Posts Tagged ‘culture’

“Africa the Dark Continent According to Foreigners,” by Jonathan Musere

May 24, 2016

“Africa the Dark Continent According to Foreigners,” by┬áJonathan Musere
Though the phrase, concept, or application “Dark Continent” has existed for at least four centuries, increasingly over time it came to be more significantly bestowed on Africa, more prevalently on “black” or sub-Saharan Africa. Over the recent past centuries, the region was increasingly inundated by foreign prospectors, adventurers, explorers, missionaries, biologists, geographers, and others.

Africa and Africans were as mysterious and strange to much of the rest of the world, just as the foreigners and their ways were mysterious to the Africans. The foreign presence in Africa accelerated during the Slave Trade and the Scramble for Africa.
Europeans, starting from the coast of west Africa, gradually ventured deeper and deeper into the interior of the continent. Many of them wrote down what they perceived and what their opinions were regarding the culture, religion, appearance, habitations, community, modes of living and survival, and other characteristics of the Africans and their environment. Africans were compared and contrasted to Europeans, to other Africans, and to other people. Some of these accounts were debasing, exaggerations, fabrications, illogical, and without merit. Some of the accounts were corroborative and displayed commonalities among black Africans. Veneration of and sacrifices to ancestors, superstitiousness, as well as operation of witchcraft and blood rituals were common. Women prevalently carried out the domestic work, men were warriors and hunters, and polygamy was widespread.
The renowned foreign chroniclers of Africa included, among many others, David Livingstone, Mungo Park, Hugh Clapperton, Robert Moffat, Henry M. Stanley, Samuel W. Baker, and Paul B. Du Chaillu. The extracts in this book offer a mosaic of the Africa as the Dark Continent in their eyes and descriptions. The writings on Africa and Africans sometimes took a positive, unbiased or neutral tone; they were not always negative.

 

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Joseph G.Healey’s “Once Upon a Time in Africa: Stories of Wisdom and Joy”–a Review

May 10, 2011

“Once Upon a Time in Africa: Stories of Wisdom and Joy” (Orbis Books, 2004), compiled by Joseph G. Healey, is a unique and intriguing book that remarkably captures the essence of African society in response to and in cooperation with Christianity, other religions, and other foreign influences. But this is not an academic book laden with complex and boring theories. Rather, the book contains close to 100 short stories that convey experiences of east Africans with Christian missionaries from the west. Each story is unique and can convey an African parable, an abridged African story, an encounter with a group of Africans, missionary work in African schools, African response to death and dying, the extent to which Africans compete with each other relative to other world societies, the importance of Africans sharing and running together, how Africans perceive Christianity and foreign behavior, etc. Many of the stories are humorous, but the value message does not become lost. A Maasai moran wonders how great Jesus was. Relating to the Maasai aspect of recognizing greatness and manhood, the moran questions whether Jesus ever killed a lion and how many wives he had.

In a running competition, a nun wonders why the schoolgirls keep crossing the finishing line together. They tell her that they do not want to leave anyone behind, they want to finish together. Many of these stories convey African society as highly cooperative, not heavily dwelling on a person outpointing and crushing the other and taking the spotlight. Africans traditionally do not want to be separated from each other, and will work hard to stay together even when threatened by differences in religious belief. They are far less materialistic than many other societies of the world, they can achieve joy and happiness in the face of poverty and misfortune; they are generally not imbued with that western spirit of materialism, monopoly, and selfishness.

Africans believe in re-incarnation, believing that the spirit of a good person always returns to earth through a newborn, dead ancestors are guardian angels. African societies are shown to have their accounts of creation. African proverbs are numerous and tell a lot about Africans. In the book, Africans are portrayed in their homes, the gardens, in church, in prayer, in hunting, at work, etc. This is indeed a book about African joy and wisdom concisely illustrated with short significant stories, tales, proverbs, encounters and happenings.

Father Joseph Healey, who is originally from the United States and has operated in east Africa for several decades, managed to compile a gem of a book that one never gets tired of reading. Healey’s extensive practical familiarization with many African languages and ways of life made him the ideal candidate to compile this heart-warming and objective volume. More than any other text, the book illustrates joy and wisdom in the day-to-day basic lives of Africans and their response to a new world that gets smaller and smaller and becomes more connected. The contents also illustrate how people from other parts of the world practically respond to and perceive African life. The stories in this book are short, but their messages are very powerful. Lessons on Africa are conveyed through aspects of adventure, ministering, religion, folklore, prayer, stories, African culture, poetry, spirituality, and tales.

Jonathan Musere