Is it true Africans love children?

In African cultures, a member's status in society changes when, as a married person, he or she begins having children. In the same manner, the new father or mother's own life virtually ceases to matter that much to him or her; the main focus in life becomes the well-being of his or her child. An example can be found within the Bamenda region of Cameroon. In this part of the country, for example, a parent does not hesitate to sell or give up his entire wealth if it will guarantee a better future for his children. Parents sell their land, or engage in physically demanding petty business ventures just to sponsor their children through school. Eric Hooglund is saying the same thing about Egypt when he writes:

An individual's social identity was closely linked to his or her status in the network of kin relations. Socializing of children emphasized integration among their kin group. An important goal of marriage was to ensure the continuity of a family. A husband and a wife were not considered a family until they produced their first child. After the child's birth, the parents were addressed as father and mother of Muhammad or Amal, or whatever the name of their child. (124)

The importance of children can also be seen in that it is their arrival that gives meaning to a marriage in Africa. Leon E. Clark's presentation of the marriage system among the Gikuyu is revealing: In the Gikuyu community marriage and its obligations occupy a position of importance. One of the outstanding features in the Gikuyu system of marriage is the desire of every member of the tribe to build up his own family group, and by this means extend and prolong his father's mbari (clan). This results in the strengthening of the tribe as a whole. On signing the matrimonial contract the marriage ceases to be merely a personal matter, for the contract binds not only the bride and bridegroom, but also their kinsfolk. It becomes a duty to produce children and sexual intercourse between a man and his wife or wives is looked upon as an act of production and not merely as the gratification of a bodily desire..

The desire to have children is deep-rooted in the hearts of both men and women, and on entering into matrimonial union they regard the procreation of children as their first and most sacred duty. A childless marriage in a Gikuyu community is practically a failure.... (2: 141)

The culture of African peoples is such that they stand by their children in every way possible until the children are able to support themselves as adults. Yes, Africans love children so much that it can be said they live for their children. Without a child a parent will consider himself or herself most unfortunate, if not even cursed by God. It is this same love that you will see in an African when he meets with a child anywhere. He wants to hold, hug, touch, and talk to the child, just as a true parent would want to do with his or her child, or any within that age-group; the question of abusing the child does not arise in any way whatsoever. According to Africa's culture, a parent is at once a parent to any child that comes one's way.

Why did the children in Africa call Oprah Winfrey "Mama Oprah?"

Ms. Oprah Winfrey was called "Mama Oprah" in South Africa out of respect and nothing else. In South Africa, like in other African cultures, children are brought up to relate to anyone old enough to be their parent in the same manner in which they relate to their parents—respectfully. Respect for authority and age is the cornerstone of the culture, so when the children referred to Ms. Winfrey as "Mama Oprah," it was a sign of respect and not a way of saying they are her biological children or anything along those lines. It is worthwhile noting also that children in these cultures do not refer to older people, some cases even to older siblings, directly by their names. There is always an epithet of respect and endearment that is placed before or after the older person's name. Kuki Gallmann, an Italian by birth now residing in Kenya, writes in her book African Nights: "When I first came to Africa, the people addressed me as Memsaab. In time, they baptized me Nyawera, The One Who Works Hard. Now they call me Mama, because I have chosen to stay, and because I belong" (XV).

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >