Thursday, January 7, 2016

Five fantastic facts about pan Africanism

In a previous post, I wrote about my introduction to African ideology at a tender age. In my search to understand what this African ideology was about, I found that there were several explanations of what this ideology was. In many cases, these were conflicting explanations. So instead of being informed, I was continuously confused by those who had to educate me. In music, in art and culture, in literature and academia, in custom and practice, I continuously learnt new things but with every new thing I learnt, I had more questions and there seemed to be new areas that I had not even thought about. So now I approach it as a learning process. 

But in my learning process, I have encountered some interesting facts that sometimes surprise me and other times, confirm what I know already. I want to share these with you. 

1.     1.  Pan Africanism is about Africa. Of course. How can it be about anything else? Pan Africanism is about Africa as a continent, as a people, our values, our customs and our practices. However, it is not only about Africa. The fantastic thing is that it is also about identity. It is not just about being black but most importantly, being about Africa and working in the interest of Africa. Peter Tosh, in his song ‘African’ makes this very clear. ‘Don't care where you come from/ As long as you're a black man, you're an African/ No mind your nationality/You have got the identity of an African’.

2.      2. Pan Africanism is a butterfly. Did you know that pan Africanism did not originate from on the African continent itself? I like thinking about pan Africanism from the angle of the ‘butterfly effect’ concept. A free spirit that flits and flutters from flower to flower spreading ideas and sowing seeds of renewal and reawakening. Educated men from the West Indies such as H. S. Williams from Trinidad, George Padmore from Trinidad and Marcus Garvey from Jamaica who dreamed of a spiritual return to Africa carried the idea from the Caribbean to the US and the UK in the early 1900s. They disseminated the idea through newsletters, music and events in the United Kingdom, France and the United States. One such key event was the 5th pan African congress held in Manchester in 1945. This event was attended by African students such as Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah who were then instrumental in bringing the idea to Africa and use it as a unifying force.

3.      3.  Pan Africanism is personal. Another fantastic fact about pan Africanism is that it is personal.  It changes colour depending on who wears it. To some, especially our brothers and sisters in the diaspora, it is a spiritual journey to find their roots, to return to the ‘motherland’, to find the homes and ancestors from whom they were so suddenly stolen from. To another, it is an identity. An understanding of who we are and a place of belonging. To others, it is an ideology of values and principles, of africanness and blackness. Yet more, Pan Africanism can also be a theory of renewal and renaissance, an awakening of the spirit of the black man. To others it may also be is about black empowerment and freedom from colonialism and the shackles of imperialism. The reawakening of the African people to their destiny. And these different manifestations are not mutually exclusive and definitely not exhaustive. What does pan Africanism mean to you?

4.     4. Pan Africanism is unique within the world space of ideas. Have you ever wondered why there is no ‘pan Americanism’ even though America is a melting pot of identities? Why is there no ‘pan Europeanism, or even ‘pan Asianism’. Even though some of these continents had their fair share of tragic colonialism events. This makes pan Africanism unique as an emancipation idea within the world space. The concept of a united Africa was born as far back as the early 1940s and even though has metamorphosed in one style or another, still retains the original idea of a United Africa, whether politically, spiritually, socially or economically. This culminated in the creation of the organisation for African unity (OAU) at least forty clear years before the idea was picked up by Europe with the development if the European union.

5.      5. Pan Africanism is now.  You know how fashion has a cycle? One particular fashionable item, say, bell bottom trousers, or platform shoes, become fashionable, then go out of fashion, then several years later, come back into fashion with minor tweaks? Well, Pan Africanism is back with a bang. The recently advertised and widely shared Agenda 2063 of the African Union is designed to reinvent pan Africanism as the ‘it’ thing for the youth. Also the ‘I AM Africa’ campaign that stresses unity in diversity also puts the focus back on Africa. 

What has been your experience of pan Africanism? Share your experiences with me.

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