Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

'Down but Not Out': Critical Insights in Traditional Shona Metaphysics

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

'Down but Not Out': Critical Insights in Traditional Shona Metaphysics

Article excerpt


In his preface to Images of Africa: Stereotypes and Realities edited by Daniel M. Mengara (2001:xiii) Molefe Kete Asante, a renowned Africologist remarks:

   At the top of the twentieth century Africa remains the most
   misunderstood of continents, crippled in our imagination by images
   rooted in the minds of imperial Europeans who attempted to shape
   and invent an Africa useful to their political ambitions.

By linking science, Christianity and a resilient traditional Shona metaphysics, this paper seeks to provide a more rounded and objective view of the African continent. It clearly reiterates that "Europe's intervention in Africa [was] the beginning of the most nefarious images. An African invented for European purposes could no longer serve the interests of its own people" (Asante in Mengara, 2001:xiv) The paper further rekindles and explicates the African philosophy debate as an African response to demonization inherent in the western discourses on Africa. It is a rationality debate", a deconstructionist effort reminiscent of the many aspects of the African people's struggles to control their own identity. Masolo (1995:2) states that:

   Historically, the call for a 'return to the native land' was only
   one of the many revolutionary expressions of the then rising black
   militantism, nationalism and Africanism ... For many
   blackpeople ... Solidarity was their strength and a weapon with which
   to counter Westernism's arrogant and aggressive Eurocentric

Aime Cesaire's clarion call to "return to the native land" was symbolic to all Black people to come together as a unified and formidable force in a struggle to defend their common stance, their identity tag and the rightful language of resistance to the stereotypical African 'savage' who is even up-to today is alienated as "the other" This paper further examines how the Shona people have distinguished themselves well as true eclectics in the face of competing cultural references that have come to inform life in this postcolonial world. The work argues that despite the cultural onslaught on Shona metaphysics particularly their belief systems through the spread of the western scientific worldview and the Christian religious tradition, the Shona never completely lost touch with their traditional metaphysics.

The traditional belief system has continued to inform much of the life and activities of the Shona people. In times of adversity the Shona have demonstrated unique qualities of being able to call on their triple heritage in order to respond to the problem. This paper will also "have to narrate in an exhaustive search for a specific mark, for an originality that will mark at all costs, the difference between our thought and that of the West" (Masolo, 19995:196). In responding to problems they have developed what may be described as a clear eclectic patchwork of solutions with ideas being drawn from modern science, the Christian tradition and their own traditional metaphysics. This work will draw on Shona responses to illness within the family to demonstrate the extent to which the Shona have harmonized the seemingly antagonistic worldviews as a way of survival. From this survival strategy, Christine Obbo's (2006:154) observation is apt:

   As ever, power is key to ownership of the knowledge production
   process. Contemporary problems of development, health and indigenous
   knowledge demand that we define the theoretical agendas and
   practical issues those are of concern to us.

Rather than being passive assimilators of European modernity, the Shona have taken an active role in the selection and at times fusion of what they got from Europe and what they already had as a people. This in some way represents the way in which the Shona have responded to the installation of a Euro-specific modernity-tradition ideology in Africa, while at the same time, shaping their African modernity. …

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