Character; The Vital force of Afrikan Culture and traditions By Blak Pantha
Throughout the continent of Afrika you will find many cultures, tribes and traditions. From ancient times to present, Afrikans have a way of life that is predicated on the treatment of others. In South Afrika it is called Unbuntu. Its definition is simple human kindness and synonyms include human nature, humanness, humanity; virtue, goodness, and kindness (Official Unbuntu Documentation 2017). The consensus amongst traditional Afrikan people is that treatment of others is linked to your character and your character is linked to your destiny. Staying on your destiny path is essential for long life, health, prosperity and wealth. So we can now see the importance of displaying gentle character (Iwa Pele) and good character (Iwa Rere).
The west defines character as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual (Webster). One must ask the question of, how do these morals qualities become mental in the mind of an individual? The answer is culture; culture shapes our identity and teaches us how to process information. The culture of the Afrikan breeds and supports people of good character. Every sacred text within the traditional wisdom centers from the continent of Afrika have multiple proverbs about good character.
The Yoruba state in the Odu Ifa Ogbe Otura, that sparkling white teeth are the ornaments of a smile and good character are the ornaments of a person. The verse goes on to say if a person looks good but lacks good character that person should be compared to a tree in the forest.
The Luba people of the Congo say that Shakapanga gave us beauty and good character but you must help him by taking care of yourself and constantly cultivating your virtues.
In the Per Em Heru also known as the Book of the Dead, chapter 125 labels the time of judgement as the day of great reckoning. This is the day when one’s character is assessed by placing one’s heart on the scales of maat; the heart that reflects moral fiber which in turn reflects ones means of living (University of College London).
So now we can see how your good character is a requirement in the tradition of Afrikan spirituality. People with bad character are not allowed to advance to higher levels of initiation within priesthoods and will face problems fulfilling their destiny in life. In short, always remember that your character is your destiny and your destiny is your character.
When we talk about forces in Afrikan culture we are not talking about anything supernatural or spooky. In fact, the concept of supernatural is foreign to the Afrikan. All life on Earth and beyond is perceived as one cluster of creation from the supreme source of energy known by many names. So supernatural is not a term that indigenous Afrikans would understand because nature is all encompassing in their cosmological system. We are talking about entities that have been identified by our ancient ancestors and more recently modern science. Things like energy waves, fire, water, love and everything else we perceive in nature were given names by our Afrikan ancestors. It was and still is taught that to access these various forms of energy for the good of the community and society one cannot be a vessel of hate, anger and malcontent. One must develop and cultivate good character.
Our ancestors were erectors of wonders of the world like the Benin wall, The Pyramids of Giza, the Heru Em Aket (Sphinx), and the Sungbo Eredo among others. We had and still have advanced methods of mathematics, philosophy, medicine and science. All of these accomplishments are essential to one of the most important topics in the Afrikan diaspora. This is the topic of nation building. With good character comes strength, honor, responsibility, and all the things that are conducive to nation building. Nation Building is defined as constructing or structuring a national identity using the power of the state (Deutsch 1966). Nation building is a continuous topic in the black community. The cries of unity have echoed throughout the hearts and minds of Afrikans trapped in the United States and other places under oppression. Our great ancestor Cheikh Anata Diop advocated for a united federated state in his book Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State. Diop argued that we cannot get by without doing an intensive study of Afrikan society in all aspects of history, languages, ethnicities, energy potential and raw materials (Diop 1996). What Brother Diop was describing was essentially the Afrikan wisdom center model. Afrikans that follow traditional spirituality go through rigorous training of math, science, history, secret languages, and defense techniques. We have already established that through these wisdom centers a requirement is to build good character. So in essence our great ancestor was inadvertently teaching us a lesson in nation building by suggesting we use the same model of our ancestors. Consequently, brother Diop was directing us to build not only nations but character.
You might be wondering or thinking about how closely related are culture and character. Allow me to discuss this connection. Character is a cultural product that is cultivated within a given society. Contrary to popular belief you are not born with good or bad character. It is the community that instills character by teaching cultural norms, taboos, and thought processes. So in relation to judging one’s character one should ask what is the community teaching to cause this person to exhibit good or bad character. Dr. Fukiau in his book African Cosmology of the Bantu Kongo, tells us that when a crime is committed in his village the whole community is called into question. The community is then shunned for producing such a person that would commit a heinous crime (Fukiau). How did this person come to learn these behaviors that contributed to murder, rape, or theft? Why was he not instilled with the traditional values of the tribe? Why was his deviance from the traditional values and the violation of taboos not reported? Traditional Afrikan culture was a society that asked these question and held the community at large accountable. This in turn put pressure on society leaders to teach, correct, love, and set an example of their cultural values to the society members. Culture and accountability intertwine when discussing nation building and the cultivation of character. Accountability is taught within the cultural model and is a proponent of character which is required for nation building. “Our culture is designed in a way to cultivate our talents, widen our perspectives, sharpen our intellect, develop our character, perfect skills, and increase our capacity to love, give, nurture, and teach” (Imhotep). This quote by Asar Imhotep covers everything we have been discussing in a nutshell, there is no denying that good character is a vital force in Afrikan cultures, traditions and spirituality. My plea to the Afrikan race is to return to what made your civilization the subject of studies for centuries. Return to what is rightfully yours and what many other cultures want for themselves. Return to what makes you Afrikan. Return to your culture, return to yourself and cultivate your character. Only then will we learn how to communicate, interact, love, teach, and build with each other. Reorientation to the Afrikan way of life is essential to not only defeating white inferiority (white supremacy) but to also rebuild our families, communities and ultimately our nation. We cannot afford to continue to feed the elephant in the room peanuts. We must walk him outside where he belongs. What I mean by that is until we build our character collectively we cannot begin to think about getting out of the condition we are in. You cannot build a house on an unstable foundation. This old saying holds true and we must start taking this old quote and apply it to present conditions. No longer can we be proponents of foreign cultures who have an epistemology of hateful character. Hate for the Afrikan race is intertwined in these other cultures we have adopted. No longer can we make excuses for these cultures. We have to be open, honest and willing to change and adapt. Only then will we tap into one of the most powerful forces in the Afrikan spiritual tradition; character.
- Official Unbuntu Documentation 2017
- Webster Dictionary
- The Future World of Politics By Karl Detush
- Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State By Cheik Anta Diop
- African Cosmology of the Bantu Kongo By Dr. Fukiau
- Asar Imhotep personal quote.
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Excellent paper, well thought out , concise and clear. Although I prefer Afrikan Culture singularly, as opposed to Cultures- plural, as all Afrikan Cultural has an interconnectedness, as Diop provides time and time again, Inn all of his works; especially “The Cultural Unity of Black Africa” and “Civilization or Barbarism “. Keep up the great work Blak Pantha. Abibifahodie!!!