#kenyan:the ultimate identity

The process of identity formation starts immediately a child is born and continually changes over time until one dies. The group one identifies with usually starts at the very basic level. At this level the child’s group exclusively consists of the person feeding the child, normally the mother.

 

The group then enlarges to include all those people the child gets into contact with on a regular basis. This group is usually made up of the immediate family, including the maid.

 

From the age of one year, the child has started taking tentative steps. This moves the child from the immediate family to the neighbors, who happen to be members of the extended family, and if the child is lucky to be residing in an urban area, the ‘extended family’ gets really extended to include members of different communities.

 

By the time the child gets to the school going age, s/he identifies with a large group of people who might even belong to different ethnic groups. Once in secondary school, and depending on the kind of school- local, district, provincial or national, one comes across and identifies with various groups of people these range from ones ethnic community members in case of  rural local schools, to  all members of  the Kenyan community. This situation also obtains in the tertiary education institutions-Universities, colleges etc-whose membership is drawn from all the communities in Kenya. The situation is later duplicated at the work place.

 

From the foregoing, it’s apparent that strong tribal identity exists at the very tender age in a child’s life-up to age 12- and only in very rural areas. It’s also interesting to note that all these identities arise out of the various social interactions a child engages in while growing up and it’s not a biological reality.  A child born of a luhya parents and raised by kikuyu parents will grow up identifying with the kikuyu community and vice versa.

 

The upshot: any Kenyan who has strong tribal ties is a ‘social child’ at the age of twelve, in a rural area, and needs to grow up.

 

I posit here that of all the identities in a person’s life the more varied the group one identifies with, the higher a persons state of social maturity.

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