Let 2018 be our year of going back to African culture, roots
4 months ago, 28 Dec 21:16
I have a plan for the new year. There are many mountains to climb in 2018 but I think it will be the year of understanding, a year of study into our culture and origins. This, you might think, is a boring undertaking. But the one thing I can’t stand is not knowing. We need to know who we are, where we came from, so that we can understand why we are the way we are. During colonialism, we lost the collected wisdom of millennia. We were taught to forget everything that we had learnt about ourselves and the earth and learn civilised things about the British. Which was okay, it has been useful, but we should reclaim what we lost, if we can. Ten years ago, I had a chat with a friend and I happened to mention something about Meru warriors. He laughed and asked, “The Meru had warriors?” He is a professor, but a fool, and he probably has allowed his feelings of ethnic superiority to take the place of knowledge in his brain. CHARITABLE To be charitable, it may also show how successful colonialism was in wiping out our curiosity about history and culture. In fairness, the Meru are also very secretive about their stuff. For hundreds of years, their religion was led by a grand seer, the Mugwe. From 1907, the British tried to find out who the serving Mugwe was. They left 60 years later without a clue. One rule about Africa is that, just because you don’t know about it does not mean it doesn’t exist. The Meru stored their history and culture in their heads. And there was an elaborate system of retrieval, in which retired elders regurgitated this knowledge to younger elders in sessions that could run into 10 hours of monologue. HISTORY Every Mzee was a walking library. Fortunately, in 1969-1970, an American researcher sat down with 100 of these ‘libraries’, recorded their recollections, cross-checked against those of other ‘libraries’ and written records and wrote a fairly comprehensive history of the tribe going back to 1700. On a recent trip, I saw the Kisii Cultural Centre in Kisii town and it gave me an idea: County governments should lead the effort to revive and record African culture. Every county should fund a department and chair of cultural studies at a local university — its job being to research, study and record ethnic culture and language. And each should have a big department of culture with the responsibility of organising cultural events and being the custodian of traditions. Such departments would oversee the election and composition of the councils of elders, for example. It would also oversee initiation and the cultural activities around it to ensure safety and compliance with tribal law. SUCCESSION CYCLE In communities which have an established succession cycle, the management and naming system for the age sets can be re-established and the local authorities oversee the handing over of traditional leadership between generations. Some British administrators and scholars, ...
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