The President was at it again on the occasion of State Opening of Parliament when he called on Sierra Leoneans to dedicate Fridays as a day of culture where we could dress, eat and dance the Sierra Leonean way. The President was hammering home a cultural re-birth based on specifications.
Culture, customs and traditions are very significant for the identification of one’s birth and also a practice of one’s ancestral deeds. Is that happening in Sierra Leone; and how often do families carry out their traditional rites for the young to learn from it? It is in Sierra Leone that you often hear people bluff that they are either this tribe or that; but could not easily communicate in that dialect. Some would also detest the learning of some of our local languages in Schools, with the idea that these languages are killing the English Language. These are the issues to take cognizance of as part of our cultural rebirth. The way we speak, dress, dance and even eat militates against our cultural heritage.
Students shy away from reading the history of their forefathers, their customs and traditions and instead grow up imbibing the Western way of life. The manner in which we dress is now lost as even the African attire worn does not depict the Sierra Leonean culture. The Muslim attire which is frequently worn is not Sierra Leonean but Malian; so also is the lace and the Arshoake which is common amongst Nigerians.
It was just last month that the Minister of Culture in Nigeria, called on Nigerians to dress on Fridays like Nigerians. Our President too made that pronouncement by calling on Sierra Leoneans to re-claim their culture. Where I hold the President was when he dedicated just Friday for that. Is that day alone enough to reclaim our lost culture and tradition? And why in fact is the President specifying to us the dress we should wear. If we want to restore our culture we should start to live by examples and a serious study undertaken for that. When the President went to Parliament last Friday, he could be identified in African attire even though the dress is not typically Sierra Leonean. More so, the Vice President Sam- Sumana did not look African on that day as he was dressed in a Western attire, so also were the Defence Minister, the Majority Leader and his Deputy, the Attorney General, Deputy Finance Minister and the Mayor, to name but a few were all Western in out look.
There is a clash of culture presently in the country, as even the music we entertain has crippled our own music to an unimaginable level. The few musicians like Steady Bongo, Ngor Gbetowai, and Amie Kallon who kept on the Sierra Leonean beats were provoked and their lyrics referred to as out dated. The lyrics from Bow Wow Society and Black Leo are highly appreciated even though they depict the culture of the American hip hop.
The rebirth of our culture should not be limited to just the dedication of a day as it would not have the desired effect. The reason being, some people may dress in African attire on Fridays; but at the same time these dresses hardly depict anything Sierra Leonean.
We have a compounding issue as patriotism which surrounds everything is lost. There is more attachment and affection to political parties and symbols than our nation state. The Green, White and Blue is mostly worn or recognized when Leone Stars is playing or during Independence Day Celebrations. The dresses we normally put on are mainly second hand clothes which are less expensive compared to our own traditional dresses which are very much expensive.
The President is most times a victim of this as he does not, at most time display the national identity but rather his party colors; especially the tie and pin-ups. It is so common for other politicians to dress in their party colors rather than the national colors. Check the offices, both private and public, and you would notice that the picture of the President does not reflect anything national. This is vague loyalty and does not in any way spur any form of nationalism.
I have thought of writing off this present generation in terms of patriotism and nationalism and concentrate on the children. This presupposes that, civic education should be introduced in our curricular starting from Primary Schools. The inculcation from that period would enhance the capacity of the child to grow up with nationalistic feelings instead of party loyalty.
By dedicating Friday it implies that the rest of the week’s seriousness in our coats, ties, jackets and shirts are retired for our traditional dress. Could the President also tell his Ministers to be in their cabaslots, kondegulay and gara for cabinet meetings; and for him and his Vice to start the examples of discarding the red tie and start wearing the green, white and blue?
By Ishmael Bayoh