House in the Dogon Country, photo: unknown, circa 1995.

13- 3H

Towards a Black Consciousness

After the first set of essays on historical and cultural issues related to Africa, part of the question "what does it mean to be Black or Afrodescendant?" starts to be visualized. Cultures can be analysed through three levels of development: we like to call it the 3H: Habitat, Habits, Hazards. In our case, regarding Black and Afro-desdendants, the 3H can be syntethised as follows:

Habitat: we belong to the Earth. Our Art reflects that. Our image of the world is not theorical or mathematic, but mainly abstract and geometric.

West African woman decorating her house, from: African Canvas (book) courtesy: Margaret Courtney-Clarke.

Habits: we inter-act socially on "body expressions", exposed between us, more than other cultures; we feel physical empathy with other Blacks and Afro-desdendants, and some outsiders too when they relate spontaneously or pay attention to us in a positive way.

Okavango woman, South West Africa, hairstyle treated with wild sisal, fat and ochre, circa 1960, photographer unknown.

Hazards: we have a mental constitution that favours an image to the world where pace and time has and order and a sense, including birth, life and death; for us, this has an advantage (we can wait for ages), and one disadvantage (with different degrees, we tend not to change our status-quo). It is interesting to compare this aspect with the Hellenistic legacy, Greece culture later expanded by Rome; it might be possible to find similar levels of relations between supreme entities, Nature and people, symbolized as myths.

West African stamp from 1958. A Mask is framed in Western logistics.

We also have a psychological structure more permeable, porous to suggestion, something White people do not understand; more open to psychic conditions (intuition, perceptions), which has an advantage (we can anticipate situations, from simple events to premonitions), and a disadvantages, young people can -under extremes circumstances- change into the wrong direction, like in the seventies and eighties, where guerrilla was spread in many regions, thanks to foreign influence (Cold War, Communism vs. Capitalism, also large corporations involved in internal politics, looking for oil, gold, water).

Afro-desdendants in the diaspora have lost contact with Nature and became detached from certain rhythm of life and its cycles; which are the core of Black African life. In part is a loss, but it has a positive side. When those cultural marks were applied to non-rational decisions, the game of suggestion had dramatic results. Irrational judgments made by tribal chiefs -attached to what spirits dictated- meant calling for arms towards tribal clashes or even the State. When Marxism got in, iliterate youngsters were recruited, ending up fighting and dying in endless civil wars.

Record cover (fragment) from This Land is Mine, Dorothy Masuka, circa 1967. Woman and child from somehwere in South-west Africa. Photographer unknown.

Léopold Sedar Senghor used to mention that the West has been pouring Greco-Roman Rationalism and Empiricism in the rich Black culture; first, by the Colonizer's idioms, all Latin descent (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese), that managed to unite different ethnics in different territories. The same happened in India, which became a modern state thanks to English language: Indiands decided to keep it as their official language, because it gave cohesion to hundreds of detached sub-languages and cultures, and because English (a simple idiom to learn) became the world language. Besides, in the last few decades the collaboration between the former colonizers countries like France or the UK has been remarkable, setting up partnerships towards developing a sophisticated educational system, schools and Universities, which visibly produced a life-style improvement in countries like Sénégal, Togo, Ghana or Cameroun.

We will not discuss here what is progress and what is bringing to Humanity: quality life or self-destruction, in the latter, something we do not know yet but all indications point that it is plausible. In fact most Black Africans are part of the West, because they not only decided to follow Democratic society, but because they feel comfortable applying Free Thinking principles. In general, framed in capitalist policies with clear socialist ingredients, working well in education, commerce and industries.

The reality is that an unstoppable wave of futurist technology is now reaching every corner of Africa. Afica got in its hands the best of two worlds, they are bringing theirs to the Western world, where they feel they belong to by their own right. A poweful cultural history of arts, rich social relations and ancestral knowledge in relation with Habitat started to be taken as an example for sustainability, something industrialized countries need to analyse in detail to avoid global extinction, which seems inevitable if we do not change direction right now.

Read the next chapter, What Can You Do (if you are not Afro-desdendant), here


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