What is African Spirituality?

Subversion and capture of African Spirituality

The subversion of African spirituality by the Roman Empire, which later manifested as the Catholic Church, stands as a haunting testament to the insidious nature of cultural imperialism. This empire, driven by an insatiable lust for power, sought to render the rich and ancient spiritual traditions of Africa toothless and ineffective. Tragically, they succeeded, infiltrating the very fabric of native ways of life with their own inferior, non-robust ideologies.

For millions of years, life in Africa has thrived, cultivating a battle-tested and deeply spiritual way of life that was far more robust than that of the young European and Arab civilizations. Yet, instead of embracing the wisdom and knowledge of the African people, these nascent forces ravaged and destroyed the invaluable world history that these African civilizations had to offer. In their arrogance and ignorance, they did not appreciate the sacredness of the land and its people.

Today, we witness the insatiable curiosity of these younger civilizations, as they continue to be fascinated by the history of life on Earth, all the while wreaking havoc upon the natural world in the process. This destructive path is a far cry from the ancient wisdom that Africans held long before their lands were brutally colonized by the merciless hand of the white man. The spirituality in the African context, known as “umoya” in the BaNtu languages, was never a mere religion; it was a profound study of reality, a deep understanding of the waves that permeate existence.

Yet, after centuries of brutal colonisation, even the BaNtu people have lost touch with their true spirituality. They have been forced to subscribe to a fear-based, belief-based spirituality that is nothing more than a perverted product of the Roman Empire. This tragic loss of wisdom and identity must be addressed if we are to truly understand African spirituality. However, it is vital to acknowledge how this sacred tradition has been captured, manipulated, and turned into a money-making scheme for the very people who sought to destroy it, the white business.

What is African Spirituality?

Now that we have laid bare the painful truth of how African spirituality has been desecrated and distorted by the hands of colonial forces, we must turn our attention to the crucial task at hand: the exploration and reclamation of the true essence of African spirituality. Let us embark on this soul-stirring journey with hearts full of courage and minds open to the profound wisdom that has been buried beneath centuries of oppression and subversion.

At the heart of African spirituality lies a fundamental understanding of reality, with nature and abundance as its central focus. This ancient wisdom encompasses both the waves (umoya) and matter (inyama), acknowledging that these two elements together form the essence of life. As we delve into the various aspects of African spirituality, let us explore and revere its sacred core principles and practices.

The Sacredness of Maat and the Role of Men and Women

African spirituality, through the concept of Maat, recognizes that all humans are children of their mothers, and thus, men have traditionally shouldered the responsibility of hard labor for the women. This natural reality has shaped the spiritual and social dynamics within African societies, fostering a sense of interconnectedness and mutual respect between the genders.

Economic and Innovative Activities as Sacred Acts

In the realm of African spirituality, economic and innovative activities were considered sacred, stemming from the profound respect for life. A child was regarded as a sacred light, a gift from the ancestors to the present time. This gift, in turn, carried with it an ancestral blessing that should be cherished and protected. When a person’s unique gift was put to work, the individual was not only respected but also thanked, as a way of expressing gratitude to the ancestors who brought the child into being. This practice was the foundation of the first economic activities in the world, exemplifying the BaNtu philosophy of “Izandla ziyagezana.”

Rituals: Community Building and Spiritual Significance

African spirituality is also characterized by numerous rituals, which were conducted for both spiritual and material reasons. One of the material motivations behind these rituals was to provide an opportunity for community members to come together and partake in a shared meal, often composed of delicate and nourishing foods. These rituals fostered unity and reconciliation, serving as a powerful mechanism for community building and social cohesion.

The Disruption of African Spirituality by the Church

Sadly, the arrival of churches on the African continent led to the dismantling of these vital rituals, severing the threads of unity that had bound communities together for generations. The church’s interference disrupted the delicate balance of abundance and self-sufficiency that had been cultivated through the practice of African spirituality.

Abundance and Community: The Core Functions of African Spirituality

At its core, African spirituality emphasised the importance of abundance and community. Children were raised with a mindset that embraced these values, understanding that asking for help was not a sign of weakness but rather an essential function of a harmonious community. This understanding has been tragically lost due to the subversion and capture of African spirituality.

The essence of African spirituality, today

Today, the essence of African spirituality has been tragically captured and exploited by big businesses, causing it to serve the interests of white farmers, rather than upholding the sacred principles and values of the African people. The monopolization of livestock and traditional fabrics by white business owners has resulted in an economic imbalance, with large sums of money flowing out of black communities and into the hands of white enterprises. This distortion of African spirituality has deprived the community of the life-affirming value it once provided.

If only we had the guidance of ancient kings, like those in our ancestral stories, they would have enacted two critical laws:

1) Prohibit the purchase of livestock from white people and other non natives for use in sacred rituals, and

2) Forbid the acquisition of sacred or African garments from white people and other non natives.

These two transformative laws would have the power to restore the balance in favour of the African people, elevating them to a position of strength and unity. If implemented, such legislation could turn the tide for African communities, reclaiming their spiritual heritage and empowering them to become a formidable force within a single month!

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