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Traditions: To Challenge or To Preserve? [Podcast ft. Chola Mutoni]

Do you know why some people are the way they are, act the way they do, say certain things like ‘bless you’ when you sneeze?

When I was in Ghana, when I would sneeze, people would say, “I’m sorry.”  I would actually respond with, “That’s okay.”

But, later, I realized that this was their acknowledgement, much like saying “Bless you.”

I can think of many things that I don’t even know how I know nor why I even do them. Do you eat holding a fork and a knife at the same time?  Do you begin eating a meal with others by saying ‘good appetite”?

Perhaps these seem insignificant when we talk about culture and traditions.  I look around me and realize all of the different people in my office, with different backgrounds, and realize that family tradition and ethnic culture influence some of their actions.

But, in our latest podcast, I had a chance to tackle the topic of traditions with Chola Lunga Mutoni.

A Conversation with Chola Lunga Mutoni on Zambian Traditions

In my conversation with Chola Lunga Mutoni, we discussed the impact of traditions and cultures.

Mutoni hails from Zambia, Africa. Of the 54 countries in Africa, Zambia is one of the most peaceful. It is also known as one of the most urbanized in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well.  A result of this urbanization, and the small population of around 15 million, modern and contemporary ways are colliding with tradition.

A serious issue that Chola believes is facing Zambia is the high rate of teen pregnancies. 50% of the population is aged 15 years old and below.

This generation, unlike in the past, is influenced not as much by its elders and figures of authority, but by the internet, television, magazines and radio.

For two years, she has partnered with other organizations and individuals to empower disadvantaged girls, while conducting research on traditional and modern teachings around sexual health reproduction. Through the many activities that she has hosted, she realizes that because Zambia is experiencing a loss of indigenous knowledge.

Preserving Zambian Identity and Traditions

Zambian youth do not have a strong sense of identity. Mutoni states that Zambians are losing their traditional music, dance, art, languages and our cultural practices because it is passed down orally. She wants to change that by documenting some of the traditions that the young people have not learned.

However, she’s not so keen on ‘scaring’ the young people into submission like she was, when these traditions were passed down to her.

For example, when Mutoni was a young girl, she was told,“If you sleep with a man before you are married, your finger nails will grow long overnight.” To a young woman in Zambia, those words were powerful enough to prevent sex out of wedlock.

Mutoni urges the importance of preserving traditions, stating:

“Zambia needs to urgently start documenting and preserving its history, cultures and traditional practices in order to maintain and pass on its rich identity and cultural heritage.”

Listen to our recent podcast interview with Ms. Mutoni and the ways she sees preservation of tradition should not only be shared with the Zambian youth, but should be required of all NGOs and foreign workers in preparation for living in Zambia.

Header photo credit: © Valentin Armianu | Dreamstime.com


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1 comment

  • Thank you for the article Prof. Dr.Leffel.
    I agree with Ms. Mutoni about preserving traditions and history for each community.
    After invasions, there is a tendency for the conquering people to impose their own language, traditions and culture on the conquered people. As a result the future generations grow up without knowledge of their history and start believing what the conquerors brainwash that the old culture was primitive and backward and that the people were also inferior.
    This happened to the Native Americans when Europeans conquered them, stole their lands, and took away their children to force them to change their names, give up their language, religion and culture. See the movie “Spirit” .
    When Iran was conquered by Arab Muslim armies in the seventh century C.E.,, the conquered Iranians suffered genocide, forced conversions, rapes, humiliation, heavy taxation, and replacement of language from Persian to Arabic. This continued for centuries with invasions by Turkish and Mongolian armies, Fortunately, a Persian poet, Firdausi Toosi from the province of Khorasan wrote the epic “Shahnamah” or Book of Kings (of pre-Islamic Iranian kings) in mostly pure Persian, hich revived the spirit of the Iranians and brought back the Persian language.
    Also, some Iranians who wanted to preserve their Zoroastrian religion that was founded over 4,500 years ago by Iranian Prophet Zarathushtra (who was called Zoroaster by Greek philosophers like Plato who studied his teachings and philosophy) migrated to India where they were allowed to freely practice their religion by Hindu kings.

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