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HomeNotesCRE NOTESAFRICAN MORAL AND CULTURAL VALUES

AFRICAN MORAL AND CULTURAL VALUES

AFRICAN MORAL AND CULTURAL VALUES

AFRICAN MORAL AND CULTURAL VALUES

TOPIC EIGHT: AFRICAN MORAL AND CULTURAL VALUES

MEANING OF LIFE AND ITS WHOLENESS IN THE TRADITIONAL AFRICAN SOCIETY

  1. Life originates from God and it progresses from one stage to another with a certain rhythm each person has to follow.
  2. Each stage of life is marked by rites of passage.
  • Life is continuous and unending.
  1. Each person is expected to value life and to be responsible.
  2. Life involves sharing. It is immoral to be greedy and self centered. People are to be hospitable, warm and caring toward other people.
  3. Unity and harmony are to be upheld.
  • Life is viewed as whole only if a person went through all the stages or rites of passage
  • Life was propagated through bearing children.
  1. Life cannot be divided into religious and secular. Every element of life has a religious meaning.
  2. Life is communal. Life was celebrated at every stage. Everyone depends on others.
  3. Labor was divided. There were duties for men, children and women.
  • In African traditional society, human life is precious. Murder was condemned harshly. Suicide was considered the worst thing anyone could do. It was seen as a curse on the family. If one died at childhood, it was regarded as abortion.
  • Death did not mark the end of life. Death is referred to as ‘saying goodbye to food”, “sleeping,” “going home”, “being called by the ancestors”.

AFRICAN MORAL AND CULTURAL VALUES

African concept of a community

A community is a group of people who share a

  1. Common language,
  2. Common religion, and culture like customs and taboos
  • Live in the same geographical location.
  1. This group of people or an ethnic group shares common interests
  2. Have the same origin and are likely to be related by blood.
  3. Are divided into smaller units called clans

A clan is made up of people who have the same forefather. A clan is composed of families. A family is made up of members (living or dead) who are related by blood and marriage. Family members therefore include the ancestors and the unborn.

KINSHIP SYSTEM IN AFRICAN COMMUNITIES

Kinship refers to the relationships between people. These can be by blood, marriage or adoption. People that belong to the same kinship system are referred to as kin.

Importance of kinship system and ties

Kinship relationships were and still are important among African communities. This is because these ties:

  1. Provided company. This ensured that people were not lonely.
  2. Provided a sense of belonging which one of the human needs. We all want to belong
  • Controlled social relationships between people related by blood or marriage.
  1. Promoted mutual responsibility and help
  2. Enhanced a sense of security which is a human need
  3. Regulated marital customs, rules and regulations.
  • Enabled people to live peacefully and in harmony.
  • Bind the community together enhancing social cohesion and loyalty to each other
  1. Facilitated care for the disadvantaged members of community.
  2. Ensured that all members of the community are have knowledge of community beliefs and practices
  3. Provided a peaceful way of settling disputes.
  • Provided mechanisms for proper inheritance of property for example land.

AFRICAN MORAL AND CULTURAL VALUES

Factors contributing to harmony and mutual responsibility in African communities

These are many. Some of them are

  1. Rites of passage
  2. Good morals
  • Participation in communal activities such as ceremonies, work, leisure activities and worship
  1. Sharing of property and ideas
  2. Division of labour. Tasks were distributed according to one’s age, gender and status.
  3. Rules/social norms regulated how people grew up; knowing what is wrong and right. Good morals help people to live in peace and harmony
  • Communal ownership of property

RITES OF PASSAGE

In traditional African society, there were four main stages of life. These were

  • Birth and naming
  • Initiation
  • Marriage and
  • Old age and death

Birth and naming

When a woman conceived, and pregnancy was visible, she was treated specially.

  • She wore charms to keep away evil eyes.
  • She ate special food and avoided sexual relations.
  • The family and husband did not expect her to perform heavy task.
  • When she was ready to deliver, mid wives helped in delivery.
  • After delivery, the placenta was seen as a sign of fertility hence it was buried in the fertile land such as a banana plantation. Some communities preserved placenta while others threw it into a running stream.

AFRICAN MORAL AND CULTURAL VALUES

Birth

The arrival of a baby and its sex was announced through ululations or shouts. The placenta was disposed off ceremoniously. The mother was purified and baby protection rites were conducted. Once purified, a mother could wear charms to protect herself and the baby from malicious spirits, sorcery, witchcraft, and evil eyes.

Thanksgiving ceremonies were performed to show gratitude to God. The hair of the mother and child was shaved as a sign of purification and newness of life.

Naming

Naming of babies was carefully chosen. A baby could be named after

  • A season,
  • Weather,
  • Ancestors,
  • Place or
  • Time of delivery,
  • Occasion,
  • Experience of mother during delivery,
  • Significance events such as war, and drought,
  • Personality of the child,
  • Names of heroes and gods. A good example is the name ‘Were’ amongst the Luhya.
  • Twins had special names.

INITIATION – THE SECOND RITE OF PASSAGE

There were different types of initiations such as circumcision for boys and clitoridectomy for girls, excision of teeth and body marks.

Initiation rites were important and every individual was expected to go through them or be rendered an outcast. Initiation practices were seen as tests for courage and bravery. They helped the communities when identifying future leaders and warriors.

Initiation was very important in communities where it was practiced.

