African Indigenous Knowledge

0
26

THE promotion of African Indigenous Knowledge Systems finds legitimacy in the need to defend the dignity of African people and their civilisational achievements, and by way of contributing afresh to a new global agenda that can push us out of the crisis of modernity, as promoted by the European enlightenment. Such knowledge must be relevant to the current needs of the masses, which they can use to bring about a social transformation out of their present plight. We cannot just talk about the production of ‘knowledge for its own sake’ without introducing its purpose. As Prof. Dani W. Nabudere says in ‘Towards an Afrikology of knowledge production and African regeneration’ (2005), there cannot be such a thing as the advancement of science for its own sake. Those who pursue ‘science for its own sake’ find that their knowledge is used for purposes which they never intended it for. Eurocentric knowledge is never value free. It’s purpose throughout the ages has been to enable them to ‘know the native’ in order to control their raw materials and human resources for their benefit. Such control of knowledge was used to exploit the non-European people, to colonise them both mentally and geo-strategically, as well as to subordinate the rest of the world to their designs and interests. The issue of an African renaissance which has been advanced politically, especially by President Mbeki, cannot just be viewed as an event in the politics of the African political elites, although that may be their purpose. It has to be taken up, problematised, interrogated and given meaning that goes beyond the intentions of its authors and involves the masses of the African people in it if it has the potentiality to mobilise. It can be used as an occasion for beginning the journey of African psychological, social, cultural as well as political liberation. It can also be used as a mobilisation statement and the basis for articulating an African agenda for the reclaiming of African originality of knowledge and wisdom, which set the rest of human society on the road to civilisation. The establishment of the Pan Afrikan Centre of Namibia (PACON) should be seen in such a context. For such an attempt to succeed, it has to begin by challenging the dominant Eurocentric outlook. Philosophies and epistemologies still defiantly continue to disorganise the African continent, turning it into a backyard of imperialist exploitation and plunder. The Eurocentric knowledge of us, which we call ‘scientific knowledge’, still dominates the psychology of African political, economic and academic elites, and through religion, the African masses as well. This means that, as we proceed fulfilling the task of re-discovering Africa’s past, we must also probe the basis of any African studies courses, so called, in the country, not because of their specific importance to Namibia, but in the context of creating the basis for an innovative epistemology and methodology in which such studies can be pursued. Examples abound of Africa study courses, which end up re-promoting Eurocentric ideological prejudices in the investigation of ‘African problems’. In defining the problem Dani Nabudere states the need to realise that Africa and its people have been subjected to a process of disorganisation, fragmentation and disintegration of their historical, cultural and civilisational achievements for the last three thousand years. These achievements, in many cases, have been appropriated by other people and turned around on their heads against the African people. In the process the African civilisation has been raped, plundered, despoiled, and de-historised. An African rebirth, then, must mobilise African people psychologically, spiritually and politically in order for the Continent and its Diaspora, to engage in a process of recovery, re-awakening and/or rebirth which would break and free us from Eurocentricity. Such a re-awakening must go beyond the limitations we have been subjected to throughout the three thousand years. The process of re-awakening and recovery has to be one of historical deconstruction, consciousness raising and restatement, not in the way the post-moderists and post-structuralists have argued, but by Africans tracing the origins and achievements of their civilisations with a view to developing new epistemologies of knowledge production. Based on African lived experiences in their global implications, the process must delve into the implications of this centuries old burden of domination that continues to bedevil the African personality and then on the basis of self-understanding, to organise ourselves to move forward in history. This must result from the knowledge we shall have formulated, which is based on our historical and cultural experiences throughout time. In as much as indigenous knowledge is concerned, the problem, at its core, is about the reconstruction of our understanding of ourselves as Africans and how our relationship with the rest of humanity has led us to where we are in the context of a global historical process. It is a task of self-understanding, in which we have to foreground ourselves in the context of reconstructing our historical consciousness. Prof. Nabudere calls this approach ‘Africology’, as it encompasses philosophical, epistemological and methodological issues, towards creating an African self-understanding. Cheikh Anta Diop has pointed out that African-Egyptian civilisation is the ‘Distant Mother’ of western culture and sciences, so that many so-called ‘foreign ideas’ are nothing but ‘mixed-up, reversed, modified, elaborated images of the creation of our African ancestors’. Concepts that appear in Judaism, Christianity, Islam – all have their origin in the African past. Modern philosophic and scientific ideas, such as dialectics, the theory of being, the exact sciences, arithmetic, geometry, mechanical engineering, astronomy, medicine, literature, architecture, the arts, etc., all have a common origin in the development of knowledge in Africa. – Prof. Dani W. Nabudere was in Windhoek in October 2005 as a guest speaker and undertook a number of talks in the Pan-African Lectures/Talks Series – 2005.

SHARE
Previous articleFrom Cabinet Chambers
Next articleNyamu Defiant