January 12, 2008

Tribal considerations

My Google alert for "cross-cultural moments" delivered a small gift to my inbox today that I would like to share. Horace and Anne Tipton are missionaries serving the Anglican Church in Kenya. They moved to Nairobi, Kenya with their two children from Memphis, Tennessee in January 2005 and keep a blog called, Planting Faith. In this post, Anne talks about the current situation and a personal experience that led to a cross-cultural moment and subsequent new understanding. Here is a small piece:

......(the woman) was curious about him. One of the first statements she made was, “With that hair, what tribe could he be?”
At the time, it struck me as curious thing to say, but I did not give it a lot of thought. Her question was one of those cross-cultural moments that I guess I am supposed to “understand that I might not understand”, but it is, I think, relevant to the struggles here. It is important to the people of Kenya to know who they are dealing with and where they are from. And it is somehow less of a curiosity that I am here from another country than someone of another Kenyan ethnic group being around.

Click here for the very well-written and interesting post.

a domani,


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much, Larc. I did read Anne's interesting post. You are generous to share it with us.

It may interest you to know that I, an African American, whenever I see a brown-skinned person, always instinctively look at the head, to see what sort of hair this "colored" person might have so I can better "place" him or her (regarding ethnicity, ideas and ideals).

It comes naturally. Hair meant a lot to us when growing up, and may still. My sisters always check out my head whenever I visit home USA, also to understand what is happening inside it.

I am still "natural" (meaning I do nothing but let it naturally dry and kink) which becomes "Afro" as the quite soft naps grow longer. The softness of my hair means there is white blood there. The kinkier and rougher, the purer the blood... so it goes!

May the day fast come when all of this will bring laughter and joy to our hearts, rather than sorrow and division.


Elizabeth Abbot said...

Pat, Thanks for this insight into the reading of hair and its cultural "roots". See you on Monday!

Jennifer said...

Elizabeth, I linked to you today. My post is nothing as thought-provoking as the ones you write but I thought your blog might help some of my non-expat readers understand what it's like to live in Italy as an expat.

Elizabeth Abbot said...

Hi Jennifer,
thanks! Good luck with your son and getting on with your writing.