  • Initiation marked a transition from childhood to adulthood.
  • In this transition, the initiate acquired new rights, new status in life, and privileges. For example the new initiates were allowed to marry, own property, and inherit the father’s property.
  • In addition the initiates received specialized education. They were taught how to behave as adults, warriors, future husbands and parents.
  • The rite brought families, relatives and friends together. This act strengthened kinship ties.
  • It also prepared the initiates to face the difficulties and challenges of adult life.
  • In addition, initiation helped to structure the community. Initiation was programmed to fit an age set; and it marked passage of specific time. Thus each initiation ceremony was held regularly, normally between 16 – 21 years of age. If you calculate, you can see that 16 to 21 years introduced a new age set or group of young people. The age set held power for 16 to 21 years and handed over to the new generation. Initiation was therefore a mark of identity.
  • It gave the initiate a sense of belonging.
  • It bonded the initiates together with the ancestors.

AFRICAN MORAL AND CULTURAL VALUES

Initiation rituals are not popular today as they were in the past. This is because

  • Many communities have undergone social and cultural changes because of modern education. As a result some families take their sons to hospitals to be circumcised to prevent HIV/AIDs and to avoid infections because of unhygienic traditional initiation practices.
  • Urbanization and migration,
  • Individualization
  • Christian’s religious values. These have made some communities abandon some rites e.g. clitorisdectomy
  • Some countries have made girl’s circumcision illegal and an issue of human and health rights.
  • Modern education take most time and children don’t have enough time to practice the rites
  • Teachers have taken the roles played by sponsors
  • Economic hardships

Attitude to birth and naming

There has been a change in attitude to birth and naming. This is because

  • Initiation is no longer a community but a family affair.
  • In addition, pregnant women attend antenatal clinics.
  • Majority of pregnant women give birth in hospitals and health centres. Thus a doctor and not a midwife announce the sex of the baby.
  • In modern society, the mother and child are no longer secluded.
  • Lastly most parents prefer western names for their babies.

AFRICAN MORAL AND CULTURAL VALUES

MARRIAGE

Marriage was a requirement for all members of the community. It was a source of status in the community. Since a leader had to be married.

Young men and women married after initiation. Marriage was a happy occasion and a source of wealth.

The father gave young initiates some animals for dowry. Fathers of girls received dowry payments, as bride price was mandatory. It was given to the parents of the girl in form of

  • Cows
  • Goats
  • Camels
  • Jewellery

The young men inherited the father’s property.

Importance of dowry

  1. Dowry unified the community.
  2. When young women were married, their parents lost their labour. Dowry payments compensated for this loss.
  • Men paid dowry as a sign of commitment to their wife and parents.
  1. United the families
  2. Appreciation to the parents

Importance of marriage

  1. Marriage was sacred. It was ordained by God.
  2. Marriage created new social relationships and expanded web of kinships.
  • During the marriage ceremonies the whole community rejoiced, and feasted together.
  1. The newly married couple learnt new knowledge and skills.
  2. The community and society respected the newly married couple.
  3. Children born from this union propagated and ensured continuity of family, and the community.

Modern community and marriage

There has been a change in attitude towards marriage. As a result:

  1. Marriage is no longer seen as sacred and divorce is common.
  2. In addition, dowry has been commercialized, as it is no longer seen as important. Some young men do not pay dowry.
  • In fact marriage is no longer seen as a sign of status
  1. Children were important in marriage. Barren women were frowned upon. Polygamy solved issues of childlessness. Couples without children can now adopt them from the Child Welfare society.
  2. This was very rare. It happened only if the girl
    • was not a virgin
    • practiced witchcraft
    • And did not show respect towards her husband.

OLD AGE AND DEATH

This is the age of wisdom. Old people were respected. Grey hair was a sign of respect and wisdom. In all culture, the elders were the custodians of the law, norms and regulations. Social and religious specialists were seers, rainmakers, priests, diviners, and medicine men among others

Death

Old age is followed by death. It was seen as a transition into the spiritual life. Besides old age, many cultures believed that death was due to

  1. Either breaking of the traditional customs and taboos,
  2. Curses,
  • Evil spirits,
  1. Witchcraft,
  2. War,
  3. Diseases and epidemics.

Burial rites were performed in many African communities.

Disposing of the dead body

Several methods were used to dispose the body. These were

  1. Burials,
  2. Leaving bodies in the forest,
  • And throwing body to animals or placing the body in an abandoned house.

African communities believed that animals carried the spirit of the dead person to the next life. Burial rites were performed by the bereaved. They buried the body with ones person belongings and tools. Thus if a person was a great warrior, he was buried with a war coat. Celebrations accompanied funeral rites.

Funeral songs (dirges) were performed. There was drinking and eating.

Importance of funeral and burial rites

  1. Burial rites created a good relationship between the dead and the living.
  2. They were therefore given to appease the world of spirits,
  • Express unity in the society,
  1. Cleanse the remaining relatives and
  2. Obey the customs of the community.

Rituals that were performed depended on the community. Some of the rituals for the dead included.

  1. Shaving of heads. Some mourners shaved their hair completely, while others shaved in a specific pattern.
  2. Dancing and singing,
  3. and giving gifts to the bereaved family
  4. Mourning
  5. Drum beating
  6. Horn blowing
  7. Grave side fires

Here are some questions to make you think about marriages

  1. In your opinion, what has brought changes in modern marriages?
  2. Explain why divorce is rising in Kenya and Africa.
  3. What changes do we see in contemporary marriages?
  4. What has brought about these changes?
  5. What are the major causes of death in Kenya today?

FORM 1 SECONDARY NOTES UPDATED 

SECONDARY SCHOOL SCHEMES OF WORK ALL SUBJECTS