture, let me dwell onto the subject of erosion of Black tradition. When I say erosion of Black tradition I’m not talking about an outside influence that has eroded our culture, in the sense that American pop culture has influenced global pop culture; I am talking about the erosion of Black tradition from within – that is by Black people themselves.
The most blatantly eroded part of Black tradition lies in what we ironically today refer to as an integral part of our tradition – wedding celebrations. It is well-documented that black people started embracing the “white wedding” concept at the turn of the 20th century but I shall avoid the temptation of basing my argument on such obvious trivia. However I shall focus on the lobola/magadi aspect of our marriage ritual as that remains a practise that goes back to the days of boys meeting girls by the river and fermenting their love until it matures to a point where the girl’s parents had to give consent and blessings to their daughter to be married to a boy from a far-flung village.

As it was a practise during those days a deputation from the groom-to-be would be sent to the bride-to-be’s homestead to state the boy’s intensions to make a wife of the girl he met by the river. Upon arrival, the deputation would be bearing gifts and all sorts of other goodies to offer as tokens of appreciation. It must be categorically stated that lobola/magadi was never a negotiated settlement such as was the outcome at CODESA. Maidens were never commodified as it is currently the case where the bride’s delegation of uncles would argue how good their niece is well-educated and place an astronomical amount of monetary value as compensation for the Western education she has acquired.
The contemporary nature of the lobola/magadi process has the potential of setting a young upstart on a back-paddle, instead of putting down a deposit for a house or setting a Trust Fund with an endeavour to make sure that future generations avoid hardship. In extreme cases a poor bloke is set back some R100 000  – excessive price to pay for love is you ask me.
This erosion of Black tradition has to be stopped on its tracks otherwise we risk being a people contemporarily blowing with the wind and perpetually on a back-paddle both economically, traditionally, culturally and in other spheres. Renewal of Black tradition should be an integral part of the African Rennaisance project as advocated by former president Thabo Mbeki and anyone who values African knowledge systems as a source which we draw our being and a guideline which shapes our collective future as a people.

In closing let me quote one of the eminent sons of Pan- African Nationalism, Marcus Garvey who said “a people without a true knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots.”

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