Culture is conceived as the main symbol of the human condition; it might be defined as a collective subconscious, described by the beliefs, behavior, language, and entire way of life of a particular group of people at a particular time. Culture includes customs and ceremonies; and also works of art, inventions, technology, and traditions.
By cultural cosmology, we understand the study of the culture as a whole; this includes theory about its genesis and evolution and in addition its general structure and future. It includes the collectively held subconscious ideas about what comprises normal and natural reality ( Johan Galtung, Peace by Peaceful means 1996; page 211). Therefore, to better understand the different facets of cultural violence in Africa it is important to explore the cultural cosmology of Africa. That will allow us to understand the sources of early, traditional or contemporary violence in African societies.
Johan Galtung (10) described the six major cosmologies of civilization as:
* Occident I and Occident II, which are a mixture of the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Occident I is modern and in expansion, whereas Occident II is medieval and in contraction.
* Indic (Hindu)
* Buddhic (Buddhist)
* Sinic (Chinese)
* Nipponic (Japanese)
Our concern it is to demonstrate the link or influences of the previous cosmological classification on the African Cosmology. Africa is composed of 51 independent countries today, and it is inhabited by two major groups: The “Caucasoid“, in North Africa, Egypt and Sudan, with brown eyes, light olive skin, and high- bridged narrow noses. The “Black”, in the rest of Africa are subdivided into numerous tribes and races. The Pygmies in tropical central Africa are one of the shortest people in the world. In tropical Africa alone, some 1,000 different languages are spoken. In each language group there are different tribes and religious denominations. Arabic is predominant in northern Africa. Berber is also spoken in northern Africa. Bantu languages are spoken throughout central and eastern Africa. Sudanic is spoken in the large grassland region south of the Sahara. Hausa is spoken in western Africa and many countries, after their independence, kept as official languages one of the European languages: French, English, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Dutch (e.g. Afrikaans, derived from German)....
Egyptian cosmology as a primary African Cosmology:
The African cosmologies are linked to ancient Egypt. The diverse ethnic elements and alien influences of the macro-cultural aspects make it too complex to classify a unified African cosmology.
Considering the movement of evolution in the African cosmogony, the eternal created matter passes from one stage to another until it becomes conscious of itself. In this way, the first consciousness springs up from Nous in Egyptian thoughts. The Greek word Nous means God. The Egyptian demiurge Ra, who brings creation to completion, created four divine couples:
– Geb and Nut unite with Ra to create the earth and skies
– Shou and Tetnout unite with Ra to create the air and space
– Osiris and Isis unite with Ra who also unit with Ra to create human beings, called Adam and Eve
– Seth and Neth unite with Ra to create Evil.
We can conclude that with the conception of Ra, an idealistic or spiritual element appeared in Egyptian cosmogony. Later, this idealistic element influenced the Greek philosophers and became the basis of Greek idealism. Ra is the first God; he has neither father nor mother, He is auto–genus, and not engendered.
Most people ignore the fact that ancient Nubia was the site of an early advanced black African civilization that rivaled ancient Egypt in wealth, power, and cultural development. For nearly one century, N Nubian kings ruled over Egypt as pharaohs. (Mellom
1970) In 1520 B.C., the Egyptian pharaohs took over, and Egyptian culture increasingly influenced Nubia. In the 11th century B.C., Nubia regained its independence and a new Nubian kingdom, based in Jebel Barkal in Napata, adopted an Egyptian model of the monarchy, including royal brother-sister marriages. In
742 B.C. Pianshi, king of Napata, conquered Egypt and founded the 25th Dynasty, which ruled Egypt for nearly a century. Soon after the conquest, the Nubian capital shifted to Meroë. The Meroë kingdom developed its own form of writing as well as an iron- based industry.
In the black African cosmogony, the idea of “vital force” dominates ideas. We understand that the vital force can be found in person or spirits; in persons, spirits, kings, chiefs, and mysterious persons that continue the perpetuation of God’s work. Besides the current cohabitation of the Occident I and II, imposed by colonialism, there is a minor aspect of the traditional religion that still persists and in most cases, has been incorporated in those other religions: Animism.
