African culture has intrigued men and women from other parts of the world for centuries-what they eat, how they eat it, how they marry, what are the social systems that are there in place, how several African tribes have managed to thrive without adopting anything from the rest of civilization-these questions have vexed many a modern mind.
So, here we are with answers. Below is a list of African traditions which will leave you gaping in wonder. Are these traditions weird? Or are they similar to us in more ways than we would wish to acknowledge? Find out for yourself:
Kidnapping the Bride
Men kidnap the girl they wish to marry. The prospective groom's family then meets the bride's father to ask for the girl's hand. Seriously? Is not it a little too late? The bride's father does not have a choice but to accept the proposal. There is however a symbolic beating of the kidnapper by the girl's father.
On a serious note: Bride kidnapping is much more horrendous than it sounds. It has risen to criminal levels in African countries like Rwanda, Somalia and Ethiopia, where the female population are already an unfortunate lot. Cases of STD, rape, unwanted pregnancies, domestic abuse, are effects of this tradition.
Swinging, as we call it.'Okujepisa omukazendu', as the Namibians calls it. It means offering a wife to a guest. Men swap wives as a mark of their friendship. Wives, however, have no say in the matter. The patriarchal elders of African tribes are of the opinion that this tradition promotes a spirit bonhomie and solidarity among members of the tribe.
On a serious note: There has even been a proposition to legalize this practice by a Namibian legislator. Namibia has one of the world's highest HIV incidences. Promoting wife-swapping will only make matters worse, not to mention increase the woes of the women.
Khweta circumcision ceremony
This involves circumcision of young boys who have come of age, and much more; the boys are flogged till they either drop or are declared a man. Circumcision in certain parts of Africa is a very public affair, where young boys are sent off to some winter-lodges, where they are instructed in the ways of the world by their master. Ridiculously rigorous tests test their manhood, such as dancing till they collapse with exhaustion. As if all this was not enough, as a final test, as they emerge from the hut at the onset of spring, they are flogged till their bodies bleed. The poor boys need to bear everything with fortitude, if at all , they have any plans of marrying.
On a serious note: The tests can become so intense that many have been said to die in the process. Additionally, the psychological trauma 'of not being man enough' will destroy someone who is unable to withstand such strenuous physical exertion.
Spitting on a newborn child
Masaai consider their spit sacred, or so it seems. They spit on a new-born baby and say he is bad, afraid that calling him good will actually draw the attention of evil spirits which will curse the child. Before shaking hands with an elder, a Masaai warrior spits on his hand as a mark of respect. And they even spit on each other as a form of greeting. I wonder if this is an ingenuous way of conserving bath-water.
On a Serious Note: Several diseases spread through saliva. There is no reason a delicate new-born child should be spat upon by grown-up adults carrying who knows, how many infections.
Cleansing the dead
When someone dies, the corpse needs to be cleansed. So, a few people take the corpse to a designated place, and slit open the throat. Naturally blood gushes out. They then start pouring water through the throat into the body. They keep doing it till nothing comes out of the rear except plain water. Rumor has it that the water that comes out is used to then cook a meal for the entire village. But we would not bet our money on that.
On a Serious Note: Lack of clean drinking water has been a pressing issue with the Chewa population. The blatant misuse of water rather than the barbarism is more a cause for concern.