Aid to Africa: What An African Woman Thinks

One of the blogs I read “What An African Woman Thinks” has an interesting summary of several articles about the debate Aid to Africa:

On AppAfrica, Jonathan Gosier used a well-known tale to make a point. He suggested that people look at Africa like it’s the land from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz:

“It’s a strange land, in some far away place; far away from Auntie Em’s farm in Kansas. There are many oppressed people, people who need a brain (an metaphor for better education), people who need courage and confidence, and people who need a little love. There’s plenty of evil witches to slay in Africa (pick your poison, actually) and often plenty of ‘men behind the curtain’ (The Wizards) who dictate what the politics of the continent really are.”

Into this land, enter Dorothy, the well-meaning but naïve Dorothy. She lands in Oz, catalyzes what appear to be positive changes, and then flies away, back to whence she came. When she returns, it turns out it’s not holding together very well and her actions/collaborations have had unforeseen consequences. But, Dorothy doesn’t live in Oz. She whizzes in and out of there and it’s the Munchkins, the little people, the inhabitants of Oz whom she so wants to help, who have to deal with the consequences.

According to Gosier, there are “Too many Dorothys in Africa’s Oz’.”

His advice:

“Just remember, nothing happens in a vacuum and we should be careful of where we drop our houses.”

(read the rest)

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It’s all relative * Alles ist relativ

My last post is more than a week ago and I am trying since yesterday morning to produce a new post. I especially wanted to post one today because it is Tuesday and Tuesdays are Coffeegirl Blog Roll days. Yeah!

I already had the idea for the post yesterday but somehow I never got very far. Just a very short one, but even this seems to take for ever (why’s that I will write in another post). I find it funny that the Coffeegirl used the same subject line for today’s post that I had in mind.

Thanks to Ben and Eddie for bringing the following cartoon from the Daily Nation to my attention. I am sure lots of Coffeegirls regulars can relate to this, even if you don’t live in Africa:


Kartoon Übersetzung:

obere Hälfte: Krise, Krise! – Finanzchaos! – Hilfe! Krise!
untere Hälfte: …. Krise, welche Krise?

Mein letzer Eintrag ist mehr als eine Woche her. Seit gestern früh versuche ich einen Eintrag zu schreiben. Vor allem weil heute Dienstag ist, und Dienstag ist “Coffeegirl Blog Roll” Tag!
Die Idee für den Eintrag hatte ich schon gestern aber irgendwie kam ich nicht sehr weit. Nur ein kurzer Eintrag, aber selbst das scheint endlos viel Zeit zu brauchen (warum schreibe ich in einem anderen Eintrag). Schon witzig, dass Coffeegirl ihren heutigen Eintrag den gleichen Titel gab, dann ich mir vorgenommen hatte.

Vielen Dank an Ben und Eddie, die mich auf den Kartoon von Daily Nation aufmerksam gemacht haben. Ich denke, dass viele Coffeegirls Leser ihn gut verstehen können, selbst wenn du nicht in Afrika lebst.

Ancestor Worship?

It made me smile when Ben Byerly wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog entry about ancestor worship in England. I thought it was great to help us see our own culture from a different perspective. I liked it even better when he gave one of his African colleagues the opportunity to talk about his research into ancestor worship:

Did Africans really worship their ancestors? An African perspective (Part 1)

Guest post by Andy Alo

Many Africanists interested in African Traditional Religion have made the assertion that Africans worshipped (or are worshipping) their ancestors. However, field research that I conducted from 2002 to 2005, and completed in August 2008 in my own Lugbara ethnic group leads me to the conclusion that the worship of ancestors by Africans is a theological myth.

Simply Semantics

In the Lugbara language, the concept INZI conveys any attitude which externalizes consideration due to a person’s status. It means ‘respect’ when describing a person lacking respect for his superiors. Children’s respect for their parents (‘honor’) is expressed by the same concept INZI. Today, INZI is also applied to ‘worship’ or ‘adoration’ of God in Christian settings, but older native speakers of Lugbarati do not equate their previous ‘honor’ (INZI) towards ancestors with the present ‘worship” (INZI) of God. Ancestors were simply honored or given due respect.

If the Lugbara did not worship ancestors, why then did they give ancestors food in some sacred places

Why give Food to Ancestors?

Commensality [eating together] in Lugbara culture is the ultimate way of expressing communion and brotherhood. All the members of the community not only share their resources by helping each other, but they also eat together. Traditionally, the ancestors have been part of the community; they are “present” even though they were gone. The Lugbara people would say, “They are with us.”

Every member of the community (except children) knew very well that the ancestors did not literally eat the food offered to them. The servants or “priests” of the community took the food on behalf of the ancestors. Sharing the food symbolized the communion between the living members and the members of the community who had gone on to the other side of the world.

Thus, communion with the ancestors was not a form of “worship” or “adoration,” it simply remembered ancestors as part of the community. They were cherished and honored in the collective memory because they were metonymically representing the body of knowledge that guided the community in the different dimensions of community life: ethics, socio-economics, family matters, etc. Most references to ancestors occur in relation to the quest of truth, ethical decisions and other deliberations.

As you can see in the comments, this is not news to the anthropological world. But the rest of the world, especially the Christian world might not be aware that what had been labeled “ancestor worship” for a long time is not necessarily worship. We so easily judge other cultures using the wrong grid (looking through the lenses of our own culture) and at the same time justifying things that are very similar in our own culture.