Who decides?

Amal Chatterjee
9 min readNov 29, 2018

Source : Google photo

Synopsis : People all over the world are protesting the cultural invasion from outsiders who denigrate the native culture and promote their own in the guise of civilizing the uncivilized. This notion of I am better than you so you must follow me is so outdated that it needs a thorough introspection. All cultures are beautiful in their own way so we should learn to appreciate them as they are and not try to influence them.

My blog today may seem controversial to some because in this blog I will write about the African pride in their culture and history that has been denigrated by those who see the Africans as “savages” who still go about bare breasted and dance the way their ancestors did long ago. Africans take pride in their native dresses and costumes their ancestors wore and feel that their culture is under threat from those who fail to see beauty in their culture and criticize them for not being modern.

Africans since time unknown have lived in small villages before the towns and cities developed during the colonial period in South Africa and elsewhere in the continent. The villages by their nature and location were isolated often from each other due to lack of roads and other infrastructure that bind a modern nation today.

They did not have the money as we know it today so the concept of money, banking and using paper money to buy things was unknown to them but they did have a system that suited them quite well so they used the barter system very effectively. It still prevails in some rural communities where the farmers bring in their produce to the market once a week and exchange them for what they need thus bypassing the monetary system.

Their physical isolation also helped them preserve their culture that included clothes, food and numerous rituals. They did not have fancy jewelries made of gold, silver or precious metals or gems but they did have their own they made from cauri shells , beads or seeds of plants. They made their own clothes they designed from animal hides , barks or home spun cotton clothes and decorated them with embroidery or beads or shells. They colored their clothes from natural dyes they extricated from plants or earth.

They did not have western or strange foods that foreigners brought because they were isolated from the outside world so they had their own food they grew and prepared their own way that was quite tasteful and unique. They did not have fancy pots and coated non stick pans that you can buy in super markets today but they made their own beautiful potteries of clay that they baked and made extensive use of gourdes they cultivated and used them for keeping water or beer they knew how to brew from corn, sorghum or banana that they grew in abundance.

They did not have the so called modern houses made of cement and tin but they did live in beautiful adobe houses or round huts made of reeds, bamboo and vines that were waterproof and wonderful. The Africans were master artists using what materials were available to them so they decorated their huts and adobe houses using organic natural dyes and colors to make them look magnificent. ( see my blog called the Spirit of Africa here)

So over a period of time the Africans everywhere developed their own unique culture in their own regions so there is tremendous diversity in their culture because these cultures developed on their own mostly in isolation as 200 years ago most of Africa south of Egypt remained pristine and untouched by foreigners. In fact many such isolated communities had never seen an outsider of any race or color .

This started to change when the white missionaries who were the early explorers in the unknown parts of Africa arrived in late 17th century and brought with them their culture, food, cloths and most notably their religion that they wanted to spread among the Africans who were mostly animists. The Arab slavers and traders who were Moslem also did the same and spread Islam in the deep interiors of unknown Africa that the traders and slavers went into for their own reasons so the Africans learned for the first time about the outside world they knew nothing about and were very dismayed.

This was the start of the cultural and religious invasion brought about by the whites and Moslem Arabs that tried to impress upon the “ savages” that they brought to them superior knowledge about religion , food and clothes among other things. They brought with them guns that they sold them in exchange for ivory and animal pelts and brought in deadly diseases like small pox and venereal diseases to which the isolated Africans had no immunity.

But mostly they brought with them their sense of what was right and what was wrong and tried to impose their belief system on the Africans through coercion at first or through outright military conquest that paved the way for the rabble missionaries to set up their churches or mosques etc. to begin the process of religious indoctrination.

This would have serious consequences for the culture and traditions of Africa everywhere that is the subject of this blog today ( Please also read my earlier blog called the Cultural and religious imperialism here) .

Today as I watched the videos of Zulu women in South Africa who were protesting on the streets of their cities and towns this cultural invasion that denigrated them and tried to impose on them the alien values and norms developed in other countries that have nothing in common with the traditions and values of Africa, I was feeling sympathy for the Zulus and all other Africans who feel similarly threatened so I decided to write about it today.

Recently one American missionary who went to evangelize the isolated tribes living in the Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal was found dead, shot with poisoned arrows by the tribes that did not welcome outsiders . It made international headlines in all the media and continues everyday to expand the story about the savages who run around naked and had the affront to kill a “ well meaning good hearted missionary” but no one writes or talks about why the natives there do not like outsiders.

