Valentine’s Day, a long lasting tradition dedicated to the celebration of Love.
Love, a wonderful union between two people experiencing the greatest outpouring of human emotion which one cannot explain but leads to a never ending desire for more. Each year during Valentine’s Day, in Africa, over 595 million are spend on gifts. In the United Kingdom, 692 million on chocolate and more in the USA. However, what does love mean to us in the 21st century? Has love become a product of consumerism? What about symbols like the “red heart” which is seen everywhere we go to: in shopping malls, on the streets, on bus stops etc. How much influence has Valentine’s Day on West African culture today? And in terms of symbols, does Africa more precisely West Africa shares the same symbols of Love with Western symbols?
In Western culture, the symbol of love is a red heart. Dictionaries described Love as profoundly tender, a passionate affection for another person, a warm personal attachment and a deep affection for sexual passion or desire. It seems that Love is only based on feelings, in other words, how one person feels towards another person. The question is, can we really depend on the dictionary’s description of Love? On the other hands, what happens when those feelings start to go way? Could that be an indication that we are no more in love?
The heart in some West African countries is called Akoma. It is associated with patience and tolerance which define the qualities of a person. A person who is understanding, who talks through difficulties, listens and most importantly manages his/her anger while accepting cultural differences.
Here are quotes that illustrate the meaning of Akoma:
“A man who is master of patience is master of everything else” – George Savile
“With love and patience, nothing is impossible” — Daisaku Ikeda”
“It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly — that is the first law of nature” — Voltaire
In certain West African culture, the symbol of Love is not a ‘heart’ but is a diamond-shaped symbol divided in four: It is called Eban which means ‘fence’. It symbolises security and safety which are found in “real” love. The family is the first place where love is being demonstrated. The last image in mind when one demonstrates love towards his/her partner is freedom and security. Giving love by remaining true to oneself without feeling insecure but having the fullness of safety with the knowledge and acceptance that no one is perfect.