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Pan-Africanism: A New Approach
By Paul Tuhafeni Shipale
Friday, 4th of July 2008
In my capacity as a self-confessed Pan-Africanist, I would like to participate in the debate about xenophobia versus Pan-Africanism. On Friday, May 30, 2008, A. Kaure argued that “we are missing the political and sociological context, thus lapsing into the mediocre analysis … the movement of people has been central before the formation of the modern state and the creation of sovereign states, reinforcing the idea of nationalism at variance with Pan-Africanism and globalization.”
T. Hengari stated that “the trauma of slavery, colonialism and apartheid created beings whose common denominator mobilize around the race question or the denunciator of the other … Africa should reject its beast and be a synthesis of what is good in itself through philosophical interrogation.”
Seibeb, Swartbooi and Ngurare rightly point to the fact that our African problems are neo-slavery, neo-racism, neo-colonialism, neo-apartheid and globalisation and that PACON should be a rallying point to teach the history and heritage of the African people and their contribution to humanity.
Psycho-Affective Post-Traumatic Injuries
There is a need for a self-discovery or as T. Hengari put it “ the evolution of mentalities” or to paraphrase Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley “to be free from mental slavery”. Frantz Fanon put it more clearly from an empirical perspective as a doctor in psychology and a social theorist and revolutionary, that “when we consider the efforts made to carry out the cultural estrangement of the colonial epoch, the claims of the Africans are not a luxury but a necessity. It is necessary because if the rehabilitation is not accomplished, there would be serious psycho-affective injuries and the result would be individuals without an anchor, a horizon, colorless, stateless and rootless.”
I argue that we must deconstruct our minds. In short, we must repent. The prefix “-re-” means to start over again, to deconstruct whatever strongholds we built in our minds. The word “pent” means to be transformed completely, to change direction, to change our perceptions and ways of thinking.
Africa is in us and around us! But until such a time, we open our eyes, we won’t be able to enjoy it. We shouldn’t sell our souls to gain the whole world but free our souls, i.e. our emotions, our memories and our thoughts.
Malcolm X, in his autobiography, wrote about the set of books that impressed him when he was in Norfolk prison colony. There were books such as “Story of Civilisation” by Will Durant, “Outline of History” by H. G. Wells, “Souls of Black Folks” by W.E. B. du Bois,. “Negro History” by Carter G. Woodson, “Sex and Race” and “World’s Great Men of Colour” by J.A. Roger, “Africa Origins of Major Western Religions” by Dr Ben.
I strongly recommend these books to my folks because they liberate our minds from the wrong perception of blacks as subservient human beings.
In fact, Fanon warned that those who accuse us of romanticism by searching in the past, are strangely apt to forget that their own selves are conveniently sheltered behind other people’s culture.
I beg for an answer, how else will we know where we are going if we don’t know where we are coming from? Let’s go back to our roots, to the fireplace as a place of a covenant and the father’s promise while seated at his right hand facing the east and the south.
I am sick and tired of these so-called boys of the golden era of civilization who were taken to the west and the east to be “civilized” and returned with high sounding gluttonous words that stuck to their teeth, white-washed with nothing left to say to their brothers and their sisters but only echoing what they learnt in Washington, London, Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Moscow, etc.
What did they learn when they keep on fighting for the little crumbs falling from the master’s table and calling each other irrational and nihilistic narrow-minded afro-pessimists, petit bourgeoisie, nouveau-riche, comprador black elite … etc?
According to Godfrey Higgins and E.A.W. Budge, most of the earliest Egyptian Gods such as Ptah (Father of the Gods) and Bes (God of War, Mischief and Comedy) originated in Sudan.
The Greek Gods were an adaptation of the Egyptians gods. “ Zeus” the father of the Greek Gods was called “Ethiop” meaning black. The Indian word “Krishna” means “the black one”.
The word Canaanite is taken from the Hebrew word “Kanaan” borrowed from the Hurrian language “Kinahhu” meaning red-purple. The coastal Canaanite were called “Phoenicians” from phoenix which means red-purple which is a mahogany colour.
