New Era Newspaper

New Era Epaper
Icon Collap
Home / Opinion - Authenticating African mentality

Opinion - Authenticating African mentality

2022-11-18  Prof Makala Lilemba

Opinion - Authenticating African mentality

The idea of making Africans being proud of themselves and their names comes a long way. “Roots” (1977) viewers will recall how Kunta Kinte resisted being called by his slave name, despite being severely beaten. This trend could be regarded as one of authenticity moves which were later propagated by Mobutu and other leaders.

The idea was to reject the imposition of Western values on Africans but motivated them to be proud of themselves rather than feeling inferior. The philosophy underscored that Africans should go back to their roots and relinquish their Christian names and in the process alleviate the emulation of Western system.

The system maintained that teaching which induces slave mentality is an attack on the minds of human beings, as education should make people aware of their potential as human beings. As Coper (2002) emphasises, the mind as well as the body should be liberated by education. It is along similar lines that Machel’s (1981) Mozambique: Sowing the Seeds of Revolution depicts three types of education. 

The first one, African traditional education passes on old ideas and values and in the process paralyses the society.

The second is colonial education which is a tool of exploitation and seeks to dehumanize Africans. Machel condemns the two education systems because they perpetuate the old order and applauds the third, which is revolutionary education, since it helps to create a new mentality, an attitude of solidarity, healthy and revolutionary morality as well as respect for manual work, for science and technology.

However, Jurmo (1987) cautions that culture is not a static set of customs, religious beliefs, social attitudes, forms of address and attire, and foods; but a dynamic process of transformation and change laden with conflicts to resolve and choices to be made both individually and as a community. But Young (1976) reaffirms that the power of the communal factor in politics is usually seriously underestimated at the time of independence by scholars and statesmen. 

However, Madubuike (2006), one of the Nigerian prominent scholars, laments that in colonial Africa everything African was considered primitive, barbarous, unholy, whereas everything European was considered pure, proper and civilised.

 He further states that to answer to a white man’s name was seen as one of the ways of becoming civilised. Consequently, many Africans today bear European names even if they do not understand their meanings, including many radical Pan-Africanists.

These names are usually termed Christian names even if the people carrying them are not Christians. Ironically, Europeans refuse to carry African names even if they have lived in Africa for centuries.  

Whereas the Europeans thought that their moral code was more superior and acceptable among the Africans, in fact, the system is loathed and reviled as the European system of moral values encourages indecency. 

Whereas Western morals are in a state of decay, the traditional initiation systems improved and cultivated moral development extensively. 

These discouraged careless sexual indulgence and enhanced abstinence which prevented sexually transmitted diseases and assisted women during the breast-feeding period. This is in line with what Broodryk (2006) advocates when he says that in South Africa and other African countries,
people’s lives were shaped by moral lessons, customs, rituals and taboos. 

Men followed the path laid out for them by their fathers and women led lives as their mothers before them.

The world of experience (chibonamensho, maziyaziya or maaraura-nkohe): According to the Mafwe of the Zambezi region, this is a world of knowledge, the world of axiology and the world of better life. Here the emphasis is on moral values in order to experience good things in life. This is typically of Jean Jacque Rousseau’s philosophy of learning from the consequences of actions (Rusk and Scotland, 1985; Hamm, 1993).

This could be likened to Plato’s world of forms or ideas (Rusk and Scotland, 1985). According to their conception of the experiential world, the Mafwe believe that the world has thorns, and if one walks blindly in it, he or she ought to be pricked by them, as they say, ‘efasi ndye minga ne malamatwa’, literally meaning ‘it is a world of thorns and devil’s claws’ and one is likely to be punished in one way or another by nature’.

Munukayumbwa concept (a person cannot be thrown away): This view among the Lozis demonstrates the importance they attach to a human being. It means that no matter how ugly and hopeless a person may appear, he or she is still useful. It further emphasizes that no matter where a person sleeps, whether in a hole or in a mansion, a person is still a person, a human being for that matter, and hence should not be thrown away or sold.

It stresses that no matter what a person eats, he or she still remains very important in society and contrasts with the Western system of class societies. This is what Broodryk (2006) implies when he says that traditional African societies placed a high value on human worth.

According to him, it was humanism that found expression in a communal context than individualism, which is prominent in Western lifestyles. He alludes to the differences between African and Western approaches as based on the “we” (African inclusiveness) versus the “I” (Western exclusiveness) styles.

Encourage the use of Namibian languages: Many Namibian languages were associated with negative qualities of backwardness, underdevelopment, humiliation and punishment. 

Namibians went through that school system which encouraged the hatred of the people’s culture and the values of the African languages. 

Despite these negative attributes attached to the languages of the Namibians by the colonisers, all language groups in Namibia possessed languages which were suited to precise description.

 Recognise and encourage the value of traditional art, music and dances among the Namibian community members, whether they are displayed at festivals or encouraged by specially funded institutes (Knight and Newman, 1976). According to them, one way of establishing self-identity is to turn to the past (of course useful past) and to reinterpret history through African rather than European eyes. Historical identity may take the form of campaigns for ‘aunthenticity’ like the discouragement or abandoning meaningless European names in favour of meaningful African names. By implementing some changes in the education system, the minds of young Namibians could be authenticated to good use.

2022-11-18  Prof Makala Lilemba

Share on social media