Personal Chronicles, Point of View // 07.10.2013

Being an Individual in an African Family

Article by Aba H

Last year I made a decision. I made a big decision and one not all of my family members agreed with. This is a decision I believe in and haven’t regretted 1.5 years on. Now, just to put some of your minds at ease, I wasn’t planning to elope and get married, cut my hair off and tattoo my scalp or get piercings on my. This decision would have enhanced me as a spiritual being but I still faced opposition from some family members. As an African adult-child, especially one still living with their parents, you can’t go against the wishes of your parents even though you believe it is the right thing to do.

This made me ponder my existence as an individual and the decisions I make and how I can then exist within an African family or society without compromising my personal desires and dreams.

The predicament lies in a.) as an adult whether to make the decision to follow a certain path that I want to follow and give my parents the impression that I’m seemingly cutting myself off from them? Or b.) hold off on following my desired path until I get their approval.

This got me thinking a lot about what it means to be an individual in the African context where we derive our identities from our families and what it means to be a family member, to be the sister and the daughter? At what stage does my identity as the individual end and my identity as the family member begin? Can these two be mutually exclusive? And can an individual co-exist within a family without compromising ones convictions?

I know these are many questions but as an African I’m all for culture and support culture as far as it doesn’t go against natural law (ok, who defines what is culturally acceptable is a whole other debate) but at the same time although the individual makes up the family, without the family the individual doesn’t exist and has no name, no identity and no heritage.

As you can see, I don’t have it all figured out but I guess that as young Africans we need to tread the line between independence and family carefully. As much as we secretly desire the independence our western peers enjoy (hehe) we also need to remember that the same parents who raised us from diapers into the people we are today want the best for us. Without them we are nameless and devoid of an identity. Without them we are devoid of a heritage.

How do you deal with being an individual in the African context?


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