Posts Tagged ‘african culture’

7th November 2010;  © Copyright Rebecca Fowler

Sydney Baha’i Centre in Silverwater came alive last night (saturday 6th November) as the Bahr El Gahzar Community of NSW Youth Union held their 2nd annual Culture Day.

Invited by a student that i work with through the HARDA African Mens English Project, i was enthralled in culture the moment i walked through the doors.

Arriving at around 6.15pm i was greeted by some 500+ Bahr El Gahzar community members. Speech’s were made by community leaders and Youth leaders and songs from the homeland sung to unite the community. I was engaged in cultural dancing and song. A local Bahr El Gahzar rap group of Youth’s took to the stage and the atmosphere turned electric. As soon as these youth picked up the microphones the crowd went wild. they belted out their tune singing about a “New Sudan” and “Unity” between the Southern Sudanese. It was a great moment, part of it i was able to capture on video but due to the noise of the screams had to cut it short…VIDEO HERE

The Youth Leaders spoke to the youth of the community about how they need to use their time in Australia for good. To stick with their education and be motivated by the prospects of a New Sudan in the year ahead. Supporting the referendum in January was also high on the list, as well as keeping the youth off the streets.

As a westerner looking in on African Culture it seems we are not so different. The challenges they face with their youth here are exactly what we face with our youth. Our culture is as baffling and confusing to them as theirs is to us and yet they carry on each day with such resiliance and motivation it needs to be commended. Imagine coming from a very rural village to a major city bustling with trains, cars, traffic, traffic jams, accidents, sirens, complete and utter chaos is basically how you could describe the transition.  But it has its up side, our country is at peace, and unfortunately Sudan is not. Decades of war have taken its toll on these people and the only way to sustain their lives and culture was to leave their homeland and seek shelter in a country of peace. We are so lucky to have such resiliant visitors to our shores, let us hear of their stories, learn a bit about them and their cultures and you will find they are just sooo much like us. Family is important, community is important, love, friendship, fun, entertainment, dancing, singing, you would be utterly surprised how alike we are. Aside from skin colour, we are all similar and i really don’t know how people cannot see this.

Coming from Rural Sudan to Blacktown City of Australia must be a huge and amazing change of life and circumstances. Blacktown City is a vast city that has expanded massivly in the last 30 years. I should know, i was born here. As a local Blacktowner i have seen my town grown into a vast city, seen our vast array of bushland be cleared for Urban development, seen our infastructure fall behind due to the vast rise of population and seen the massive change in the community. The Southern Sudanese who have came here have done a remarkable job to adjust to the hustle and bustle of Australian life after years of living in war torn areas. We don’t realise being Australians how confusing our rail or bus system can be to a new Australian. How our tax system can boggle their minds and how even using our vast array of electrical knick knacks can seem like you need to take course to use it.

After my experience last night, being welcomed into the Bahr El Gahzar community i feel so completely honored and motivated. I hope that in January of 2011, A New Sudan will emerge through the referendum and my dear friends who would love to return to their homeland are able to do so as free and democratic citizens of a “New Sudan”.

FreeUganda (Apologies for the poor quality footage, my video camera is requiring a new charger cable)

opinion by: Andrew M. Mwenda

6 January 2010 – AllAfrica Post

Kampala — Since Ndorwa West MP David Bahati introduced a bill to kill homosexuals, I have become wary of the behaviour of Uganda’s international donors. They have threatened to cut off aid if the government goes ahead with the bill. This way, they are literally using their money to blackmail government to respect gay rights. Yet this approach, although driven by good intentions, is actually counterproductive.

Those hostile to homosexuals argue that gays are promoted by the West with money to undermine African culture although they have not produced even a scintilla of evidence to support this claim. But by threatening aid cuts if the bill is passed, donors are inadvertently proving the purveyors of this argument right. Donors should learn that cultural change should be a gradual internal process. To use force to make people change their attitudes would require a high amount of coercion that is certainly undesirable. Intimidation and blackmail are not effective weapons against cultural bigotry; open debate is.

In threatening aid cuts, I suspect Western leaders are actually addressing their constituents. Their electorates see the bill as a barbaric move to suppress a fundamental right. However, donors need to be careful not to be seen to be arm-twisting the government. The biggest challenge gays and lesbians face in Uganda is not state law (however draconian) but deeply held cultural bigotry by the society.

