As others saw us- being an analysis of grassroots imperialism in 19th and early 20th century Africa.

Bethwell A. Ogot in his book History as destiny and history as knowledge, from which the above title is a chapter, writes in the introduction of the book, that

To tell the story of a past so as to portray an inevitable destiny is for humankind a need as universal as tool-making

He defines historicity as the need to picture to oneself what is destined, the belief that the past determines the future while historiography submits its report to the probable and its assumptions to the verifiable.

This blog is not concerned with a review of the whole book but will limit ourselves to one chapter of the book that retells of how the white people saw us, where, us here refers to Africans and specifically to Kenyans. If I should mention other groups, it will only be tangentially.

To start with, he notes that during the C19, a vast amount of negative propaganda and stereotypes about Africans and Africa was generated in order to justify imperialism. Referring to works by Mudimbe and Miller, he notes, from the earliest contact, Africa has been imprinted with European constructs, such that at some moments, Africans were represented as noble while at others monstrous.

People like Lewis Krapf, Rebmann, he writes, came to Kenya to introduce civilization which they mistakenly equated with Christianity. It has been said, and I think correctly, that Christianity was the precursor of colonialization, that the missionaries prepared the grounds for the colonial administration wherever they went.

He notes, one of the areas of contention was what civilization meant. To one group of whites, following the Enlightenment philosophers held the view that it was essentially concerned with the way society was organized. In this view, civilization was equated to capitalism where private property, the state and commerce are fully developed. The other group of whites, like Krapf and Rebmann mentioned earlier, saw the negro as primarily fallen man. Krapf argued that temporal and spiritual benefits could only reach E. Africa through European intervention making him one of the precursors of imperialism.

The representation of Africa as a tribal continent, he writes, is a white people construct. Since ethnic groups exist in societies such as Ireland, Belgium, Spain and so on, one fails to understand why the whites referred to ethnic groups in Africa derogatorily as tribes. For our purposes, it is sufficient to note that ethnic groups and identities are historical creations- they are created by human beings. Ethnicity, in this view, is the consciousness of cultural difference.

To the whites named above and others, regions and people without states are therefore supposed to have no history worth the name. Another Christian missionary working in the Kenyan coast argued slavery was not, after all, the unqualified evil abolitionists thought it was, but that it was better to eradicate it gradually. Another missionary, D Lugard, argued Africans do not appreciate personal freedom.

The idea of Africa as a dark continent, as has been written elsewhere, finds it origins in the philosophies of Hume who wrote there was scarcely a civilized nation of negro complexion while JJ Rousseau proclaimed that blacks were mentally inferior by nature. I want to point in passing that when the Enlightenment philosophers wrote man was a rational being, they limited man to mean white privileged males. Rooted in pseudo-objectivity, male scientists claimed that men were the bearer of reason and rationality while women’s temperament was adversely affected by their dominant reproductive organs which were linked to the central nervous system. Women did not count, they were temperamental and of course, as we have seen already, the negro had no place in their view of nature, in fact, to them, the African was living close to nature. He writes, and I quote

In investigating the savage, the west set up a mirror in which it might find a tangible, if inverted self-image. Non-Europeans filled out the nether reaches of the scale of being, provided the contrast against which a cultivated might distinguish himself. On this scale, the African was assigned a particular base position.

A young Scot, Thompson, travelling through Kenya went even further to rank the different African ethnic groups he interacted with in different evolutionary scales. He, for example, had the Maasai on a loftier position than Wa Kwafi from the coast, who, to him, seemed to have acquired a strain of Negro blood. He didn’t stop there, he ranked the Njemps lower on the scale below Maasais though praised them for their honesty and reliability. The question the author asks at this point is, why should honest, peaceful, hard working agriculturists be ranked lower in human evolution than some thieving, war-like nomads?

The question of nudity, with respect to morality puzzled many Europeans travelers, missionaries and scholars. Dr. Oswald doing some work for the British Museum, was most troubled that despite their nudity, the Luo were a happy cheerful race, living in a state of nature, and at the same time with a high standard of morality. This was only a puzzle because in the European conception of the African, he was immoral. Despite this, he still had space to argue that they were primitive contemporary ancestors of the Scots who should be civilized.

Our author concludes thus

Among the whites in Africa, there was virtual unanimity that in the community of nations Africans were children.


This strain of thought can be seen in many interactions between whites and Africans where they refer to Africans as boy, regardless of age.

To these white people,

The African was emotional, excitable, impulsive, had a happy go lucky nature and lacked forethought.

Krapf, mentioned already, believed

Africans will never achieve anything in philosophy or in theoretical branches of science.

The appropriate end to this post is a quote of Mark Twain

There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man’s notion that he is less savage than other savages.

Or better yet

The only difference between the average civilized man and the average savage is that the one is gilded and the other is painted.


Why is Luke considered an inspired book

When the author so assertively says in the introduction

Inasmuch as a number of writers have essayed to draw up a narrative of the established facts in our religion 2 exactly as these have been handed down to us by the original eyewitnesses who were in the service of the Gospel Message, 3 and inasmuch as I have gone carefully over them all myself from the very beginning, I have decided, O Theophilus, to write them out in order for your excellency, 4 to let you know the solid truth of what you have been taught.

He is relaying what he has read or others have said. And nowhere does he claim inspiration from anywhere, not even from a joint.

Whose work is he referring to? Who had written these earlier gospels and why doesn’t he mention their names?

And if he has gone carefully through them, let’s for the sake of argument say it was Mathew he read, why does his genealogy of Jesus H. Christ differ from it?

There are 7 miracles only Luke knows where he got. Did he make them up? If he is a historian, does he treat of history when he writes of miracles? Should we take him seriously as a historian?

Colonialism was good. WTF

Kevin, tells us

-I am against simplistic moral equivalence (that is, “denying that a moral hierarchy can be assessed of two sides in a conflict”). Colonialism had its positive side: roads, agriculture, sanitation, hospitals, orphanages, democracy, schools, and, the Bible. Were these not the will of God?

-Regarding Iraq, please see, “OBAMA’S RETREAT FROM WAR MADE MATTERS WORSE,” at [link ignored]

Those preliminary concerns being addressed, I believe God loves everyone as much as He loves Jesus. God is love. He sent Jesus to die for all, because He has predestined all for life.

As to the question of war, the greater reality must eclipse the lesser. Please also see,

“A Christian Response To North Korea,” at [link ignored]

And for lack of a better word, FUCK you Kevin. You are as immoral as the god you worship.

African Religion vs Christianity?

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.

On authenticity of the bible

Of the 66 books of the bible at least 50 are anonymous works or forgeries. To teach that these books are divine, and to accept them as such, denotes a degree of depravity on the one hand, and an amount of credulity on the other, that are not creditable to a moral and enlightened people. 

Says Remsburg J.

Bunyan on the other hand tells us

Every book of it, every chapter of it, every verse of it, every word of it, is the direct utterance of the most high.

I take sides with Remsburg.