Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Living the Indigenous Ways of Knowing: The African Self and a Holistic Way of Life

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Living the Indigenous Ways of Knowing: The African Self and a Holistic Way of Life

Article excerpt


My understanding of my Indigeneity is rooted in Somali dhaqan philosophies [ancestral way of life]. As an Indigenous African, I am always conscious of a holistic way of life that encompasses spirituality, social governance, and collective community memory. This holistic way of life was instilled in me by my family and community who raised me during my formative years in Somalia. In essence, this way of life stems from our African traditions. As a Somali it allows me to conceptualize my identity free from a colonial gaze and ideology. Yet it also enables me to tell a different story of my African heritage as I know it and to be grounded in my Indigenous culture. In the face of the dominant hegemonic discourse and imagery which renders my peoples as nomadic, uncivilized, and/or ungovernable, for my survival, it has been necessary for me to evoke my Somali dhaqan in order to resist what Wa Thiong'O (1985) calls the cultural time bomb in which he states:

   The biggest weapon wielded and actually daily unleashed against
   collective defiance is the cultural bomb. The effect of a cultural
   bomb is to annihilate a people's beliefs in their names, in their
   language, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in
   their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves. It
   makes them see their past as one wasteland of non-achievements and
   it makes them distance themselves from that wasteland. It makes
   them want to identify with that which is furthest removed from
   themselves ... with all the forces that would stop their own spring
   of life (p.3).

In essence my embrace of Somali dhaqan became part of my conscious effort to subvert, resist and challenge dominant colonial ideologies and discourse.

As a graduate student at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE), I have long yearned to speak about my Indigeneity. My Indigineity is unique to my lived experiences, because it is rooted in the lands of ancestors, in Somalia and it is located in Toronto. I choose to speak about my Indigenous knowledge as part of a bigger decolonization political project for two reasons. First, I would like to debunk the myth of everlasting displacement that has been ascribed to the Somali people and utilize concepts of Indigenous Somali dhaqan Guurau [culture of relocation] philosophies to stress the importance of community settlement within the Diasporic context wherever Somalis reside. Secondly, I would like to plant the seeds to germinate a holstic self-concept for Somali-Canadians of future generations. My rationale for undertaking this project is shaped by my realization of the urgency of Somalis to employ our dhaqan to establish roots wherever we live.

I believe that we as a people cannot survive with dignity unless we collectively walk our paths to salvation by establishing our communities and by conditioning future generations of Indigenous Somali-Canadians. We must build and establish healthy vibrant communities with standing Indigenous cultural institutions in this treacherous colonial terrain; hence we cannot be displaced by civil war, piracy, and/or terrorism in Somalia. On the other hand, we must not accept being unwanted world class refugees across the globe. I strongly believe that different elements of Somali dhaqan can be utilized to resist and reclaim our identities with holistic voices and to collectively struggle against colonialism. In addition, Somali dhaqan is vital to cultivating not only local solutions for issues that the Somali Diaspora faces in Canada but to also articulate cultural consciousness to exercise true social, political, and economical self-determination.

My aim in this paper is to stress the importance of the Indigenous social consciousness as a means of strengthens in the community. I therefore stress the importance of invoking our embodied Indigeneity and our ancestral communal knowledge to resist the White supremacist society in which we live. …

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