Africanism: The Shadow of the Past

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To continue with my series, I will dedicate one more post on elaborating what  Africanism should not be before I go into what it ought to be.  It is part of a strategy to win it back from all the ignorance and consequent contempt it faces. It has to be both about debunking the myths and fears, as well as offering alternative ways of exploring wonders and finding hope.

Just as we cherish and honour our parents, we also  have genuine respect and reverence for our ancestors. We feel obliged to follow the rules they have laid down for us to the letter, believing that doing otherwise would be an abomination. This phenomenon is common not just in Africa, but all over the world. Christians are undecided on what to make of the Old Testament. Many Europeans express scepticism regarding having unelected monarchs as heads of state. However, it becomes a very serious problem when the rules from ancestors become either harmful  or unhelpful in the face of present day enlightenment.

“It’s frightening to live in a community where the ancestors make the rules.” #UnreportedWorld

— Unreported World (@UnreportedWorld) June 7, 2014

Take the killing of twins in some tribes, as an extreme example. It is high time we all put our foot down and made it unconditionally clear to all communities still discriminating twins or treating them as taboos, that it is unacceptable. Until we purge ourselves of these unhelpful beliefs, they will continue to overshadow every attempt to present the real values and beauty of Africanism. Ignorance is nobody’s culture. In fact, I believe that the primary purpose of education should be to challenge ignorance and unfounded beliefs. I can imagine a system of informal education where people discuss the foundations of their assumptions at a very elementary level. The current system whereby a set of views are imposed on learners to counteract existing views without questioning has not proved helpful.

Another aspect that reflect the obsession with the negative past is the believe of magical powers of natural or man-made objects. This is closely related to the earlier point made, as fear is often the motivating factor.

Take the embedded video as an example. It is hard to believe that in the present day and age, people are dipping themselves in very dirty water in the hope that all their ailments will be miraculously cured. This incessant search for magical power is indeed sickening and is the product of ignorance. The sad thing is that very educated people sometimes either condone these as cultural practices or participate in such themselves. People make up more stories to confirm their beliefs.

There is nothing inherently  wrong with mysticism. It gives people the feeling of wonder and excitement. It is something that is done for fun. It becomes a problem when it is one’s only essence of living. But there is also real wonders in the natural world. There are loads of awe-inspiring mountains, hills, forests, trees, rivers and other landscapes that can be sources of wonder in Africanism. We just have to educate ourselves to appreciate wonder in that way. Just go for a walk in a scenic African village and you get what I mean. Absolutely no magic or belief in it required. And it is not only in the natural world. Look at the works of art in carvings, dressing, and dancing to see the wonders of Africanism. It is vital that we redefine these for our people. This is not an easy task as I said before because we are not creating space for reasoning and rethinking our assumptions.

Some of these wonders have been left us by our ancestors too. They interpreted them based on the understanding at that time. We cherish those things but interpret them based on our own understanding.

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