The first astronomers were Ethiopians according to Lucien. Strabo says that geometry came to the Greeks from the Ethiopians. The Bible tells us of Moses marrying an Ethiopian woman as the Israelis were intermingled with Hittites and Canaanites and Egyptians.
Archeology confirms, according to Diodorus Siculus, that Egypt was first colonized by blacks.
Aristotle and Herodutus the father of history, studied in Alexandria in Egypt.
The name Ethiopia was used by the Greeks and Romans meaning “land of the people with burnt faces” – the Hebrew word was Cush or Nubia.
“Whatever is has already been and what will be has been before and god will call the past to account” – Ecclesiastic 3:15.
“A land beyond the rivers of Cush/Ethiopia/ Sudan/Nubia which sends its envoy by the Nile…a people tall and smooth-skinned, feared near and far, a nation strong and proud whose land is divided by rivers. All you who dwell in the world, inhabitants of earth shall see when the signal is hoisted on the mountain and shall hear when the trumpet sounds…at that time, tribute shall be brought to the Lord of Hosts…they shall bring it to Mount Zion, the place where men invoke the name of the Lord of Hosts,” Isaiah 18:1-4,7.
Africans were punished for their idolatry, Isaiah 20:3-6 & 30, but it is written “the first will be the last” and the former things will return.
It is interesting to note that when the last greatest indigenous African church fathers, St Augustine Bishop of Hippo (354-430) died, there was a decline in power and control by Africans in the Christian church which was established more than a 100 years before Constantine mounted the Roman throne in 312 C.E.
One of the three most prominent church fathers of Christianity, Tertullian, was born in Carthage during the year 155 C.E., an indigenous African and one of the most outstanding scholars in Latin and Greek rhetoric.
Christians of Carthage were indigenous Africans brought in from Numidia as slaves of the Roman Empire. There were also many Hebrews (Jewish) of African origin who were also caught in a rebellion in Cyrene “Cyrenaica” during 115 C.E. which saw a mass Jewish migration southward into Sudan.
Simon of Cyrene carried the cross of Jesus on “La via dolorosa” (Mathew 27:32). In 252, Cyprian, Bishop of Rome’s great rival Carthage, rebelled and it was he also who in his “De Catholicae Ecclesiae unitate” acclaimed the seat of Peter (Catheera Petri) as the centre and summit of Christianity and proclaimed to the world those principles of solidarity, unanimity and persistency, as a result, the African church was absorbed into the Roman church, except the Ethiopian Coptic church, and the leaders of the African church were persecuted, assassinated and martyred.
Today, the African preachers are the most eloquent and preaching even in Ukrania and London.
1450-1850: Years of the African Triangular Slave Trade
“With nauseating presumption,” complained father Carazzi of the states of the Congo in 1687, “these nations think of themselves the foremost men in the world and nothing will persuade them to the contrary. They imagine that Africa is not only the greatest part of the world but also the happiest and the most agreeable,” wrote Basil Davidson.
Africans were never conquered from outside because they always resisted invasion and remained inviolate due to a persuasive safeguard against conquest – the striking power of African armies always proved decisive.
Through long years, i.e. more than 400 years and almost five centuries altogether, the “black mother” of Africa would populate the Americas with millions of her sons and daughters.
The journey was long and terrible. There was misery, unending misery.
There was so much death in the Americas that the whole slave population had to be renewed every few years. In 1829, an Englishman by the name of Walsh took passage from Brazil in a British frigate, called “The North Star”. Somewhere in the South Atlantic they stopped a slave ship and he went on board. Afterwards, he described what he saw.
