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

The Relevance of Cultural Heritage in Remaking a New Africa

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

The Relevance of Cultural Heritage in Remaking a New Africa

Article excerpt

Introduction

Hardly any scholar, to a great extent, cannot deny the underdeveloped (or developing) state of present-day Africa. But there are, however, controversies and disagreements concerning the root of the underdevelopment, and the way forward. For instance, on the one hand, is the revivalist view which explains the causes in relation to colonialism and suggests that we need to revive the African cultural heritage like the non-individualistic life of "one for all, all for one" as entrenched in communalism. This view is shared by scholars like Nkrumah (1974), Nyerere (1968), Senghor (1995), Touré (1959), Rodney (1973), and Okere (2002). On the other hand, we have the cultural anti-revivalist view which is a rejection of the revivalist argument as an over-elaboration of the effects of colonialism and that the appeal to the cultural heritage as counter-productive. This anti-revivalist view can be found in the works of scholars like Niyi Osundare (1998), Moses Oke (2006), Jacob (2009), and Towa (1985).

In the light of these problems, the research questions that will guide this study and serve as its objectives include, what is development? How does the understanding of the true nature of development help in appreciating the problems of development in Africa? What relationship (if there is any) does an African problem have with colonialism? What is revivalism and antirevivalism? How do these two schools approach African problems? Is it the case that to achieve any meaningful development in Africa, as it is in every other part of the world, the appeal to the historical African heritage remains the more plausible way compared to the refusal to do so? These and some other relevant questions shall guide this study. Hence, the study will use the method of conceptual analysis and philosophical argumentation, key concepts that will critically analyse: "development" in relation to "freedom", "revivalism" in relation to "re-making Africa", "post-colonialism" in relation to "decolonisation", and "communalism" in relation to "individualism" in Africa.

This study will also work within the theoretical framework of the true form of what Kwame Gyekye refers to a "moderate cultural revivalism" which is neither a total rejection of African cultural heritage via anti-revivalism, nor its total acceptance in a strong revivalism. It is rather a call for reconsideration of the African traditional heritages to see which are still valuable and applicable to the present realities. The moderate revivalism is in line with Gyekye's (1997:233) moderate cultural revivalism; however, it does not conform to his symbolism Sankofa meaning "to go back for it (cultural past)." Putting the issue this way can be misleading, as it has actually misled many (i.e., the anti-revivalists). "To go back for it (cultural heritage)" sounds like retrogression, it cannot be said that Africans should be retrogressive; what is asked of Africans is to be retrospective. So, the claim only tells us that Africans must be retrospective in order to remodel Africa into a developed society. This is because no human being, who lacks retrospection, can make any meaningful progress in his or her present situation. In other words, a key proposition generated from this study is that "retrospection is the key to progression", because retrospection allows one to identify the good and bad steps taking in the past.

Moreover, since this study is a product of African social and political philosophy, the scope will focus on African political culture, which, as Nkrumah (1974) notes, is communalistic in nature. It is not within the scope of this study to engage in the entirety of African culture, because there are other dimensions to African culture like metaphysical, psychological, logical, religious and many others that have been examined. Also, while Nkrumah believed political culture (communalism) is common to virtually all African (especially in the traditional setting), thus our focus here is on how communalism is practised in the Yoruba traditional setting. …

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