One will remember how Cheikh Anta Diop, in 1948 already, had mentioned that most critical question of “African renaissance,” based on a new historical consciousness. A few years later, in 1964, it was Kwame Nkrumah’s turn, in a speech delivered at the University of Ghana, to talk about “the African cultural renaissance, which is visible in the political resurgence of the continent.” However, the phrase “African renaissance” gained much popularity in the past few decades thanks in particular to former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, who delivered a now famous speech in 1998 entitled “The African Renaissance Statement.” A few years later, in 2006, the African Union produced a “Chart for the African cultural renaissance.” More recently, several books have been published, which deal with the topic of African renaissance, among which Ngugi wa thiong’o’s. Songs have also been written, inspired by the idea of African rebirth. In April 2010, Senegal inaugurated the “African Renaissance Monument,” in the presence of many personalities, from the entire African world. This statue of 53 meters is the highest statue on the African continent. Thus, obviously, the question of African renaissance is of great interest for a growing number of Africans. This is easy to understand, given the often difficult situation in which we still find ourselves after fifty years of “independence” on the continent. What this interest expresses, is a movement of optimism fed by our unshakable conviction that Africa has a present and a future that we are ready to mold, now that we have debunked Western bluff and lies, and are equipped with the knowledge of our true African history.
However, the current popularity of the term “African renaissance,” and the euphoria that often accompanies it does not mean at all that we should not engage in serious and uncompromising thinking on the modalities of our liberation from Western grips, since this is what it is about, in the end. Afrocentricity International’s premise is simple: without our reconnection to our own religion and spirituality, we will never be able to achieve a renaissance, and occupy our space in the world, as Africans.
In his 1998 speech, Thabo Mbeki explained that, in his opinion, African renaissance implies two processes: a process of self-discovery by the African, as well as a process of self-reevaluation. Insisting more particularly on the disturbance of African historical consciousness produced by the colonial and Eurocentric propaganda, which greatly contributed to render this consciousness both shallow and brief, Mbeki explained how “They [the Europeans] sought to oblige us to accept that as Africans we had contributed nothing to human civilisation except as beasts of burden, in much the same way as those who are opposed to the emancipation of women seek to convince them that they have a place in human society; but only as beasts of burden and bearers of children. ” “In the end, Mbeki continues, they wanted us to despise ourselves, convinced that, if we were not sub-human, we were, at least, not equal to the colonial master and mistress and were incapable of original thought and the African creativity which has endowed the world with an extraordinary treasure of masterpieces in architecture and the fine arts.”
Thus, according to Mbeki, it is imperative that we turn our backs to European myths of African inferiority, and allow instead our past extraordinary achievements to reconnect us with our glorious history, and in the process, strengthen our self-esteem and consciousness, as Africans: “The beginning of our rebirth as a Continent must be our own rediscovery of our soul, captured and made permanently available in the great works of creativity represented by the pyramids and sphinxes of Egypt, the stone buildings of Axum and the ruins of Carthage and Zimbabwe, the rock paintings of the San, the Benin bronzes and the African masks, the carvings of the Makonde and the stone sculptures of the Shona. A people capable of such creativity could never have been less human than other human beings and being as human as any other, such a people can and must be its own liberator from the condition which seeks to describe our Continent and its people as the poverty stricken and disease ridden primitives in a world riding the crest of a wave of progress and human upliftment. “
One cannot help noticing Cheikh Anta Diop’ s influence on Mbeki. Diop indeed sought to create the conditions necessary required for the emergence of the “new African”: “The African who understood us,” Diop explained, “is the one who, after reading our books, will have felt a new man emerge within, armed with historical consciousness, a true creator, a Prometheus carrying with him a new civilization and perfectly aware of what the whole world owes to his ancestral genius, in all domains, be it science, culture, or religion” (1946).
However, despite the tremendous amount of work produced by Diop, and others after him, to reveal our historical and cultural greatness, the question of our low “cultural self-esteem” remains poignant. The concept of cultural self-esteem was proposed by Molefi Asante (1991) to describe the still very difficult relationship that we have with our own culture, personally and collectively. This is because the worst crime of colonialism may not have been the deliberate falsification of our historical record, a situation that Diop attempted to correct, but maybe, as suggested by John Henrik Clarke, “the colonization of the image of God.” It is obvious that the falsification of our history reinforces the image of a white, all-mighty, and male god. What is suggested here, is that this image has been more destructive than the myth of our ahistoricalness, among other racist Eurocentric lies, for what is wounded is not only our intellect, but our very soul. To fully measure the extent of the damage, it is necessary to analyze the implications of that image of god.
