Day 15 of the Afrobloggers #WABC2021. 

Is tribalism a thing that shows its ugly head in your culture? There are some backward cultural practices that we need to be rid of, and tribalism is very near the top! Let me know your thoughts!

Culture does not make people. People make Culture.

– Chimamanda NgoziAdichie

My life on cloud nine lasted exactly three months. 

At first, it was about two weeks of revisiting every single detail of that weekend. Every kiss, every touch, every whisper, every bite. 

Followed by weeks of a beautiful relationship, full of fun, intentional dating, and often starting or ending with random ‘sessions’ at his place. (Because my mother would probably disown me if she even thought I knew what sex was!)

Mawuli was a work of art… in and out of bed. He was a wonder A wonder with his words and hands, his mouth and third leg! 

But my excitement was all shattered one Saturday evening.

It was really close to the anniversary of Ol’mans death.

Mama asked me what was going on with Mawuli and I. I excitedly told her that I really was in love. That even though I never thought marriage was a thing for me, I could actually see myself marrying Mawuli. Because he was an amazing man who loved me senseless!

She looked at me in shock and said in Fanti, our local dialect:

“Esaaba entummi nware ayigbe nii mba me fie. You want Ol’man to be turning in his grave?!”

(Translation: Esaaba you cannot marry an Ewe man into my house.)

Excuse me, What??!!

What was she talking about? 

“Mama, what do you mean I can’t marry an Ewe? What has his tribe or ethnic group got to do with anything?”

I had no idea what was going on. 

“You’re a beautiful talented Fanti woman. You couldn’t choose one of these Fanti boys you grew up with. Isn’t Yooku a good catch? The one that came back from London recently. Why do you choose to disrespect our culture?” 

I was really seeing stars at this point.

“And It’s not up to me, you know that. The family head is the one we will end up having to fight with. Not me. You know there are certain things we cannot change.”

I was trying so hard to keep my racing heart from exploding in my chest.

“Mama, to hell with our so-called culture if it’s going to take away my happiness! Isn’t it this same backward culture that wanted you to drink Ol’man’s bath water after he died? Or the same culture that said you had to spend the night with the corpse?? Come on Mama. You’re beyond this trash I didn’t expect this from you!”

In this 2021? Tribalism was still a thing? No way! Nooo way! 

She seemed to contemplate what I’d said for about a second. She lowered her voice.

“How will I explain to your uncles? I like Mawuli. He’s a good boy. I remember even Ol’man was his friend. And I know you’re happy. I’m so happy that you’re happy. But I don’t know how I would convince the family to back me into sending you to an Ewe family. It’s just not done. Without Ol’man, this battle isn’t…”

I didn’t wait for her to even finish her statement. I stormed to my room, grabbed my bag and phone, and stamped out of the house. 

Tears blinded me. This was something we heard of as kids. But it was not a thing that I expected to ever happen to me. Not In this century. Certainly not from a well – educated family! 

I took a taxi to Mawuli’s and texted him to let him know. 

What was I going to tell him? 

Sorry, we can’t date because my mother says our tribe cannot mix with yours. 

It was the most absurd thing I’d heard in so long! 

And there was no way I was letting go of him because of backward practices that did nobody any good! 

He kept asking why I was crying, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it. If I said it, then it would be real. There would actually be that thing threatening to break us apart. 

I told him it was Ol’man. That I was just having one of those evenings where I missed him. Plus, it had been about a year since he’d died, and so I was in my feelings. He didn’t seem to believe me, but he let it go, and just held me while I cried. 

And when I was all cried out, he made me a cup of tea, and we cuddled in his couch, watching the Netflix Series, Bridgerton.

“I don’t want to go home tonight.”

It was obvious he had questions. He had that look on his face. But I wasn’t ready with answers. I had questions myself, and my mind wasn’t in a good place.

“You can stay over whenever you want. But don’t I need to let your mother know?”

One mention of my mother and I was ready to snap at him! In fact, I did snap at him.

“No you don’t need to! She will be fine.” He looked so confused, I had to apologize for snapping.

“I just… we had a little spat earlier and I don’t think I’m ready to face her just yet… She knows I’m here though.”

“I feel like there’s something you’re not telling me. And I don’t know what it is, but I don’t understand how there would be anything that you don’t trust me enough to talk to me about.”

I had to start taking deep breaths, because I was getting overwhelmed. 

Mama called at 11PM to ask where I was. If Mawuli hadn’t seen that it was her, I probably wouldn’t even have picked it up. 

“I’ll stay over at Mawuli’s place tonight. I didn’t want to stay and say anything that would be considered disrespectful to you.”

To my surprise, she only sighed, and said goodnight. I didn’t even know how to feel about that.

Mawuli was quiet for a bit, then asked again what was going on. I still didn’t say. He left to take a shower, after which I showered. I wore his largest T-shirt, and it felt so good that it smelt just like him!

