The Hausa and Amharic Language – Unyielding
The Hausa ethnic group inhabit vast swathes of Northern West Africa; they range from northern Ghana to northern Nigeria, with the largest population concentration being Nigerians. The Hausa people have not been eager to embrace “’everything western’. They have a cultural orientation that does not view being western as sophisticated or better civilized. This standoffish nature has ensured that Hausa language is probably one of the least adulterated in Africa. It is noteworthy that for many years an exclusive BBC Hausa service has existed which broadcasts global news in pure Hausa to millions of Hausa speakers across Africa .Most Hausa households strive to teach the Hausa language to children concurrently with English learned in school. It is odd to find a young Hausa boy of 6 years , who cannot effectively communicate in his native language, compare this with other African ethnic groups that often judge how well a child is picking up in school by the quality of his language of learning in school – English , French , Portuguese or Spanish.
BBC HAUSA SERVICE – A Long Enduring Global News Outlet in Hausa Language
The Hausa People of Northern West Africa and Nigeria
Amharic is the language of the Ethiopian people. Ethiopia is one of the 3 African nations that was never colonized. Ethiopians resisted the final brutal attempt by Italy to subdue its people when they defeated the Italians in the battle of Adwa. Only Ethiopia, Liberia and the Dervish state maintained their independence in Africa after the Berlin conference .Amharic Language is the language of speak in Ethiopia, it is the language of learning for children in school. Amharic has its own writing symbols, which are not derived from the symbols of any European way of writing. Amharic writing is derived from the Geez script. Amharic is thus another African language that has not yielded to external dilution with words and phrases from European languages.
The African Language dilemma
Language which is a major pillar of culture has been affected by adoption and assimilation of the language of colonial powers in Africa.Most African languages are now spoken as a strong cocktail ; a mixture of an African language and the English or french. Perhaps more worrisome is the emergence of a new generation of Africans who cant speak any African language at all ; or at best have very very poor mastery of their native tongue. African languages continue to suffer gradual extinction from generation to generation .It is an erosion and transformation of African culture. Should Africa consider this a tragic slide? Can it be reversed by an awakening of African pride in its own tongues and a conscious effort to speak in African languages and perhaps educate the younger generation in African languages? Can African languages become alive to the evolving world by creating and adapting syllables and words for events, objects and things that did not exist between the 15th and 19th century? How does Africa stop the dilution of its languages as humanity continues to evolve in arts, science and events?
Pidgin English and French
Another dimension to the evolution of language on the continent is the emergence and prominence of pidgin English and french. These pidgin languages are a mixture of local dialects and English/French. Pidgin English and French have evolved into a unique kind of creole dialect, with peculiar words ,adjectives , nouns and syntax.Pidgin languages emanated from the need to communicate with European sailors and do business in the early 15th century and through the colonial era. Subsequently it became prominent among uneducated Africans who had no formal education and learning in English or french. However Pidgins are now spoken by even the most educated. It is a comfortable means of informal conversion between people who are very familiar and friendly. Pidgin has taken such deep root that it is now an aspect of language in countries like Nigeria . Infact various sub dialects and variations of pidgin Engih exist from one part of Nigeria to another , with the pidgin spoken by Nigerians of Warri extraction( an environment of Nigeria’s Niger delta region ) being the most concentrated and interesting . Pidgin English has practically evolved into a language of it own , and is a convenient mean of communication with the poorly educated and even between the educated as an informal , down to earth , friendly way of dicuss.
Is the adoption of Western names also part of the African cultural decline ?; Millions of Africans now bear English, French and Portuguese names. This is not about ex slaves or their descendants who returned from the Americas and Caribbean with foreign names, It is about Africans who voluntarily adopt foreign names. Africans who voluntarily give their children foreign names. Many Africans have an English or French first or middle name .But most curious is that many bear foreign names even as surnames. Surnames are sacred in Africa ,they define family lineage and heritage, yet many Africans changed surnames to names from colonial powers during the colonial era. Why do some Africans do adopt British or French names, when they were not forced to?
African Christians have also adopted biblical names often of Jewish origin; African Muslims have adopted Muslim names with Koranic origins. Whist the religious inclination to bear a name that buttresses religious faith can be understood, a pertinent question is, would a Jew ever accept to bear a name from any African ethnic group? Would Arabs accept to bear original African ethnic names?
The adoption of foreign surnames and jettisoning of ancestral ones is perhaps sacrilegious because Surnames defined men in ancient Africa. In Africa surnames facilitate tracing of ancestral lineages. African surnames are rooted in centuries of history which define clans ,family professions, exemplify the prominence of an ancestor and boost traditional egos .In Africa surnames say who your family is , what your family is , what your family did for a living , what your family believed in . Men who established new villages and towns named the settlements after themselves. Men who led great conquests in battle or achieved other feats bore names that defined their achievements. Great farmers, animal herders, hunters, blacksmiths , traditional religion priests , and traders adopted praise slogans related to those feats as family names .How many Africans with inherited European surnames , know real and true ancestral surnames today? . Would any Englishman, White American, German, Frenchman, Jew or Arab for any reason adopt an African name?
Whilst some Africans use religion as a reason for bearing Christian names, It perhaps begs the question – is it not the same God that created the African tribe ? So why not bear your tribal name if God created your tribe and language?, or translate the desired biblical or Koranic name into the African version and adopt that African version to tap into the blessings of God or Allah? .
If an ancestral name implies idol worship, because the ancestor was a great diviner in a traditional religion, perhaps it may be honorable to adopt an African name that signifies or implies God or Allah whom is now worship. Cant the meaning of most Hebrew and Koranic names be found in an African language? cant they be translated into African versions?. Would any Jew from Israel or Arab from Syria adopt African tribal names? This appears to be a deep and worrisome level of cultural imperialism. Opinions and views would be stimulating and interesting to hear.
’’And he kept asking questions …….questions that made them answer their own questions …….he spoke from both sides of his mouth…….like a cunning, wizened old man .He who allows you form your opinion…… an Elder from the village council of wise men settling a dispute between two bothers under an iroko tree. They sipped palm wine, and snacked on roasted bush meat……fresh from mama Muyiwas kitchen; the kitchen of the elders oldest and first wife; Alligator pepper and kola nuts where also on the table. They enjoyed the cool evening breeze that was setting in: his questions where many and frequent …his opinions on what they should do to settle the disagreement hardly mentioned, only subtly indicated …..By questions he guided them and brought out the folly of their conflict’’
The African wardrobe – Impact of external culture
Perhaps one area Africa has held onto its culture is how it dresses. Whilst the Western suit and tie, jeans, T shirts, and trousers are worn all over Africa; African traditional attire is still very prominent all over the continent. The various African modes of dressing are still the best way of conveying status, wealth and prominence .
Rich or poor ……… wearing African clothing earns deep respectability on the continent. African politicians ,businessmen and professionals best show class, status and success in African attire .Some African corporate organisations dedicate particular days of the week for native attire as the day’s work dress . The most appropriate dressing for social occasions such as marriages, funerals, and birthdays is usually in traditional attire .
Official and state functions are often graced in African apparel. Whilst African culture has suffered deeply from cultural imperialism – why have Africans taken a pride in their ways of dressing African? What is it about traditional way of dressing that makes Africans stick to the African style despite the African penchant for embracing everything culturally western?
……………..to be continued