African progress lies in our collective identity

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We all know that African tradition, culture and heritage is very diverse and dynamic.   It’s definitely not all about singing and dancing! We have to find a way of updating those parts of our culture, traditions and heritage  that have enriched us, both materially and otherwise historically and develop them, such as exporting our traditional medicines as Asians have done, the Ayurveda of India and the Chinese equivalent.

For instance we have had traditional cures for malaria and some other diseases, that now confound modern men, how else have we survived in such a  hostile terrain, for thousands of years?  Yet, we behave as if foreigners can teach us, what we have known from the time we have existed on this planet, which may be up to a million years!

Why then shouldn’t we use our heads and stop behaving like we are helpless.   After all foreigners don’t see Yoruba, Ibo, Ibibio or Hausa they see Black, so if we don’t get a handle over ourselves and work together then we will begin suffering all over again, in ways that we have seen in the past.

If we are going to survive as a people, we will need to be rooted in something, modern circular tradition cannot provide this, so let us not be fooled.  Our identity also comes from our traditional languages, oral and written, our culture, our traditional religions, ceremonies, updating these and aligning what can use with modern ways of life.

Re-learning what we can from our peculiar terrain, such as our forests, rivers and landscape and maximizing on these to sustain our modern economies.  Africa was largely, a literate as well as an oral society, but how many of us accept that, or even know it?

Many of our traditional religions had female deities, which were demonized by Westerners because they knew that with such mindsets and belief systems, we could truly thrive in modern society, how many of us know that?

How do we connect?  We have a new global audience and whereas investments in resources and in many African contexts, extractive resources, can only take us so far we have an unlimited social capital i.e. the people, our skills, ideas, pools of knowledge and our own way of interpreting, which changes constantly.   The true dynamism of African culture is as yet, still be tapped and harnessed.

It is so diverse and rich!  It is continually evolving, changing, transforming, sometimes in exciting ways.   Whether we like it or not, our collective identity is being reshaped and  re-invented for the better or for the worst.  We must all know our collective African past, if we are to shape our identity for the better.

We have to reconnect to our source.  An example would be reviving African traditional written languages by having them codified, re-used in everyday modern life and protected.  Africa will continue to lag behind other continents, until it looks inward, there is no substitute for this!

Many Africans are illiterate in both African and Western contexts and here lies the double tragedy.   Rediscovery has to be linked to where we are now and where we are meant to be.   Our stories, past and present are like treasures which lie all around us, some obvious, others not, but which we have to seek them out consciously, in order to find them and make positive changes.  This may lead to a rebirth of Africa and its people.

One reason why Africans will find it difficult to integrate indigenous languages into national lingua franca is the sheer diversity of languages, even within one country.  However if India could do so with over 1000 languages within their country, then I don’t see the reason why we can’t either.   India is just one country in Asia.

We’ve simply allowed our minds to be influenced by western mind views, culture, traditions, lifestyles and ideas, to such an extent that it seems to have paralysed any positive action that we should take.  We have to challenge any ideas, values or norms which seeks to place us Africans in inferior positions otherwise it will lead us to places that we don’t want to be, as we can see in  fundamentalist religious sentiment both Christian and Muslim.

There is something truly powerful in staying power, in learning to persist when one’s chips are down, but if we don’t have roots in our past, then we will seek out sustenance in things which neither enrich nor edify us, this is human nature.   If it isn’t in something positive, then it will be in something negative.  Social issues cannot be ignored if Africa is to advance.  Make no mistake, our progress doesn’t lie in GDP per capita alone, far from it!

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