On this occasion of the celebration of the African Union Day, I’m asking them where is the union? There is more trade between Africa and Europe than among African countries. Movement is also restricted with bureaucratic immigration procedures because African Leaders don’t trust each other. So where the hell is the union they are talking about?
With president Donald Trump reportedly cutting funds to the arts and humanities, I wonder what consequences it will have on the development of a national culture for a country as diverse and racially heterogenous as the United States. Without education in the arts and the humanities civil unrests will be more frequent because people wouldn’t know or understand how to live with one another and even with the state. All knowledge of the arts and the humanities helps us to know who we are, why we are the way we are and what we ought to do to improve ourselves, our communities and the larger society. Law, Politics and Business are all traditionally categorized as arts and humanities.
In the past half century or so there has been intense focus globally on science education, which is good but not good enough to create a more humane civilization and make humans a better and conscientious people. Science has given us many beautiful inventions but their purpose will depend on the purpose we as humans envision for those inventions. What good is a powerful weapon, machinery, tool, vaccine etc if one is not trained to use it humanely.
Science has told us in clear terms that it cannot help us as far as the purpose or meaning of life is concerned. We can only turn to the arts and the humanities for truly meaningful answers. There are tens of thousands of literary and cultural organisations across the U.S. often offering voices to the voiceless and the under-represented. This no doubt is important in uniting such a racially divided country. If funding to the arts and humanities is cut, the government is simply postponing a problem not solving it. Unless peace, coexistence, civil rights, and national unity is not a priority for the government at the moment. As someone who is passionate about literature and the arts, I can only ponder the consequences if literature and art is further underpromoted.
I have been wanting to ask this question as far back as last year but couldn’t really find a way to frame it well. What is ‘normality’?
Supposed that one wakes up tomorrow and saw that everybody was walking about completely naked – even at school or at work. In fact every social gathering is filled with people in the nude. What will be one’s reaction? One will likely immediately feel embarrassed for fully dressing, go back home or to the washroom, undress and come back in order to fit in. Same will apply to whether one woke up and saw people walking backwards. Thus the question arises, is something normal because it’s commonplace or is it normal because it’s appropriate or right to do?
Would you steal, accept bribes or commit adultery simply because it is common place in society or would you rather refuse to do these things because refusal is right? The pressure in society, to conform, is strong and can be reflected even in the kind of traditions or laws in place. But the reward of doing the right thing is superior and far reaching and ultimately good for yourself even if it means being labeled abnormal. Happy Sunday!
Where is your home?
Where is your home Blackman?
When you’re in Europe you say I am going home.
When you’re in America you say I am going home.
When you’re in the Far East you say I am going home.
And when you’re in Africa you say I am going home.
Where is your home Blackman?
Where is your home?
Whatever you seek is within you.
Excerpts From “The Gods Must Be Crazy I”
“For the first time there was something that could not be shared because there was only one of it. Suddenly everyone needed this thing and the thing became a necessity. Unfamiliar emotions began to stir – a feeling of wanting to own and not wanting to share. And other things came: anger, jealousy, hate and violence.”
Xi (pronounced “key”) was angry with the gods. He shouted,
“Take back your thing we don’t want it. Look at the trouble it brought.”
But the gods did not take it back. He shouted again,
“You must be crazy to send us this thing, take it back!”
The gods did not take it back so Xi carried the thing and buried it away from the shelter.
“That night the family was very unhappy. A strange feeling of shame had come upon them. They began to talk about this thing which had come into their lives. They did not have a name for it. They called it the evil thing.
(a) Perhaps the gods were absent-minded when they dropped the evil thing on the earth.
(b) They have always sent only good things like the rain, trees, roots and berries to eat
because we are their children and they love us.
(c) But now they’ve sent us this evil thing.
(d) The thing does not belong on the earth. Tomorrow I will take it to the end of the earth
and throw it off.
(e) I think the end of the earth must be very far. I think you may have to walk for twenty
days, perhaps forty.
(f) I will start walking tomorrow.
