African Values Traditional and Modern in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes and Asare Konadu’s a Woman in Her Prime

African Values Traditional and Modern in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes and Asare Konadu’s a Woman in Her Prime




In ethics, value denotes something of the degree of importance, to determine what action or life is best to do or live, or at least attempt to describe the value of different actions. It may be described as treating actions themselves as abstract objects, putting value to them. It deals with right conduct and good life, in the sense that a highly, or at least relatively highly, valuable action may be regarded as ethically ―good‖ (Adjective sense), and action of low, or at least relatively low, the value may be regarded as ―bad‖. (Wikipedia)

Values are important and lasting beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what is good and desirable. Values have major influences on people‘s behaviors and attitudes and serve as broad guidelines in all situations. (


Tradition can be defined as pertinent, lasting beliefs, culture, and rituals among a society passed down from one generation to another imbued with the concrete or abstract qualities or injunctions that are regarded as supernatural from God, gods, goddesses, heroes, legends, humans, animals and plants. They include symbolic representations and activities in events, festivals, and rituals comparable with the sacred activities of the – Asaa Traditional Festival of Nkpologue (Ezugu 6).

Traditional Values:

Traditional Values are those physical or abstract qualities possessed by particular elements, events, rituals, or phenomena held in high esteem, respect, and obedience by individuals. Such values govern and regulate the physical and psychological behavior of individuals living in a particular culture or a geographical area.

Africans as we know are resilient people, and over time they have developed value systems and ways of coping with life and maintaining their communities and surviving great hardships either in the African continent or in the Diaspora. The traditional life of the clan in most tribes of Africa has, as its core value, protection of the family and perpetuation of the tribe. In his traditional life, the African holds certain things to be of great value. It is these values that give him a distinct cultural personality and enable him to make some contributions to world knowledge, history, philosophy, and civilization. It is not my task in this study to articulate all the cultural values of the Africans, but only the dominant ones.

Large Family:

One of the foremost traditional values of the African is having a large family. Children are of supreme value to the Africans. His primary purpose for marriage is children and to have as many of them as possible. This is the reason why polygamy or the union of one man with several women still holds great attraction for him, and also why the birth rate in Africa is among the highest in the world. The fact is that the African still counts his blessings by the number of children he has, whether they are educated or not, rich or poor, healthy or sick, well-fed or hungry. The African smiles at the sight of his numerous children and is unmoved at the turmoil at his gate as he has a lot of arrows in his quivers. (Seo Ogbonmwan, 2008).

Respect for elders:

Another great value in traditional Africa is respect for old people (―Senior Citizen‖), particularly one‘s parents, grandparents, and relatives. The elders are revered by the young as the grey hair is associated with wisdom and God‘s blessings. The respect and honor bestowed on the ancestors percolate through the old people—one‘s parents, grandparents, and other relatives—as living embodiments of wisdom and of the good moral life who are expected sooner or later to join other good ancestors in the land of the ―living dead‖. Old age, therefore, is an important value to the Africans. Even the children look forward to old age unlike now when hormones are being taken to remain forever young. (Seo Ogbonmwan, 2008)

Morning Salutation:

As part of the respect for elders, the Benin people of southern Nigeria have a unique way of respecting their elders and identifying their family of origin people says La tose (Edohen of Benin), La emore (Eni of Uzae(Ijare), La Umogun (Royal blood from Eweka 1) La Ogiesan (Ezomo of Benin) of which there are 56 of them in total. These salutations are in electronic format (

Worship of Ancestor:

―Igba Evo‖- A day when special homage is paid to all ancestors. ―Igo Idi and Ihe Nshi‖, that is, sacrificing to the dead priests and elders of the clan in commemoration of their past roles as keepers of the conscience of the clan when they were alive. ―Ahor Nna‖, on this day, Ahor, everyone whose father (Nna) is dead, sacrifices to him to enlist his help and protection. (Ezugu 12-13).

The worship of our ancestors is the basis for the honor and respect accorded to old people in the traditional African culture is their closeness to the ancestors, for in his, ontological conceptual scheme the African places his old relatives on his great hierarchy of beings.

It must be noted that in the African universe the living and the dead interact with one another. Life goes on beyond the grave for the African and is a continuous action and interaction with dead relatives.

These unseen ancestors called ―the living dead‖ become part of one‘s living family and often are invited to partake though spiritually in the family meals. The ancestors are not just ghosts, nor are they simply dead heroes, but are felt to be still present watching over the household, directly concerned in all the affairs of the family and property, giving abundant harvests and fertility and warding off enemies at the village gate.

Extended Family Unit:

Another important traditional value of the modern African is love for, and practice of, the extended family system.

This extended family system is widely practiced in Africa. Indeed it is one ―in which everybody is linked with all the other members, living or dead, through a complex network of spiritual relationship into a kind of mystical body‖ consequently, it is not just ―being‖ that the African values, ―being-with-others‖ or ―being rooted in kinship‖ are an equally important existential characteristic of the African. He is never isolated since several persons are assimilated into one parental role: his father‘s brother are assimilated b extension into the role of father, his mother‘s sisters into the role of mother, his patri-lateral uncle‘s daughters into the role of sister. A person is an individual to the extent that he is a member of a family, aa clan, or community. (Seo Ogbonmwan, 2008).

The Sacredness of Life:

The African does not like or nurture violence per se. this is because the shedding of blood is sacrilegious. In Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo goes into exile with his family, for seven years to atone, for inadvertently killing a clansman- a crime against the earth goddess. In Africa, people are never killed unless it is an act of war. In the past were those whose continued existence as a threat to the life of others and the peace of the community were usually sold into slavery.

