Tradition vs culture in the context of African thought is a complex endeavour that creates unrealised potential for Africans. While the former is a state and the latter a function they operate in a homogenous manner and are cross-linked through the oral nature of African societies and in particular the esoteric need of African culture. We usually assert that most African societies; due to their oral nature, possess the fixture of operating through participation. Using tangible items in their surroundings to create a worldview that is endowed with symbolism as well as fixations of the realised objects.
Culture in the context of Africa is an operation that seems to lurk in the depths of the soul, operating at the inner experience of the ancestors who in a way collectively built it and preserve it, unhinged in its proliferation upon the descendants it exerts its influence on. The way to preserve this culture in Africa is through tradition. Tradition is the outer experience that lives as the people live, it being the constant, assumes the role of participation, and continues to play the role of the ancestors in the outer experience.
The way we do things; is according to the way we were taught by our parents and their parent's parents. The role of participation in the preservation of both culture and tradition means that the two subjects are at once seen as roles that should not be touched or that are not allowed the freedom to proliferate as the people will them. However, there are no singular relations between culture and tradition. In fact, there are more differences than commonalities, culture as a function is innate, it changes as the people change, and often is unseen in its operation on the lives of the people it controls.
Culture acts according to the environment it finds itself in, never specific about what it thinks is to be preserved and what should not. It takes what it needs and continues the relation of the operation on behalf of the people sometimes without their knowledge. Tradition on the other hand is realised daily and operates consistently through participation. As such it leaves extraordinarily little room for change in its application to relation. Changing the way, a tradition has been achieved or realised for millennia disrupts the tradition and it is not long before that tradition is forgotten and its purpose dies.
The subjects as expressed are of course rigid systems that leave truly little to chance, culture in its rigidity does offer change however that change is reliant on forces that the people do not have control over most of the time. Tradition is willing rigidity for its survival depends on it. Where one requires the other to operate its influence; the two worlds seem to be in opposite directions in terms of their priorities; however, their goals are parallel to one another.
To tackle the role of participation and esoterism in this regard. Systems are fickle to both, but quite needed to establish the mode of thinking in African societies, the collective memory of the traditions enable it a substantial power in societies; it also enhances the collective psyche to operate in accordance with laws and customs that must be preserved for the culture to survive the accruing generations to come.
African tradition's role through participation means its mode of thinking is inextricably linked to the physical world via the memory viaduct that preserve culture and thus gives it a holding position in the abstract psyche, the metaphysical world where its gods, ancestors and the use of animism is used to initiate the power of the physical realm into that of the metaphysical and vice versa as an enhancement of the animist attribute of human physical senses.
Therefore, there is an inability in most African oral societies to initiate a separation between tradition and culture due to their intricate relationship of interdependence, although it should be mentioned that this lack of separation usually affects the more structured traditions that have ran uninterrupted for eons; deep into the psyche of the community, allowing them considerable influence in societies, past and present. Paradoxically though it is with these very traditions that progress rests on or rather a transformation of them that, the will to move forward would rely on.
When colonisation entered its prolonged influence on African culture it offered most African societies an opportunity to break even the two cultures that were now forming a link, these cultures being mainly: Western culture and African culture, as much as we often blame western culture for the emancipation and de-Africanisation of the people of the continent, we cannot simply ignore our own involvement in it.
Western culture offered us an opportunity to preserve African culture and its traditions. While also embracing new forms of doing things without having to change much of our traditional values, we had the freedom to make the separation that had been so difficult to achieve; that of separating culture from tradition; however, western culture's entrance into the realm of the African psyche. The need for separation of African culture and tradition was not required, a new derivative had presented itself as the culprit of differentiation required to move forward socially and technologically as well as creating a cultural divide in African societies.