By Seth Ampadu- Superintendent Minister- Methodist Church in St. Lucia
The culture of a people is what identifies them distinctively from other human societies in the family of humanity. This celebration should be able to unite us irrespective of our political or religious affiliation, let us know that we are one people with a common destiny. As people, we must be proud of who we are. Cultural celebration is very important. It affirms one’s identity. Culture celebration is a time to meet family and friends, a time to bring happiness to the community, a time of eating special foods, build social relations and social communication which leads to unity among the people. Culture celebrations create an opportunity for the people in the community to share their feelings and exchange their ideas and thoughts.
It is important to recognize that “God is a God of culture”. He is the one who made culture, and identifies himself in every culture. Culture is a very powerful tool to bring transformation in a particular society. The truth is, if an “enemy” wants to attack and destroy you, the first thing the “enemy” does is to destroy your cultural beliefs and practices. This has been our experienced as Caribbean people from colonial days. We were made to understand that our culture was “inferior”, “dirty”, “animalistic” and had no value. As people, we have had a history where our colonial masters took away our rich cultural heritage and “painted it as evil” and imposed theirs on us. Because of that, it appears we have a “culture identity crisis”. Sometimes, it appears we don’t know where we stand culturally, whether our culture is European, African or Asian.
Culture, for all you know, describes a certain set of customs, ideas and social behavior of a group of similar people in a society. Language, religion, food habits, social norms, music and arts stay specific in one particular culture as characteristics.
Someone has said, “The child just grows into and within the cultural heritage of his people. He imbibes it. Culture, in traditional society, is not taught; it is caught. The child observes, imbibes and mimics the actions of his elders and siblings. The child in a traditional society cannot escape his cultural and physical environments”.
This shows that every human being who grows up in a particular society is likely to become infused with the culture of that society, whether knowingly or unknowingly during the process of social interaction.
Today, it appears a lot of our children and some of our young people as well as some of the adults in our society don’t even know their “mother tongue”, which is Creole language and could face an identity crisis. Some of our young people and even some of the adults today feel “shy” to speak the Creole language. Some “pride” themselves by saying, “growing up my parents did not allow me to speak the creole language, rather they encouraged me to speak the “Queen’s language”. For me, this is a big mistake, it is like throwing away your “intestines and replacing them with leaves”. Anyone who discourages you to follow your cultural traditions is your “enemy”. Such a person doesn’t want your success, such a person want to destroy your identity about who you are.
It seems to me, that the majority of Lucian children and some of the youth do not know how to read or write in their mother tongue (creole language) because of the influence of English and the choice to make English their first language. I don’t think that is right. I believe, every child in the country should be taught the Creole language “right from birth” at school. The Creole language must be part of the syllabus for the children to learn at school.
Research has shown that learners who use English as their first language often forget their mother tongue. “Children who are taught in a language rather than their home language often find it challenging to understand complex topics that are taught in the other language.
The importance of your child being taught in their mother tongue is that they will understand better at school and will be more comfortable when learning. “Kids who go to school with a solid foundation of their mother tongue develop literacy abilities in the language of instruction at school.”
It is important to note, that language impacts the daily lives of members of any race, creed, and region of the world. Language helps express our feelings, desires, and queries to the world around us. Words, gestures and tone are utilized in union to portray a broad spectrum of emotions. The unique and diverse methods human beings can use to communicate through written and spoken language is a large part of what allows to harness our innate ability to form lasting bonds with one another; separating humankind from the rest of other creatures.
It is time for parents to use this opportunity of cultural celebration to create awareness and also to encourage children to speak the creole language by setting an example of speaking the language to them at home. Read to your child the creole and speak with them at home and frequently visit family elders so that we can create and deepen our own cultural heritage.
This cultural month, it would be nice as people to begin to reflect and “reclaim, rekindle and restore” our rich cultural heritage which makes us “who we are as Lucians”. It is time to redefine who we are in the light of our “own” cultural heritage. It is time to look back and bring back what has been “stolen” from us and restore those tenets of our ancestral heritage.
Let us remember that society could not function without cultural norms that assist in governing behavior and values, and culture could not exist without societal influences to create it. Following and observing our culture instills moral values in us. Every culture has its share of knowledge and beliefs which make us better human beings. It makes us responsible people who can co-exist with each other in a harmonious society.
It is appropriate to note that culture helps people connect with each other and build communities, within the same cultural backgrounds. Individuals belonging to the same culture are usually like-minded and have the same ancestral values. Culture helps us understand our ancestral values and gives us the very meaning of life. It also makes us unique from other parts of the world.
Preserving our creole cultural heritage lies in the sense of belonging and unity that it offers. Cultural heritage and traditions serve to link us with our ancestors, which is valuable and should not be lost. Even though times are changing now and “so many cultures are conflicting” we should not let our cultural heritage to be eroded away.
As we celebrate our “root”, it is a call for all of us to be united as one people. Our African ancestors have a proverb which says, “If you want to walk fast walk alone, if you want to go far, walk with others”. It means, that as Lucians, we were created to be in relationship with others; to love, to laugh, and to live together. Another African proverb says “Ubuntu” – I am because we are. “It takes a village to raise a child”.
This month’s cultural celebration should see all communities, political parties, families coming together to live in unity and harmony. The African proverbs say: “When brothers fight to the death, a stranger inherits their father’s estate”, “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you”, “A bundle cannot be fastened with one hand” and “When spiders unite they can tie down lions”, “Many hands make light work”, “Cross the river in a crowd and the crocodile won’t eat you”, “Where there are many, nothing goes wrong”, “Two ants do not fail to pull one grasshopper”. All these proverbs constitute a call for unity in our country. The truth is, without unity, our country “knows nothing”, “does nothing”, and “amounts to nothing”.
As people we may be like different colors, different experiences, different lifestyles, and different approaches. This should not divide us but rather unite us to develop our country.
Remember, unity is the vehicle the country rides on for peace and prosperity. A “divided” nation is a “dying” nation. We should use this month’s celebration to put to death the attitudes and actions that are hurting the country we love so much, such as indiscipline on our roads, lateness to work, intolerance, hatred, anger, vengeance, robbery, violence, pride etc. Let us remember, that pride promotes disunity. When we demand our way over others, when we think our way is superior, when we try to be on the top at the expense of others, we hurt our country.
Paul in Ephesians 4.1-5 admonishes us, as we celebrate our cultural heritage.
“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all”.
May God help us to use this month’s cultural festival celebration to put to death all the things that hurt our country. God bless our country and make it great and strong.