In recent times, an old debate about culture and identity has been resurrected among a clique of readers and internet people that I know. It was reignited by a colleague, who was angered, a tired anger, about the tags that society keeps on giving her. Apparently, the second thing that many people ask her when they discover her name is where she is from, followed by a disbelieving, O-mouthed “No!” when she tells them where she comes from.
Of course, in a country like Uganda where many people want to be heard, there are many opinions about this. It made for lively debate with some posting heavy words that showed how smart people have become.
I took exception though to one commenter who said another blogger was “shallow” in her arguments when she insisted she did not feel like she belonged to her tribe. This is the great Tumwijuke‘s post from 2008.
I believe if an argument is against your beliefs, it does not necessarily mean it should be thrown out the window. The blogger expressed her frustration with society’s insistence on forcing people into small boxes. This is something that many Ugandans are feeling increasingly, I can imagine. If you have been in the Ugandan school system and have been raised by modern parents who were not afraid to cross chasms dividing ethic groupings, chances are that you have felt the frustration of Tumwijuke.
Before I got married, I realised that what had been a slight irritant on the part of a number of people telling me to change my name to reflect where I come from, had become an avalanche. According a number of people, the name I use, which has been my name for as long as I can remember, does not show the world that I come from my family and it does not even reflect my people’s heritage.
Well, needless to say, I brushed these arguments aside, even when my Best Man tried to convince me that if I took up the family name, it would help open doors for me in future.
We used to run around this beautiful country house eating Nkenene. PHOTO BY MARK BUKUMUNHE
Every time I speak my mother tongue, I get strange looks from many Basoga, who then ask if I really am a Musoga. Needless to say, the experience of going to the village does not hold the same magic for me as it does for many others. In addition to the fact that I do not have any living grand parents in the village, I have no real friends there.
I love my home and I have nostalgic memories of my cousins and I running around the country house in tiny coloured gum boots. But beyond that, I have nothing.
Jajja’s House. PHOTO BY MARK BUKUMUNHE
So just because someone’s expression of anguish is not in line with the beliefs and values of one Mukiga, it does not make what she says any less frustrating for her.
Some years ago, my boss, who was an old boy from my secondary school was invited for one of those home coming dos. He was not impressed, so I asked him why he was not excited about going back to the old school. He told me he is a Republican. To him, the ties to the old school are designed to exclude everyone else who did not go to that school.
It is the same thing as tribe. it excludes everyone else who does not understand how it works. If you do not know your parents’ language and customs, you are an outsider.