When the isolated Africans protested the arrival of these missionaries to spread their brand of religion, there were protests and even armed resistance that generated the ire of their sponsors in Europe and America. One African king Mutesa in Uganda burned the new converts wholesale and banned the white missionaries from his kingdom but there were similar protests elsewhere.

Dr. Livingstone was also a missionary but he was a doctor first so the Africans welcomed him and his medicines. It was the letters of Dr.Livingstone about the practice of slavery and the mass murders of the native by the slave traders that created awareness about the slavery that brought pressure on the Government in England to enact laws to end slavery in the continent. Dr. Livingstone would have been lauded by the Africans if if had shown the same zeal against the missionaries but he was a missionary himself who saw the benefit of spreading Christianity among the “ heathens”.

Now the Africans are asking how the evangelization of the Africans at the cost of losing their culture and traditions was a good thing? They are protesting the Google and facebook that routinely remove photos of bare-breasted females who are so proud of their culture but allow pornographic photos and videos everyday. I have myself deleted, muted and complained about the pornography in Google plus but it continues unabated.

The Zulu women who are proud of their culture, the manner of dressing etc. are protesting about the sexualization of bare breasts that to the Africans is a beautiful part of woman that should not and must not be sexualized. Zulu women just like in many other parts of Africa consider breasts as nothing to be ashamed of and to be covered up because to them their breasts make them women and beautiful.

I have earlier written that the African women who have always lived close to the nature have gone about bare breasted and still do because men respect this aspect of their culture and say that breasts sustain them when they are children so they fully support their women in their fight with the media like Google and Facebook to desexualize breasts.

I will post some videos here to show their pride in their culture and heritage.

Village Zulu girls dancing ( Source : U tube video)


Source : U tube video of Zulu village girls dancing

Source : U tube video of Zulu women reed dance


Source : U tube video of Zulu girls celebrating womanhood and dancing

There are some 11 Million Zulus in South Africa and nearby countries who take immense pride in being Zulus and they celebrate the anniversary of the death of Shaka who for the first time shaped the nation of Zulus by combining various tribes under one banner and one nation even if his methods were cruel and tyrannical. They say that Shaka was the greatest Zulu ever lived who made them proud to be Zulus for the first time in their history. They honor him with a great statue in Natal .

When the Zulu women protest in South Africa, U tube videos are posted but who speaks for the Amazon tribes who are being sexualized this way and their culture being changed by the missionaries there in deep jungles? Who speaks for the tribes in Andaman and Nicobar who protest such cultural invasion by outsiders ?

People have a right to preserve their culture and traditions no matter where they live and how they live. No one should tell them how to dress, what religion they must follow, what they must eat or not eat etc. but this cultural invasion goes on unabated worldwide with the full support of the governments that send the missionaries to change the natives in Africa, Amazon jungles or the jungles of Papua New Guinea in the guise of bringing civilization to the “ savages “.

From the pulpits of churches and mosques all over the world, people are thundering on this idea that the infidels and uninitiated must be shown the true religion although they are at odds to define what is the true religion and get into heated arguments over it with anyone with a different point of view.

I think we should all step back from this ideology that we are always right so the rest must follow us . This ideology caused a lot of grief in the past and continues to fuel unrest in many parts of the world so it makes me happy to see that the Zulu people are fighting back and are celebrating who they are through dances shown in the videos above. They are also protesting against the sexualization of women in the media.

In Vanuatu and Kiribati they too are very proud of their culture and celebrate it. Girls attend schools bare breasted because they are comfortable being who they are , the missionaries not withstanding.

The diversity in cultures is what makes this world so interesting. It would be utterly boring if such diversity is suppressed and only one culture promoted everywhere. To appreciate the diversity in people one must accept that all people have the right to live the way they want , eat the food they want and dress the way they want.

I am sure they will appreciate any help in improving their health and sanitation, their infrastructure like roads and bridges, their living conditions, their access to government services, their source of food, water, shelter and medical care. There should be schools and colleges to bring education to them that will offer new job opportunities . These are the things all people appreciate. What they do not appreciate is the denigration of their culture and the way they live.

I agree with them and fully support the Zulu women in their effort to preserve what is so beautiful in their culture and traditions.

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Amal Chatterjee

I am the village bard who loves to share his stories.