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Perceived Worthlessness of African Culture & Traditions
Next year, Ancestral Voices will be 10 years old. Ten years of researching, exploring and putting in much effort to bring African spiritual culture and traditions to mainstream consciousness and discussions to counter much of the ignorance and disdain that colonial misunderstandings and propaganda has painted it with that continues to this day.
Reflecting back on those days to now, it is remarkable the degree of change – in perception and visibility – that has occurred during this short period in time. When we first started it was a regular and almost daily occurrence to have random people on our Facebook page offering unsolicited diatribes as to the value of our research work – telling us how unnecessary and unworthy a venture it was. We were apparently leading people to ‘the devil’, as absent as this fictional figure of the religious imagination is in African Spirituality.
When we would probe further we’d come to realise that such individuals were basically only parroting same ignorance heard from a family member or a member of any of the Abrahamic faiths. In short, they had an opinion that had no justification in fact, just historical wrongs that had gone unaddressed.
Fast forward the years and its interesting to witness just how a part of the mainstream discussion its now becoming – references to African Spirituality exists in many outlets now and gratefully, not always portrayed in the same context negative manner as has been done historically.
From Netflix series such as ‘Always a Witch’ and ‘Luke Cage Series 2’ on Netflix to a range of other film offerings and even comic books, have proliferated concepts within African Spirituality that explore the benefits it holds for individuals and communities, well, such explorations in the film Black Panther did in no way impede the film grossing past the Billion-dollar mark worldwide – so it can’t be as bad as some say huh? Smile.
What the dynamics on our social media pages has changed to though is now how often we get visitors querying why our learning resources are not free.
According to this group dynamic, African Spirituality and its rituals and concepts should be free. It makes no sense to them even after we remind them of our journey and personal sacrifices we had to make to complete all our work. Fully funding the first film (Esoteric African Knowledge) from our own pockets, being shunned by many organisations, including some who identified as Pan-Africanist, yet we still persevered and completed it against many odds.
The painstaking 5-year process it took of using our own funds again and raising extra funds from our dedicated support base, to make the second film (Spirit is Eternal) and publishing the book (Spirit is Eternal)was even more challenging, as we had 2 young children during that time and had to work around their needs too.
Still for this specific audience it’s a no, our work should still be free, guess even none of our time spent compiling a necessary resource unavailable anywhere else due to a colonised curriculum is not worthy a single digit of currency (according to them). These same people wouldn’t go into a bookstore and ask for, in keeping to the spiritual subject, books or material from the likes of Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Louise Hay etc and ask why their metaphysical resources are not for free, yet they feel worthy to ask or even demand in some instances, that African Knowledge should be free.
In pondering this attitude over time, it becomes rather clear what the source of this double-standard dynamic is and we find its origins in the socio-political sphere of our current reality. One in which we have an Africa whose portrayals are no longer in the positives as once documented by Arab and European scholars, but rather one of destitution, hopelessness and despair. In this reality Africa is just a ‘space’ from which much is taken and very little given in return, if any at all. In this mental dynamic, the African is almost invisible, of no value and so, by extension, is their ancestral knowledge, philosophies and way of life. It is therefore sad when we encounter these comments asking why our resources are not free, yet the same commentators wouldn’t dare to ask the same of the educational resources of others – simply because its identified as African?
It is sad not just that the subject is still largely held in disdain but that those who profess an interest in it also have an expectation that it should have no value. Is that most value they can mentally place on things of an African source? It sets a very worrying precedent.
In an age where Decolonising our Education and Minds is also an active undercurrent of society, what does that say about our willingness to explore information and knowledge that has historically not been given space in our curricula or spaces? Is our stated desire to know about African knowledge paradigms, for those of us with a strong affinity for Africa, whether through Ancestry or genuine interest, so low that we express such strong aversion to supporting works that speaks to her glorious history and contributions to civilisation that we expect it to be free? How does that work, really?
It is an on-going struggle even with the current wave of ‘Africa rising’ as largely African Spirituality is still vilified, practitioners attacked in places like Rwanda and sadly, sometimes killed in places like Brazil by members of largely evangelical faiths and yet no emergency declarations on these by any authority on the International Stage. So now close to 10 years ago, things have changed some, but we still have a long way to go.
Undoubtedly, with the rise in interest of the mother continent by those in the Diaspora is also bound to arise the interest in the subject of African Spirituality. We see this evidenced in the large numbers drawn from the world over to visit the sacred Oshun Grove in Oshogbo, Nigeria during the annual Oshun festival.
It already feels like a bit of a ‘fad’ as well for some anyway, if some of the other comments we encounter on our social media are anything to go by. We find scenarios where some seem only interested in how to superficially use elements of its ritual practices, specifically for personal gain at the expense of others.
Such brazen statements show how without a well grounded understanding first of what African Spirituality entails and its purpose, one can quite foolishly cause harm to one’s self whilst intending it for another – usually over very petty situations that do not require any form of energy transmutation at all. Situations that a simple conversation had between both parties would have resolved but we find the visitor rather insistent on ‘working some magic to hurt the other’. The aim of African Spiritualityhas never been nor will it be as crude as that, just tool(s) to inflict harm on others. That is far from its premise though, as what its principles seek first and foremost is the creation of harmony and balance in the lives of individuals and between individuals in a community.
Such actions and requests inform us that individuals with such intent for how they seek to ‘use’ African Spirituality are not ‘centred’ and lack understanding of its true purpose. This general misconception of it simply as a tool to ‘do harm’ is another vestige of the colonial propaganda surrounding it, so it behoves those interested in it to learn what it entails comprehensively so as it engage and use it astutely and beneficially – to themselves and those around them.
Such actions and intent also reflect the very essence of this article in this sense that piecemeal understandings of the gamut of our ancestral traditions can only lead one to making decisions that one can later regret as they have not taken their time to learn and understand fully its expectations.
Therefore investing in that knowledge should never be in question, in my humble opinion, considering how it still remains a topic largely not in the mainstream. Don’t we think that the independent content-producers that have openly championed for its retention over the years with very little support deserve a little more than free?
Let’s be clear that this article is not written as some form of rant about whether people choose to invest in our learning resources or not, no. This article is about 2 things mainly – the first being about the changing perceptions about African Spirituality over a 10-year period and secondly, about the audacity some people have to demand resources about the subject for free, when they wouldn’t dare to do the same in other spaces or from other authors – a reflection of how deeply colonised many minds still remain.
Investing in our own self-development is a very necessary step in our own growth, for as one of the most-known declarations in the Ancestral lineage from ancient Kemet states, ‘Know Thyself’. May we heed their advice and cease from this attitude of expecting things for free or dirt-cheap just because it’s African in origin. That, in itself, is an expression of low self-worth and perception.
Ancestral Voices Co-director
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