Sunday Reflections: Can we disagree with aspects of Sankofa?
For many years, I have imagined how great Africa would be again if only we could rewind the clock and go back to the pre-Alexandrian era where Egyptians lived freely as Egyptians without any European invasion.
If we could go back to the 3150 BCE era when King Narmar united the north and southern Egypt as one; to 1324 AD when Mansa Musa controlled inflation of the world with West African gold; and to a time when Africans worshiped God the African way without fear of persecution.
I have imagined our societies — both organized and acephalous societies — functioning with love and civility and with the rule of natural law.
I have imagined how amazing life would be for Africans if we were not divided by imaginary boundaries that distorted our concept of nation.
Admittedly, I had been daydreaming until I realized that I was trapped in the glory of history of others. If I am going to make a change, I have to… wait a minute… have I been thinking of the concept of “sankofa (go back and take it)” in my daydreaming about going back to the the glorious days? Am I just echoing the “sankofa” that Pan-Africanists have been screaming for many years?
The bigger question that follows is: What do we really want to go back and take? How far back are we willing to go? Are we going back to the days of Kemet, Ethiopia, Nubia or we are just going back to pre trans-Atlantic slavery and colonial era?
I really love the concept of “sankofa” but don’t think it is meant to be practiced literally. I think sankofa is about picking the good practices and rejecting the practices which would not fit our current world view.
There are many aspects of our past that should never be brought back:
- “Bragoro” (puberty rites):
Would you agree to puberty rites initiation ritual for your 14-year-old daughter or sister? Would you appreciate her nudity in public as she exposes her young breast through the principal streets of Kumasi, Accra or Ho to show the eligible bachelors that she is ripe or ready for marriage? Is a 14-year-old girl ready to marry? Is she done with her education? Has she finished with the learning of a trade? The laws of Ghana says sex with a girl under 16 years is rape and so will marriage to such a person be. So should we bring back “bragoro” rites?
- Blood sacrifices:
Would you teach your children to go to a priest and sacrifice a ram when they sin against their friends and relatives? Would you encourage your son to put his trust in a talisman as a protector whilst the true power of his brain is relegated to the background? I wouldn’t. Spirituality needs no ram, no blood, no sanctified pure water, no Jordan water, no special water, no worshiping of people, stones and ideas. So, do I really say “sankofa” to our old ways of spirituality in the emergence of all knowledge?
- Banishment of pregnant teenagers into exile:
Not too long ago, pregnant teenagers and their boyfriends were exiled out of town into the wilderness with the hope that they would die or took their taboo to the next unsuspecting village. Would you wave bye-bye to your only daughter who was sentenced to death for having sex before marriage?
I really love “sankofa” but I would not wish we go back to the period when menstruating women were forced to sleep outside of their houses.
Instead of focusing on the bleak past, I strongly advocate we look forward passionately into the future. I am more interested in what the world will become tomorrow than it was yesterday. I am excited about a future where dogma is identified as dogma whether it is imported or local.
I am excited to see the day when an amputee can enter a shop and pick a replacement hand and just put it on and then go about their normal day-to-day activities. I am excited about a potent vaccination for cancer that would come from Africa. I am excited about a future where most African politicians would take decisions that primarily would seek the best interests of their people. Most importantly, I cannot wait to see the day where we would realize that love is the best religion.
“Sankofa” is a worthy concept but before “Sankofa” should be “sankohwe (go back and look)”.
Let’s take another look and adopt the essence of practices from our past that will benefit us in the future. Our traditions, sayings, norms, scriptures, and ideas must be investigated and amended or enforced if necessary. The future is more important than the past, and our thinking and customs should reflect this priority. It is the responsibility of the youth to break down the door to the future and dive in with clear vision and full involvement.
- 1. Which is more important – the past or the future?
- 2. Are there any ideas and practices you would never want to see us go back to, and why?
- 3. Are there ideas from the past that should be brought back?