To be bred as an African sent out to find peace, harmony and your way in life through these concrete jungles of an evolving land, requires an education in the traditions that harmonized the savanna with our elders. The education despite the best intentions of our teachers, has along with the flow of time been diluted, corrupted and sadly demonized. Character is religion - this is the fundamental truth to the identity of African experiences, it’s as true today as it has been since the cradle of life birthed human history in it’s entirety.

African men dancing with masks on.

Recent scientific studies in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa strongly suggest that Africa may be the birthplace of the human race.

Growing up in the our suburban game parks can feel reminiscent of DMX’s lifestyle at times. It’s dark and hell is hot, but hey at least the trap has vuzu parties where we drown and numb out the PTSD from violently nihilist life experiences of violence, betrayal and revenge. Funnily enough his emulations of dogs barking drive home the fact that no matter where you are on the motherland, dogs stay barking. Despite the background noise and trauma that comes with being proudly African and repping the ethnic tribe of your roots, there’s a healing aura infused in the lands that has nurtured our parents and their parents, that now works its supernatural magic on us in a myriad of ways. This healing aura has been called on by our ancestors when they were in need of superhuman intervention, just as we still do to this day in ways our parents might frown upon.

“Over many centuries the African peoples below the Sahara lived in close relationship with the land. Living more or less in isolation, they developed their own languages and customs. They also developed religious practices that served their particular lives and needs. African religion is not the only religion found in Africa today. However, it is the only religion that can claim to have originated in Africa. Other religions found in Africa have their origins in other parts of the world.”

Excerpt from African Traditional Religion, Third Edition

A quick overview of our savanna that seemingly manages to hit the sweet spot, geographically speaking of course, will show you a land in disconnect with its people. Our character has been flawed due to the negative connotations associated with African traditional religions, and I attribute this to silence. Which is ironic considering the significance of silence in African culture.

The natural world that cultural beings inhabit is one of sound. Noise is natural; it is silence that must be created. Humans are genetically programmed to speak and to hear. Normally, people cannot not speak; therefore, to choose silence is a significant act of humanness. The cessation of sound, the stopping of speech, the choice of silence, this is always noteworthy. This condition is generally understood to be one of respect and wisdom among African cultures.

That stopping of speech in a culture of people that is historically noted to be the first and longest practitioners of the spoken word is bemusing to ponder on. Especially considering that African life starts with naming traditions and prayers and continues through greetings and songs, libations and lullabies, praise names, banter, roasting, insults, and funeral orations and spirit possession. We’ve been performers and keepers of the word since the dawn of time.

“In the beginning was the Word…” The importance of human speech in African cultures cannot be overemphasized. This primacy of the human voice and of the exchange of life through words is demonstrated over and over again in Africa.

What amuses me more is the role of new media in the rapidly evolving digital landscape of African life. One underappreciated aspect of being citizens in the globalization era in Africa, is that we should be closer than ever in ways that really matter. Of course we can’t have perfect reception in hell, let alone the technology to best maximize its potential. That hasn’t stopped us telling from the realer stories of what it means being African. Especially what it meant to be African back then when your story couldn’t be told at the campfires by the huts safe away from the dangers of the savanna. You know like lions, demons and shit.

Illustration of two traditional African men

Religions back then taught the ancestors the golden mean required to walk the straight and narrow in shady jungles, treacherous deserts and sun parched savannas. They’re still trying to do the same thing which always has been to, send out young impressionable minds on the journey to becoming wizened sagacious souls, that survived and thrived in the tempestuous motherland.

New media silenced the good about African traditional religions, and spoke on the bad and ugly with not a lick of shame. The systemic eradication and perversion of not just the positive aspects of African traditional religions but also the teachable narratives that stem from their stories, is discernible in the aimless wanderings of people hustling and bustling in the concrete jungles of our cities.

African religion teaches that people are made up of moral, social, spiritual, and physical parts. These parts function together. If any part is out of balance, the person may become physically ill or suffer spiritually. That is why a conflict with another person may make someone sick, or a moral misdeed may bring about misfortune.

The folklores that raised us when reflected upon in hindsight will show that our ancestors have always encouraged a healthy balance between individualism and collaboration. Deeper than just teamwork making the dream work, the lore of our folks subtly encouraged critical thinking that enabled a youth to entertain two contradictory ideas in a way that avoided the extremes. Moderation has always been preached with the intention of balance being achieved to find the golden mean of honorable conduct. Which brings us home to Zimbabwe, a burning teapot of flavorful of storytellers seemingly going through the transition of adopting new media as their next religion.

Half of the population practice syncretic religions (a combination of both Christian and indigenous beliefs), 25 percent are Christian, 24 percent practice traditional indigenous religions, and 1 percent are Muslim. Harare, a city of 1,200,000, is the nation’s hotbed for religious activity in a country deeply in tune with it’s spiritual ancestry through the land.

For a long time, the combination of traditional religion with either Christianity or Islam has also been a way of African life. In particular, what is known variously as indigenous Christianity, these independent churches have arisen throughout sub-Saharan Africa and probably represent the largest current manifestation of traditional African religion, albeit the context behind their stories have to be weighed. Shona traditional culture, which is in fast decline, was first noted for its superior ironwork, pottery, and musicianship. Shona religion and cosmology are rooted in the belief in a creator/God (Mwari) and the practice of propitiation of ancestral, tribal, and other spirits to ensure good health, rain, and success in business. Finally, a belief in magic, witchcraft and sorcery continues to play an important role in everyday life, despite rigorous efforts to eradicate it by Christian missionaries and elementary education.

Out here in the urban savannah where the roads meets the bush and the concrete leaves enough space for the Acacia trees. The moderation can be seen in the design of the land, and that moderation has left enough space for ATR to find a foothold in the suburban game parks our country has been designed into. It can be a confusing thing to see from afar as you walk by on the pavement ensconced away from the hallowed grounds where you see billowing white garments and traditional pots overflowing with water. However the point of this article is to tell you that it can be a beautiful thing to experience on nights when the star of David sits up high brightly illuminating the faces of congregants whilst the fire warms the chills away. It’s a worthy experience to be brought back in time when you hear an elder speaking in Deep Shona which is the ritualistic coded language used during the Shona spirit-medium divination. A lot of it will go over your head and that is the disconnect I’ve been speaking on this whole time. There’s no harm in existing in two spiritual kingdoms provided you know what constitutes God’s temple in your soul.

African women in a water body praying
Nigel Magaya

I'm a trapping wordsmith with interests in money talk, hip hop, business model engineering & designer creative expression. I'll article about Zimbabwean move makers.

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