These implications are at least threefold: political, theological, and psychological. On the political level, the imposition of the Christian god, as the only god, and its anthropomorphological representation as a white male, has allowed Europeans to transform a purely earthly and temporary political order into a superior, cosmic reality. In other words, white racial supremacy claims for itself a divine origin, thus suggesting that white domination on earth reflects divine will (since god is white), and cannot, therefore, be contested unless one is willing to commit blasphemy. Thus, in reality, when African people kneel in front of a white Jesus, they venerate the whole white race. Here they are socialized to recognize and treat the white man as god on earth, without whom there can be no salvation.
On a theological level, since god is white, one must unavoidably conclude that his children are also white. In other words, as his children, whites have a special relationship with him. What about black people in this schema? We are, of course, so they tell us, no other than Satan’s very children, Satan being the essence of evil in Christian mythology. What is implicitly asserted is nothing less than our fundamental unworthiness: since we are unworthy of being God’s children, we cannot be considered divine. It is only through proxy that we can hope to get closer to achieving the status of God’s children, i.e., by going through white people’s religion, and hoping that thanks to multiple and repeated prayers and kneeling in front of images and statues of his white son, Jesus-Christ, and his just as white mother, the Virgin Mary, the white god will finally accept us and love us, despite our primordial indignity. On the psychological level, such an attitude is bound to generate a profound inferiority complex and self-hatred, which in turn will lead to extremely pathological, tenacious, and self-destructive behaviors.
Put another way, the challenges created by the white monopoly over the image of God are numerous and significant. The most profound of such challenge is our difficulty to think of ourselves as sacred as Africans.
One must understand that sacredness does not fall from the sky, but is created by human beings themselves, out of their daily existence. Indeed, what makes something sacred if not men and women who are engaged in a process of deification of their historical and cultural experience? This is how, for example, the Yoruba people have asserted that Ile Ife, their original city, was sacred. According to their mythology, it is where Olodumare, their supreme divinity, created the world, through Obatala and Oduduwa. Consequently, Ile Ife is the most sacred place on earth. In the same vein, the Akans consider the River Tano to be sacred. This river is associated with several critical events in Akan history. It is on the banks of the Tano river that the Akan people first appeared.
Two strategies are commonly used by human beings to create sacredness: sacrifices and taboos. When the living make sacrifices to maintain or restore a good relationship with the cosmos, for example, they offer their best food, their best-looking chickens, cows, yams, etc. It is the very act of offering these items to the spirit world that makes their offerings sacred. Human beings find what they need where they are, in their daily environment.
Taboos are another important mechanism used to created sacredness. There are all kinds of taboos, related to food, behaviors, objects, animals, physical places, etc. Totems are a very good example of the process through which a specific object or animal becomes sacred for a particular group. Totems are often identified in stories that tell about the modalities of the coming into being of a specific group. Those stories often assign a special role to the totems in question in the genesis of the group. Often, in Africa, since Kemet at least, an animal having shown great compassion or generosity, saved a people from starvation or some other catastrophic development. The totem becomes then intimately associated with the ancestral lineage of the people, and is considered their protector and guardian. In return, members of the group must respect, protect, and honor the totemic animal or object given its special status. In the case of an animal, needless to say that it is out of the question to kill it and eat it. This would be like eating the very soul of the group, an abominable and without remedy act. Naturally, totems are used, among other things, not only to strengthen the group’s spiritual roots, but also social solidarity and cohesiveness. They are also used to regulate social behavior. The existence of totems is certainly not unique to Africa. We know, for example, that Native Americans believe each person to be endowed with nine totems at birth, or that Hindus, probably due to an ancient African influence, consider the cow to be a sacred animal. In fact, every year, they organize a festival, known as Gopastami, in order to honor cows. The latter are washed up and decorated for the occasion. Offerings are presented to the cows so that they will continue protecting the living. What must be clearly understood here is that human beings feel the need to establish and maintain a special relationship with the spiritual world, which is perceived as both superior and necessary for the living’s well-being. The context in which this sense of sacredness is created is the daily context of the living. Sacred places are those that surround them, just as sacred animals are those they encounter regularly. One has never heard, for example of the polar bear being a totemic animal in Africa: antelopes, monkeys, lions, horses, eagles, dos, or leopard, yes, but not polar bears for the simple and obvious reason that there are no polar bears living in Africa, where they could not survive given the climate. In other words, we produce sacredness where we are located, in order to assert the sacredness of our very existence and being. Likewise, people should not feel the need to travel to far-away places to visit a sacred site.
