Arts and Manners
A people's heritage feeds into their character, their sense of morality, the manner in which they welcome members, marry and how they treat strangers, argues - DEA Culture Consulting Editor
Once reduced to a mere …“expression of the same laws which control the tides and the sun, numbers and quantities”, mankind—in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson—becomes no more than “…a pendant to events, only half attached and … awkwardly (so) to the world …”.
Now, one can imagine how much more awkward man (and of course woman in the era of gender sensitivity) becomes to other worlds that he/she continually interacts with or gets to interrogate. And such is the dilemma of settling for facelessness in a world where the universal currency of social engagement calls partly for substance, partly character and partly self-awareness.
So, what does culture have to do with a people, country’s or region’s character and identity? A lot! For starters, a people’s heritage naturally feeds into their character, their sense of morality and jurisprudence, to the manner in which they welcome newborns, court, marry and bring up children and also how they treat strangers, marvels or deal with death. In doing so communities inadvertently spell out who they are, thus defining both perceptions and terms of interaction and engagement.
Moreover, how certain cultures appreciate beauty, recognize and reward honour, courage, honesty, grace, fortitude, diligence, patriotism is itself a testament of identity, sense of virtue and value system. And how and what people eat, treat the environment, wildlife, their bodies, too is a statement of belonging.Similarly, the way in which the people of a given heritage agree, disagree, engage or disengage with significant others outside their immediate geographical, social and even economic realms reveals loads of their we-ness and views of otherness.
So anything devoid of a form of discernible centric and quotable reference to a reservoir of shared mores, lore, beliefs, convictions, observances, sense of proportion and honour—among other ingredients—is more of an ephemeral spell bordering on sorcery, not culture. That is particularly so because the hollowness portended therein cannot impart character. I guess that’s the reason persons of pacific temperament, good judgment, genuine disposition and empathy are generally referred to as cultured men and women.
However, such character does not pop out of thin air. Rather, it is learnt, taught, nurtured and systematically conveyed. It has a bibliography awash with ‘anonymous’ authors and a syllabus created by tens of unknown sages whose wisdom is distilled to the most rarefied state over centuries.
That is why those—wherever they may be from—guided by cultural sensibilities glow in the dark. And that is character. If, then, there ever was common ground in matters culture, it is all that weighs in favour of the good, bold and beautiful. It is that disposition that grafts grace where necessary ugliness or evil show up on the path of life. Beauty is, therefore, the middle name of culture, character and identity.
Unfortunately—but sadly so—not everyone is given to the discipline by which the finer ways of culture dictate, style and transport are mastered. Those possessed of inner gentleness and self-assuredness, as you would expect, can appease or checkmate any living philistine without breaking a sweat. Not so for the less culturally tempered where the active ingredient in that alchemy is cultural sensibility.
Yet one of the best watersheds from where cultural antecedents that drape and bedeck character are to be found is within a people’s culture as expressed from within by way of beliefs and values and by externalities such as genius as expressed in dress, fine art, music, food and nutrition, games and sports.
Our desire is to make Diplomat East Africa’s cultural forum the place to both express and soak in new perspectives of eastern Africa’s heritage, build it and institutionalize it so that it may beget a fresh character, scholars and admirers as well as a set of dedicated ambassadors.Savour Carol Gachiengo’s portrait of the African woman of yore (Two African Queens), Yvonne Owour’s profile as a cultural and arts student and enthusiast fully and articulately engaged in the global creative conversation
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