One of the lasting effects of colonial domination on the African mind is the uncanny permanence of vicious inferiority complexes. Africans find it extremely difficult locating the supremacy of their identity because they have been compelled to believe that civility and success are the exclusive preserves of Western civilizations.
And thus, the African negates his intrinsic belonging to his immediate surroundings and aspires to internalize the cultural styles and mannerisms of former oppressors.
That many an African find their identity an abhorrent phenomenon – even though this is not true – speaks volumes of a collective will of resistance that continues to be obliterated by persistent foreign domination. Where it was expected that the epoch of liberation struggles and the attendant political independence would bestow on African peoples a newfound sense of cultural pride, the opposite has happened.
The colonial luxuries formerly belonging to colonial settlers were simply inherited by the new Black elite – an elite oozing “intellectual bankruptcy” that only cares about its material prospects of success while neglecting the welfare of the poor working class and rural peasantry.
Because the African finds it hard to associate with their inherent identity, the cut-throat race to be identified with the bourgeoisie and upper middle classes is akin to colonial domination.
The introduction of Western education, religiosity, and cultural mannerisms in Africa through colonialism is ostensibly the bane of African progress.
European education, which still reverberates across many school curricula at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels effectively blocks any chance to celebrate and harness the intrinsic progressive nature of African beliefs, customs, traditions, political, and socio-economic practices.
African forms of living that were prevalent in pre-colonial times, notwithstanding their contradictions, remain perpetually relegated to the bottom of societal hierarchies.
One has to contend with the fact that European laws, which have been regurgitated in African statutes and constitutions, will always take precedence over African customary laws and traditions – in what Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani termed the ‘bifurcated state’ or the ‘dual state’ where in rural areas we have the subject, and in cities we have the citizen. This phenomena can only be described through a clear understanding of how colonialism wiped out the African identity.
Culture is a huge part of a people’s identity – and so foreign domination, whether colonialism or neocolonialism, is hinged on destroying indigenous cultures and supplants them with the cultures of the foreign master.
Foreign imperialist domination is predicated on confronting the cultural realities of indigenous peoples, through assimilation, apartheid, or any other racist cultural formulation, in order to destroy the identity of indigenous peoples.
Racial constructs that portray African civilization as backward, irredeemable, paganistic, soulless, barbaric, and in urgent need of saving continuously affect the way Africans think of themselves. Such cultural domination is the reason why Africans across the globe find themselves with limited options of liberation.
It was Amilcar Cabral, the revolutionary leader who led Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde to independence via the PAIGC party, who understood that culture – in reclaiming true African identity – was indispensable in the discourse of national liberation.
He articulated how cultural resistance was a manifestation of the people’s ideological basis with regards to fighting foreign colonial domination, and how culture was the embodiment of a people’s whole identity – “the fruit of a people’s history and a determinant of history”.
Now, if a people’s entire history is disregarded as worthless, how can those people be proud of their identity? How can they muster the collective will to launch ineluctable offensives of cultural resistance? More fundamentally, without culture – identity – how can Africans free themselves from the yoke of (neo)colonial domination?
For Africans to reclaim their freedom wrested from them under the throes of colonial domination (crystallized by European education and religion), there is need for more cultural expression just as in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s that saw much of the continent attain political self-determination.
Cabral stated how cultural expression is the antecedent of liberation struggles, because culture is identity – total emancipation relates to the total reclamation of a people’s identity, and this includes taking pride in their history.
Colonialism made the African ashamed of their history – what Malcolm X bemoaned was the problem of Afro-Americans when they were labelled “Negro”. They were denied their history. They were denied their culture. They were denied their identity. Up to now.
The plight of Africans on the continent and Afro-Americans in the Western hemisphere exudes many commonalities, and should serves as the basis for more unity in the fight for identity.
It is thus important to conclude with the following words from Amilcar Cabral, “the foundation for national liberation rests in the inalienable right of every people to have their own history, whatever formulations may be adopted a t the level of international law.”
“A people who free themselves from foreign domination will be free culturally only if, without complexes and without underestimating the importance of positive accretions from the oppressor and other cultures, they return to the upward paths of their own culture, which is nourished by the living reality of its environment, and which negates both harmful influences and any kind of subjection to foreign culture.
Thus, it may be seen that if imperialist domination has the vital need to practice cultural oppression, national liberation is necessarily an act of ‘culture’.”