What are the Elements of culture and how manifest themselves in physical and practical ways?
Culture can be defined as all the behaviours, ways of life, arts, beliefs and institutions of a population that are passed from generation to generation. Culture has been called “the way of life ofan entire society”. As such, it includes codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, norms of behaviour -as law and morality – and systems of beliefs, as well as the arts.
At the beginning culture was also determined by wearing style. Previously man made clothes using animal‟s skins, grasses and trees. Language was used in communication especially when man established permanent settlements. Language united people during working, such as cultivating and hunting; through language man was able to construct songs and poems, which were used as a part of refreshments particularly when issues arose such as traditional rites. Although culture went hand in hand with human life, it varied according to the needs of the society, and the influence of environment. The Elements of culture and how manifest themselves in physical and practical ways are as follow:-
(a) Customs and Norms: Customs refer to short-lived patterns of behaviour shared by members of a groupandcan be directly observed. For instance, people who know each other greet by shaking hands whenever they meet while others hug each other. However, customs differ from one society to another. The set of customs form one of the indicators of culture.
Norms are accumulated experiences proven to be acceptable and appropriate in a given society, and they have a tendency to exist for long periods before they change or disappear. This forms the main difference between norms and customs as norms have tendency to exist for long periods before they change or disappear. Whereas customs on the other hand are passing and vulnerable to change. Take for instance, the wearing of clothes, shoes or hats in a certain fashion usually changes with time.
(b) Language: This is another important element or indicator of culture. Language is a learned, shared and arbitrary system of vocals and symbols through which human beings communicate. It is a system of convectional symbols that covey meaning and is a useful instrument in all economic, social, political, psychological and ideological aspects of society. Language is not only a communicative instrument but also is a product of work. In their effort to produce goods and services, people develop words and therefore, language is further developed. Each language shapes and shows the culture, behaviour patterns and understanding of the group that speaks it
(c) Art: This is an element or indicator of culture. Art as part of culture is an expression which reflects the feelings, attitudes and level of development of a society. Arts denote man made things displayed to be enjoyed. For instance dramatizing and singing. Any art which originates from a given society has roles to perform for that society. For example, it reflectively shows what people have done in their struggle for survival. The carvings, the painting, the songs, and drama represent certain actual struggles or practical life these people have experienced before.
Art reflects the feelings of patriotism in the struggle for the development of a national economy. This situation drives people to the extent of musicians coming up with songs calling for change in national institutions, whereas some defend, support and praise national institutions.
Art reflects the type of problems encountered by a given society. These problems can be social, political or economic. The drawings in the Kondoa caves typically reflect the economic occupation of the people in that area in the past.
Art is one of the most effective communicative systems in traditional societies that tend to be illiterate. Art is used to convey, store and preserve important events and phenomena in a society. Important memories in life can only be artistically expressed to appraise events. Art also preserves records of those successes in different forms.
(d) Rules: In their collective form, rules or patterns form another indicator of culture for behaviour, known as Norms. These rules are those that members of a group, community or society agree to follow. The rules determine what is right or wrong in a given society. Norms are connected with ranks as well as situations and are recognized into roles. The pattern of behaviour expected of people differs from ranks, such as husbands, fathers, citizens, employees, and children.
It is also a norm for our children to start greeting and vacating seats for elders in certain situations. Norms include the most important things in the society. Consider things like taboos, legacy, history, rituals, treatment of diseases, respect, obedience and laws concerning marriage, births, inheritance and burial ceremonies to mention only a few.
(e) Recreation: Another important element of culture is recreation. The word recreation means relaxing and amusement. In any society where work is done, recreation is quite necessary. Work tires the body and mind so it is vital to rest and experience entertainment. Good entertainment is that which refreshes person e.g. voluntary hobbies, sports, games, music and even dancing.
(f) Ideology: Ideology combines the beliefs of people and is this element of culture that lays down principles and conditions to be followed by a given society. Ideology forms the foundation forall other elements of culture. The mode of production is one which explains the way people own property and how they share what they produce.
The fact that the ideologies shared by a society are a product of how people own property, it is clear that the type of ideology prevailing in a society will be a true reflection of the type of the organization of the economy in general. For instance, in asociety where the dominant type of ownership is private, the beliefs of the people in that particular society is competive and individualistic.
(g) Laws: Laws form another indicator of culture; there is no culture without laws. We can define laws as deliberately formulated rules of behaviour that are enforced by a special authority. Laws serve several purposes; they enforce the mores accepted by the dominant cultural group in the society, regulate new situations not covered by customs and bring about the real cultural and ideal patterns of a society. The enforcement of norms by law in Tanzania is the responsibility of the society and community as a whole. For instance, it is the responsibility of every individual, family and community as a whole to make sure children go to school. Failure to implement this obligation may result in the forces being applied to enforce this law.
(h) Cooperation this implies interacting with others in the community. It helps not only the members in getting insight into what goes on in the community but also gives a chance to members to learn and benefit from the community. It is very important for each organization to stabilize personal relationships between members of society. This is essential to primary or secondary groups. Primary groups in this context include the family, schools, organized clubs, or villages where members know each other. Secondary groups include large societies and nations.
(i) Tradition: These are experiences of the past that are inherited by a society and are unchangeable. They include marriage, food, local brews, funeral ceremonies, family care and home economics. Other aspects include initiation, worshiping system, sports and games. Every society has its own tradition.
(j) Crafts and tools: Tools are instruments of labour used by people for production and they differ from one society to another depending on the nature and level of technology of the society. For example, tools used in the Stone Age were poor compared to the tools used during the Iron Age. These tools included iron hoes, axes and pangas. Crafts are technological creations by man that express man’s culture. Examples of crafts are decorations and carved materials. These differ in form according to the culture of the society. People utilize, and in some cases exploit their environment to make crafts.