Even white people, as caught up as they are in shameless materialism, maintain constant contact with their ancestors’ spirits. In fact, they surround themselves at all times with those spirits so that their ancestors may guide them, wherever they are, and at all times. Have you ever wondered why they name their streets, their parks, their public squares, their schools, their universities, their cultural centers, their train stations, their subway stations, their buildings, their airports, their cemeteries, etc. after their ancestors? Lincoln, Kennedy, Einstein, Queen Elizabeth, Napoléon, de Gaulle, Pompidou, and too many to list! They also give their ancestors’ names to their children, all of this in attempt to ensure the fortifying and reassuring presence of their ancestors. They build and erect in their streets and in public squares statues and masks representing those ancestors for whom they have the greatest veneration, and they publicly honor them on a regular basis through special rituals, which often consist in placing flowers at the statues’ feet and making speeches, with special music playing, etc. Those ritualistic days may even be labeled “holidays.” In the United States, for example, white Americans have passed a law to make the day Christopher Columbus arrived in America a sacred day (holy day) for them. On that day, all public offices must be closed. That holiday is without a doubt an insult to Native Americans and Africans, but never mind! Whites assert their own sacredness as whites through their veneration of the memory and legacy of the man who made it possible for them to accumulate an unparalleled amount of material wealth. In the process, they reaffirm their fidelity to the historical and cultural project of white domination of the world elaborated by their ancestors. The problem for us, African people, is that having been convinced that we are fundamentally worthless, we have lost faith in our ability to create sacredness out of our own experience. We have lost sight of our ancestors’ cultural project. Since we are convinced that we can only experience the divine through proxy, we rely on others to provide us with spiritual vivification. This is a fundamental and castrating contradiction. If we can no longer communicate with our own spirits, our own divinities, what can we reasonably expect?
Indeed, at the very moment when we seek to establish a fortifying contact with the divine, we affirm that we are not really worthy of it. The example of Simon Kimbangu, a popular Baptist preacher during the colonial era, comes to mind here. He attacked African religion in the Congo, demanding that his disciples destroy all of their ritualistic objects, and that they abstain from dancing ancestral dances and engage in ceremonies elaborated by their ancestors to establish and maintain contact with the spirit world. As for the fabrication and sale of palm wine, so important for the community’s economy and culture, Kibangu insisted that it was an abominable sin. The underlying idea, we may infer, is that only the wine made from grape, a fruit that grows in Europe but not in Central Africa, was worthy of being made sacred. Conversely, palm wine, made from a fruit that is abundant in Africa, cannot be considered sacred: can we imagine such an admission of indignity and inferiority? But, of course, since the god that is worshipped and served is white, he must be given white people’s wine …
Islam also takes us away from ourselves. Not so long ago, while in Dakar, I asked two young Senegalese men if there were sacred sites in Senegal. They mentioned Touba, Amadou Bamba’s sacred mosque, as well as some Christian place of worship whose name I forgot. I insisted: outside of Muslim and Christian sacred sites, were they not some other, African, sacred place? My question surprised them, but their answer was categorical: no. Their surprise only reflects the fact that we have the greatest difficulty to think of ourselves as sacred outside of Islam and Christianity. In other words, we are condemned to go through Europe or Arabia to experience the sacred. And, once again, this is a profound contradiction.
