I am from generation X and I’m not sure what generation my granny is from, but watching the advancements women have made in past years, my granny is probably Jurassic. She lived through the British occupation of Sudan and the World War II. An illiterate woman who was wiser than any PhD holder today. Simplicity is in itself wisdom. I think we have over complicated life and now need to work back to simplify what we tangled.
She woke up at dawn and her daily equivalent of a jog was tending to the animals she raised, kneading and baking the bread, milking the goat or cow and tending to her large family and home. She knew well where she belonged in the food chain; the top. Modesty was a mark of a good woman and no woman of her generation boasted her power, rather they were humble with heads bowed low in front of others. There was nothing to prove, because daily life was proof in itself. Husbands could not make it without wives, children belonged to their mother and family members had full respect for other family members.
Until she died in 1999 my grandmother never once, not even by accident uttered the name of my grandfather who left her in 92. It was a mark of a good woman to never say the name of your husband, a behaviour that reflected modesty and respect. Even before they had children she called him ‘father of so and so.’ I found this to be very disturbing as a child and would not stop questioning why, but I never really got a good answer, and seeing my mother call my father by his name, nickname and anything that she felt like, I knew this was part of a period long gone.
Some of the customs we are handed down really have no meaning, but at the time they must have made sense to those using them. My granny made everything herself, the sheets the covers, the clothes for the whole family, the artwork in the house and this leaves me to wonder what the true value of education is. Today we teach our youth literacy, numeracy and a whole load of other stuff that in reality is not sustainable. They will get jobs but can they be self sufficient? So what is more important; life skills or job skills? If like some are already predicting, society breaks down and we must all fend for ourselves, what abilities do we have?
I will never forget one afternoon when I was sitting by the Nile with my mother, I was very bored and becoming annoying. She asked me to go collect some palm tree leaves and sticks, and she sat me down and made me a doll. That doll was the most beautiful doll I had ever seen because it showed me the power of my mother’s ability to transform the mundane into an exciting toy. We have a farm on the Suez and one day my nephew was bored and came and asked me to go to town and buy him toys, I wasn’t going to go to town, so I sent him to pick some sticks and palm tree leaves. When he returned we made planes and cars and he was happier than I had ever seen him with a toy, and kept spinning and saying, ‘my auntie knows how to make stuff.’
We all take from custom what fits and drop what is uncomfortable, but if we look carefully at the details we will find the moral and meaning. Not everything that is old is useless and not everything that is new is better. What have you disposed of that could be useful?