Or is it something else?
A friend brought to my attention this tweet
We are not interested in that for the time being, but the debate that ensued on her facebook page is of interest to us and is the basis of this post and it’s title.
She set the ball rolling when she wrote, in response to the tweet,
folly of culture without consciousness: the dead are reminding us to get off the land; not bribe them with rituals.
which in my view, if the newspaper article is believable, makes a lot of sense. So when she is told by Eva
the dead are quiet dead. Any interaction with them is with dark forces
I am quite shocked at how unaware Africans can be. There is a lot of interaction between the dead and the living in our cultures. Take for example, the naming process. Most people are given names of the remembered dead and this has never been said by anyone to be an interaction with dark forces. My friend, Wandia, is right in her assertion. In most African traditions, desecration of graveyards is believed to have potential of disturbing the unity of the community and thus, the dead would have to be appeased if such a thing were to happen.
When Eva writes, in part,
It’s folly also if as Christians we do not highlight the in-congruence of these “cultural” (scare quotes in the original) practices with out faith.
is actually laughable. For one, Christians are always praying at ground-breaking of new construction sites. The only difference between what the elders would be doing and the Christians is in the utterances, but the practice is similar. Two, I sympathize with Eva. She has eschewed her African traditional religion without taking a moment to investigate it. She has been told Christianity is right and she is willing to go with it.
Wandia, says it better than I, when she writes
[..]if you can apply such intellectual skills every Sunday listening to sermons bout Jews in Israel 2000 years ago who have nothing to do with your own history, you can do it for your own culture.
In response, without even taking a pause to reflect on Wandia’s response, Eva writes
Of course, Africa cultures are laden with metaphors. The practice of necromancy is however not a metaphor, and even if ignorantly presumed to be one, is odious and an abomination to God. But as the bible also indicates in Deut 27, cursed also is the man who moves his neighbors boundaries (land theft) as is the case here. Also, and I can speak authoritatively for myself if for no one else, what came out of the land of the Jews 2000 years ago has much to do with my own history and present and future than whatever “culture” I was born into. Period.
And with this, I can say without fear of contradiction, the colonialist project succeeded fully. Necromancy or the process of divination, to refer to it differently, was and has been the African way of knowing. Diviners were important members of the society. The community; the living dead, the living and the yet to be born- have to live in harmony. This is the African way. And she is right, though, not the way she means it but the colonial/ slavery project has succeeded in making her believe whatever is African is dark. She can’t even bring herself to write culture without scare quotes.
Again Wandia is right when she writes in response
[..]It is [possible to refute such stupidity using African culture, and that is what I was trying to do.
There has been talk a lot of finding African solutions to African problems. If we cannot bring our cultural histories to address some of the challenges facing us today, we really are lost. We have become a people without a history.
Eva writes, in attempt to backpedal
Indeed, our cultures are capable of condemning witchcraft, but can they do so about necromancy, what with pouring libations to dead spirits, consulting them on burial spots, etc..? I don’t think so… I was raising a flag about what you probably wrote in light touch regarding the dead reminding us to get off the land because I have seen Christians ensnared in these practices without realizing their in-congruence with their professed faith.
my irony meter went burst. I will have to order another. First, she displays her ignorance of African Religion. Two she conveniently ignores the similarity of christian practice with the cultural practices. As a bible believing christian, she must be committed to accepting, as Mathew wrote, that graves opened and the dead walked into town. She is here busy condemning African traditions she knows nothing about.
I agree with Wandia’s closing remark,
The problem is with taking libations literally as feeding the dead. Every society needs to remember those who left before the living, and while Europeans did it through sculptures and monuments, we did it by acknowledging our ancestors and telling our oral histories. We can still maintain the act of remembering while condemning those who want to endorse injustice and greed using African culture. We can still use Christianity for those who believe, but for those who don’t, we must insist the justice, public spaces and environmental conservation are also African concepts.
and add, without fear of contradiction, that Eva is blind to the prayers said to saints(sic) who, to the best of my knowledge, are all dead. I don’t think she condemns that practice. Eva/ Eve is not an African name. She has been made to believe she needs a Christian name. She has forgotten her roots. She has swallowed Christianity is the one true™ religion. Everything African then is dark, primitive and need to be forgotten quickly and erased from history. How misguided can we be?
A god who can flood the whole earth, or send earthquakes to destroy cities cannot be appealed to for conservation. I would argue, the African’s relationship to his environment and the community is more dynamic, more pragmatic and earthbound than the Christian ethic.
Let the African be a Christian, but while at it, let them educate themselves on the content of African Religion. Let the investigate the methodology that was used by the missionary to spread his religion and only then, should they pass judgement on African practices. Doing so while ignorant of the level and extent of brainwashing the missionary used is not only irresponsible but reckless.