It is therefore necessary, at this point, to rephrase John Henrik Clarke’s statement as follows: “The greatest crime of colonialism is the desacralization of Africa.” What happens when you have lost faith in your own sacredness? At least three things. The first one is that you participate in the deification of another people. You go on pilgrimage to their sacred places, and in the process, you reinforce their sacredness. Rome, Jerusalem, or Mecca are certainly not in Africa but in the very heart of the cultural and historical cradle of Europe and Arabia, respectively. It seems undeniable that the African who goes on pilgrimage to those sites reaffirms the sacred nature of Europeans and Arabs. You kneel down in front of the statues that they have declared holy, you offer them supplications, you beg them to hear you, to see you, to have mercy on you. You face their sacred site when you talk to their god, wherever you may be. You learn their sacred text by heart in their sacred language. You give your children, as well as your streets, your schools, etc., the name of their ancestors. In other words, you contribute to the mythology of their sacredness. But, while doing so, and this is the second, quite tragic consequence of our religious dislocation, you give your back to your own ancestors. You move farther and farther away from them. The extent of the distance that separates you from your ancestors is reflected in your bewilderment and dislocation. The stories and traditions created and left by our ancestors, which affirm our sacredness, by virtue of being human, become unknown to us, just as the rituals that they conceived and practiced to maintain or restore Maat are alien to us. The fact that we are no longer firmly anchored in those traditions, which are ours, makes us extremely weak and vulnerable. We are victims of the cultural propaganda of other groups. Our imagination is greatly undermined, and our courage to dream and act falters.1 We do not seem able anymore to dream our own dreams, for our ancestral sap has dried up. As I will explain further down in the text, the weakening of our ancestors and of our divinities necessarily means our own weakening. It is not that our ancestors have turned their back on us. It is rather that we are so busy following the teaching of other people’s ancestors, visiting their sacred sites, worshipping their divinities, and practicing their rituals, that we can no longer hear our own ancestors. Worse even, at times, we end up hating our ancestors with passion. I remember of a young man from Cameroon whom I met not too long ago, and who told me how he had been locked up by his own parents in Cameroon for several months. His parents were indeed convinced that their son was possessed by the “devil” simply because he had expressed interest in going back to his ancestral traditions. Held prisoner in a room, he was beaten up daily by a Cameroonian priest, in order to rid him of the malevolent forces which had allegedly gotten a hold of him. All these sessions of exorcism were, fortunately, in vain. The young man managed to escape. His heart, however, was quite heavy since he knew that he could no longer return to his parents’. This is simply an example, among many, of the nameless suffering caused by white colonial and neo-colonial dementia. It is as if we should apologize for being African. We must apologize to the white god for not being white, or to the Arab god for not being Arab.
But there is worse still, and this is the third consequence: when we participate in those alien rituals, we literally offer our spiritual energy, at our own expense. In other words, we strengthen them spiritually, while weakening ourselves. Can we, then, honestly wonder why we are in such a pitiful state?
We know, of course, that our “acceptance” of those alien religions did not happen by itself but came about as a result of an extremely violent, physically and mentally, process. This violence rested on an attitude of total contempt and disregard for the African religious experience. One may remember Hegel and his bizarre notion that Africans had never managed to conceive the existence of a supreme divinity, supposedly because we were incapable to develop consciousness beyond what he called the “subjective” stage. But Hegel himself relied on an ancient opinion, expressed by Herodotus, according to whom “All Africans are sorcerers” (Hegel, cited in Eze, 1997: 129; m.t.). This conclusion was taken up and amplified by Christian missionaries who assaulted Africa during the European colonial era. In fact, Beyaraza (1994: 20; m.t.) is correct when he remarks that Western religions “have established a vision of the world where the notions of heaven and paradise are polarized. While God presides over heaven, Satan presides over hell. God is the very incarnation of goodness, and Satan is the very incarnation of evil. (…). And where does Africa stand here? The foreigners were adamantly preaching that Satan presides over Africa.” In this discursive context, it goes without saying that one could not give the name of “religion” to the satanic cults in which the Africans supposedly engaged. In fact, when one says “religion,” one is automatically expected to hear “Christianity,” and when one talks about God, it can only be the Christian god who, quite arrogantly, claims a monopoly over the divine. What the Africans practice can, according to this narrative, only be correctly described as sorcery and dangerous superstitions. Only true religions, such as Christianity (or Islam) can rid and protect the Africans against their problematic beliefs and practices.2
 It is a good thing, indeed, that the Africans who were enslaved in Haiti never experienced any such doubts and that, strengthened by their faith in Vodu spirits, they did not hesitate to victoriously fight against the white colonists.