“The slaving ship’s cargo was of five hundred and five men and women. The crew had thrown 55 overboard during their 17 days at sea, and these slaves were all enclosed under a grated hatch way between decks. “The space was so low that they sat between each other’s legs and stowed so close together that there was no possibility of lying down or changing positions. They were all branded like sheep with the owners’ marks of different forms – these were impressed under their breasts or on their arms…burnt with a hot iron…”
From the cotton and sugar plantations in the Americas and the Caribbeans to the “Minas gerais” and mineral industries of Brazil and Colombia, the African slaves were applying their skills and labour for the European economy and the development of the “New World” after the Carribs, Tte Mayas, the Incas and the Aztecs were almost completely wiped out by the silver blades, the barrel of the gun and unknown diseases to them brought by the Europeans.
The Africans also brought to the Americas new rhythms of base and drums, new songs, new ways of life. It is only after the abolition of slavery due to revolts and the resistance of the Africans that Asiatics were brought in on contract labour to fill in for the loss of the valuable labour force of the Africans.
Near at Home; the Central-South Western Coasts
Some time in the second half of the year 1482, Diego Cao, forerunner of Bartholomeus Diaz and Vasco da Gama entered seas that no European mariner had ever sailed before. Passing the Gabon of today, he went as far as the Cape Lobo, about 150 miles beyond modern Lobito.
He erected a stone and discovered the estuary of a vast river of Zaire or Congo.
On his second voyage, Cao sailed up the estuary and met with the people of the country. He left four monks and renewed his voyage to the South returning north-ward some months later. He found his monks were missing and he accordingly seized hostages and carried them back with him to Portugal.
In 1487, these Congolese (Angolans) were converted to Christianity and encouraged to act as future interpreters. They were sent back to the Congo with Cao’s third expedition.
Cao went to visit the Mani-Congo or Mwene Mwini-Congo. i.e. (the lord of Congo) at his capital of Mbanza. He was found seated on a royal stool of ivory, surrounded by his counsellors and men-at-arms.
The Mweni-congo had six feudatories, chiefs of the regions of Mbata, Nsundi, Mbamba, Wambo, Wandu and Mbala who were like dukes, marquises, counts and barons all princes and princesses. “Nzinga Mbemba” was the 55th Mani-Congo after “Nimi a Lukeni”. Mbemba followed Nzinga Ankuwa who was met by Cao’s third expedition. We also learnt that there was queen “Anna Nzinga” who resisted the Portuguese and fought heroically against subjugation.
Reading the pre-colonial history of Owambo kingdoms from 1600 – 1920 by Nela Frieda Williams, talking about the ethnic- linguistic origin of the Owambo communities as well as those of the Hereros, the Kavangos and other communities in modern Southern Angola especially their totems, customs and languages, one realizes that the Hereros and the Owambos are descendants of a common ancestor.
They both came from the river banks of Okavango. The Kavangos share a common royal clan descending from a single ancestress with the Owambos.
If we can make reference to E’nziem, “Clan history and ethnical history”…. He pointed out that the linguistic communities which had hitherto been homogenous where the clan was concerned, now included representatives from other clans, thus becoming inter-clans. Brothers of the same clan were dispersed due to various reasons and became members of other communities. Heterogeneous but using a common language.
My argument is that we are brothers and sisters and there shouldn’t be any room for xenophobia and tribalism.
King Kauluma recently pleaded or called on the nation to remain united and the founding father Dr Nujoma always stated “a nation united, striving to achieve a common good for all its people will always emerge victorious” .
Unity has always been the main theme of most of our leaders, such as captain Hendrik Witbooi and chief Hosea Kutako. Let’s move away from this euro-centric approach that says that, one should put on a suit even at 30 degrees Celsius to attend a church service or use a rock band instead of an African drum to worship God.
Such was the calm and well provided so-called “heart of darkness” before the coming of Europeans with their fatal appearances of export – slavery. More often these settlers were luckless victims of ignorance and poverty.
Sometimes they were political exiles, not seldom they were common law criminals called “degradados”. Most of them were vagabonds deported from Europe to settle in Africa’s interior and its islands of Madagascar, Zanzibar, Sao Tome, Cape Verde.
