Thursday, May 31, 2018

What makes us African?

What does Africa Day mean to me? It means a lot of things but before I delve into the ‘why’, let me first take you through the importance of this day and why I continue to celebrate it.

Each year, on the 25th of May Africans from all walks of life, celebrate Africa Day. The root of this glorious day dates back to 1963, a year when the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was instituted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. To many, the creation of OAU characterised a ‘Day of Africa’. Fifty years later, 25 May continues to gain international recognition as Africa Day, a day when, regardless of their geographic location or circumstances, Africans come together to celebrate the idea of African unity.

Africa Day brings to mind the words of Kwame Nkrumah where he says that "I am not an African because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me". These words speak directly to who we are as a continent in that we're so diverse. Our diversity shows in our differing beliefs, races, religions, values, colour etc. However, at the root of the differences, at the root of our identity - is the fact that we're African.

It is rather difficult though to speak of this paramount day without making mention of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a very complex concept with many definitions to different people. For me personally, Ubuntu is rooted in the African ways of life. It is the respect and appreciation of all living things; humans, animals, and nature. It’s a traditional value system that puts at its core the community and co-existence. This translates to the known concept which says “a person is a person through others’, each of us exists to co-exist. This is practiced through humility, kindness, respect and selfless acts. It’s about extending love and respect not only to your friends and family but even to strangers. Ubuntu demands respect for human dignity regardless of any outward appearances.

Previous scholars have defined Ubuntu as an African embedded philosophical approach to human life. This philosophy is applicable to all people as human beings. It would then be misleading to speak of Ubuntu and then mistreat others based on race, creed, culture, gender or status. Ubuntu means appreciation of all humans, their values, culture and their entire being.

Ubuntu means humanness. Humanness includes values like brotherhood, sharing, treating and respecting other people as human beings. It is a way of life that contributes positively to sustaining the well-being of people, community, and the society.

For me, personally, every day is Africa Day. I strive and am proud of my African-ness, doing and living the African way. Being African is embedded in me, when celebrating Africa Day I revel in our uniqueness as a continent. Like any other home, we will fight, have squabbles but what is important is that we are who we are, we are warriors, and we are Africans. Africa Day is but a reminder of how far we’ve come and where we are headed.

In the words of Thabo Mbeki, I conclude with, “I am an African. I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains, and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.”