There are so many theories and definitions that have conjured up regarding culture. As you begin to read this article, I believe you will form an opinion of probably what it is all about. Well, I will define culture in 3 different contexts from which we shall draw examples that that are commonly used.

1. Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving. These vary from geographical locations, schools, professions, beliefs, religions the list is endless.

For example in one famous school in western Uganda , the boys in that school believe they are not meant to rush “Omu Slacker Tapapa” literally translated “the Boys that go through St. Leo’s Kyegobe are not meant to rush”, huh. This grooms the boy’s attitude to look at life differently. Wherever you meet any of these old boys of the school, they look and walk that attitude. That is what they are; even with food, they will not line up until everyone else has served, then they will join the line. Isn’t that cool?

Our culture is the collective sum of the schools we have gone to, the communities we have stayed in, the families we have lived with and the people we have grown up around. I always tell my friends that it’s so much easy to tell a lady that has been to a single sex school. These girls completely stand out. I am not advertising any school, but that is my research finding, unless you prove me wrong. The same applies for gentlemen/ boys who have gone through the seminary; you can’t fail to tell the difference. The environment in which we grow up in (the various institutions) plays a very big role in our daily life, the people we meet and interact with, the places we work, and places of worship we go to. Hence my call to the key stakeholders (teachers and parents) is to ensure that all students adhere to the culture you wish to inculcate in the students.

Even at work places, all companies, organisations and professions, have a code of conduct and a set of values .These guide the conduct of all organizational members to have a common ground of looking at issues at hand. An example will be the “Learned friends” (lawyers).This group believes they are the consummate professionals. You hear people say “you are dressed like a lawyer.” No need to explain that. Suit, Tie, Socks Dress shoes. (Newsflash for the newbies: This is a conservative profession. And you will never find an unkempt lawyer, never.

2. Culture is symbolic communication. In this we are looking at the various attributes to the different tribes, religions, professions. Your Stereotypical Ugandan believes that certain jobs are meant for certain tribes, I will not specify, but people believe this. It’s culture. You may roam all schools in Uganda looking for a gateman called “Kasibante” and never find one. There was assaying (not completely founded) that “ekyebeeyi kiba kyabeeyi, omuganda takola bwa’skari” which loosely translates “class is class, a Muganda can’t be a security guard” but yet they gladly do this in London or Dubai or in other “Outside countries”. 

Whereas cows maybe looked at as a source of delicacy (Ghee, Yoghurt, Milk and Beef) some cultures communicate power by the numbers of cows in one’s kraal. A man with no cows will not take the hand of anyone’s daughter, because he is not man enough, but I believe once you are born male, you are man enough, I don’t intend to oppose the culture, but I would put it that way.

When you are assertive and aggressive people will just conclude you hail from the beautiful hill of, you guessed right, Kabale. Soft spoken people will definitely be Batooro. Tall, dark and lanky handsome men will be my northern brothers. However when it comes to attitudes, some cultures would not want to listen to an uncircumcised man talk that is what they believe, he is “not man enough” or brave enough to sit on the table of men. Though I think we should not dwell much on these however much they play a very important role in making us who we are, since some cultures have been portrayed in negative light ,yet for others it is actually  the contrary.

The best thing is to appreciate and celebrate the beauty of our diversity. Different cultures have different ways of communication, a unique language, different dress code, and a different ways of life. As the Latin saying goes “In Varietate Unitas” which means unity in diversity, so should we live.

Values and motives. The meanings of the symbols are learned and deliberately perpetuated in a society through its institutions.

The third and last definition of Culture is where I believe most of us are likely to fall, the mighty copycat culture. When it comes to this – most of us score highly, copycat culture is where a person imitates another’s behavior, (dress, speech etc.) Today with all the media frenzy surrounding us( television, movies, video games, and other narrative media) - copying someone else’s ideas is nothing new. From the latest Beyoncé Jeans to Rihanna’s hairstyle. From Arturo’s tattoos and Mohawk to Chris Brown’s tight tapered pant.  It’s so bad that now you hear our youths speaking like wannabe (third class) Niggers. But we need to take caution, not everything out there is good for consumption, nor adopt too, why should it be the western culture to influence us African youths and not the other way round?

I remember when I was staying in (Europe)France, my host told me, “You should appreciate the African culture, we (Europeans) have so many things we believe but copy what is right, and ignore the rest”, so I wouldn’t want to differ from her. Let us appreciate culture, for our culture is our heritage.

Literature teacher

Uganda Martyrs Secondary School