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Lamentations Over Crumbling Pillars of African Identity


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Lamentations Over Crumbling Pillars of African Identity

Farewells usually prove how emotionally fragile humanity is, in those goodbyes, there is no assurance that our paths will ever cross again, at least in the same state under the same circumstances. For those who would have traversed through the plains of this world imparting and preserving inherited gems of ancient wisdom and history for the benefit of posterity, farewells are warm life chapters. For they know in doing such they would have done their bit in immortalizing a People’s Identity. As a young African existing within a space where shared pillars of African Identity are crumbling and few are prepared to lend an ear, it’s always a chilling thought to reflect on how the scales of events shall tilt when the entire unit of elderly custodians no longer grace our paths. When my time also comes will I have gleaned enough to impart a sense of African pride in my children?


One of the prominent features of African identity has been its commitment to ‘Ubuntu’ which is a value system highlighting the invisible cord of comradeship that binds humanity together. Present-day realities in African society have indicated the opposite direction of this philosophy. Family units are slowly dismantling, it seems as though identifying with one’s roots of origin and its associated practices is no longer a fashionable gesture. Sadly, the only time households reunite is during funerals where praises are showered for the departed yet when one was still alive no extensions of the much-needed generosity were extended. Everything is now fast-paced, we talk of fast foods, high-speed internet, and easy returns with little thought of labor bordered on swindling a brother. On the broader continental stage, African leaders in summits talk of fostering unity that translates to economic prosperity but in some of their backyards the flames of xenophobia are being fanned. Have we spiraled downwards to the depths where one is prepared to wield a machete against a brother or sister based on the difference in language we speak? Are we as a continent going in the gloomy direction where ‘Ubuntu’ is now an endangered value?


The definition of globalization has been twisted, where it’s expected to be a cross-pollination of ideas within the global village towards socio-economic development, globalization is now like a one-way street where Africa is just the passive recipient of external influences most of which demean our heroes, local practices and historical narratives which form the backbone of the continent’s identity. In the annals of history, it must be heralded that while the entire ancient world was consumed in their definition of ‘civilization’ Africa was not only embroiled in territorial wars, rituals, and rock paintings patiently waiting for redemption from elsewhere. The continent’s ancient civilizations were also building the immortal symbols of global architectural designs in the form of the stone-walled Great Zimbabwe and the towering pyramids of Egypt. The young today have been indoctrinated to celebrate the exploits of foreign heroes but they cannot identify with their own. Who then shall be there to rise up and pronounce the immense contributions of Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Dr Wangari Maathai, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere, Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela, and other unnamed heroes in the liberation and recognition of Africa and its people?


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Media is a potent tool that can alter or reinforce an idea. Some of the narratives pushed through film, television, radio, literature, and music have been effective arsenals that have conveyed the false image of Africa which is projected as a vast piece of continuous land inhabited by savages who live side by side with wildlife and are completely detached from developments unfolding in other parts of the world. While these foreign stereotypes are damaging, it is even more unbearable to realize that the hand from within is feeding such narratives. Some African media players have no room on their platforms to celebrate that which defines us as Africans. Content that derides our ways of worship and other traditional practices is packaged and distributed. Indigenous languages are also frowned upon while the generated media content attempts to mimic the values of the Western world in the way they talk, dress, and eat. It’s okay for Africa’s media to be part of the global village, celebrating, participating, and communicating the different escapades of other cultures, this fosters tolerance. However, there is everything wrong in completely losing the fundamental pillars of who we are as a continent. Since nature abhors a vacuum, the blank space where we are expected to tell our own stories is engulfed by strange fires of demeaning stereotypes. With this realization, it might be prudent to quote the African proverb which says, “Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.”

AFTERTHOUGHT The story of African Identity might not have completely slipped from the grasp of redemption. The continent is not a mere shadow void of its ways and thought, blindly tracing the motions of its former colonial masters. From one of the proponents of Black consciousness, Marcus Garvey comes the rallying cry that has reverberated through time which says, “Up, you mighty race, accomplish what you will.”

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