Colonised beyond redemption: Part One…..African reluctance to assume own identity


IN the last article penned for this publication I highlighted black people’s fight against their blackness, denying their own God-given beautiful dark skin.
I gave examples of Rhodesian Africans using Ambi Special, a skin-lightening cream, to whiten their skins.
The closest most of those denying their blackness went was to be light-skinned like people of mixed race, the ‘coloureds’.
Michael Jackson, the late Afro-American pop singer, not only tried to change his skin colour, but used plastic surgery to turn his African facial features into those of a whiteman.
All these attempts have failed miserably, leaving the ‘victims’ horribly deformed and looking more like apes than humans..
Some will want to downplay these tragic attempts to change identity as the racial aberrations of a fringe minority.
Unfortunately our experiences in Zimbabwe tell us otherwise.
Why Africans try to ape white people from Europe is a troubling phenomenon.
Many reasons have been proffered to explain the tendency of especially the so-called educated Africans to do everything possible to mimic white people.
The easy explanation is that they are still mentally colonised.
But the mechanisms of colonisation are often not clearly elucidated.
The very education that most Africans boast is the instrument of their mental subjugation.
Tragically, it is a foreign education that teaches them to look down on things African.
It is a colonising, not a liberating education.
So, while education in most societies is the most powerful acculturating agent, in Africa it alienates the educated from their indigenous culture.
Whereas traditionally education prepares the young for life in their communities, in Africa it isolates the so-called educated from their societies.
While education has been hailed as a liberating experience in Africa, in actual fact it has destroyed the cultural fabric of African societies. This is not surprising because what we call education is a learning experience crafted by Europeans to, as it were, ‘break’ (kupingudza in Shona; ukuthambisa in Ndebele) the African and make him pliable to European cultural practices.
So, for every single day that African children went to school, they slowly drifted culturally from their indigenous moorings.
And like sheep separated from the main herd, the educated have lost their cultural bearings and become rich pickings for Western Christian religious sects and employers.
For the most part, their education has not added value to the lives of those who remained in the village, their parents, relatives and peers.
The educated now gather at centres of Western influence (schools, colleges, towns, work places).
They associate among themselves, sending their children to those schools with the most European influence. While many adults of today (2017) can claim some relationship with their rural kinsmen, many have lost, often deliberately, their rural roots.
What have been lost are the cultural roots; the African language, clothes, food habits and social skills.
They now converse in the whiteman’s language (for Zimbabwe, English) and follow and adopt Western fashion trends.
They eat Western ‘junk’ foods and die from lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension.
In the arts, Western cultural imperialism rules the roost, re-inforced by the massive invasion of Western material through the print and electronic media.
Some African instruments like mbira and the drum have held their own but the overwhelming trend is that of western music with many musicians even singing English lyrics.
Originality in some music genres is sorely missing with massive copycatting of foreign artists by young black musicians.
The Western education systems adopted by independent African states perpetuate their colonial status by placing them in a situation where they are aspiring to be like the whiteman!
But the simple truth is they can never be like the whiteman because while God Almighty created them all equal as humans, they are unique, different for example in colour, culture, language as well as geographical location and physical environment.
Thus the blackman’s attempts to mimic the whiteman are in essence attempts to defy nature and the principle of adaptation to the environment.
What Africans must aspire for is to be the best that they can be in their black skins, in their physical environment with all the physical and spiritual talents bestowed on them by the Almighty.
Like other races, they can copy and adapt technologies to suit their own circumstances and compete with others in trade and investment.
Africans should chase their own destiny, creating uniquely African goods and services that give them a competitive edge.
Africans should not abandon their culture and religion because those are the roots on which they are anchored.
A tree cut off from its roots dries up and dies.
All attempts to mimic white people will not succeed because that is against nature!
Can the reader begin to appreciate why Africa is failing to fly its own flag proudly among other nations?
By abandoning our culture as Africans, we have lost our identity and competitiveness.
What, apart from their skin colour can the post-colonial Africans be famous for? Our ancestors were well known for many great achievements; the Great Zimbabwe Monuments, the pyramids of Egypt, great African universities like Timbuktu and great empires such as Mwenemutapa in southern Africa and Songhai and Ghana Empires in West Africa, among many others.
What about present day Zimbabweans?
Yes we are respected for having fought and liberated our country from British colonial rule. We went back to our cultural roots to seek inspiration.
That is why we received guidance from the great ancestral spirits like Murenga, Nehanda, Kaguvi Mukwati and many others. We sang revolutionary songs during pungwes, not Western Christian songs.
We did not invoke the name of Jesus; in fact many Christian churches identified with our oppressors, the Smith regime.
We fought the whiteman to a stand still and he surrendered and we got our political independence.
Then immediately on assuming power we forgot our roots. We went back to the church, to five ‘O’-Levels including the Queen Elizabeth English language.
We set ourselves a barrier to say those Africans who cannot pass English at ‘O’-Level are not good enough to procede with tertiary education. How many ‘O’-Levels did each comrade, mujibha and chimbwido need to successfully fight the war of liberation?
Thousands of students flock to Europe and America to go and study. Parents and relatives celebrate when a son, daughter, nephew or niece obtains a scholarship to study overseas.
The excitement of leaving one’s immediate surroundings to go abroad is understandable.
But this is much more than a tourist visit.
To begin with, hardly any local person has an idea about the culture and curriculum at the destination institution.
It is Europe it is fine; it is overseas it is fine! But those places are foreign to our cultures, language and way of life.
African acceptance of foreign educational institutions reflects our own lack of indicators of what constitutes a good education.
If a white education is what is good, and education prepares for the future, are we therefore aiming for a white future?
Will we still be Africans when we have swallowed foreign education and culture hook, line and sinker?


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