[From i,S.I.S to Bredrin en dadas in solidarity, in the words of  one of my life-long sista/wifeys, “……..i fucking love you….” wanted to send you a special of specialiest of asantes for your divine selves and zawadis…i’m so grateful that we were sent into each other’s lives and that these soul families of ours are so nourishing and positively transforming….dis love letter is reposted with overflowing love, respekt en humility from a life-long dada in India and @  http://www.rehanatejpar.com ]

Hello dear friends,

I hope you are all well and carving your paths the way you wish.  Since I last wrote here, there have been many experiences and moments of self-reflection which have impacted my views on life, learning and where I think I need to grow.  I will try to capture some of my insights and outsights here, bearing in mind that my ideas are constantly being reformed and re-thought, that I am on a journey of seeking and have by no means reached my destination.

I am in Udaipur, Rajasthan and Shikshantar is a beautiful and inspiring place. It’s an open learning community where people of all ages are living and learning in a more practical, collaborative and sustainable way.  Do-it-yourself, zero waste – everything is made into something else. Solar cookers out of old trunks, a bicycle powered washing machine from an old drum and a stationary bicycle, a table from an old door on two wheels, baskets, blinds, coasters made from newspaper, never will you need to go to IKEA again, I tell you.

Guided by Gandhian principles,swadeshi – meeting needs locally and using indigenous products to the land you find yourself, is really important to Shikshantar.  They are growing organic vegetables in the garden, and support local farmers to also grow organic.  They pay a lot of attention to the food they eat, and try to eat a diversity of local millets, which have nourished Indians for millennia but which arebeing eaten less and less with the pressures from industrial agriculture towards monoculture. So although there are thousands of different kinds of rice and grains, today you find only a few largely being used across India, threatening the survival of many.  Cooking and eating is a communal ritual at Shikshantar and a lot of care is put into the process. Everyday all veg, local food is cooked and eaten together – without oil! For India, this is hard to imagine, since oil is in everything. Instead they use alternatives like nuts, mustard seeds, onions, tomatoes.

A sign in the kitchen says “We consider healthy, organic food to be the best form of health insurance.” I couldn’t agree more.

They are really working to shift consciousness and re-imagine other ways of thinking, doing and being

which are outside of the known, dominant systems currently in place.

They understand participation in the dominant system as violent as they know that exploitation is involved in extracting resources, manufracturing products and transporting them. They try to find local, more gentle alternatives to meeting their needs and are bringing forward indigenous knowledges, creativity, and the lesser recognized powers of trust, love, collaboration and spirit to empower their movement.

There’s a revolving door of workshops happening in the space, not to mention knowledgeable people from diverse fields, so learning from doing and discussing is happening constantly.   Last week we had a 10 day film making workshop and people came from across India.  It’s called Swapathgami – the one who makes their own path.  The first project was a personal photography project which I think helped to situate folks in themselves first.  Next they chose groups and created a short film which we screened the last day.  There wasn’t huge emphasis placed on technical skills of editing and videography, but more on creating good stories.  This way you first unleash your creativity and then you will learn how to edit and what shots work more or less as you go.  What was really refreshing was that every other day there was a skills share where participants had the opportunity to share something they know and people picked up far more skills than just film making. I learned how to make a spoon from a coconut!

The film making workshop introduced me to many unschoolers. Shikshantar has a walkout/walkon network which supports people who walkout of school or from their jobs to pursue their own paths, versus the ready-made road. I have for a long time felt and known that the

system of schooling worldwide is insufficient to developing our good character, our practical, life skills, our creativity or knowledge of self which enable us to be in the world in a non-violent way.  What I am realizing now is that schooling is a violent process which views people, souls, as pieces of clay which can be molded into whatever society wants and needs.  And the school’s goal of manufacturing conforming workers to fit into neat boxes in society, tries to beat out the being’s being.

Where is there room for the being to identify what resonates within them, to self-guide their learning, to pursue their own passions and know themselves? There is very little freedom within the processes of schooling.  And what has schooling produced?  The society we live in.  What do you think of our society?  I see a lot of negative, unfortunately (though I am consciously trying to think more positively these days). So I won’t even go into the hierarchies over nature and between humans, the violence, exploitation, constructed needs, and suffering which is man-made and within and around us.  How can we not locate schooling, the most far-reaching socially constructing device in this modern world as a serious cause of society’s ills? How do its disciplining structures and rigidity block our creativity and confidence, producing fears, insecurities and competition?

How has the emphasis placed on literacy resulted in the loss of oral traditions and livelihoods of peoples and cultures worldwide?  How have the schooled and literate produced more harm in the world than the unschooled, illiterates? How can we think differently about the way we could allow our young and old to grow? Learning, after all is what enables humanity’s continual survival and evolution.