Here, one will notice how the primitive men dealt with the problem of evil. If there is a single benevolent God, from where, then, comes evil? The bushmen believed that the gods who gave them good things also occasionally sent evil unto the earth. Their gods were dual-natured and to me it sounded like even they, detected, something of the internal dialectic in matter. In behaviour, they were also far more humane than their civilized counterparts. If you watch the full movie, you will agree with me. I have often felt that to understand the universe, one must trace the evolution of the human thought from the earliest Neanderthals to us. If only that’s possible. I am not even sure if the stories told by these discoverers are accurate.
The interesting is this: since the “evil thing” was interfering with their happiness, they didn’t blame or wait for the gods. They figured a practical solution was to get rid of the thing at the end of the earth themselves. To them, the end of the earth was a steep valley where the evil thing, once thrown in, could never come back again.
One other question which had always been on mind was this: why was it always necessary to ascribe human qualities to the gods or God if they are different entities from us?
I have always said, in reply, (to friends who ask why I no longer take organised religion
seriously) that I did not previously attend church because I wanted to go to heaven or expected a miracle.
Nothing new can happen, the sun will always rise in the east and set in the west.
But I went to church because it was a community of people like myself.
People I grew up with; friends, neighbours etc who make up the larger community.
If there is a God, and I believe there are many, then they must be concerned about the welfare of humanity.
By promoting the welfare of humanity, we are realising God and therefore advancing our spirituality.
This is why I cannot surrender my intellect or emotions to any organised religion but humanism.
I have never felt as bored anywhere as when I am in church —
If not for brief conversations with old friends.
I don’t think it has anything to do with the priests or prophets or the scriptures.
I can tell there is an originator, when I consider the process of human reproduction.
But I don’t think any religion can make evil men good
Or good men evil, religions may facilitate it though.
There are men who are inherently good and others inherently evil.
When people sing and make chattering noises on the street we label them maniacs.
But in the church, it indicates most profound “piousness.”
I will rather stroll in the forest and listen to birds sing.
“Truth is so hard to tell, it sometimes needs fiction to make it plausible.”
Beautiful culture –
This is a traditional
Dance by the Ewe tribe.
I see myself soaked in sweat
And moving in circles.
But civilization, like a boa constrictor,
Is eating all of our traditions.
♫ …”Nor ngor”- meaning lead us or stay ahead…♫
Friends and colleagues I concealed the death of my grandmother, which occurred about six months ago from you; mainly because I feel you might not be interested or rather I do not want to spoil your mood with death verses. But it is interesting to note that everybody dies, even the pope. Humans claim to be powerful but of course not against death. Show me a heavyweight champion and I will fix a fight between him and death.
‘We will all go to Africa one day, don’t you worry,’ Mr. Medouze had said in the movie ‘Sugarcane Alley’ but he was metaphorically speaking of death as a home – as Africa, from where he was taken slave. Now let me briefly tell you about grandmother, since this is what the post is about.
Born in 1911, Grandma never had any formal education, eventually trained as a potter and got married to my late Grandpa in 1947. They had seven children, twenty-eight grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren. Of course now cars and houses are valued above humans but in indigenous Africa, wealth is about people. Perhaps the most important thing I wanted to say with regards to such a large household is that grandma always preached forgiveness. It was like her philosophy. She never pointed out who was in the right or wrong – just forgive and forget, we are family she will say.
I have come to realize this emotional truth after her death. Those who fail to forgive end up spending extra energy, thinking and planning revenge which will hardly earn them anything concrete. But forgiveness cleans your mind and heart of all negative emotions so that you can live your life afresh – it is not easy to forgive but also not impossible. However, be careful! I am not telling you to go about hugging and dining with old enemies. If people don’t like you, there is really nothing you can do to please them. But it is very important to let go of the past and focus on the future. Forgive whoever had wronged you because one day, death, that terrible darkness, will part the two of you and it will too late to say ‘ It’s ok, I have forgiven you’. Grandma died at 102. She was confined to her room for nearly 20 years, during which she continued to sell tobacco. Now I can’t sneak in and sniff tobacco anymore. She is gone forever.
In indigenous African societies, God is thought of as a giver, a protector and a liberator. He has personal qualities such as wisdom, eternity, invisibility, omnipresence and most importantly justice. He reveals himself through earthly and heavenly things such as the sun, the moon, the stars, rocks, trees, rivers and rains. It is obviously beyond the scope of this article to delve deep into African Philosophy mainly because each African tribe has slightly different belief systems as regards nature and origin of life. I shall however try turn every stone in an attempt to find the most common element that runs through all tribes and draw conclusions.