Animism derives from the Latin word “anima” meaning breath or soul. its origin could be dated to the Paleolithic age. On it earlier belief, it suggested that a soul every object, even inanimate has a soul. In anthropology, animism is considered as to be the original human religion, being defined simply as belief in the existence of spiritual beings. African “primitive religions“ are based on nature worship, and may have in common three types of occultism: Divination, witchcraft (magic) and spiritism, with the “sacrifice“ of animals, and sometimes of humans, to calm the gods-demons; and reverence for the “ancestors.” Often, the head of the tribe, or the
Mwami or Pharaoh, is the “god.”
As in the Zulu example, in Africa there are generally two kinds of diviners: The isangoma is a medium who can make contact with the ancestors. And the isanus, is a diviner capable of “smelling out” sorceresses and other evil-doers. The herbalists, inyanga yokewlapha, still have the task today of administering medicines made from plants and animals.
The Muslims in the North, and the Christians in the South of the Sahara Desert, have changed most of African religion, but it is estimated that more than 40% of Africans still practice “animism“, often in syncretism with their new Christian or Muslim religions. The “Maraboutism” (11) in west-Africa is proof of the influence of the traditional on imported religion. We can observe that the forces of Christianity and Islam are often seen as clashing. In Africa, these two religions competed for the soul of a continent, and they have enhanced the beginning of globalization with all its consequences on the African style of life. The movement can be observed as a transposition of the Occident I and II cosmologies (12) on the African cosmology. Therefore, contemporary Africa is divided into four major alien cosmologies: Occident I and Occident II, Islam separately and Animism.
Tab.a.3.1. Four implanted cosmologies
Autochthones: Proto-Bantu and Bantu
Traditional in general
Major part of the Sub-Saharan Africa
In the horn of Africa: Ethiopia, and Eritrea, Egyptian Coptic Church
The Horn of Africa: Somalia, Sudan, Djibouti are the Principal poles.
West Africa (Neo- Sudanese States): Mali, Ghana, Nigeria…
A relic of the ancient traditional African religion. Expressed under different rites according to geo-political influences. Therefore, it can be traditional or
be mixed with new religions such as Islam, Christianity and others.
Tab 3.2 African imposed religion, source exploring Africa (Michigan
Universisty, African Study Departement)
a.4. Four cosmologies expressed in seven spaces
Human creations are first thoughts before they become physical. The creations of communities with a structural organization such as cities within an administration with achievements such as art, sciences and technologies— things that make a civilization — must spring from thought. In Johan Gultan’s TRANSCEND method, cosmology is to a civilization what the personality is to a person (13).Thus a socio-cultural code which is a set of structural rules for survival and success that a particular group of people has developed; it provides an individual with roles, telling Her/him who to be, how to act, what is correct to say and to whom.
The hybridization of African culture has affected the local and
cultural values both negatively and positively, especially because of the added alien technology, economy, and supremacy of colonization.
To compare the Indic or Buddhist ways with the African cosmology is to find some similarities in the meaning of visions about life and the environment. African cosmology has contributed to the origin of what has been described in Galtung’s book as Occident I and Occident II, a mixture of the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is widely agreed among secular historians that the first absolute monotheist in recorded history was an African – Pharaoh Akhenaton of Egypt of the 18th Dynasty (1379-1362 BCE).
If monotheism is considered as a concept, the most globalized religious doctrine, the most influential monotheistic religions have been Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Africa played a part in the origins of all these three religions. All of them started with Semitic peoples. Scholars do not know whether Semitic peoples originate in Africa or in Asia? Today, Semitic languages are on both sides of the Red Sea. Amharic and Tigrinya are among the “Black Semitic languages.
Is it possible that Moses was an Egyptian and therefore an African? Writers and thinkers like Sigmund Freud have argued that Moses, founding father of Judaism, was an Egyptian. Did Jesus Christ find asylum in ancient Egypt when King Herod threatened his family with death? The Gospel according to Matthew tells us so (Mathew Chapter 2, Verses 13 to 23). Did the first Arabicized Muslims find asylum in Ethiopia after the Hijra?
Western technology and economic structure were introduced with the help of a completed External religion (Christianity) that has contributed most to the alienation and the loss of identity and the division of Africans. This is because the subversion resulting from hybridisation has created a “murderous identity. Those external influences have affected African societies, creating and hybridising their culture and providing a new type of horrifying and hopeless cultural violence. Violence in the name of ethnicity or beliefs in Africa and the Third World is a direct result of Humiliation (See In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong, By Amin Maalouf, 1996). If we want to address the problem of ethnically or religiously motivated violence, we must work to counter the conditions under which people are humiliated or denigrated for being part of an ethnic, religious or national group.