I can’t remember the number of times I would ask to do something as a child and be told by my Nigerian parents that it wasn’t part of our culture. I must admit I have used the same phrase with my children, I got away with it until one day, my then thirteen year old daughter caught me out with a barrage of questions: what is culture anyway?, why does it matter? who determines what becomes culture, isn’t culture supposed the made up of the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular society, and why do we have to conform to it. The bone of contention was respect for elders and the fact Nigeria society expects respect for people older than you, more powerful than you no matter who they are, so we prefix the first names of people that have no familial relationship to us with – uncle, aunty, brother or sister. I have no problems with this, but what if those people you respect take advantage of you or your family– respect and culture go out of the window and common sense should prevail.
I ask myself if culture is always based on customs of a people, or is this something handed down to us by our forebears, and where does what some people refer to as high culture come in – am I cultured because I love literature and I don’t read gossip magazines? Am I cultured because enjoying going to a gallery, and gazing at paintings that cost a tidy packet?, I am still figuring it out and creating my bit of high and low culture along the way
No matter what culture you’re part of, the truth is, cultures change and so do people.