We made love in his couch watching Bridgerton. 

And again, I was reminded why there was no way I was going to allow this outdated culture to get in the way of what we had. 

While we cuddled after, I found myself blurting it all out to him. Trying not to get upset all over again and gauging his reaction.

“I love you Esaaba. I think I have for quite a while, but I always thought you were out of my league. At least in terms of relationships. Many girls apparently don’t date Ewes because that’s the rule in their family. I’ve had many of my friends tell me this. I’m in love with you and I really don’t want to lose you. I’ve imagined marrying you and having mini yous running around this house, making a complete mess. I’ve imagined taking you on cruises and trips all over the world. I’ve imagined everything there is to imagine with you. And I don’t want to have those things with anyone else.”

“But there are things I can’t fight babe…. Tribal wars are one of them! I am proud of my ethnicity, and I’m glad that you’ve never ever had an issue with it. But if it came down to a fight, I hope you don’t hate me for bowing out.” 

I tried to suppress my tears, but a sob escaped me. He held me tighter to his chest. But I didn’t know if that was going to be any help. 

“Please don’t give up on us, Mawuli! If it comes down to that, Let’s fight it and make it work!” 

His response was a kiss on the top of my head. 

Dear Mama, 

Remember when I was a child and was getting picked on at school for being left-handed?  I remember how you marched to my class to berate the teachers for constantly trying to stop me from writing with my left hand, and not stopping the other kids when they called me weird.

At the time, it was the in-culture.  It was considered rude to use your left hand, and so nobody was to write with their left hand. Teachers and parents would force a child out of the ‘habit.’ People didn’t know, and so they tried to make the kids swap. You challenged that status quo. You knew better, so you did better… Or at least helped them do better. 

What happened to that woman? Can I have her back? 

I know that you know that this whole intertribal marriage thing should not be a big deal. So why don’t you do better? Why don’t you challenge it? Why don’t you stand up for me before them, and say that it makes no sense that I shouldn’t be allowed to marry the love of my life because he’s from that tribe? 

The same way I stood up for you when in the name of culture, Ol’man’s family wanted you to do ridiculous things! 

You know even interracial marriages were illegal in the past right? But we’re in the twenty-first century, Mama. These things no longer make any sense!

Mawuli and I have something really beautiful. When I was depressed about a year ago, and needed help, he sent me to therapy. He was the help I didn’t know I needed. I contemplated suicide so many times after Ol’mans death.  Mawuli is why I didn’t.

I could go on and on about how great he is. But if we’re not ready to challenge the nonsensical things in our culture, there’s no way we’re going to move forward.

So if you love me, Mama, you won’t make this become a thing. You will help me right all the wrongs that the people who didn’t know better have done. You know better. So do better.

Comments (11)

  1. He better bring his manly self and fight together
    He is going nowhere😒

    This post😊😊
    Beautiful story

  2. I love this story. I always liken tribalism in our culture to Racism. In the western world you have families disowning each other because they dare married from another race. Look no further than Harry and Megan. Also tribalism is our culture prevent people from marrying for true love. Most marriages end up being marriage of convince because that’s what makes the family happy. I look forward to seeing where Esaaba and Mawuli’s relationship takes them. I love this

  3. Hmmmm…. This thing called tribalism is killing alot of people and ending up being with people they don’t like all in tge name of some culture bi…… But I know love defeats all things.. Mawuli should stand his grounds and help Esaaba fight this battle… Together they will win over tribalism and culture…. Laws are made for the people and is the same people that will flout the laws…. Let LOVE win at the end.. Mawu and Esaab

  4. This same experience, hmmmm.. I pray the lady stand the pressure and stand her grounds no matter who try to separate them.
    I have experience same but sadly, they were able to brainwashed her by using some so called men of God she didn’t even see before as excuse.

  5. I was thinking the same things Esaaba was. This same family that doesn’t even care about you. Your daughter was the only one who fought for you. And now you’re doing the exact same thing the family was guilty of. Mummy better get her head right

  6. Reading this brings so much memories. Had my gf leave me because of tribalism. It hurts even after 7 months

  7. Yes love has no tribe so marriage is premised on one essential element – love and not a tribe of a person. Thank-you Elise for this advocacy, Let’s support this to end unhealthy tribalism

  8. I’m short of words. I’ve witnessed quite a number of relationships break up because of tribalism and it’s really sad. Sometimes it’s just so hard to fight it. Beautiful piece of writing, Elise👍

  9. This tribalism thing eh. I was forced to date only guys from my tribe but all didn’t turn out well. That was when I decided to be a “21st Century thinker”.

  10. Oh Mawuli paaa. I shock give you oo😡. Because of this tribal thing, you are willing to let go of the one person that brings out the best in you and this story?? If you like go and do this tribal war and see if they will even have a tombstone with your name engraved on it. I understand Mama’s position on tribalism in relationships but Mawuli? Come on man. Do better. Beautiful story Elise 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

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