Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Epiphany of Ubuntu in Knowledge Development: An African Way

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Epiphany of Ubuntu in Knowledge Development: An African Way

Article excerpt


In this presentation, I address my internal conflicts as an African who left my great continent with the hope of gaining knowledge at a large North American University. I am now facing the dilemma of acquiring knowledge of Western origins as part of a doctoral program in nursing even though I already possess unique knowledge originating from Africa. I am investigating the ontological and epistemological stances regarding nursing practice in Africa as my professional identity vis-à-vis my African heritage. I am also reflecting on the development of my knowledge which helped me to recall my African ways of knowing and learning despite the fact that they were deemed unscientific

The Significance of African Knowledge as the Key to the Progress of African Nursing Practice

My thoughts about the significance of African knowledge were developed during my study of Nursing Theory Development Course (NURS 600), which was part of my PhD course work. The initial deliberation related to the definition of knowledge and its components. The work of various scholars was quoted and in-depth discussions were held with regarding what was considered to be knowledge. During these deliberations, I experienced an uneasy feeling about the core definitions and explanations on what knowledge is. I realized that I was in the second phase, of colonial repression and cultural trauma, as identified by Franz Fanon. Fanon states that the colonized, after being assimilated into the colonizer's culture, will start experiencing disturbing feelings and will start remembering who they are. Through personal reflection I asked myself several questions, the first and primary being: "Is my African knowledge considered as knowledge by the West." This was my personal reflection alone, and I did not want anybody to answer this question on my behalf. The main reason is that none of my co-students is an African and none of them would be able to define what knowledge is in a way that would make sense to me.

In addition, the work of nursing scholars whom they use as point of references in nursing, such as Carper (1974), White (1995), Chinn and Kramer (2008), Meleis (2007), and Munhall (1993), identify different ways of knowing from the conclusion that no single set of ideas could hold all the answers (Nzimade, 2009), particularly those encountered at the clinical settings. As a result of my deliberations, I came to the conclusion that the answer to my first question was a resounding 'yes'!

Our major patterns of knowledge development in Africa are personal knowing, ethical knowing, aesthetic knowing, and emancipatory knowing. After perceiving the answer to the first question, I was able to liberate my unconscious knowledge that was waiting to be brought into the conversation in order to construct agentic narratives for my own subjectivity (O'Loughlin, 2009).

Through these personal reflections I accessed to my childhood years in the village, when every night in our African homesteads, wise men would sit around the fire in the kraals and tell stories (Mandela, 2000), recite praise songs about themselves and critical incidents, and share activities with the young boys about African manhood. Inside the homes, around the fireplaces, women gathered. Wise women would teach young girls about womanhood in the African way. These were the ways in which I came to know and learn.

These models constitute ancestral ways of knowing (Cruz, 2008) and they involve both teaching and learning opportunities for the elders and the young, even today. Young boys and girls listen to their elders telling stories, knowing that one day they will narrate their own stories to younger generations. Narratives, praise singing and role modeling are some of the methods that Africans use to transfer knowledge from generation to generation.

The stories are derived from the elders' lived experiences of life in general and their encounters of their daily lives. …

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