Restless from birth, I find myself always looking for somewhere new to “wander” to.
In our contemporary society today, the most clichéd criticism of scanty dressing is how it is indecent as it is ‘Un-African’. The reality however, is that what they inaccurately regard as the “African culture” is a mixture Orchestrated by the cultural integration handed down to them.
My incessant Wanderlusting took me to the Slave Trade Museum5 in Marina Resort, Calabar. Trust 3me, I’ve got lots of things to say on 6slavery but You should be calm. Some6 other time. It’s worth the wait, I promise.
So, back to what I 7had in mind. While in the slave trade 6museum, the tour guide took us through the various1 chambers of the museum9(which although remodeled and modernized, used7 to be a holding cell for the slaves 2before they were shipped off to the New World). When3 we got past all the8 depictions of things related to slavery, we got1 to the section where things related9 to Nigerian pre-slavery and pre-colonial civilization5 is. Just incase you thought the only places with a pre-colonial civilization in Africa is Egypt, Well, think again. In this section, we were shown pictures depicting traditional African dressing. We were also shown pictures depicting the change in dressing after the cultural integration between the Western culture and the African cultures happened.In our contemporary society today, the most clichéd criticism of scanty dressing is how it is indecent as it is ‘Un-African’. The reality however, is that what they inaccurately regard as the “African culture” is a mixture Orchestrated by the cultural integration handed down to them.
In the authentic African culture, we covered less. I think our climate played a huge part in this and so I wonder how those people who have to wear shirts and ties and suits manage with all that heat. I mean, doesn’t the tie choke them? The African weather is unaccommodating of too much clothes on.
In many African cultures, the Efiks, found in present-day Cross River State, Nigeria for example, it was common for females to be bare-chested with just beads or thin strips of cloths covering their vaginas.
There was less censorship of skin exposure. It was after the Europeans came to Efik land that they adopted the oyonyo, which many now regard as their original traditional wear for females.
This dawned on me the that ancient ancient Africans used to be much more freer than present-day Africans. It seems to me that beyond physical slavery, we were enslaved in a much deeper mental way and though slavery was abolished centuries ago, many Africans are yet to emancipate themselves from the mental binds their ancestors were ignorantly chained with. We have lost the African free spirit and in its place, we are now a stiff, rigid and timid people.
While I’m not in any way inferring that we go back to those times of being bare-chested (which wouldn’t be a bad idea though. Some of us would do with less clothes after all), can we just stop with all the unnecessary cries about censorship and the African moral standards? Can we imbibe our actual culture and stop shoving everything we want to justify under the very wide umbrella of being African? Can we truly know what it means to be African and be Africans, bold, black and proud?