Mythical African Beliefs: A lesson with Wangari Maathai

So a lovely of mine said to me the other day…. you should read this book:

The Challenge for AFRICA by Wangari Maathai, and lent  me her copy.

Normally I don’t immediately read books that people think I should read, but I’m oh so glad I’m reading this one! Perhaps this is a pre-mature book review since I am yet to finish reading it, however I am finding so much of what she’s saying to be so relevant in my own life, my community, country and continent that it’s hard not to want to share.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read non-fiction work which was so relevant to me personally and world generally! I  would like to Thank Ma Wangari Maathai for writing this book. Assante, Siyabonga.

I’m going to share a bit of what has gotten me so excited. Right now I’m in the middle of Chapter  8 in the  14 Chapter book, where she asks: Culture The Missing Link? in the Challenge for Africa and this is how she opens:

“The importance of Africans’  cultural heritage  to their sense of who they are still isn’t  recognized  sufficiently by them, or others. Culture is the means by which a people expresses itself through language, traditional wisdom, politics, religion, architecture, music, tools, greetings, symbols, festival, ethics, values and collective  identity. Agriculture, systems of governance heritage and ecology are all dimensions and functions of culture  – for instance “agri-culture” is the way we deal with seeds, crops, harvesting, processing and eating.

( my thoughts: who owns agriculture in africa? our seeds? processing of food, what we eat?)

“Whether written or oral, the political, historical  and spiritual heritage of a community forms its cultural record, passed from one generation to another, with each generation building on the experience of the previous one. Such a collective self- understanding directs a community in times of peace and insecurity; it celebrates and soothes it during the passages of birth, adolescence, marriage, death and it enables it to survive during transitions from one generation of leaders to another”

So much one can say about that first page opening! She later on adds that it is perhaps  because of this missing link that “African Culture” can be exploited and used to oppress and enslave people in this way..

“… I realized then that it was not just the poor who had been culturally uprooted. Even  those with power and wealth (political leaders; my additions again oh lalala)  were not only unwilling but also unable to protect their environment from immediate destruction or preserve it for future generations.  Since they too, had been culturally disinherited, they did not seem to recognize that they had something to pass on. Although they were the people expected to protect their countries’ wealth, they perceived themselves as passersby, and so took whatever they could on their way through. This also explained to me why many Africans, both leaders and ordinary citizens facilitated the exploitation of their countries and Peoples.  Without culture they’d lost their knowledge of who they were and what their destiny should be.

“Of course.” She adds oh i love this woman ” this problem isn’t only an African one: people all over the world, rich and poor are shortsightedly stripping the Earth of her bounty in favour of acquiring wealth today, at the expense of the survival of future generations, whether theirs or other Peoples’  and she continues on by saying this…” and yet I feel the problem acutely as an African precisely because I am within a generation or two of those who had a culture that, albeit unknowingly , contributed to the conservation rather that the destruction of their environment”

Need I say more… so many links can be made here  with the real and pressure filled struggle for  economic freedom  here in my birth country South Africa, my home country Senegal, my love country Kenya  including each and  every one of the 50 or so Nations and countries in our Beloved continent.

Reading Wangari Mathaai is empowering… because when we know what our challenges are then we can face them. Africa’s political problems have been outlined debased and discussed at Nauseam – and have powered a thousand and one careers  around the world…

This is the first time I’m reading a book is shedding some new light into an old ‘tired” problem –  on what some of the more tangible, sustainable, enlightening , practical solutions could be to these challenging problems…… this book is affirming my thoughts and feelings  in so many beautiful ways I can’t wait learn and discover more of who I am!

I support Maathai’s Vision of HOPE.

Happy Weekend Everyone!


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