African Concept of Human Personality

In this post I shall briefly explain how our African ancestors conceived of human personality and personhood. First of all, our ancestors were ideologically both creationists and evolutionists. They believe that the supreme God (Mawu) and his servant gods created the universe and everything in it. Man was created as an imperfect being and kept in a cave. Initially he could not speak but could only growl or make grunting noises like an animal. With time man emerged out of his cave and acquired human qualities such as bipedal locomotion, speech, thought, reason, conscience and virtue etc. This implies that the earliest man was probably a hominid. This concept contrasts sharply with the Christian creation story at Genesis 1, where everything was said to have been created almost instantly and perfectly. How then do we explain genetic defects such as premordial dwarfism, hunchbacks etc. and when I was Little I knew a man with twelve toes and twelve fingers. I bet all this people will wish they were not “perfect.”

Within African setup, when a baby is born, he or she is considered a non human visitor until after eight days. If the baby dies before the 8th day no funeral was held and no one was expected to cry or weep. The idea is that the baby is an animal – comprising pure ID (Instinctual Drives in freudian terms) and not fully human yet. Within the child’s ID is the mother’s blood, the father’ spirit and a soul from God. So the child is formed by three components coming from three different sources. The child’s life, as he survives and grows, is perpertually animated by these three factors. When he or she grows old and eventually dies, he loses the blood and spirit which he acquired from his parents but his soul is not lost. It returns to Mawu (the Supreme God) who is believed to dwell beyond the stars. The servant gods that dwell among the people and take possesion of animals, trees, rocks and rivers are never called “Mawu” but rather “Trorwo” meaning deities.

Please note that the practices described here are carried out by the Ewe tribe to which I belong. Different tribes have different ideas and practices though the differences are not very drastic. Also there are two forms of African personality: Indigenous African personality lived by our ancestors and contemporary post colonial personality emphatically espoused by Kwame Nkrumah, Leopold Senghor, Julius Nyerere etc. which stems from indigenous roots. 

Contemporary Paintings

I visited an art gallery very recently and felt the influence of Europeanisation even on African art. I didn’t feel a deep connection with our arts anymore. Although these visual artists seem very creative, only few retained indigenous African themes such as libation, warfare, hunting, weaving, farming, fertility etc in their paintings. I think the appropriate term for these paintings should be “Europeanised paintings.” But maybe I’m wrong. It could also be that the artists are focusing on commercial appeal. Whatever the issue is we cannot blame the artist as he or she is simply mirroring society. The images have been added below for your viewing pleasure.

I think these are fishing boats at the shore.

Landscape

Abstract 

African woman (notice the backside)

This depicts an annual deer hunting festival by one of the tribes in Ghana. Can you see the live deer on their shoulders? 

Trio women feature a lot in paintings by Ghanaian painters. I don’t know what the obsession is with a woman’s backside. Almost every painting I saw depicting a full size woman showed the back of the woman. Maybe it’s true that Black/African men love women with big booty. Personally, I can’t say I care about size of booty.

This is a ghetto scene

Another abstract

Metal Figurines (drummers)

Looks like cubism. I don’t know what you see but I see sorrow.

Fabric, I think it’s hand woven.

African women are known to be very hardworking and I think they must be depicted as such not just making faces as seen in the painting. Our art has moved from communicating essence to simply communicating pleasure or evoking emotion…… And who is this guy in the shot? 

O it’s me.

This is the entrance to the gallery. The name of the gallery is Nubuke Foundation. They have been commited to preserving and promoting art in Ghana for over ten years and they always offer a friendly and warm environment for all visitors. That’s all folks.

It seems all the money in the world fulfils only the quantitative need

Success means different things to different people. To the vast majority success means certain affordances such as a car, a house, fancy clothes, electronic goods etc. This is how the god-men want the world to be. Money rules minds. Money is now the measure of all things. It seems to solve all human problems by silencing both the humans and the problem alike. If Mr. A desires something of Mr. B it gives Mr. B an excellent opportunity to control, exploit and dominate Mr. A. This is how the modern world works. In most parts of the world today one’s worth is directly proportional to the amount of money in one’s bank account. A high amount means high net worth and vice versa.

So is ordinary life worth anything at all? When a man with a fat bank account suddenly falls sick and dies, is the dead man still worth anything? Biblical literature says: “What shall it profit a man when he gains the whole world and loses his soul.” Although money can give an incredibly comfortable life, certain facts still remain. Money cannot fulfil such human needs as genuine sense of security, lasting happiness and love and faithfulness. Such things only come from being unfailingly moral and honest. The more money one has the more untrustworthy friends one would have. I personally believe, by observing people in my society, that the aggresive persuit of money generally reduces a person’s quality of life.

Thoreau says wealth is the ability to experience life in full and that’s correct but wealth can also cause anxiety and sleepless nights. One’s wealth can advance one’s intentions but only quantitatively – meaning one can use money to get more money or acquire more properties but the conversion to genuine human value system such as trust, which is qualitative, is not that easy. One cannot buy genuine trust and respect. The trust and respect one gets as a result of money is shallow and breaks down easily. The worst part of all this is that what the average person calls ‘success’ is normally the destruction of or the grafting of one part of the soul to build upon the other. As a result there is often a painful story behind every material success. I wish all my readers wealth and happiness but I hope everyone puts health and family first. Happy sunday!

Visitor

1.

And when death knocks on their door

Then do they run to the poet whom they despiseth

And say, trembling: “Poet, we have a visitor!

Death knocketh on our doors with his handcuffs

And as yet have we not enjoyed life enough,

2.

Will thou allow him to drag our souls away? 

Will thou allow him to drag us into the underworld?”

Then will poet sit on a rock and speak thus:

“I cometh and speaketh to you about death everyday.

How it sneaketh in the night and enters thy room

3.

And draggeth thee to the underworld.

But thou despiseth me and mocketh me.

Thou did not listen. Neither did thou say, yes!

Poet, we have heard thy sermon and we shall put our

Modest houses in order before death comes.” None

4.

Paid any attention and now must the poet fight death

For thee? Poet is mortal too. Poet wrestleth death but

He winneth not. For this reason does poet admonish

Thee to prepare thyselves for death’s unannounced visit.

For death’s entrance and life’s exit are but same door.

The Hammer and the Anvil: Did One Blacksmith Design Both?

Suppose that the world was primarily composed of hammers and anvils, and everywhere some malleable metal is being hammered on an anvil. Though it is often considered virtuous, humane and even acceptable by the common era to be an anvil and suck in a little pain, I think it is still advantageous to be the hammer. A metal being hammered on an anvil could never ever regain its original shape, even after many years of reparation, neither could the anvil. The blacksmith who designed them both cannot be said to be an empathic, a just and a considerate one. 

This short metaphorical exposition explains the effects of hierarchy in every complex social system where one man’s authority overrides another to his injury. Though everyone seems to sympathize with the vast majority oppressed people, everyone desires to be at the very top of the hierarchy. I think this is one primary aim of evolution whether it’s social or organic – a struggle to reach the very top.

Religion partakes in this process but adopts clandestine tactics trying to push it’s adherents to the very top of the hierarchy, in others words they too desire to be the hammer and not the anvil, though most deny the reality of evolution. The true goal of all religions is hegemony.