Last Frontier to Liberation: African Spirituality
By Dalian Adofo
There is a paradox that exists with the African/Black family worldwide. Whilst on one hand we bemoan the levels of oppression and institutionalised racism we face from other groups, on the other hand we actively shun the one area capable of providing us with the necessary tools to achieve this desired state of liberation.
Even with clear evidence of its usefulness in the liberation struggle in Haiti of 1804, it is still largely shunned out of ignorance by African people who exhibit more of a preference for their coloniser’s religion than their own, yet still claim to want to be free?
This elephant in the room is what is broadly termed ‘African Spirituality’- basically the indigenous spiritual philosophies and practices of our Ancestors, known by many names; Ifa, Akan, Vodun, Kandomble, Lucumi etc.
It is a legacy we have taken with us worldwide that has sustained us even in the harshest of conditions and still prevails today even after centuries of systemic stigmatisation.
How uncommon is it to meet the staunchest ‘Pan-Africanist’, or even ‘Black’ people in general, saying all the ‘right’ things yet the minute the topic is brought up they default to the coloniser’s handbook and start referring to it as ‘superstition’, ‘devil-worship’ or any of the other unfounded labels it is stigmatised with? A big contradiction in itself- how can one claim to be for all things African, yet exhibit extreme prejudice towards the very core, the foundation, of its culture!?
Least we forget, the highest expression of any culture starts with its spiritual/religious discourse. How the people came to be, the source of their creation. Therefore, it is hypocritical to extol the virtues of Africa whilst simultaneously discrediting the ‘African God’ so to speak.
Why is it so important that we reclaim and practice our ancestral ways? It is essential because now more than ever many of its principles are being re-presented under different guises by various branches of Western science as newly ‘discovered’ information; a few cases in point-
Ancestral veneration and communication has now been rebranded ‘genetic transmission’. Scientists tell us that most, if not all, of our makeup is from previous ancestors passed down onto us through our DNA, hence some of our phobias and peculiar character traits.
Thus we are basically our ancestors and as such we can draw from their wisdom and facilitate communication via our ancestral memory. The notion of the interconnectedness of all things as espoused in the spiritual concept of Ubuntu is now conveniently under the label of ‘The Butterfly Effect’. (More on the various correlations Modern Science is discovering of indigenous concepts can be downloaded here.)
The question then is why are we still waiting for our legacy to be ‘proven’ by ‘Science’ before we are willing to believe in and act on it ourselves? It holds the promise to expand our minds and raise our innate abilities to levels we cannot even begin to comprehend in our current state of disengagement from it. So what are we waiting for? The time is now!
We know this transmission of ancient knowledge and skills to be valid and true as has been exhibited in the lives of many African descendants, one for consideration in this article being George Washington Carver: prolific African-American inventor and scientist.
He led an extraordinary life, born an enslaved African, he would rise to such prominence that upon his transition, he was commemorated with a US stamp. In 1916, he was made a member of the Royal Society of Arts in England at a time when most African-Americans could barely travel freely across the United States, much more abroad.
His status was largely due to his remarkable inventions and innovations in agricultural products, notably varied uses of the peanut. His attributed his knowledge to a very interesting technique of waking up at dawn and walking into Nature.
In this environment, he stated that the plants spoke to him and divulged many of its secrets, which were then later incorporated into his innovations. The interesting thing was he attributed this ‘divine gift’ to his religion and Jesus Christ, largely understandable because like all enslaved Africans, they were purposefully cut off from their cultural heritage.
Had this not been the case, then Carver would have been aware that this practice that came to him intuitively was/is also an established traditional practice utilised by African Shaman to identify the medicinal and curative effects of plants.
So with no direct contact with his heritage, Carver was still able to access ancient methodologies simply via the mind, not forgetting whatever skills encoded in his DNA from a previous ancestor. Carver is but one example and we could list many- from leaders of slave revolts in the Americas, to rulers of Quilombos (runaway enslaved African settlements) in Brasil, to resistance leaders on the continent against Imperialism- the list is virtually endless!
But the one fact still remains, our Ancestors are still with us, waiting on us to call out to them, to show appreciation by pouring some libation or leaving offerings as symbolic acts of respect and appreciation, that they can also manifest their presence in our lives.
Their hands are outstretched to lead us to greatness, the question is- will we answer their call?
**This article was written for the African Liberation Day Magazine 2017 by African Caribbean Self-Help Organisation (ACHSO) and Pan-African Congress Movement (PACM)