 This analysis is still common since most books on the topic of “World Religions” implicitly or explicitly assert the irrelevance of Africa in the religious sphere. A recent example of this attitude is provided by an online book written by Philip A. Pecorino, on “philosophy,” with a chapter dealing with “world’s religions.” The following religious traditions are studied: Hinduism, Jainism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Islam, and Sikhism. What about Africa? She is totally absent! We might add, as usual. This de facto exclusion of Africa, far from being trivial, conveys an extremely clear and negative message: one cannot mention that which does not exist, or is unworthy of being mentioned. In that regard, it is interesting to note the pejorative terms often associated with the African religious tradition when it is mentioned. Thus, according to the site La Documentation Française, 10% (only!) of Africans in the Congo practice “tribalism” (http://www.ladocumentationfrançaise.fr/dossiers/conflit-grands-lacs/rdc.shtml).
This explains the violent reaction of the parents of the young Cameroonian mentioned above. The profoundly negative opinion that his parents hold about their own spiritual traditions was inculcated to them, or rather kicked and beaten into them, if not shot into them, by Christian missionaries. Islam, which is equally intolerant, also resorted to great physical and mental abuses, in order to force conversion onto the Africans. Sembène Ousmane describes quite well in his film, Ceddo, the violence associated with many Africans’ conversion to Islam, and the progressive decay of African religious traditions as a result of the intrusion of Islam in African lives, such as the transition from matriarchy to patriarchy. Furthermore, we know that just as the Europeans after them, the Arabs enslaved Africans, from 650 until the 1960s. And we also know, of course, that the Arabs continue to abuse us, either in Mauritania, or in Sudan. In addition to our enslavement by Arabs, along with the imposition of their language and religion, the most despicable Arab interference in Africa is without a doubt the castration of thousands of our African men, who were destined to Arab markets. The genocidal dimension of this massive castration cannot escape us. In fact, the very word, abd, that means “black,” also means “slave,” in Arabic, in case some still doubted the fact that the Arabs have very little consideration for us. Yet, these are the very people whose religion we have now adopted, and whose sacredness we affirm every time we pronounce the name of their god or bow to pray him. It should be obvious by now that the historical antagonism between whether Islam or Christianity on one hand, and African on the other, is quite profound.
It is probably to evade this very problematic question of the historical relationship between Christianity or Islam and Africa that some have tried to “reform” those two religions, in the hopes that those alterations would make them more acceptable to their conscience. This is how, for example, liberation theology, came about and spread among segments of the black clergy in the United States, leading to black Christian organizations, some of which even call themselves “Afrocentric.” In Africa, herself, of course, one had noticed, at the time of colonization, the emergence of “Ethiopian Churches,” or “African Churches,” according to which the missionaries and other Christian colonial administrators “misunderstood” Christianity –and, in any case, misrepresented it, hence the necessity to create African Christian Churches in order to remedy this situation. The emergence of the Nation of Islam, from a reformulation of Islam to meet the nationalist needs of some African Americans, is also part of a similar process: rather than abandon a religion whom they feel not to be quite right for them, they chose instead to modify it, to “blacken” it, hoping that this blackening process would make it more palatable. The question of the cultural and historical roots of Christianity and Islam is evacuated by those Africans who insist that Jesus-Christ’s or Muhammed’s message is “universal” and can therefore be accepted by anyone who wished to do so, so long as the Christian and Muslim texts are read “correctly,” that is, with “black spectacles.” This is what motivates, among other things, the fanatical search that some have embarked upon for the black presence in the Bible.
Still, others insist that the search of the divine is universal, and that what matters in the end, is to find a religious support for that quest. The problem, and this is a serious one, is that any religion is “the deification of the cultural and historical experience of a specific group, and of its political power” (Nantambu, 1996: 22 ). Therefore, there is no, and there cannot be any such thing as a universal religion since all religions necessarily reflect a particular history, culture, and worldview.
Rastafarianism, although slightly different, must also be interrogated here since it is a movement that belongs to the Christian tradition. It recognizes the Bible as its sacred book. Rastafaris, like other Christians before them, insist that Jesus was not white but black, and that Africa is the spiritual and physical cradle of all black people. We must, according to Rastafarianism, imperatively go back to that cradle. This insistence on returning to Africa honors and distinguished Rastafarianism. Furthermore, it also took on the noble mission of reconnecting Africa to the divine, through the attribution of divine qualities to the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie I, based on a genealogy which it claims links Selassie to the biblical kings of Israel, Salomon and David. Rastafarianism went so far as to confer upon Selassie the status of the returned Christian messiah (Jesus). It is nonetheless clear that Rastafarianism rests on a fundamental contradiction: on one hand, it encourages the return to Africa, but on the other hand, it promotes a tradition that is foreign to Africa, and at the expense of the African tradition itself. Does not a real return to Africa ipso facto mean a return to the African spiritual tradition? Moreover, Christianity even without the notion of original sin, is still Christianity, the very religion of the enslavers and colonizers of African people that Rastafarians claim to have so much dislike for.
