It was around 1903 when W.E. B. Du bois coined the term “double consciousness” in his revelations that describe the quintessential black experience by African-American communities living in America who were thought to have lived a double conscious life with double thoughts, double duties and double social classes.
Double consciousness is a psychological conflict or challenge of self, which causes the psychosocial divisions in societies around the world. Double consciousness is a sense of dualistic social perception, a sense of twoness; two souls, two thoughts, two un-reconciled strivings, two warring ideals in one human body. It is this twoness of perception that generates internal conflict experiences in us and poses a psychological challenge of reconciling an African heritage with the European upbringing and education.
Describing the black communities in America, in his book titled “The souls of Black Folks” published in 1903, Du Bois pointed out that double consciousness is a peculiar sensation through the eyes of others, that of being a negro and the other of being a world citizen without being cursed and being spat upon.
In the contemporary literature, the understanding of double consciousness is hyped in racism and apartheid colonialism. While double consciousness is still a result of Eurocentrism and Americanism wherein the African image of the gods are projected as caricatures in museums and art galleries as a depiction of African man-made gods. While in the church the use of pictorial metaphors of the king Jesus Christ continues to retain a holy status leaving African people, especially the blacks, to either choose between their original culture and traditional practices of religious worship or to pray to the new Eurocentric gods or both. This choice creates an inward conflict of self on Africans creating a platform for double consciousness.
The contemporary understanding of double consciousness in Africa is cultivated via modernity and the so-called civilisations in African naming systems such that Africans are carrying two or more different names: the mostly cultural names and Christian names. Cultural names are strictly African whereas Christian names are strictly of European descent. This twoness of being is what is called double consciousness, two names, two cultures, two religions, and two personalities in one African mind. Double consciousness is an identity crisis experience; it involves looking at you through the eyes of self and that of the colonialists. The balance of twoness sees the combination of drinking both coffee and traditional brews in the villages.
Double consciousness has caused a serious social damage in the minds of the colonised species to the extent that the colonised species can no longer trust their own consciousness. Their conscience is linked to that of their oppressors, there is too much slavery in their consciousness for they are the children of a lesser God. They cannot ignore this twoness because they are stuck between a rock and a hard place: two souls, two thoughts, two un-reconciled strivings, and two warring ideals in one human body.
In the wake of intellectual independence, humanity should continue to explore double consciousness as it graduates more to a trifold consciousness with the same characteristics but with a deepening psychosocial impact especially in communities where modern slavery is yet to be understood in a new context.
To break the walls of double consciousness there should be different intellectual movements that must push for different alternatives in order to liberate the individual and collective consciousness to gain cerebral independence – a psycho-social treatment of double consciousness is the generational mission of intellectual mobility which should fear nothing. Perhaps it is the generation whose intellectual fortitude is rooted in the words of Frantz Omar Fanon in his famous book ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ where he suggested that perhaps “each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it”. The generation that will declare the war of intellectual independence should have a mission to serve double consciousness with a death notice.
• Shivute Kaapanda is a young Namibian critical theorist and writer.