The past week I spent with a beautiful family in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. They have unschooled both their children and have chosen a path less traveled.  I observed and played with these children and was so impressed with how mature, confident, creative, and articulate they are.   They really are exceptional humans. They spend the day rotating between drawing, playing active games outside, making jewellery, paper-mache, playing chess…They chose what they want to do, and have learned a lot from observing their mother who is often making something.  These kids know what they want and what they don’t want because they are given space and freedom to choose.  They can articulate themselves well, are witty, smart…, 7 and 11 years…just exceptional. I have so much respect and admiration for their mother’s ability to not intervene in everything in her children’s lives, to let them figure out a problem instead of jumping to telling them what to do, how to do, or just doing it. She trusts them and believes that they are souls on their own unique path and that she must only be a guide to them self-actualizing.  I think about how much I want to create an open learning space where my children and other children could learn through

doing and discussing together.  And then I also think about how bossy and controlling I can be.  And how that comes from ego and insecurity – subconsciously or consciously wanting to have power over life – even my own – to dominate over uncertainty and natural flow to breed anticipated outcomes.  So that things happen the way I think they should – as if I may know better than the Divine what should happen, or how someone ought to be.  When just being who we really are is the best we can be.  Just like a flower, who just is, and doesn’t need to go to school or be told how to be a flower and smell and look good and provide pollen for bees – we also need to just be.  I have much to unlearn.

I’ve been thinking more about movement and theatre and how I have always had a passion to work with these mediums, either as a performer myself or as a facilitator with youth and children, but how I’ve somehow allowed “work” to get in the way of really diving into it or trusting my capabilities in these fields (because I have no piece of paper that says I’m an expert….ahh the diploma disease!).

So now that I have been gifted this time of rethinking I am realizing that I want to work with these mediums to facilitate re-imagining , understanding and transcending oppression, reconnection to our inner voices, cooperation vs. competition, mindfulness of what we think, speak and do, interconnectedness, living non-violently, trust in oneself and others….let me start there. And that I want to yes, be inspired and use the experiences and methods of others who have come before me, and also, more intentionally create my own ways of using these methods especially with children and youth from marginalized communities.   I hope to develop workshops and practice them here and then hopefully with you when I next see you again!!

And in the process I’m working on healing myself from my socialization and schooling which has taught me away from nature and my natural way, to distrust myself and my abilities, to be violent against myself and other beings by taking more than I need and having too many expectations of myself, from negative thinking, and control, disconnection from my body, my waste (and how it should be recycled)…and much more. Healing is happening on all levels. Being slow is helping. Picking vegetables from the garden, cooking and eating really good food is helping (I’m going to start organic farming soon!). Having more time to think, make, read, write, meditate, talk and walk is really helping me to come back to being.

I am blowing you all a kiss of peace, wholeness, health and love. You are all in my hearts.

Rehana

[i,S.I.S note: I give thanks for yesterday, today and tomorrow….   Give thanks to my kukhu and granpa,  give thanks for my family, give thanks for those who share their love with me, and all those who have been sent to me, [give thanks for powah! Of prayer! ] en for all the positive transformashun!….

bless the collective of Bredrin and dadas watering the seeds of, fundraising for and facilitating good (re)education with youth/peers en elders in Brazil, India, Kenya, Uganda and Turtle Island, (like) through Elimu Sanifu, Safe Spaces, QLGBT groups, Black Queer Resistance, Goldelox Productions, AND The People Project; with the support of global networks like Bredrin en Dadas in Solidarity &  Schools Without Borders………  bless all a dem en their families, and all those around us….]

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What is it?

A Photo Campaign in honor of David Kato’s life and legacy

(February 15,1964 – January 26, 2011)

Why should I care?

Because it is not going to get BETTER until all of our love can be celebrated openly

What can I do?

Join the Movement:To David, With Love” is about sending a message to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Afrika that we are watching, that we care and that we will not put up with their persecution any longer.

JOIN US: And make your sign or bring a sign with your personal message! We will photograph you and send your photo message to SMUG, for the QLGBT  community in Uganda.

 

Remember it is not going to get BETTER until all of our love can be celebrated openly

WHERE:

Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre

2 Carlton St, Suite 500 (near College Subway Station)

[Tdot]

WHEN:

Time: 6:00-8:30 pm

Tribute starts at 6:30PM sharp.

 

RSVP: humanwritesproject@rogers.com

Light refreshments

Sign-making materials will be provided

Bring your own markers, sparkles etc. to add that special touch….

A photo booth will be on site.

 

Sponsored by Black Queer Resistance ( BQR) & concerned LGBTQ citizens of Toronto.

[Hadithi hii ni ya the necessity of gratitude, prayer and slowing down to speed up…..]

I give thanks for yesterday, today and tomorrow, I give thanks for all the lessons and positive transformashun

I pray that the blessings of yesterday carry into tomorrow…

Bless my family, friends, comrades.

Bless all those who share their love with, and pray for me.

(Eshu, carry my prayers……)

I pray for health and prosperity, not only for myself but for others….

I pray for long life and happiness, not only for myself but for others…

Ifa, bless me with marriage and children….


Bless the motherless and fatherless, bless those sick in hospital,

Bless the homeless…..

Bless our freedom fighters,

Bless the ancestors of dis’ land, in the diaspora of righteousness, Bless the ancestors on the Afrikan shores

Bless all those all who spread love and positivity in abundance

Bless our youth, coming into their right destinies, and our elders

 

Ifa, I ask you to forgive my sins, those that I do know, and don’t know about, and those I am yet to commit,

I pray for the healing of mama dunia…..