The arguments offered as justifications and distractions, like the alleged African origin of Christianity, to avoid questioning the relevance and appropriateness of Christianity for African people, for example, do not carry much weight. For one thing, it is simply not true that contemporary Christianized Africans practice Christianity as a result of the transmission of an ancient tradition, but really and simply, as painful as it is to admit, as a result of the mental subjugation of Africa by European colonialism. In a similar vein, Ethiopians, who are often cited as old-age Christians and living proof of the indigenousness of Christianity to Africa, were not themselves at the origin of Christianity : they were converted to this religion by one of their Syrian servants, Frumentius. This shows, once again, the exogenous nature of Christianity in relation to Africa, even if, as Doumbi Fakoly demonstrates in his book (2004), Christianity was considerably influenced by Kemet.
Some Africans from the Diaspora, who do not even suspect the terrible oppression of our people by the Arabs, the first foreigners to enslave us for over 1,000 years, thought that Islam could provide them with a viable alternative to the white enslavers’ and colonists’ religion. This is of course a mistake, since, as explained above, there is a very serious historical (and theological) antagonism between Islam and African religion. Islam is an intolerant religiion, whose god is a jealous god, just like the Christian god. The Africans who practice Islam today in Africa only do so because the African religion tradition was suppressed, while the Arab religion was forced upon them by Arab invaders, starting in the 7th century. This is an undeniable truth. However, when this truth is presented to us, we often become very emotional and aggressive, because of our deep and genuine attachment to the traditions of our oppressors. It becomes important for us to defend the white or the Arab god, at any cost, even if this means killing our brothers and sisters. In so doing, we literally become irrational and unreasonable
What is all the more ironic is that those among us who have conveniently adopted a « black » version of Christianity, whether it be Rastafarianism or some other version, or who have converted to Islam in an attempt to break away from oppressive European traditions, often present ourselves, or even think of ourselves as Afrocentric.
We must nonetheless clearly and without hesitation state that one cannot be Afrocentric, that is endowed with a trong consciousness of oneself as African, and be Christian or Muslim at the same time. Please allow me to explain why this is not possible in the next few pages.
First, it is important to explain what the Afrocentric project is about, for it is not always well understood. Many confusions occur between Afrocentricity and other ideologies which have nothing to do with Afrocentricity. However, those confusions are the reason why some do not understand why there is a fundamental incompatibility between Afrocentricity and alien religious traditions.
The main goal of Afrocentricity is “ to obliterate the mental, physical, cultural and economic dislocation of African people by thrusting Africans as centered, healthy human beings in the context of African thought” (Asante, 2007: 120). Afrocentricity postulates that it is only when we embark on a process of conscious and systematic reappropriation of our own sense of history and culture that we can hope to bring our invisibility to an end, and stop feeling powerless and inferior while lying at the periphery of white consciousness. Thus, Afrocentricity demands a genuine and profound commitment to African cultural foundations (2003: 62).
Furthermore, it is our very will and ability to project ourselves and inscribe our mark in this world as Africans which whill allow Africa to be again for us a source of productive and fortifying paradigms. The Afrocentric African is a powerful moving and victorious force, to whom the idea of continuing to be « the dark toy/in others’ carnival/or in someone else’s fields/the obsolete scarecrow » (Césaire, 1960: 81; m.t.) is unberabale and unacceptable. Conversely, the Afrocentric African stands strong and upright in the middle of his/her own reality, and thus allows his/her ancestral tap to feed every moment of his/her existence.
The will and ability to act being a function of Afrocentric consciousness, what determines the latter, in final analysis, is nothing less and nothing more than our relationship with Africa.
