The institution of marriage has been a fundamental socio-economic stronghold and source for cultural sanity in Afrikan societies since ancient times. Today marriage is increasingly seen as affordable only for the few, doubted by most and failed by many. What impact does this have on Afrika’s future?
Marriage has become a dreadful expectation to many Afrikans. Brothers with small bank accounts doubt if they have the means to open and maintain a marital union, and Sisters feel the number of eligible bachelors is horrifyingly small. On top of that you have self-doubt (will I be “good enough”?), anxieties (can it last?), selection criteria (what do I LOOK for?), expectations (the need to prove you’re a REAL man/woman?) and unspeakable pressure from aunties who will remind you of your shameful singlehood at every opportunity. And I haven’t even started on culture yet…
I am convinced that part of the Afrikan Power agenda must also include salvaging Afrikan marriage; High quality, strong, militant marriages.
WHY? Because we need some order in our communities right now. We need our children to grow up to become warriors, raised by responsible and committed parents. We keep reproducing families of weakness, servitude and self-hate. It has to stop. A future of Afrikan Power will have to be built on a strong understanding of familyhood. Honourable familyhood.
HOW? We need to revisit the institution of Afrikan Marriage. And, if we understand it, there is a whole lot of things we need change around. We have really become mad. We need to understand that courtship is not going to McDonalds or watching an American movie but a test of high quality and skills, that marriage is not between two individuals but two families/clans, that romantic love is an illusion fed to us so that we keep failing and wanting to kill ourselves, that a wedding ceremony is not supposed to include clowny outfits – diamond rings – extravagant venues – limousines – fairytale Cinderellanonsense but cementation of an ancestral and spiritual family pact, that staying married can only happen if we learn particular skills (respect, communication, empathy, healing, growth) and that Afrikan marriages can only be functional to the Afrikan cause if they are rooted in Afrika (there is no “un-political” way of being Afrikan, so get with the program!).
We also need to take the pressure off our young women and men. In a time marked by confusion, no Afrikan should have to carry the burden of feeling inadequate or ashamed because they have not found a life partner. The problem is actually not her/him. It is us! We have failed (or been disempowered away from the ability) to maintain cultural education and strong foundations.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE? Foundation. Foundation. Foundation. Too many of us do not learn how to build strength within ourselves, let alone building strength in a relationship. Afrikan Marriage cannot become strong without foundation. As an Afrikan community, we need to invest in producing more marriable daughters and sons. Grounded Afrikans who understand their surroundings, their history, them selves and have some obligations for an Afrikan future. We cannot be shocked that so many marriages fail. Our support systems are weak. Most couples struggle on their own. Men and women become extremely lonely and desperate in some of our unions. Many of our married people die inside. And we dont even have a language to talk about it…
So, again – it starts with SELF. When Brothers say “Im looking for a QUEEN”, my response is “So, are YOU a KING yet”?
Response from a Young Sister: So, Baba Buntu, how should Afrikan couple express love, compassion and affection? Is it ok for Afrikan couple to tell each other ‘I love you’ every day or now and then, is that caucasian romantic illusion? I have been exposed to a situation wher I lived with a married Afrikan couple and observed how the husband will fall asleep day after day, when finished eating and only go to bed in early hours of the morning, if he is woken up by the wife or coldness.These pple are always at work even travel a lot so they never really have time for each other. How will knowing SELF help this kind of problem, as the system pushes us to be the ‘ONES’ we are not?
Baba Buntu Thanks for a brilliant question – and I think others should add their responses to this too. A main problem is that we are programmed to long for, seek and act out (‘perform’) the notion of something we dont even know what is (love). Within European culture it seems that love is a term masking a variety of behaviors linked to dependency, chemistry, compatibility and lust.
And it is served as an appetizing, self-centered candy-floss in the shape of flowers, chocolates, slow-dancing, hand-holding, French-kissing and poetic-sounding blabber (think about it, is there anything as “cold” as two people who, in robot-voices phrase “I love you” – and “I love you too” just to fulfil the mandate of marriage….?) As a people who is still coming to terms with what we lost, where we are, why we are in this predicament and working hard to re-build an Afrikan future, it seems that we need a bit more than these shallow ingredients to rise up.
Because we have accepted the Western images of “love” as the template, some people conclude that “Afrikan love” is emotion-less, unromantic and without spiritual depth. And the scenario you mention is one that could serve as an example of how we have internalised the hardship of being into our relationships. However, the situation would definitely not be resolved just by them claiming they love each other every night – the coldness you describe has to do with the fear and alienation they still have between them, not that they are “very Afrikan”. The coldness between them might be results of what families and communities did NOT do for them. Let’s remember that many of our relationships fail because we expect TOO much to be resolved within them.
I cannot think of anything more emotional than when a woman shares her everything with her man, something more romantic than when a man shows how much he respects his woman, something more affectionate than when the two make sacrifices and honour each other in practical ways, something more spiritual than when a couple seeks guidance from their Elders and Ancestors.
I believe Afrikan bonding is practical, first, and then there might be all kinds of affectionate wording and behaviour (ESPECIALLY the understated, the hinted and the gracefully tender expressions) to accentuate, remind and uplift. This is a far cry from the performed illusions that are acted out through kissing for show in public, spending silly money on restaurant-food and repeatedly say “I love you”. Having said that, I think it is high time to “upgrade” Afrikan relationships from the stereotypical coldness we have been inducted to. And this is where SELF comes in. We must take cue from WHERE we are and WHAT we need. We come into relationships, often with completely un-affirmed Selves, inhibitions, fears and uncertainty. The relationship – and the many constituencies it involves – must be able to respond to this.
So, a complete “Afrikan Love” (which I would prefer to call complementarity) cannot fully exist as long as the foundation (family/community) is broken. Family is supposed to bring us fully into existence – and for many of us, our families didn’t manage to do that. And when we don’t fully exist, we cannot fully experience love/complementarity/union. Our first priority becomes to just “be” (hence our notion of love becomes one of greed, want and dependency). “Love” is supposed to be a context, not a moment. If your foundation is not there, it doesn’t appear just because you SAY it is there (ex. saying “I love you”). So, there is a whole lot of building to do….. which starts with self….