Among most tribes, God is believed to be the father of all men. He is the almighty, the Supreme Being and though Africans appear to offer sacrifices to lesser gods, ancestors and deities, we revere him most. The Ewe tribe of south-eastern Ghana, parts of Togo and Benin call him ‘Mawuga Sogbolisa’ meaning ‘The Undefeatable’. The Akan of central Ghana and parts of Ivory Coast call him ‘Nyame’or ‘Nyankropong’ meaning the universe and the Yoruba’s of Nigeria call him Chukwu.
According to the myth of the Bantu tribe (scattered all over the West African sub-region), the universe begun precisely with the Supreme Being stepping a foot on the ground and out of his foot stump arose men, women, trees and in fact any object in the universe. The Akan has it that God lived in the Sky, so close to us that whenever an old woman pounded fufu ( boiled cassava) her pestle constantly kept hitting God. Angered and frustrated, God moved far away into the heavens hence the great distance between the sky and the earth.
Among the Ewe, God is said to have created mankind and hid him in a cave. He then sent the deities (lesser gods) to go and cleanse the earth of all evil forces or objects. While the cleansing was going, man became increasingly impatient in his cave and finally came out without the approval of God. This explains why men are always susceptible to evil spirits.
Another Ewe tribe has it that in the beginning God created mankind and presented him with three gourds from which to choose his destiny. One contained stones, the other salt and the third contained jewellery and happiness. After some time of deliberation, man went away with the second gourd but realizing that it contained salt, he brought it back and asked God to replace it with happiness. God declined and that’s how come happiness has eluded mankind. Another story which is particularly interesting is that God created and presented man with two gourds. One looked beautiful and shiny on the outside but contained only sand and stone, the other dirty and worn out but contained a lot of good things. Mankind, in a haste and without much forethought immediately chose the beautiful gourd and discovered the sand and stones – and such was his destiny.
I assume that so far so good and maybe to some extent, these stories make little sense to the reader. There are probably a dozen other such stories but lets pause and see what our ancestors are trying to tell us with these stories. In my opinion, they are surely telling us about a certain failing inherent in all men. Now let us turn the mental compass towards the inner world of the individual, to subject the stories to the test of truth – the absence of logic notwithstanding.
1. All over the world, life is considered a journey. This journey as we can see in the first myth started with God by his stepping on the ground and we arising out of his step. The myth simply tells mankind that we must walk in the path of righteousness laid for us by God.
2. It is interesting to note that God did not punish the old woman in the second myth but rather chose to resign into the skies. The myth tells us that God desires to be close to us if only we are ready to behave appropriately to please him.
3. Talking about humans coming out of a cave is no news. I think this myth can survive even a scientific test. For the earth is considered a mother goddess among most African tribes. She is called ‘Asaase Yaa’ by the Akans. During libation, the fetish priest addresses the Supreme God, followed by the Earth Goddess and then finally the Ancestors. All of these have specific roles and rankings which I shall expound on in my subsequent posts.
If the earth is a goddess and female at that, then it is reasonable that all humans came out of her uterus which more or less is a hole ( with all due respect to womenfolks). The primitive man’s idea of the origin of the universe stems from his own birthing process. This was the case with the aborigines of Australia and the Bushmen of the Kalahari.
I will like to now turn my attention to what is happening today under our own eyes. The other day, I read that Scientists say the universe came about as a result of a certain ‘Big Bang’ that occurred millions of years ago. A ‘Bang’, I came to know, means copulation but of course Scientists meant a completely different thing. The same of such thing applies to the primitive man. The numerous cave paintings found in Lascaux in France, parts of North Africa and even records of Greek and Roman mythologies speak sometimes directly, of intercourse between two forces of nature ( usually male and female gods). The female god if not degraded into particles, then gives rise to mortals or in some cases immortals. It is obvious, whatever the case that there can never be a ‘Big Bang’ without two counteracting forces. The primitive man called these forces male and female.
Forgive me if I have not done enough justice to the topic. To summarize, mythologies reveal the deepest of truths about instinctive thought patterns and feelings of mankind but most of us dismiss them as false because our rational mind cannot handle them. The absence of reason is not the absence of truth.