 

I give thanks to the orishas, I give thanks to the orishas, I give thanks to the orishas

I give thanks to the ancestors, I give thanks to the ancestors, I give thanks to the ancestors,

 

I pray for continued guidance and protection, not only for myself but for others,

I pray for knowledge and wisdom, not only for myself but for others….

( so much tings to say, I pray for clarity, patience……)

 

Ifa, I pray to be humble, I pray to be loving, I pray to be strong….

Ase, Ase, ase…..

I’m sharing what connects me to others, stories that are close(st) to home –  the realities not only of bredrin and dadas on the continent, en in the diaspora, but all our living relatives…sharing moments of silence, deep breaths, cleansing tears, communion with loved ones and prayers for forgiveness for  those who saw David Kato as an enemy….forgive us (Great) Mother, for those sins we know and don’t know about, and those we are yet to commit…bless wale wanaospread upendo in abundance….ase….

 

From Gay Uganda – http://gayuganda.blogspot.com/2011/01/kato-david-kisule.html

I am in shock.

Literal shock. Just heard that one of our members, a prominent gay activist, an out and out man, who has been at the forefront of the gay rights movement in Uganda, David Kato Kisule was murdered. Dead, a blunt instrument to the skull.

Dead. In Lugazi Hospital at the moment.

What to do? Shock. Shock, shock.

So, I write, to try and express that which I feel. But, what can words express?

Kato. A disturbed friend. One of our very special brand of radical activists. He used to say that he was one of the very ‘out’ if not the first out gay man in Uganda.

And, yes, he was one of the people whose photo appeared in the Rolling Stone, one of the three plaintiffs who sued, and won the court case.

Yes, I am paranoid. I wonder whether it had any bearing. Whether that had bearing….!

Impossible, most likely, to prove cause and effect. We just don’t know. And, we are most likely to strike out in our grief at the nearest enemy.

But, is it a coincidence?

Gosh.

——-

Shock indeed.

Just settled down. Apart from trying to inform lots of other people who have already received the news. I have to settle down, get some rest, and then prepare for work tomorrow. Cannot just bounce off just like that.

But, I need to settle down. The shock, the realisation of all the things we fear, and brush off, and hope never ever to face. But, one of our own is gone.

Gone in a violent way. Gone, for reasons that I am as yet to know, or figure out… Oh gosh.

—-

More settled now, but no less shocked. That is what it does to you, a sudden death like this.

David was apparently killed in his home, by a person or persons unknown. Yes, there is a suspect, or suspects. Problem with investigations in Uganda is the fact that what is not verified will always remain in the realms of conjecture.

What remains is that we have lost one of our most prominent firebrands. Indeed, he was on the front page of the Rolling Stone with Bishop Ssenyonjo. Remember, the one with the caption to ‘Hang Them’.

And yes, he was one of the three who sued the Rolling Pebble, and won.

 

[I,s.i.s note: and for those us still living…..]

A LITANY FOR SURVIVAL

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
futures
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive

– Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn

Ase, Ase, Ase…….


K is for….[revised excerpts from The Woman’s Encyclop(a)edia of Myths and Secrets]

The Shrine of the sacred stone in Mecca, dedicated to the pre-islamic Goddess Manat, Al-Lat (Allah), en Al-Uzza, the ‘Old Womban’ worshipped by Mohammed’s tribesfolk the Koreshites.

The stone was also called Kubaba, Kuba or Kube (not so randomly connected to Kobe), and has been linked with the name of Cybele (Kybela), the Great Mother of the God/desse/s.

The stone bear the emblem of the yoni, like the Black Stone worshipped by votaries of Artemis.

Now, through the syncretism of afreekan and arabic religions, it is regarded as the holy center of Islam, and it’s feminine symbol has been submerged within palimpsests of patriarchal histories, though priest/esse/s of the Kaaba are still known as Sons and Daughters of the Old Woman.

 

[I,S.I.S prayer:

I give thanks for yesterday, today and tomorrow…..

give thanks for all the love and resources shared not only here in

[dis’ (almost) world wide matrix of the] internet, but in ‘real’ time,

with rebuilding sustainable villages in diverse communities and spaces.

Bless my family, friends, and enemies, and I pray not to have enemies… Bless all our living relatives…

I give thanks for the positive resistance, transformation, and renewal in 2010, and the exciting (not-so) new possibilities of 2011…

Nashukuru Mama Afreeka na dunia, nashukuru orisha…..

[I give thanks for the guidance of our ancestors, give thanks to the orishas… ]

Bless the motherless and fatherless, bless those sick in hospital, Bless those who spread positivity in abundance… Bless our youth, elders, en those who are yet to come, and I pray that we continue to come into our right destinies. I pray for forgiveness…for health, long life, happiness and prosperity not only for myself, but others….. Bless dis earth o…..ase, ase……. ]

As years of (pan) Afreekan renaissance go, werd on the ground, and the love spreading in abundance are clear signs that big tings’ been going on in the past years, en the fiya dis time is in our quest to share resources with folks we love, respekt and admire so, for our cherished collectives….these are the contexts and storyboards of the q_t werd….

