A New Year, A Clean Slate?

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(Overheard in the bank queue while waiting to receive salaries.)

“Papi, you don’t have to wait in the queue. I’m sure if you go to the front they will let you inside.”

“Don’t worry, my son, let me wait while I still have strength.”

“But, uncle, I remember when you were living abroad. Why did you return to Africa with all these terrible wars? I’m raising my children to get their educations, escape overseas, and never come back.”

“Well, I felt that when the war ended, there might be a chance for renewal.  During the kinds of wars we’ve seen instigated across Africa, the collective consciousness of the people is subjected to a kind of “scorched earth” treatment. What is left can be seen as a “clean slate” – a big, new, shiny blackboard. We could rewrite, reseed, recover the best of African traditions and build on them.”

“Ol’ man, you still think that way?”

“Not exactly, my son. What I found was when the imperial powers decide to destroy a nation, a society, a culture; the strong nationalist voices are assassinated first. Only the pacified leaders and their zombie followers are in place to implement the imperial will. All the traditional culture is buried under the rubble of war and then even further buried under the imperial super-structure built atop the rubble. And cultural renewal is not usually given prominence in the rebuilding process.

As soon as the “clean slate” is visible through the smoke of destruction, action takes place rapidly. First come the destroyers themselves with their weapons; hunting and gathering the choice areas on the “slate” (landscape) and forcibly securing them. Then they bring the lackey government officials hunting and gathering for their masters who assign them positions on the “slate”. Next enter the foreign opportunists hunting and gathering the cheapest, poorest quality goods and services to sell to those already in place and those to come. The local opportunists are then allowed to hunt and gather. They bring scams and schemes to take direct advantage of their fellow country people.”

“Is there any room on the “slate” for the rest of us – those who are not hunters?”

“Yes! On the big blackboard that was so clean and shiny for a brief moment in time, it seems the ancestors have preserved a small and beautiful section for us, the planters/harvesters. Some of us have already found our spot on a “slate”. And although our areas might be idyllic and nestled in our own rich, natural resources; finding other planters and harvesters is not easy. We are surrounded by hunters and gatherers – just like anywhere else on this planet. You may see that spark of light in the eye of a farmer in the village – an exciting experience, but I’ve learned that nurturing that spark is critical and time sensitive.

And to find planters and harvesters among those educated in the western system is also rare. When we meet them we treasure and work to form a lasting bond with them. We give thanks for the planters and harvesters that will form our “redeemers network” all over the world.

All over Africa there are small groups of redeemers preserving our cultural life-force through our music, dance, visual arts, oral arts and our literature. Don’t you want to join our work on the not-so “clean slate”? I welcome you!”

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