#BeingaMan 006: The cultural definition of a man and the need to redefine the African man


Culture and tradition is among the things that guides human behavior to achieve some form of consistency and continuity. As such, cultures and traditions prescribe practices with the intention of achieving certain ends like preserving values and beliefs among others. These later form the basis for why we do some of the things we do. In Uganda, we are a multi ethnic nation having over 52 tribes and multiple cultures. That means that the definition of a man begins to vary from culture to culture fortunately some elements cut across

Rites of Passage:

A man in early Africa had to pass some tests. Not everyone qualified to be a man. In some cultures you had to learn how to hunt. The art of hunting then equipped the would be men with vital skills and values that they needed to become Men. For instance, in hunting one needed to not only be strong but also wise, swift, patient, brave and also have good judgement. Once a man was able to hunt successfully, it wasn’t doubted that he could provide for and protect his family.

In other African cultures, a Man was required to know how to build a hut. The art of building a hut was intended to equip a would be man with the skills he needed to provide shelter. The stories go on and on.

Culture and Tradition in Uganda

When it comes to cultures in Uganda, I cannot speak with certainty but it’s not hard to paint a picture of how a Man is perceived. In Bugisu, a man who isn’t circumcised is a boy regardless of how old he is. In fact, it is so serious that if a man died without being circumcised, they would circumcise the corpse before burial.

In Uganda, being a man is closely associated with marriage first. It may also be associated with certain achievements and milestones like finishing school, having a child, having your first drink of alcohol or even having sex. Some of the above are also considered initiations to becoming a man. On the marriage issue, when one paid bride wealth and took a wife for himself, he was considered a Man. In some cases, when one had many wives and children, he was a Man.

Being a Man is also directly and indirectly associated with wealth. My grandfather was a man because he had so many cattle that he couldn’t count. Today women associate being a man to having riches or wealth. “Banange George bought me a car! Can you believe?” and her peers would go like “What! Eh you lucky girl you have a real man” I am sure you have come across such conversations.

A man in an African Home

Being a man meant you are the provider. A man went to toil in the morning and came back late evening that is if they didn’t pass by the bar first. A man always brought home “Akaveera” or a bag with home supplies and groceries. A man paid school fees for his children and even some relatives. Successfully educating your children was one of those achievements that made you a Man.

Men of those days would wake up to tea, and the morning daily to acquaint themselves of current affairs. Those who didn’t reading the newspaper listened to radio religiously. Women greeted men while kneeling, children not only respected but feared their fathers. The Man’s word was final and not disputable. When he made a decision it wasn’t up for debate. He could take on another wife and the current wife would oblige. If a man did some of these things, he was considered a Man.

But now things are changing. Providing for your family and paying school fees for your children are your responsibility not a favor. Women not only look after the home today but also bring home bread giving them equal say in how the home should be run in some aspects.

I can bravely say the cultural definition of a man is no longer adequate and needs to be redefined. But this is just my opinion what is yours?

Image: Bespokeit


One thought on “#BeingaMan 006: The cultural definition of a man and the need to redefine the African man

  1. Pingback: #BeingaMan 008: Religion and Being a Man – the difficult intersection. | The CHRONICLES of Eristaus

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