(Is) Kenya’s new port the end of lamu’s cultural heritage? http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/69659

Indigenus encounters diaspora hadithi

Pan-afrikan postcards

Of living legends

Na nia yetu

 [Siku ya jumapili, katika hadithi ya kwanzaa, ilikuwa ya ‘umoja’, na kila siku inafaa tujichagulie ukweli wa desturi na mila yetu, habari ya leo ni ujima. Hadithi ya the q_t werd yanaweza kuelezwa na haya nguzo saba ya kwanzaa, kwa hivyo…..in the spirit of bredrin en dadas in solidarity,

we (as in the colour spill productions team behind the doc in the works on dis’ blog en others….. ) are cooking, writing, en sharing in grassroots/gift networks,  the next week through to the last moon of the year of the tiger, in dedication to kwanzaa  en (mo’ of) our Afrikan stories,…]

Siku ya pili ilikuwa Kujichagulia (koo-jee-cha-goo-LEE-ah)         Self Determination

“To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.”

The second Principle of the Nguzo Saba is self-determination. This too expresses itself as both commitment and practice. It demands that we as an African people define, defend and develop ourselves instead of allowing or encouraging others to do this. It requires that we recover lost memory and once again shape our world in our own image and interest. And it is a call to recover and speak our own special truth to the world and raise images above the earth that reflect our capacity for human greatness and progress.

The first act of a free people is to shape its world in its own image and interest. And it is a statement about their conception of self and their commitment to self-determination. [Frantz] Fanon has said each person must ask him or herself three basic questions:

       1.  Who am I?

http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/59505


       2.  Am I really who I say I am?

http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/59500

[….between the lines are many mo’ of our stories of struggle for pan-Afrikan liberation, of  how folks been harvesting indigenus en diasporic resources across space and time ]

To mark the attained ‘pseudo’ independence on the eve of 9th December 1961, Mwenge wa Uhuru (Freedom/Uhuru Torch) was placed on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro by Alexander Nyirenda as a symbol of freedom. Here, I wish to argue that, the ritual of placing the torch and the annual Uhuru Torch race (Mbio za Mwenge wa Uhuru) represent Nyerere’s admiration of the performing arts and its role in shaping people’s consciousness towards a common goal.

The establishment of the Ministry of Culture and Youth could be traced to 1962 President’s Inaugural Address. In this speech, Nyerere outlined the roles of the ministry, including facilitating the process of enabling Tanzanians to regain their cultural pride (Nyerere, 1966, p. 187). In the same speech to the parliament, Nyerere indicated his concern on how colonialism dehumanised Afrikan arts. His speech became the blueprint of Tanzania’s ‘cultural policy’ and led to various art reformations. This included the ‘institutionalization’ of National Art Groups (NAGs).

The aim of institutionalizing NAGs was to fulfill Nyerere’s quest for the renaissance of Afrikan-ness in the arts and culture (Bakari and Materego, 2008).

The institutionalized groups included the National Ngoma Troupe (1963), National Acrobatic Group (1969) and National Drama Group (1972). These groups were designed to act as a model of performing arts in Tanzania.

For example, the National Ngoma Troupe had 30 artists recruited from the various regions in Tanzania, comprising of both musicians and dancers (Lange, 2002, p. 55). It should be noted that the process of building a national culture through theatre groups dates back to the birth of TANU in 1954 when Hiari ya Moyo under Suleiman Mwinamila participated effectively in creating a national theatre (Semzaba, 1983).

From the beginning of TANU formation, decolonization movement started and Hiari ya Moyo was forced to put forward nationalism and liberation concepts that is, to fight against colonialism and (cultural) imperialism.

Amka Msilale (Wake up, don’t sleep) was their first recorded performance in 1954.

Amka Msilale (Wake up don’t sleep)
Msiwe wajinga mu Tanganyika (Don’t be stupid, you are in Tanganyika [territory])
Tanganyika ni mali yetu (Tanganyika is our property/wealth)
Tukidai tutapewa (If we demand it[back], we’ll be given)

 

(Semzaba, 1983, p. 22)

The multiplication of NAGs trickled down to the village levels. The process did not only end with the establishment, but also facilitation of their existence which were meant to be the foundation of the national artistic pride. These groups performed in political rallies, state banquets and meetings at all levels. Members of the NAGs were state employees. Since the state subsidized most of the costs and paid for their monthly salaries, the groups were not allowed to charge or receive extra payment for their performances. The focus was on the promotion of national unity and on echoing state’s Ujamaa policies. One of the positive outcomes of such initiatives was to make theatre an active activity at various levels of the society (Mlama, 1985, p.103).

The union ‘ritual’ between Tanganyika and Zanzibar of 26th April 1964 pictured above, can be referred to as another artistic performance.

Nyerere mixed the soil of the two countries in addition to the common approach of signing the treaty that is, the exchange of the Articles of Union.

The costumes and the process of mixing the soil symbolised how Nyerere valued and treasured arts and his belief on the content of traditional theatre.

