So some of you, in my last instalment wanted me to strengthen this issue of cultural capital. I just want to spend a couple of minutes explaining this so you can understand the importance of cultural capital in science, technology, human relations and in the general social transformation of a country or community.

The word culture, as you might know very well, encompasses behaviour, customs arts, entertainment and intellectual achievement of a people. Culture is also the word we use in biology when fermenting milk to make yoghurt. It means a little thing that you do that has a huge magnifying impact. It creates the necessary conditions for bacteria to create yoghurt – we call it culture.

Cultural capital is embedded in some of the stories we grew up listening to, but we don’t take these things seriously because we think it’s just stories. Today I want to share with you this story. Anybody who has grown around Western Uganda or Ankole would know. The story of this strange character called Ishe Katabazi . He was a funny man who would wrestle with a pregnant woman, who puts Ishe-Katabazi down and he announces that he was not ‘wrestling with one person but two – there was a baby inside so that’s why the woman was strong!’

One of these interesting stories is that it is a dry season, there is no food, the cows have no milk and it is one of the worst dry seasons but there is a plant that Ishe-Katabazi sees on his journey and it’s green. It is July, the wind is intense, the dust is in the sky and every living plant is dry but this plant, we call ‘omuhoko’ is very luxurious, very green. Ishe Katabazi is tired and hungry, he sits around the shade of this plant, like Jonah in the Bible and says, ‘I am going to sit here and see where you get your food, because you look so well in the middle of a dry season. I will sit here and see how you make your meal.’  Then, Ishe-Katabazi spends the night next to this plant, the plant does not produce the food, so he picks his stick and beats up the plant and destroys it. He says, ‘I thought you were serious, how come you are so green and good looking in the middle of a dry season.’ Some will say Ishe Katabazi was a fool! Plants do not cook the way human beings do. The hidden gem of intel here that is full of science and technology for our time is that this plant we call it ‘omuhoko’ in Runyakitara, the botanical name for this plant is Phytolaca dodecandra has four functions when you take it to the lab. Those luxurious leaves that Ishe Katabazi saw and could not understand in the dry season, if you crush them and make powder and spray it in a place where cows have trampled and destroying water and making it dirty – some of you who know animals, know that they do not like to drink water that another animal stepped into- but if you spray that powder, quickly, the dirt goes down, the water is cleaned up and the cows can drink that water.

The second function is that it is a disinfectant, that very powder kills the larvae and eggs of these crawling germs that cause cattle worms. The third function of this Phytolaca dodecandra is that when crushed and moistened with water, it is used to induce a cow that has rejected its calf after birth – sometimes the cow gives its maiden birth and it is painful and she does not want her baby- so you use this plant to induce the cow to like its calf. The fourth is that it kills a certain tropical fly that causes River blindness.

All these properties are engrained in the ‘omuhoko’ and we would know this as just a plant and the foolish Ishe Katabazi who would do these things.

What is that? That is cultural capital! Those are stories we take as simple bedtime stories but they are full of science, innovation and healing properties. They are full of modernity. How will young people know them if they do not build their cultural capital? If the older people are not telling these stories and giving them context and meaning. This is one way to explain a bit of the meaning of cultural capital.

The second one is the story that we read in the Bible. It is 1st Century, 51AD, Apostle Paul arrives in Athens, it is full of debaters. It has people called the ‘Stoics’. Their understanding of God was He does not live in temple but is a force of energy, almost like New Age religion. These were very educated people of their time, and in Acts 17, Dr. Luke, who records this account gets his pen and paper – scroll down and he writes very carefully this encounter Paul and the Athenians. Why? Because Athens as a center of learning in the Greco-Roman culture was taken as so important that if a philosopher or a travelling religious man has an encounter with these people, it has to be recorded. It goes into the annals of history as these people read every day. Paul listens, watches, uses all the six senses – I call them six senses because it is five plus extra, listening, watching more, tasting more, reading more. Paul hears that the Stoics think that God cannot be contained in temples. How do we change people if unless we can understand them? This is my wish for you! This January and February, I am sending you wishes through these little stories so that you begin your year in a much stronger way in terms of your understanding of business, enterprise, language, country or collective ethic.

He listens to them and the debate is about this force, and the force is Zeus but Paul is speaking about Jesus Christ, the God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac but the Greeks are speaking of another force called Zeus. Paul steps up to the microphone to speak, and what he does is put his mind forward into the thoughts, ideas and history of these people, calls it forward and uses it as a bridge to be able to understand them but most importantly, to be understood. A lesson in communication!

Paul chooses to pick and quote an ancient poet, a philosopher who had lived 340 years before him, named Aratus. Aratus had written a poem called the Phaenomena

Or Phenomena is English and this poem was about natural occurrence. This poem speaks about Zeus, but Paul is peaking about Jesus Christ. He is not polytheist; he is a monotheist. He picks this story, listen to this Phaenomena written 340 years before Paul is born and it is about Zeus and I quote: ‘Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken. For every street, every marked place, is full of Zeus. Even the seas and the harbour are full of this deity. Everywhere, everyone is indebted to Zeus for we are indeed his offspring.’   So Paul picks that, he knows these people have a sense of a God who they don’t know, who they think is a force, who does not reside in temples so he creates a connection with the Stoics in order to convince them and he says, as some of your poets have said and quotes Aratus. If you read Acts 17:28 ‘…For we are indeed his offspring!’ That is from the Phaenomena! So some religious people would say, ‘How does a religious man quote pagans or people who are not Christians?’ How do we understand people unless we can go into what they know and use what they know as a bridge to get them to what we want them to know?

That is the story that comes from cultural capital. So how will we know about other people unless we know about ourselves first? I began with a story of ‘omuhoko’ and Ishe Katabazi as my first point to strengthen and affirm cultural capital because a simple story- a bedtime story is full of science, technology and innovation and I ended with Apostle Paul trying to communicate effectively to people whose world they thought he did not know but he pulls out an ancient poet Aratus who lived 340BC, this is 51AD. Paul has read about Aratus who came from the Ikaya province in the region of Cilicia (Tarsus). He takes time and reads. How can we know about other people if we don’t read? How do we convince other people of the righteousness of our cause if we cannot get down to their hearts?

I like Paul, because the Bible is an Agrarian book, Ishe Katabazi is an agrarian story based on affirming culture and it tells us that it does not matter- agrarian period, philosophers, poets -lived because this poem the Phaenomena was about seasons, constellations, farming, and planting. The story that Aratus wrote 340 years prior to Paul is used as a bridge to reach out, to communicate, to convince people to see what was important in Pauls time.

What is important in your time? I ask you to strengthen your cultural capital in order that you may know the unknown, to reach out to those who you disagree with or who don’t understand you and be a better communicator this year using cultural capital.





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