Traditional African Religion

To the Africans, religion is of indispensable value. ―To be‖ for him is to be religious‖ as religion truly permeates his total life, there is for him no ―Secular‖ existence or naturalistic vision of world order. In this important way also, the African exhibits a cultural personality distinct from that of western man, for instance, who easily makes a radical distinction between the secular and the religious, natural and the supernatural, this world and the next. Apart from ancestral things that are awesome or humans that have been inspiring or transcendental like the sun, the moon, the river, the earth, etc.

Communal Work

Preparation for Onwa-Asaa festival (Ezugu 5). The African values communal work as an opportunity to share his skills and give his best to his age group and the community. In the preparation of the bush for farming, the age group members arrange a date to assist Mr. A and the following day assist Mr. B in a bush clearing, bush burning, bush gathering, planting, pruning, and harvesting without money changing hands. This practice will hardly disappear in traditional African communities.


This refers to past-traditional, past-medieval historical period, one marked by the move from Feudalism (Or Agrarianism) toward Capitalism, Industrialization, Secularization, 6

Rationalization, the nation-state, its constituent institutions, and forms of surveillance. (Barker 2005, 444).

In these usages, ―Modernity‖ denote the renunciation of the recent past, favoring a new beginning, and a reinterpretation of historical origin. The distinction between ―Modernity‖ and ―Modern‖ did not arise until the 19th century (Delanty 2007).

As the African passes from folk to urban society, life with its complicated money economy, high technology, and international trade, his traditional values are bound to be affected. Old values disappear; some are refined in other cases some traditional values suffer disruption, at times to the point of extinction; in yet other cases the African suffers a reversal of his traditional values; lastly, he creates altogether new values with consequent tensions.

Some of these values are:


An increase in population, in the face of the worldwide economic crisis, makes some parents neglect the traditional education of their children, and the latter, have no opportunity to appreciate traditional ways in life. Therefore, Western education forms the bedrock of knowledge and skills to equip such persons in their pursuit of a better world.


Our days, we notice that the world is becoming a kind of village in which there is a wide interaction between people and other different cultures. This phenomenon happens thanks to the new technologies. People have today the possibility to be aware of what is happening all around the world. They also have the opportunity to discover other cultures, other ways of life, and behaviors thanks to the radio, television, and other various means of communication like the internet.


Old people (Grandfathers and Mothers) are no longer those persons, who educate Children using stories, tales, and so on; they are most of the time seen as boring and talkative. Children spend most of their time playing video games, browsing with their mobile phones, watching television; they are fond of films through which they discover some actors that they admire a lot, and at times enjoy bad influences and pornography.


The institution of marriage was highly valued by all the traditional cultures in Africa. To a large extent, especially in the rural areas, it is highly valued even today. The reason for this is that marriage is the foundation on which families are built. On its part, the family constitutes the basic social group that operates most widely and most intensely in the activities of everyday life.

Human Life

Human life is highly valued in the modern world, as well as it was in the traditional African communities. In all other cases, no one is allowed to take away another person‘s life. No distinction is made between murder and manslaughter; both are considered murder.


Morality is a quality highly valued by all traditional communities. Indeed, moral values formed the bedrock of the education that was given to children as they grow up. Moral values were also impressed on people who were about to Wed or who were going through one rite of passage to another. Leaders were also expected to be people of upright character. All these are cherished even today.


The word ―Tradition‖ itself derives from the Latin‖ tradere‖ or‖ traderer‖ meaning to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping.

A tradition is a belief, principle, or way of behavior of a particular people, passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or important significance that originated in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes ( Like Lawyer wigs or Military officer spurs) but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as anthropology and biology, have adapted the term ―Tradition‖, defining it more precisely than its conventional use to facilitate scholarly discourse.

The concept of tradition, as the notion of holding on to a previous time, is also found in political and philosophical discourse. For example, the political concept of traditionalism is based around it, as are strands of many world religions including traditional Catholicism. (Wikipedia)

Modernity typically refers to a post-traditional, post-medieval historical period, one marked by the move from Feudalism (Or Agrarianism) toward Capitalism, Industrialization, Secularization, Nationalization, the nation-state and its constituent institutions and forms of surveillance (Barker 2005,444).

Charles Pierre Baudelaire is credited with coining the term ―Modernity‖ (Modernite) to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility art has to capture that experience.

Conceptually, modernity relates to the modern era and modernism but forms a distinct concept.

Whereas the Enlightenment (ca. 1650-1800) invokes a specific movement in Western philosophy, modernity tends to refer only to the social relations associated with the rise of Capitalism. Modernity may also refer to tendencies in intellectual culture, particularly the movements intertwined with Secularization and post-Industrial life, such as Marxism, existentialism, and the formal establishment of social science.


This research aims to rejuvenate or rekindle interest in African traditional and modern values in the works of Asare Konadu and Ama Ata Aidoo, namely: A Woman In Her Prime and Changes, in a bid to entrench core African values that appear to be waning.


This study is as well as limited to the novels of Asare Konadu and Ama Ata Aidoo, namely:

  • A Woman in Her Prime and
  • Changes

Other sources used include textbooks, journals, essays, internet facilities, and personal contributions based on observations, studies, and private interviews.


This work is salient in the sense that it explores African values in the traditional and modern sense, which are still the foundation of existence today.

This work, will, in addition, serve as a means of enlightenment to the present generation and the future.


The methodology adopted in this research is purely literary, analytical, comparative, as well as contrastive as a means of highlighting typical African traditional values in comparison with what present-day modern values appear to be – – some of which are acceptable since society is dynamic. Occasionally one comes across the so-called modern values that are aberrations, copied from foreign sources that run counter to African values.


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