Mwalimu, as Nyerere commonly known, also produced various pieces of theatre works. It should be noted that, in his mission to decolonize theatre, Mwalimu at various times, translated the so-called famous Shakespeare plays in Kiswahili. According to Rubin and Diakante (2001, p. 301) the translated plays were Julius Caesar as ‘Julius Kaizari’ (1968), Macbeth as ‘Makbeth’ (1968) and The Merchant of Venice as ‘Mabepari wa Venisi’ (1969).

One of the explanations of why Nyerere translated those works could be that by unfolding what was within the ‘famous’ English based theatre – The Shakespeare’s – he could add value to people’s theatre and ‘regain their pride’. He believed that Kiswahili readers could better understand the content and context of the Shakespeare’s plays and have an opportunity to compare African/Tanzanian and foreign/western theatre in the process of regaining their pride. Secondly, for Mwalimu, it was important to promote Kiswahili as the language of theatre (Rubin and Diakante, 2001, p. 302). Thirdly, perhaps it was a way of proving to the world that what the majority were glorifying as holy literature, a simple person – a proletarian (as he preferred to call himself) could read, understand and even translate. In fact in his 1962 speech to the parliament, Nyerere lamented how the European education dwelled more on teaching people how to dance fox trot, waltz and rock ‘n’ roll. He asserted that this made educated people unable to dance traditional dances such as gombe sugu, the mangala, kiduo or lele mama whereby some have not even heard about them (Nyerere 1966, p. 187).

Looking at how Mwalimu translated the works, one has to read between the lines so as to get a sense of his inner motive. For example the The Merchant of Venice could literally be translated as Mfanyabiashara (or Wafanyabiashara in plural) wa Venice. The word mabepari (bepari in singular) means capitalist(s). Perhaps after reading the book, he realized that the merchant behaviours could not be differentiated from those of the capitalists. In addition, it might be that he wanted to concisely deliver the point home since, being a self-proclaimed African socialist (Mjamaa), he was anti-capitalist. As noted, he purposely used the plural form of the title as opposed to its singular ‘merchant’. It can also been observed that the years when he translated the works that is, between 1967 and 1969 reflects the promotion of the then dominant ideology – Ujamaa. Perhaps he wanted to emphasise it to people. All these translations and initiatives indicated, arguably, his stance against imperialism and its various manifestations. He saw imperialism as the cause of misconceived African history and arts.

Mwalimu was also able to link his Ujamaa philosophy with fine arts. The famous Makonde sculpture known as Dimoongo by Robert Yakobo Sangwani was renamed as Ujamaa in the 1960s after The Arusha Declaration of 1967. The sculpture Dimoongo demonstrated a Makonde strength or power. Looking at the way the sculptor had been able to construct one person at the bottom supporting others and how those who have been supported support themselves as group, translated itself to Mwalimu’s idea of Ujamaa (Erick, 2009). It is said that it was Mwalimu who renamed it to Ujamaa after seeing its structure.

The Tanzanian Coat of Arms as one of the national symbols represents the artistic creativity contained in other symbols such as the flag, national anthem and the Uhuru Torch. It is moulded to embrace the warrior’s shield in the midst of elephant tusks mounted on top of Mount Kilimanjaro. One can also see the man on the left and the woman on the right, standing in balanced postures on the sides of the warrior’s shield with cloves and cotton on their feet respectively. The warrior’s shield has the Uhuru Torch, Tanzanian flag, crossed axe and hoe, spear and water sign. All these symbolises the beneath motto of Uhuru na Umoja (Freedom and Unity) – this is a title of Nyerere’s (1966) book. It is important to notice the demonstrated warrior’s shield which depicts various historical battles for freedom. The man and woman reflect the respect for human equality regardless of gender, colour or any other social aspect.

As pointed out earlier, the establishment of the Ministry of Culture was the earliest post-independence initiative to fight against cultural imperialism. According to Ngugi:

Cultural imperialism in the era of neo colonialism can be a dangerous cancer because it can take new, subtle forms. It can hide under cloaks of militant nationalism, calls for dead authenticity, performances of cultural symbolism, and even under native racist self-assertive banners that are often substitute for national self criticism and collective pride in the culture and history of resistance (1997, p. 18).

As Ngugi explained, it is evidently that Nyerere knew the consequences and magnitude of cultural imperialism and he took measures to overcome it. He believed that a people’s language was an important factor in this struggle. He devised subtle modalities to absorb imperialist influences in theatre. The immediate approach was to provide artists with the theme of their performances i.e. Ujamaa. Since artists looked at Nyerere as a national and international role model, they could easily transform his actions and decisions into theatrical works. The philosophical speeches and arguments which Nyerere preferred to deliver probably were among the ones which influenced the artists.

The other theatrical landmark was the birth of Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in 1977. This was the merger of TANU and Afro Shiraz Party (ASP). After the birth of CCM, Hiari ya Moyo made a composition titled Leo Sio Sherehe Tunaanza Chama (Today is not a ceremony, we are inaugurating a party).

