Despite the impact of colonialism, or perhaps because of it, many cultures from the continent hold fast to their traditions, those things, they believe make their people who they are. No matter where we go, those traditions are part of our everyday lives.

It can be seen in the way we prepare our foods, in the spices, the sometimes-unusual ingredients, and the depth of flavor. Whatever country we find ourselves in, we carry our food with us. Many ‘African’ markets pop up all over the United State and Europe to accommodate our needs. In New York, I can stop by the grocery store and buy white yam to fry for breakfast. If I walk down the street, I can pick up a bottle of palm oil to make Igbo style beans and plantain. A few blocks down, I can buy goat meat by the pound for okra soup.

This desire to hold fast to traditional can also be heard in the quick, meandering tones of our native tongues. When we tell our children to stop running around the store, when we talk about our families we left behind, or the ones who will soon join us, we reconnect with those pieces of us that are Eritrean, Ghanaian, Nigerian, Ivorian, Kenyan, or Zimbabwean.

While tradition is beautiful, like the brilliant colors of our cultural garb, the spices in our food, or the lilt of our languages, it can also be dangerous. Tradition can become tainted as well. We have traditions that oppress based on gender, kill based on orientation, and dismiss based on caste. But even when our traditions hurt us, we refuse to change.

As members of a very conservative continent, that some might argue violates human rights, and perpetrates inequality, how do we reconcile our identities as Africans, when the rest of the world is critical of our national identities and traditions?

This month we will explore the identity: the Conservative Continent, and examine it from political, religious, and cultural perspectives to see what it means to carry on tradition, while living in a western influenced world.

Our goal is to build a community of Africans who have the confidence to speak their voice and the awareness to engage in productive conversations with one another about the shared and unique lives we live as Africans and members of the African diaspora. We imagine an Africa where we’re all involved. As always, we value your participation. Share your experiences and reflections on our Conservative Continent with the Rise Africa community. If you, or someone you know would be interested in participating in this series, we encourage you to contribute. Just email us at for more information. Click here to access all articles under our September 2013 theme.

We’re excited to hear what you have to say, and encourage you all to contribute to September’s conversation. So, this month we will be giving away a FREE “Africa is Done Suffering” T-shirt to the guest submission with the most views, comments, and votes. If you would like more information about the submission process, contact us as We wish you luck and happy September!

-Chinwe Ohanele


    First i begin by applauding Chinwe who has done a great job crafting this piece of truth. I totally accede with your words that “. ..even when our traditions hurt us, we refuse to change.” That indeed is the greatest challenge most, if not all, country in Africa need to overcome, especially Nigeria where i hail from. ” Future generations” like i and many others are brought up by parents who were brought up by older generations that very much embraced their “traditional”way of living. Therefore making it seem okay since, after all it was what their forefathers has been practicing for centuries ago so why then should it be questioned or consider dangerous/harmful now? And we as “leaders of tomorrow” fail to question this traditions, accepting uncritically what we are told, and thinking it is natural for government officials, especially, to behave the way they do now ( in Nigeria) not understanding that their act is socially constructed. Corruption should not be considered normal, being able to marry a thirteen year old female should not be considered normal, strikes in Nigeria shouldn’t be considered normal, ( the list continues) but because the negative act as listed has been on going for a long period of time many, but not all, has accepted it as a norm in Nigeria. Yet you see many Nigerians including i claiming that ” Nigeria is the best in Africa” regardless of Nigeria current economical and social status. Egocentrism stands in the way of empathy and fair -mindedness, which i must say is one of the many problems in Nigeria politics.Their egocentric nature creates perhaps the most formidable barrier to critical thinking, perhaps making them a weak critical thinker. All in all, GOD HELP AFRICA.

  • Mondaoko

    September is a good one ;) I believe the rest of the world is condemning Africa according to the rest of the world standard, not the African standard. Africa could condemn the rest of the world according to Africans standard, but Africa respects the rest of the world tradition & customs too much that it wouldn’t dare to do so. I think Africa shouldn’t reform in order to please the rest of the world, after all we are not the rest of the world, we are African in the world.