Traversing “cultural worlds”

I just made my third visit to an Afro-Asian fusion class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison via Zoom. Today I participated on a panel of absolutely wonderful folks who were discussing a range of things including healing, movement, transformation, and so on. It was a very rich and empowering discussion.
For my part I discussed our family’s farm work, Vijay Prashad’s thesis of “polyculturalism”, the synergies of African and Asian philosophies and movement practices in my own life, and the implications of Afro-Asian knowledges in how we understand social transformation. To the latter point, I offered examples from the Tao Te Ching and the Odù Ifá which explicates the power of our personal striving for good character as a means to transform both society and the world.
One of the questions that was posed queried our relationship to the kind of Afro-Asian synergies which are a central topic in the course. I shared that in my youth there were two books that I read that had a transformative impact on my consciousness–The Art of War by Sun Tzu and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The former gave me a framework to engage the world. The latter helped me to understand the state of our people and compelled me to think about my role in changing it. Such synergies continue to the present day, in ways that are conscious and unconscious.
Three final points. A day or so ago I wrote that “People will get lost in Asia on their way to Africa.” To be sure, I am troubled by the efforts of some to present many Asian knowledges as African. Resonance and affinity are not necessarily reliant upon heredity. This means that simply because we feel a connection to a particular cultural tradition does not mean that it necessarily derives from our own ancestral tradition. Furthermore, one can participate in the cultures of others without needing to lay claim to them and to justify such claims through fabricated tales of origins.
Secondly, while I am critical of the fact that many of us have a profound paucity of knowledge with regards to our history and culture as Africans, I also know that this is not due to our own actions. We live in a world where Africanness has been devalued and Africans dehumanized. I see such a finitude of knowledge and the racialization of African people as contributing to the aforementioned quandary. Clearly we enrich and empower ourselves when we more fully understand ourselves as Africans.
Thirdly, as Prashad has argued, we live in a polycultural milieu. Given this, we are increasingly impacted by seemingly disparate cultural traditions that reflect rich commonalities across “cultural worlds”, practices which may also appear to be our own due to our proximity to them. Such forms of entangled cultural practice are also at play in terms of what I have been observing and critiquing.

Reaping the bounty of one’s own traditions

All peoples constructs their spiritual practice on the basis of their own indigenous traditions, which enables them to reap the bounty of those traditions. I suggested the following materials to a brother who expressed a desire to reclaim his own ancestral traditions. Perhaps some of you might find this list enlightening.
Marimba Ani, Let the Circle Be Unbroken
Dalian Adofo, Ancestral Voices
Dalian and Verona Adofo, Ancestral Voices (film):
Kwame Gyekye, African Philosophical Thought
Ogonna Agu, The Book of Dawn & Invocations
Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian)
Jacob H. Carruthers, Essays in Ancient Egyptian Studies
Jacob H. Carruthers, Mdw Ntr: Divine Speech
Theophile Obenga, African Philosophy: The Pharaonic Period: 2780-330 Bc
K. Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau, Self-Healing Power and Therapy
K. Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau, African Cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo
K. Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau, Mbôngi: An African Traditional Political Institution
Fu-Kiau, K. Kia Bunseki, and A.M. Lukondo-Wamba. Kindezi: The Kongo Art of Babysitting
Adama and Naomi Doumbia, The Way of the Elders
Wande Abimbola, Ifa Will Mend Our Broken World
Kola Abimbola, Yoruba Culture: A Philosophical Account
Segun Gbadegesin, African Philosophy: Traditional Yoruba Philosophy and Contemporary African Realities

Information and wisdom

This society’s emphasis on information places value on the ephemeral, as information constantly changes. This is why there is a new study every other week debunking some previous study that debunked everything that you thought you knew.

Our ancestors, on the other hand, emphasized wisdom and its cultivation. For them also, information changed, but wisdom was an anchor from which these changes could be discerned and evaluated. Long held traditions were resistant to change, not only because of cultural inertia, but also because people had the wisdom to understand the utility, the practicality of their traditions. In this way, wisdom sought to nullify the nihilism of a potentially presentistic and information-obsessed culture.

Good speech and character

Our ancestors valued good speech & noted that speech was constitutive of the quality of our social relations and reflective of our character. We would do well to let our ancestors inform our language rather than those whose paradigm is inescapably mired in fundamental alienation.