Kufa kwa TANU na Afro (The death of TANU and Afro [ASP])
Sio kufikiwa kwa Ujamaa kamili (Is not the attainment of Ujamaa)
Wametimiza yao waliyoyaweza (They have fulfilled what they could)
CCM lake ni kuendeleza (CCM has the responsibility to take over)
Kwenye Ujamaa kutufikisha (So as to reach Ujamaa)
(Semzaba, 1983, p. 26)

This was the time when we were told chama kimeshika hatamu – party supremacy. Therefore even artistic works especially songs and performances by the NAGs were geared towards party supremacy and the promotion of Ujamaa. Mlama adds, “the ideological intention behind the promotion of these groups [NAGs] resulted to the development of a theatre for propaganda which … is an attempt to domesticate the theatre to serve interest of the ruling ideology” (1991, p. 103).

Despite all these efforts by Nyerere, there was no defined socialist cultural policy (Mlama , 1985). The 1962 and subsequent speeches were taken as part of the art/cultural policy. The so-called policy was based on the state officials’ statements. It thus was taken for granted that the growth of culture would go hand in hand with the success of Ujamaa:

This argument ignores the fact that the economic base and the cultural superstructure determine and influence each other and cannot therefore be separated. It also ignores the fact that while the country is waiting for socialist culture to come it is under constant exposure to the influences of capitalist and imperialist culture which is part and parcel of the imperialist struggle against socialism. There is a tendency to think that the war against imperialism is only an economic one, and a failure to realise that imperialism is fighting the war against socialism both economically and culturally (Mlama, 1985, p. 5).

Unfortunately, the ministry or department which was designed for arts and culture shunted in several places since 1962. By 1995, the ministry or its culture component has been shifted in about 11 ministries and offices (Askew, 2002, p. 186). This movement has been taken to mean lack of seriousness about matters which have to do with culture especially arts (Askew, 2002; Lange, 2002; Lihamba, 1985b; Mlama, 1985). Instead of working on a clear cultural policy which could comply with Ujamaa, the responsible ministry for culture was busy sending groups to perform in party-state meetings and functions. This is partly due to the influence of Ujamaa ideology and party supremacy. Giving several examples Mlama confirmed that this puppet attitude has resulted into the art of parroting (Mlama, 1985, p. 14).

To protect the party supremacy, Radio Tanzania – Dar es Salaam (RTD) and the National Music Council (BAMUTA) ended up in direct censorship which was done by cultural officers at all levels (Mlama, 1985, pp. 14-15). Mlama noted that “such control betrays a misguided view of the role of art in ideology. Art can be critical and yet contribute positively to ideological development. Parrot art does not contribute to the socialist construction because it does not analyse problems and point out solution” (1985, p. 15).

Although Mwalimu was an artist, fond of art and a good teacher, he was not lucky enough to nurture his fellow politicians especially in his party to appreciate art out of political propaganda. Nyerere speeches were misinterpreted to mean sending a group of ngoma to the airport or to the national stadium, dancing on the harsh sun, negotiating to show themselves to the guests of ‘honour’ while security officers are busy strangling their movements and tempering with their emotions even before they start to perform. It was on the same time of implementing Nyerere’s ideas when political slogans like kazi si lele mama (‘work is not a dance of lele mama’) which directly abuse arts came up (Mlama, 1985 p.17).

Mwalimu’s love for the art was not spared by imperialism either. The proposition to re-structure the economy through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank’s Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) necessitated the downsizing of state expenditures. Apart from other artistic and political challenges of the NAGs, the government could no longer subsidise them by the end of the 1970s. The focus was to repay debts through the withdrawal of budget allocation to social services such as theatre and ‘ploughing’ towards development, modernity and universalism i.e. complying with neoliberal policies.

Thus it is important to emphasize that the project to build national culture through theatre was dismantled when the state had to downsize its expenditures according to IMF and World Bank neoliberal conditions.

“Throughout the country, government-owned institutions were either scrapped, had to curtail their activities or were later privatised. Cultural troupes owned by such organisations ceased to function” (Lihamba, 2004, p. 243). At the end, “liberalisation policies pursued from the early 1980s made theatre a commodity for sale like any other” (Rubin and Diakante, 2001, p. 304).

The state dissolved NAGs and instead, formed a National Art institute in 1980. This institute was situated in Ilala Sharif-Shamba in Dar es Salaam, in the current National Art Council (BASATA) premises. In 1981, the institute was transformed and shifted to Bagamoyo and became Bagamoyo College of Arts (BCA) and currently it is known as the Institute of Arts and Culture, Bagamoyo or TaSUBa (Makoye, 1998, p. 95).

To ensure sustainability of art, Nyerere created opportunities for artists to produce and survive on their own. Despite the fact that there was no clear policy, in his speeches which were mostly translated as policy directives one could sense his idea, creativity and passion for art. He established Nyumba ya Sanaa in 1974, positioning it in the middle of Dar es Salaam. He believed that if it could be efficiently utilized, it would reduce the artists’ begging syndrome to donors and the state, which enslaves them. It is surprising to note that even Nyumba ya Sanaa has been one of the places the state want to privatise while at the same time struggling to secure funds to build other places of the same nature in Bagamoyo (Naluyaga, 2009).

The ‘Zanzibar Declaration’ of 1991, which replaced the Arusha Declaration (1967), could be regarded as the ‘marketisation of arts’ like any other product (Rubin and Diakante, 2001). Artists, who are supposed to compete in this market, were not well equipped to cope with the changes in terms of competition and producing quality works. Art education could be one of the state’s supports to assist them. The 1997 Cultural Policy’s clauses 2.1.2 (p. 4) and 6.2.5 (p. 19) stated the necessity of introducing arts (music, fine art, sculpture and the performing arts) as examinable subjects in both primary and secondary schools. It was not until 2008, when the government implemented such provision.

