Sunday, October 11, 2009


In my sojourn across countries and tribes in Africa, I came across different tribes but with similar customs, cultures and traditions. From the people of your race, my own race too, I heard, seen, and learned quantum of wisdom from their ways and ancient philosophies. Ranging from respect of man to woman, duty of husband to wife or wives as the case maybe (not harem of mistresses in the case of the western man as opposed to his philosophy of “one man, one wife”) vice versa; communal union and interpersonal relationships amongst kinsmen and clansfolk; child rearing and its welfare and more.

On the shore of the Bantu people, I heard the rumour that some set of beings are deluded with their telescopic thought that the African has no philosophy for his actions and reactions. This baffled and confused me to the point that I said to my friend, a fellow-sojourner, that–maybe the African folks should ask their western counterparts what a philosophy is, since the word originated from their language diary. Because my father once told me during one of our numerous discussions that: “whatever people, white people in particular, don’t understand, they condemn.” And in my friend’s opinion, what it was was that the sophistication and complexity of African philosophy, therefore, made it an alien to the western culture and not that African has no philosophy.

In my risky exploration of the race, I sometime found myself down the hills in a suburb in Johannesburg, due north Southern Africa. Humming and thinking in-between on my way home (home?) through the bushy path; I heard a scary cry of an infant beamed out from a beehive hut along countryside. Child, the cry was not in anyway different from that you unleashed as soon as you realized you were among the living, members of the orbit-earth, few hours ago. And almost at the same moment, villagers trooped out from the hut singing and dancing in celebration of the child–a new-world-citizen. Same instant, from nowhere, without been prompted, resounding rhythm throbbed from drums with chimed of gongs and resonated tune of flutes together accompanied the songs and the dance steps became more energetic and exciting.

Moons latter – few months later – I was on the land of my forefathers to facilitate with Yoruba tribesmen during masquerade festival. O, I like the hunters’ dance and its poetry so much so that I exercise with my hands and legs whenever I hear the beat. And this is the time; the period, they are best enjoyed…O, home I missed…

Are you with me child? “Yeeesss….” But why the drag in your voice? Don’t you squeeze your face like that of a lion in an ambush for food in the forest, child. Truly, you’re entitled to sleep at will but not now of all time! Don’t you hear the solemn sound of the sacred orchestra percussion outside been played in your celebration? “Yes I do but I thought that is to lure me to sleep.” Yes, I understand your mood. “You don’t in the least! Because if you do, you will let me be now! At least, I’m of the understanding that sleep is paramount to a child and it’s my right!” Really, you possess all the rights as of a child as codified in the 1924 Declaration of Geneva: (1) The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually; (2) The child that is hungry must be fed; the child that is sick must be nursed; the child that is backward must be helped; the delinquent child must be reclaimed; and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succoured; (3) The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress; (4) The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood and must be protected against every form of exploitation; (5) The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow-men. “O that’s great, now I know more of my rights as child!” But don’t be deluded with sheer blasphemy clothed in the regalia of a law for Africa Children as passed in Geneva in the twentieth century conference. “Blasphemy?” Listen! You’re not an ordinary child! You’re a project. The world’s project. And the good news about this project – that you are – is that countless organizations: UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO… are interested in funding you independently. Child, you’re the only project I know that has a readily made sponsors and that says it all about your existence. Indeed, you’re not like the child captured in the Declaration! “Why?” Listen to this poem:

Warriors of Kikuyu, awake,
Ye who cannot see that the old
Man grows older
If you sleep the foreigners will
Seize our wealth
And then what will the children
Of Mumbi feed on?

That was a stanza from a revolution poem I heard rendered by the detainees at Kowop Camp, one mourning night near Ngiro hill, during “Mau Mau” uprising in Kenya, don’t ask me what I was doing around the camp. And whilst in Togo, the people of Gold Coast, present day Ghana, were labeled as cannibals and said to eat their children, by the District Commissioners and the Missionaries at that, during their insurrection for Independence. So also were Zambian men in the eyes of Europeans, who forced themselves to be leaders upon Africans of that time. This latent character assassination took prominence in the twentieth century when the urge for African Independence was at its peak.

“Hum…it seems that all Africans during that period eat their children in the eyes of Europeans – colonial masters, right?” That is it youngest-citizen-of-the-world! Can you now see the cunning contradiction in their (Europeans) account and your clansfolk account on child rearing and appreciation? Barely four months ago, had I heard through a cable television station–SKYNEWS–that a fifteen years old girl gave birth to a child father by a thirteen year old boy somewhere on the western coast. That is a taboo in Africa of the old and of now, probably the future I can’t predict because of the constant dominance of the western culture and custom on our land. It may interest you still to know that Professor Westermann affirmed in his paper been presented at the 1930 Geneva Conference on “African Children” that: “to help the peoples of Africa is Europe’s debt of honour. This is particularly so with regard to the children of Africa…the African people need help, and they rightly look for this help to us, who have made ourselves the masters of their fate.” Even through I agree with him that there is debt to be paid to the folks of Africa by the Europeans, reparation is to me the real debt and not in anyway debt of honour. They are only willing to pay skimpy from what they plundered in Africa as expressed in the last line of Westermann’s statement. And the fund is domiciled in the domain of the numerous sponsors/donors who are ready to finance you, as a project that you are to them. Get it child!

“We pray thee, O God, to permit
The White Men to return to their homes
Because a tree without fruits
Is never planted in a garden”

That is a stanza of The Song of Kimathi, lord of the forest – composed in the forest by the “Mau Mau” warriors. And if my mind will not disappoint me now, that should be the last stanza. How come you know it child? Hummm…. Don’t worry, I know child, it’s in your composition as a being that must be born on this shore. O, this land is proud to have you chose here as your place of birth. You’re welcome. You see, it’s not the white-man that will teach Africans how to nurture and cater for their own children, because if those men, women and children they transported to their land at the mercy of automated animations during the slave trade era were not enough energetic and sound with the philosophy of their race…they won’t be giving them problems now. “Problems?” O yes. Americans understand better. And more reason why Black peoples’ customs, culture and tradition dominate lands around the world: Haiti, Caribbean Islands, Brazil, Jamaica and some parts in the Europe.

My story child…. “Yes your story – so….” After the festival which was well attended by folks from foreign lands of various colours (as coded in the Western world’s diary of race) and the villagers. Few days later, I found myself by the rocky path on the hills of Oke-ayan. Once again, I heard the cry of an infant beamed out from a thatched hospital built on the account that the black people may have hygienic health treatment. When of course, it was the naturally concocted water of Osun river that the mother of children, Osun herself has been using in curing countless diseases, germs, and all forms of illnesses plaguing the African children before the western means.

And as expected, this time unlike the last time, there was no jubilation as of the Johannesburg villagers for the newly-arrived-world-citizen. “Why?” Child, reasons were well written on the notice board: “no noise here – there are patients of variant ailments on admission and babies of a hundred different types (white, red and black), are rolling in their potable caves.” “Is this not an imitation of the western culture?” Don’t ask me question because I know not of any answer now, child. I only pray that the latter child’s fate should not be your fate, as an African child is meant to be celebrated.

© Ayanda Abeke, 2009
Lagos, Nigeria.