This relationship expresses itself along a vertical axis and a horizontal axis. In its vertical dimension, Afrocentric consciousness is dictated by the quality of our relationship with our ancestors. The central place accorded the Ancestors as the ultimate source of Afrocentric consciousness is demanded by African culture itself. Ancestral veneration is indeed a fundamental aspect of African life, that is, of African religion since in Africa life and religion are one. The ancestors are the ultimate guardians and protectors of the social and moral order. In other words, a strong African consciousness necessarily implies an active and respectful relationship with our ancestors. How does one respect ones’s ancestors ? We respect our ancestors by venerating and practicing the traditions, filled with wisdom, that they created through centuries of observation and exerience, and bestowed upon us. Christianity, Islam, or Budhism do not belong to such traditions : they are the teachings and traditions of the ancestors of other peoples. Why should we follow the ancestors of other peoples rather than our own ancestors ? Such a choice makes us quite weak and vulnerable. Africans, on the continent and outside, have been praying Jesus and Muhammad for a very long time now, yet can we honestly say that things are good for us, or have improved ? In fact, let’s face the truth, our situation has considerably worsened, and Islam and Christianity may very well be Africa’s two worst enemies today.
Afrocentricity demands that those of us who had moved away from it, return to the African tradition/religion for two very simple reasons : one, because this tradition is totally adequate, and two, because it is the best tradition for us since it was created out of our own historical and cultural reality.
Once again, many of us having fallen victims of the European or Arab bluff, prefer to invoke the names of Jesus or Muhammad rather than those of our divinities, which we have become convinced, are « diabolical. » Such an attitude and behavior are incompatible with Afrocentricity. To cover the Koran or the Bible with African fabric will not change anything to the situation, and nor will claiming that Jesus was black or that Aisha, Muhammad’s favorite concubine, or that Bilal, Muhammad’s right arm, were black. The fundamental question that is raised here, and which cannot be so easily dismissed, is the question of our respect for ourselves, as Africans, and of our faith in our sacredness, as Africans.
Without true respect for ourselves as African peole, it is difficult to imagine an African renaissance worthy of the name. In fact, Afrocentriciy insists that the African renaissance to which so many of us aspire, will never materialize until and unless we manage to reinscribe sacredness at the very heart of our being. This process means, out of necessity, that we must reconnect with our spiritual tradition. This, many of us already know.
Unlike those Africans, whose consciousness has been weakend by centuries of brain washing, and who are ready to drink from the fountain of alien religious teachings, there is a growing number of Africans who have understood that our people’s renaissance will necessarily entail claiming African spirituality. Only this will allow us to, consciously and deliberately, reinscribe sacredness at the very heart of our being and behave again as expressions and manifestations of the divine. Instead of walking with our head down, convinced that we are inferior and need whiteness or Arabness to validate our existence, we will rise again and be reborn into the world. This is what we mean when we talk about an African renaissance. Those Africans who have become conscious of this, commit without difficulty to rejecting imposed foreign traditions, such as Christianity or Islam. This phase of demolition is liberating, and represents a giant step. Molefi Asante describes it as a moment of “transcendance,” which “in its most elementary form” may be defined as the eradication, the collapse of what is old so that what is new may emerge (2003: 178). Asante further notes that this is a violent process since we have to divorce ourselves from deeply ingrained Eurocentric notions and practices, and all separations are violent (2003: 178). This phase can be intoxicating to the extent that we have now become free, for the first time, from the debilitating need for a white or Arab savior.
However, this act of demolition must be followed by a process of re-emergence, and this is when new difficulties arise. On what specific grounds must we re-emerge? Given the chaos created by slavery and colonization, we often find ourselves without referents, without visible models to follow. We are dying for life principles, personal and collective structuring rituals, but here were are faced with nothing. Once we have repudiated our Christian or Muslim habits, what should we do, for example, when a child is born, or when someone dies? Or when we want to get married? These are real questions, which may become quite pressing. It is for you, my sisters and brothers who had the courage to embark on that quest that Mwikadilo Muya, (“The Path to Morality” in ci-luba) and Afrocentricity International were created. Obviously, Mwikadilo Muya was not created ab novo, but rests on the solid foundations of the traditions created by our ancestors throughout Africa. In that sense, it is a true Pan-African religion, whose objective it is to help us reconcile with ourselves. The foundation of Mwikadilo Muya is Kemetic. The Kemetic tradition is our classical foundation, that is, the one that reflects with the greatest fidelity our cultural antiquity and nobility.