Although the outcomes are yet to be realised, a number of challenges could be identified. Students are being oriented in the English language which prevents them from understanding arts as a simulacrum of their culture which is mainly reflected in the Kiswahili language. Insufficient teachers, teaching and learning materials are some of the other challenges (Mmasy, 2009). One might question what was the responsible ministry getting prepared for? (…)

[ http://zanzibardaima.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/union-of-tanganyika-and-zanzibar-african-initiative-or-cold-war-rivalry/ ]


      

 3.  Am I all that I ought to be?

These are questions of history and culture, not simply queries or questions of personal identity. More profoundly, they are questions of personal identity. More profoundly, they are questions of collective identity, based and borne out in historical and cultural practice. And the essential quality of that practice must be the quality of self-determination.

“To answer the question of “Who am I?” correctly, then, is to know and live one’s history and to practice one’s culture.”

“To answer the question of “Am I really who I am?” is to have and employ a cultural criteria of authenticity, i.e., criteria of what is real and unreal, what is appearance and essence, what is culturally-rooted and foreign.”

“And to answer the question of “Am I all I ought to be?” is to self-consciously possess and use ethical and cultural standards which measure men, women and children in terms of the quality of their thought and practice in the context of who they are and must become – in both an African and human sense.”

Practice Kujichagulia every day!

SOURCE: “The African American Holiday of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family Community & Culture”
by Maulana Karenga, University of Sankore Press, Los Angeles, California, 1988, ISBN 0-943412-09-9

Na siku ya umoja, ilisherehekewa, mara ya kwanza….On this day, in 1966, Dr. Maulana Karenga began the first observance of Kwanzaa.

 There are seven days in the Kwanzaa Festival. Each embodies a different principle.

The first day of Kwanzaa is called UMOJA which means UNITY. 

[hadithi kama] Rosa Parks, with her courageous defiance of segregation on a bus in Alabama  in 1955, ignited a comprehensive, UNIFIED movement of African Americans in Montgomery, Alabama that spread across the country consuming the vicious vestiges of legalized segregation that kept much of America in virtual chains. For 13 months, the Black citizens of Montgomery,  completely abandoned the bus system and walked, and drove each other, back and forth to work day after day after day, until the “authorities” capitulated.

 (…..)Also, during the Civil War, Sojourner Truth, after escaping from bondage on the Underground Railroad, returned to the South, over a dozen times, to lead bands of her fellow African Americans to safety, without thought of her own safety and well-being.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s many of thousands of Cuban soldiers fought, and many died, in SOLIDARITY with the liberation struggles of Africans in Mozambique, Angola and Namibia. Today, as then, thousands of medical personnel and technicians are hard at work helping to better the lives of the people in the Motherland.

Michael Manley, as prime minister of Jamaica, never hesitated to make COMMON  CAUSE with the peoples of Cuba, and oppressed peoples around the world, no matter which  powerful nations objected to his actions.

Kwame Nkrumah, one of the foremost proponents of Pan Africanism, did likewise, putting into actual effect the doctrines of Marcus Garvey who believed that Afrikan peoples are, ultimately, one nation (……)

Source [ http://theafrocentricexperience.com ]

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa are called the Nguzo Saba, which represent the living practices which helped and inspired our Afrikan ancestors to endure oppression…..

 

[between the lines, are many mo’ of our stories spilling betwixt communities of practice in villages en di’ global urban pan-afrikan matrix, hadithi kama……

 

77. On bling culture, one seventeenth century visitor to southern African empire of Monomotapa, that ruled over this vast region, wrote that: “The people dress in various ways: at court of the Kings their grandees wear cloths of rich silk, damask, satin, gold and silk cloth; these are three widths of satin, each width four covados [2.64m], each sewn to the next, sometimes with gold lace in between, trimmed on two sides, like a carpet, with a gold and silk fringe, sewn in place with a two fingers’ wide ribbon, woven with gold roses on silk.”

78. Southern Africans mined gold on an epic scale. One modern writer tells us that: “The estimated amount of gold ore mined from the entire region by the ancients was staggering, exceeding 43 million tons. The ore yielded nearly 700 tons of pure gold which today would be valued at over $­­­­­­7.5 billion.”

79. Apparently the Monomotapan royal palace at Mount Fura had chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. An eighteenth century geography book provided the following data: “The inside consists of a great variety of sumptuous apartments, spacious and lofty halls, all adorned with a magnificent cotton tapestry, the manufacture of the country. The floors, cielings [sic], beams and rafters are all either gilt or plated with gold curiously wrought, as are also the chairs of state, tables, benches &c. The candle-sticks and branches are made of ivory inlaid with gold, and hang from the cieling by chains of the same metal, or of silver gilt.”

