Culturally void, ease prey
Today, throughout the continent, Africans are confused as to whom they are and as such they have no idea of where they want to go. The reason, writes WONDER GUCHU is because the continent has let its history die and instead followed, glorified and worshipped the coloniser’s history. In denying our history, we have also discarded our culture which is an expression of history.
In 1970, Amilcar Cabral, real name Amilcar Lopes da Costa Cabral, a Cape Verdean and Guinea-Bissau agricultural engineer gave a speech, which, even today, can be used by any well-meaning African to understand where we are coming from, where we are and where we want to go.
The speech, delivered at Syracuse University in New York on February 20, 1970, was part of the Eduardo Mondlane Memorial Lecture Series done as part of the programme of Eastern African Studies.
Mondlane, assassinated by the Portuguese in 1960, was the founding president of the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo).
Giving the example of the Nazi, who understood the meaning of culture and knew its strength in propaganda, Cabral said the colonisers knew very well that to dominate a people, they had to subdue them culturally.
“History teaches us that, in certain circumstances, it is very easy for the foreigner to impose his domination on a people,” he said, adding that it (history) also “teaches us that, whatever may be the material aspects of this domination, it can be maintained only by the permanent, organised repression of the cultural life of the people concerned”.
He argues that colonisers had two possibilities in dealing with their subjects: they had to either wipe out whole generations physically by use of arms or create a new man who imitated them in all aspects except skin colour.
“For, with a strong indigenous cultural life, foreign domination cannot be sure of its perpetuation.
“At any moment, depending on internal and external factors determining the evolution of the society in question, cultural resistance (indestructible) may take on new forms (political, economic, and armed) in order fully to contest foreign domination,” he further argues.<br /> In most cases, like what is seen across Africa with leaders who have stood up against imperialism, the colonisers, realising that they have failed to subdue the indigenous people culturally, “create theories which, in fact, are only gross formulations of racism, and which, in practice, are translated into a permanent state of siege of the indigenous populations on the basis of racist dictatorship (or democracy)”.
Hence, we have heard so many times about failed states and dictatorships, terms that are only applicable to a selected few African leaders and countries just because they dared stand up in their condemnation of what is unacceptable in African cultures.
One such issue today is homosexuality, which has even made some Western powers declare support only to countries that recognise the so-called gay rights, while leaders who oppose it are labelled dictators.
For instance, Rwanda is still considered a failed state yet nobody explains just how a country that has managed to heal the wounds of one of the most horrible genocides can be considered as such.
In the same breath, one can also talk about the deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak who was a darling of all American leaders even when he ruled his country with a tight fist.
Such double standards should be questioned because the idea of a democracy and a dictatorship become confused.
Cabral said that Africans believe that culture is not an ideology.
“In fact, culture is always in the life of a society (open or closed), the more or less conscious result of the economic and political activities of that society, the more or less dynamic expression of the kinds of relationships which prevail in that society, on the one hand between man (considered individually or collectively) and nature, and, on the other hand, among individuals, groups of individuals, social strata or classes.
“The value of culture as an element of resistance to foreign domination lies in the fact that culture is the vigorous manifestation on the ideological or idealist plane of the physical and historical reality of the society that is dominated or to be dominated.
“Culture is simultaneously the fruit of a people’s history and a determinant of history, by the positive or negative influence which it exerts on the evolution of relationships between man and his environment, among men or groups of men within a society, as well as among different societies …”
• To be continued next week.