"It takes a village to raise a child." So the elders have wisely said. And truer words have never been spoken.
Children are born with fresh pages, awaiting the ink strokes of an epic story. As their bodies are nourished with the good food that their parents work hard to provide, so their souls grow by their interactions with the world they see around them.
But what happens when parents find themselves far away from home? How do you help your child recognize and resonate with their African identity? How can you teach them to listen for and swing to the beat of African drums when there's a whole other rhythm all around them? Are there ways to bring the village to your child?
There sure are! Today, the world is connected in unprecedented ways, and distance from home doesn't have to stop you from building a sense of connection to African heritage in your little muffin. In addition, there are research results to prove that a sense of cultural identity harnesses a person's self-esteem. So, you owe it to your children to help them understand who they are and how they fit into the ever-evolving global picture.
Here are a few ways to actively teach your baby about the homeland and instill African values, stories, and lessons in your little African child.
Photo by @joymarilie
Tell African stories and read books by African authors or with African characters
Literature is an integral part of culture. In Africa, some stories have been passed down for generations by word of mouth. These stories often feature animal characters but always have a human truth and lesson attached to them. You may have heard of Anansi the Spider or the various adventures of the crafty tortoise. Pass these stories on to your kids, as well as stories of your family line, just as they were handed down to you.
Books are a great way to do this too. There are countless African authors who can help you tell African stories and create beautiful pictures of the homeland for your children. If anything, you'll be spoiled for choice once you begin your search.
Celebrate ancestral holidays and festivals
Marking and celebrating African holidays, festivals, and events drive home a sense of identity in your young one. It's also a great avenue to dress up, tell stories, share traditions and superstitions, learn new words, sing, dance, and enjoy African dishes.
Participating in age-old events creates a memorable experience that will naturally bond your children to their African heritage. Drive home the point that not everyone celebrates these holidays, but they are special to us, and watch your child develop a priceless sense of uniqueness and pride.
Make and enjoy African-inspired dishes and snacks
Invite your child into the kitchen while you whip up a traditional African dish. Let them feel at home with the flavors and aromas of Mother Africa. Making an authentic native recipe is one of the best ways for your family to enjoy the best of Africa, no matter where you are.
If you were raised in Africa or by African parents, you know those dishes you used to look forward to as a child. Wouldn't it be great to have your child anticipate and even learn to make your favorite African foods?
Pack your child a unique African-inspired school lunch that they can be proud of. This may serve as a conversation-starter with their peers and strengthen your little one's sense of African heritage.
Incorporate traditional singing and dancing
One way to learn about Africa that your kids will be sure to love is through African dance and music. Africa is a land that's rich in colorful and rhythmical cultural music and dance. From the
In fact, in African culture, music and dance are critical aspects of a child's upbringing. The sound of African drums cannot be missed at ceremonies, rites, and festivals all over the continent, accompanied by several dance steps and styles as the occasion demands. From the Aduma dance of the Kenyan Massai tribe to the Kpalongo dance of the Ghanaian Ga tribe to the Atilogwu dance of the Nigerian Igbo tribe, African dances are full of color and life to match with the vibrancy of African music.
If you want to spice things up with something a 21st-century kid is sure to appreciate, you can also enjoy African-inspired contemporary music and dance styles that have evolved and emerged from traditional tempos and flows over the years.
Speak and teach an African language
You might also consider the importance of raising your little muffin to speak an African language that's part of your heritage. Teaching your child an African language is one of the best ways of connecting them to their African heritage no matter where they find themselves in the world.
Language is a powerful tool that can provide better insights into the setting of one's family, history, and culture. It offers a depth of understanding and appreciation of Africa that's difficult to grasp outside the context of a native tongue.
Being literate in an African language will help your child align better with African music, folklore, proverbs, recipes, and traditions. And most of all, whenever they get the chance to come home, they won't feel out of place.
Buy African-inspired clothing, décor, and accessories
Getting your kids clothes made out of African fabrics and traditional jewelry is another great way to keep them in tune with their culture. African clothing consists of tribal fabrics, patterns, and colors that are all meaningful and unique. There's nothing more adorable than adorning your kids with vibrant African materials and accessories. What better way to teach them how to stand out and love it?
You kids will be sure to love dressing up in colorful ankara, dashiki, adire, kente, and aso-oke fabrics tailored in traditional or contemporary styles. They'll also sure love to see décor around their rooms and the house that reminds them of their unique roots.
To bring Africa to your kids, you need to keep and practice reminders of Africa within and outside of your home. From African food to music and dance to language to folklore, if you surround your kids with Africa, they're sure to develop a healthy and robust awareness and pride in their African heritage.