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Why I Am Still Proud To Be An African

by Ras Benjamin
July 17, 2003

Naturally, the nostalgia of every reader would vary from one another depending on the traditional orientation of the individual. And truly, Africa is a multi-cultural continent with further sub-cultural differences, so many as to be innumerable. Though the culture of many African societies may to some extent vary from one another, there is always some peculiarity across the board. InI will never be able to cover the varieties, or the nostalgia they arouse, but for the sake of this article, I will draw on the few I could. Having said that, let me now continue with a few more of those characteristics common in most African traditional societies. They still arouse the nostalgic feelings in many Africans and many of us are still grateful for them.

Let us look at some essential traditional implements that have subsisted and continue to help our people in the village? Such things as the 'Nguga' (A fish basket), in which fish and other similar delicacies are stored and then hung over the fire place for natural drying and/or non-chemical preservation. How about the 'ikpo,' a bamboo bed strongly set over low burning coals at night to provide the elders sleeping on them with warmth and good blood circulation while they sleep. How about the reminder that our natural chewing sticks contain antibacterial substances that protect the gum and prevents the teeth from rotting or falling very easily? The toothbrushes and toothpaste of the 'civilized' world do not contain such natural substances. Rather, they are products of artificial substances or processed chemicals. Is there any wonder why Africans who grew up using the chewing stick hardly have a need to go to the dentist?

Now, let us consider the biological immunity and constitution of our physical make up, which provides our people with the resilience to survive acute bouts of malaria and other health hazards that would ordinarily eliminate members of the typical Western society. Agreed, a lot of modern medicine and medical facilities are needed in Africa today. However, it must be mentioned that most of our people's illness today, arise from either an over-exposure to western lifestyle (and feeding system), or a withdrawal from our natural heritage such as a withdrawal or disregard for the efficacy of herbs and plants that Nature has made available to us from the beginning. Our ancestors had their way of containing almost all kinds of illness. Today, many Africans are caught up in that confusing middle land between African traditional medicine and Western medical science.

How about the elements? When InI see the trouble encountered in the West while switching from one extreme weather to another such as from a chilling cold winter (through a brief spring) and into a hot burning summer, InI remember and appreciate the simple nature of our weather and seasons back home in Nigeria. A place where the sun rises almost every other day of the year, and thereby reducing the melancholy often associated with the lack of sunshine and a bright sky in many western societies. A place where the sun rises and comes shining gladly and strongly again within minutes after a heavy downpour. A place where the people do not religiously rely on meteorologists and their limited forecasts, in order to decide when to go out and how far to go. A place where the people need not worry about winter troubles such as gaining weight, constant bundling of clothes when stepping out, or the digging out of cars from underneath mountains of snow. A place where fruits and other food items do not have to undergo massive treatment of chemical sterilization and preservation, so that they can look beautiful (on the outside) and decorate the food department of big grocery stores.

How about the strong immune system of our people due to their diet of mostly plant, vegetable, and herbal food? Bachelors, children, or grown ups in the urban areas who are unable to cook some good meal, or those unable to afford constant home cooked meal do resort to the convenience and pleasure of roadside restaurants, fried food joints, or the patronizing of prepared-food-hawkers. Roadside quick food, mama put, and take-aways remain common and people still feed on street prepared and street exposed food such as fried yam, 'dodo' (fried plantain), 'acara' (bean cake), roasted corn, fried egg, bread, and tea, and many more. But thank God for our immune system which in many cases save our people from the menace of serious virus infection and food poisoning or contamination.

Don't get me wrong, I am not commending these health hazards, but it is interesting to note that in most cases, our people survive under these conditions. A symbol of a people either so well created or extraordinarily protected by the natural life, resources, and elements in their environment or habitat. Of course, some people do get sick from these exposures but the percentage is interestingly minimal when one conducts a survey of the exposure involved.

Fortunately or unfortunately, many of us who now reside in the Western societies have lost or abandoned the use of this unique natural immune system. InI must therefore eat selectively clean and rely on 'bottled water' throughout the duration of our stay at home. Why? Our immune systems have 'adjusted' (or to say the truth - 'our immune systems have been weakened') by our exposure to western lifestyle, and our extreme manner of feeding and relying on western products and medicines, while abandoning our natural African sustenance. Ironical, is it not?

More interestingly, many of us who spend time living abroad now abhor the African society, forgetting how we were raised in them, and how we lived and survived in the system despite all odds. Nevertheless, there are some of us who still go home and fearlessly enjoy our traditional delicacies without any trouble or fear of food poisoning. An observation of the trend seems to suggest that in many instances, it has become a question of one's state of mind. Some returning Africans will start complaining about the air, the road, the heat, the dust, the crowd, etc. as soon as they step down from the aircraft. They become like the popular American musician who went on a trip to Africa and continued to close his nose because of an alleged polluted air which no one else in the locality or in his entourage bothered about. Yes, just a thing of the mind.

Regardless, many of us remain resolute in our conviction to let the African in us dominate the Westerner in us, no matter how tough the endeavor. We remain alive and continue to identify with the virtues of our African heritage even if we do so nostalgically.

Give Thanks.

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