Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Geert Hofstede and I

I come from an ancient lineage of the Yoruba people that Worship Mountains and historically they have been referred to as talented and successful traders. This particular trait played an important role during the 8th century medievalism because it enabled North African traders to introduce Islam to the Yoruba people and traders coming from West Africa. Yoruba people were trading artisan clothes to Northern Africans but later they became intermediary and started selling imported goods on a large scale. Perhaps dissecting my last name would give you some insight into how Yoruba people formulate their names and those of their descendants. My last name ‘Oketunji’ for example can be fractionated into two that is “OKE” and “TUNJI” meaning “Mountain” and “Has woken up” respectively. This makes it easier for a Yoruba speaking person or anyone with an in-depth knowledge of the Yoruba people to categorize any bearer of my last name into an appropriate ethnic group.

Personally, I believe that culture connects people to their history but far too often names and the languages being spoken by ethnic groups in Yorubaland also triggers ethnic prejudice which is mostly negative. A well documented example is the never-ending conflict between the people of ‘Ife’ and ‘Modakeke’ a small tiny proportion of the Yoruba people from Osun state in South-Western Nigeria. The people of ‘Ife’ and ‘Modakeke’ consider ‘Oduduwa’ as their progenitor but they often clash because of the microscopic difference between their socio-cultural and political systems. It is believed that the people of ‘Modakeke’ migrated after the collapse of the Old Oyo Empire in the 19th century and settled on ‘Ife’ soil, this migration then created two divergent categories of people. But the cross-dialectal difference in vowel length is notably the major cause of the conflicts between these two groups which has caused innocent people their lives.

Some Yoruba people put tribal marks on the face of their infants solely because it is the tradition of their family while others use tribal marks for the purpose of identifying people from their ethnic group. The deaf, dumb and the blind were also subjected to tribal mark so that people can trace their ethnic or family should in case they are missing. There were several other accounts that tribal mark was like a fashion statement for the bearer but people now feel ashamed of having tribal marks which has been blamed entirely on civilisation by the Yoruba people.

Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) one of Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimension for those coming from West African countries stated that, “People in uncertainty avoiding countries are also more emotional, and motivated by inner nervous energy.” And I believe that it is somewhat related to my personality because I grew up among business minded people who are go-getter’s which have woken up my entrepreneurial spirit. Their achievement would probably be the reason for the “inner nervous energy” that Geert Hofstede described and I believed it is what motivates me to want to be someone in life and realise my dreams. And, having being gravitated by the personality of those around me I was also motivated to start a freelance web development company called Twenty8c that specialises in creating sleek front-end and back-end web designs.

The Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) also pointed out that people from my culture are “phlegmatic and contemplative, and not expected by their environment to express emotions.” In my opinion, it is another spot on research about the people from my culture. My friends often say that I am always calm and not worried about the situation of things but that I look forward to the future and find ways of improving my present situation. I was brought up with the sense of not worrying about occurrences and waste time wallowing in regrets. My mother often said that expressing emotions will only make people refer to you as a weakling and I have carried that all along which reflects when I relate with people.

In conclusion, I believe that culture instils values, morals and faith into people but also individuals shape their personality from what they have been absorbing and personal experience meaning that people should not be predicted based on their culture and how they are possibly going to perform in a workplace.



Naijamum in L. said...

I do recall Hofstede's Dimensions from my Uni days.

I had some issues with his distinctions because I felt they were too simplistic i.e. West Africans cannot be described as homogeneous.

For example, an average Ghanaian's UVA cannot be the same as the Nigerian's or indeed a Gambian's.

All in all, I found Hoefstede's theories quite interesting BUT too simplistic. Colonial legacy and religious differences often creates differences within African regions

Mena UkodoisReady said...

I absolutely agree with Naijamum on that.

It will be difficult for the geert Hofstede analytical tools to reach a viable conclusion on the cultural aspect of Africans/Ghanians/Nigerians/Yoruba etc simply because we are as different as can be.

That said, I can understand how you related his findings with your personality trait. :)