80. Monomotapa had a social welfare system. Antonio Bocarro, a Portuguese contemporary, informs us that the Emperor: “shows great charity to the blind and maimed, for these are called the king’s poor, and have land and revenues for their subsistence, and when they wish to pass through the kingdoms, wherever they come food and drinks are given to them at the public cost as long as they remain there, and when they leave that place to go to another they are provided with what is necessary for their journey, and a guide, and some one to carry their wallet to the next village. In every place where they come there is the same obligation.”

81. Many southern Africans have indigenous and pre-colonial words for ‘gun’. Scholars have generally been reluctant to investigate or explain this fact.

82. Evidence discovered in 1978 showed that East Africans were making steel for more than 1,500 years: “Assistant Professor of Anthropology Peter Schmidt and Professor of Engineering Donald H. Avery have found as long as 2,000 years ago Africans living on the western shores of Lake Victoria had produced carbon steel in preheated forced draft furnaces, a method that was technologically more sophisticated than any developed in Europe until the mid-nineteenth century.”

83. Ruins of a 300 BC astronomical observatory was found at Namoratunga in Kenya. Afrikans were mapping the movements of stars such as Triangulum, Aldebaran, Bellatrix, Central Orion, etcetera, as well as the moon, in order to create a lunar calendar of 354 days.

Source: http://www.whenweruled.com/articles.php?lng=en&pg=40 ]

THE FOCUS OF KWANZAA

Annual Kwanzaa observances serve to reinforce manifesting the principles of Kwanzaa, as a way of life, on a daily basis – by reflecting on the past, in order to understand the present and plan for the future. 

Kwanzaa centers around seven (7) principles, with particular emphasis on the social, political, economic and cultural needs of Black people

[ na hadithi kama…

84. Autopsies and caesarean operations were routinely and effectively carried out by surgeons in pre-colonial Uganda. The surgeons routinely used antiseptics, anaesthetics and cautery iron. Commenting on a Ugandan caesarean operation that appeared in the Edinburgh Medical Journal in 1884, one author wrote: “The whole conduct of the operation . . . suggests a skilled long-practiced surgical team at work conducting a well-tried and familiar operation with smooth efficiency.”

85. Sudan in the mediaeval period had churches, cathedrals, monasteries and castles. Their ruins still exist today.

86. The mediaeval Nubian Kingdoms kept archives. From the site of Qasr Ibrim legal texts, documents and correspondence were discovered. An archaeologist informs us that: “On the site are preserved thousands of documents in Meroitic, Latin, Greek, Coptic, Old Nubian, Arabic and Turkish.”

87. Glass windows existed in mediaeval Sudan. Archaeologists found evidence of window glass at the Sudanese cities of Old Dongola and Hambukol.

88. Bling culture existed in the mediaeval Sudan. Archaeologists found an individual buried at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in the city of Old Dongola. He was clad in an extremely elaborate garb consisting of costly textiles of various fabrics including gold thread. At the city of Soba East, there were individuals buried in fine clothing, including items with golden thread.

89. Style and fashion existed in mediaeval Sudan. A dignitary at Jebel Adda in the late thirteenth century AD was interned with a long coat of red and yellow patterned damask folded over his body. Underneath, he wore plain cotton trousers of long and baggy cut. A pair of red leather slippers with turned up toes lay at the foot of the coffin. The body was wrapped in enormous pieces of gold brocaded striped silk.

90. Sudan in the ninth century AD had housing complexes with bath rooms and piped water. An archaeologist wrote that Old Dongola, the capital of Makuria, had: “a[n] . . . eighth to . . . ninth century housing complex. The houses discovered here differ in their hitherto unencountered spatial layout as well as their functional programme (water supply installation, bathroom with heating system) and interiors decorated with murals.” (…..)]

THE SYMBOLS OF KWANZAA

  1. MAZAO  =  THE CROPS
    These are symbolic of Afrikan harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor.
    ..
  2. MKEKA  =  KWANZAA MA(A)T
    This is symbolic of our tradition and history and therefore, the foundation on which we build.
    ..
  3. KINARA  =  KWANZAA CANDLE HOLDER
    This is symbolic of our roots, our parent people — continental Afrikans.
    ..
  4. MAHINDI   =  CORN
    This is symbolic of our children and our future which they embody.
    ..
  5. MISHUMAA SABA  =  KWANZAA CANDLES
    These are symbolic of the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, the matrix and minimum set of values which Afrikan people are urged to live by in order to rescue and reconstruct their lives in their own image and according to their own needs.
    ..
  1. KIKOMBE CHA UMOJA  =  UNITY CUP
    This is symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible.
    .. [91. In 619 AD, the Nubians sent a gift of a giraffe to the Persians.]

 

  1. ZAWADI  =  KWANZAA GIFTS
    These are symbolic of the labor and love of parents and the commitments made and kept by the children.

Gifts are given mainly to children, but must always include a book and a heritage symbol. The book is to emphasize the Afrikan value and tradition of learning stressed since ancient Nubia, and the heritage symbol to reaffirm and reinforce the Afrikan commitment to tradition and history.

[source: http://www.endarkenment.com/kwanzaa/index.html  

Context: reclaiming and harvesting the powah! Of pan-afrikan rituals in communities of practice]

 

Na leo (pia) ni habari ya ujima,

ase, ase…….