Fewer than one in every hundred Africans of Lusophone speaking countries had achieved the rank of “Assimilado”, nowadays called “integration”, thus gaining admission to the so-called “rights of civilization” by simply losing their own civilization, language and culture, without the chance of gaining a better one nor being admitted as full Europeans.
“All of that exhumed from the past, spread with its insides out, made it possible for me to find a valid historic place,” Fanon wrote. “The white man was wrong, I was not primitive, not even a half-man, I belonged to a race that had already been working in gold and silver 2000 years ago.
“The men they took away knew how to rebuild houses, govern empires, erect cities, cultivate fields, mine for metals, weave cotton and forge steel. Their religion had its own beauty, based on mystical connections with the founder of the universe.
“Their customs were pleasing, built on unity, kindness and respect for age. No coercion, only mutual assistance, the joy of living, a free acceptance of discipline.”
A New Approach for Pan-Africanism
Pan-Africanism should instill in our youth a culture of collective pride and individual worth as a psychological lift as we are taught by Marcus Garvey. We should expose and denounce the inconsistencies in the world politics. Analyse the geo-political and economic strategies and interests. According to W.E.B. Du Bois, Pan-Africanism should resolve, among other things, to:
• Preserve its past history, write its present account erasing from literature the lies and distortions about the African people.
• Seek to save the great cultural past of the African tribes not by inner division but by outer cultural and economic expansion towards the outmost bounds of the great African people.
• Teach mankind what non-violence and courtesy, literature, art, music and dancing can do for this greedy, selfish and war-stricken world.
To be a Pan-Africanist is more than mere window-dressing, it is more than just putting on West African attires.
Pan Africanism is conviction of being first an African rather than a tribalist, a humanist rather than a racist, believing in African values and traditions.
I will urge PACON to aggressively market themselves and give our youth role models who contribute to science and technology, to social and political changes, to literature, poetry, music, dances and in other spheres of life whether in Africa or in the Diaspora.
I salute those who had the vision to create PACON and no matter what their detractors might say, they should keep up the burning flames of emancipating our people from mental slavery.
As Bitek put it, the nest of court historians should not be disbanded. The village poets, musicians, tribal dancers and folk story tellers should not be silenced, the works of the professors of anthropology, the anthologies of African literature and schools of African studies should not be closed down.
Let’s revive Aime Cesaire, Leopold Senghor, Fanon, Du Bois, Garvey, Kenyatta, Nkrumah, Nyerere, Neto, Cabral, Lumumba, Biko, Pad More and many others. Their wisdom should guide us as Pan-Africanists. Let’s follow in the footsteps of Witbooi, Maharero, Marengo, Nehale, Mandume, Iipumbu and Nujoma.
We should do the historical research, interpret and record the historical and contemporary knowledge and reinterpret the data into new conceptions of social reality. It is historically unfortunate that we created no social theorist to back up our long line of leaders.
The further we get from our historical antecedents in time, the more tenuous become our conceptual ties, the emptier our social conceptions, the more superficial our vision. But how will we define cultural leadership and differentiate it qualitatively from political leadership?
Our superficial creative intelligentsia does not understand the cultural history and where it fits in that scheme. Our intelligentsia is neither equipped nor willing to contribute cultural leadership. They are most adept when it comes to sentimentalizing in public about their preoccupation with the “comrades” but somewhere deep in their consciousness is the same attitude borrowed elsewhere, that our dances and our music do not edify but merely entertain, forgetting that “the cultural arts are the mirror of the spiritual condition of the nation.”
Unless our creative intellectuals as a stratum can evolve creative policies that will govern cultural programmes and self-sustained and administered research institutions, we cannot achieve cultural democracy, as Harold Cruse put it.
Why can we not use the arts and craft centres around the country as African heritage centres where we can learn about our history, literature and the men who contributed to our advancement?
That politics, economics and culture must function together in a new and dynamic synthesis is true but only when this synthesis is able to project actual cultural revolution will our assertion of cultural and spiritual heritage have any real social meaning and the rehabilitation of the psycho-affective injuries and traumas suffered by the African will be accomplished.