Therefore, a democratic government would find it difficult to resist popular pressure to hang homosexuals. Multitudes of Ugandans are homophobic and would not hesitate to sanction genocide against gays. To secure attitudinal change through force would require unprecedented violence. Our challenge is how to foster openness and tolerance. This can only be achieved through open debate.

This is why although Bahati is subjectively homophobic, he is objectively an ally of gays. By introducing his bill with provisions to kill gays, he has inadvertently opened debate on a subject that has been taboo in Uganda. In the process, he has given gays and progressive intellectuals an opportunity and a platform to enlighten Ugandans about sexual diversity and expose the fallacies that inform homophobia.

Since I wrote a column criticising Bahati, I have been impressed by the number of young Ugandans who have written to me saying the debate has made them rethink their prejudice. There have been critics as well and others who wrote calling me names. I had expected worse. My column also generated fierce debate on our website with the anti-homosexual side suffering a devastating but delicious intellectual beating.

A particular problem with Ugandan society is its low levels of openness. As evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller has written, openness to experience implies curiosity, novelty seeking, broad-mindedness, interest in culture, ideas and aesthetics. Our society exhibits low levels of openness partly because of the influence of tradition.

But as our society modernises and urbanises, a new cultural sophistication is consolidating. For example, in the current debate on Bahati’s bill, the most virulent anti-gay crusaders are largely (although not entirely) from rural areas, born in peasant families, are less travelled and are not widely read. So they lack exposure to diversity. The opposite applies to most of the people who are tolerant of gays.

It is easy to tell open-minded people; they tend to seek complexity and novelty, they readily accept innovations and changes – and as Miller writes, they prefer grand new visions to mundane, predictable ruts. This sounds like a personality profile of Charles Onyango-Obbo. You cannot catch a person of his attitude and calibre in a homo-bashing rant.

People who are low on openness tend to seek simplicity and predictability; they resist change and respect tradition. They are often more conservative, close-minded, conventional and authoritarian. They follow the established cults as did their grand parents. Even in heterosexual relationships, they reject creative acts that increase intimacy. In the name of tradition, they support female genital mutilation, practice polygamy, beat their wives and want to decide for their children.

The Ugandan education system adds to the problem. At home, children are taught to obey their parents without question. In school, Students are taught to respect every opinion in a book or from the teacher instead of questioning it. That is why it is boring and frustrating reading opinions in our newspapers or listening to radio talk-shows. There is little attempt to add value to existing dogmas and beliefs.

Yet life is more complex than the “facts” that stare us in the face suggest. A person from mars visiting a small poverty stricken village in Karamoja would find people living close to the Stone Age – sleeping in grass thatched mud-huts, walking naked, cooking in medieval pots and eating from pre-historic wooden bowls. Visiting a high-tech firm in the Silicon Valley, he finds people building rockets that can navigate other planets millions of miles from the earth and yet keep sending pictures of what they observe.

It seems obvious to a casual observer from mars that the people in Karamoja are mentally inferior to those in the Silicon Valley; otherwise how do we explain such fundamental differences? Well the people in Karamoja will be black and the ones in the Silicon Valley will be white. Therefore, on the basis of this hard “evidence”, it is easy to conclude that blacks are inferior to whites in intelligence.

Actually, this “hard evidence” of white intellectual superiority was the basis of slavery, colonialism and other forms of racial injustice visited on the black race. Today, most people know that the factors that shape the economic and social destiny of peoples are varied and diverse; the colour of one’s skin has almost nothing to do with it. The difference in achievements between a worker in Google and a Karimojong cattle-herder may be rooted in the simple accident of history and geography, not their mental abilities.

As we debate Bahati’s bill, we will learn that the factors that shape human sexuality are complex and we should therefore not kill anyone because they are different. We should punish those who sexually molest children and those who rape – not because of their sexual orientation but because they violated some else’s rights while seeking sexual gratification. Happy New Year!

As reported on allAfrica.com: Uganda: Donors Blackmail On Gays Bad.

” A good read for those interested, i can see for’s and againsts for the bill and further discussion and education in Uganda about sexuality is required in order to quell the fears of those who are homophobic” Rebecca Fowler