After reasoning and further reflection on the topic of clan/tribal loyalties (discussed here http://www.africaspeaks.com/reasoning/index.php?topic=10638.0
), I have been searching for the definition of “African”.
What is African and who is African? I am not talking about the “we all came out of Africa” part of human history. I mean a more recent (political) concept of African. Also, why identify as African?
In some of the reasonings that I have been having, I was inspired to reflect on how far back I think the African identity starts. Growing up in “post”-colonial Uganda, the history of my people, Baganda, that was taught in school, started with the Arab invasion. Outside the classroom, our history went only as far back as my tribe* parting from the larger ethnic group, then under the Empire of Kitara.
*I have expressed my opinions on the use of this term. See embedded link.
I have come across so many pan-African authors telling the diaspora that their history did not start with slavery. I have also repeated this a number of times, yet I never really explored what it meant. Continental history does not start with tribal inventions. Additionally, it is not confined to present day Africa.
Reading more history (with integrity) is what led me to question who is and what makes something African. I, like many continentals, feel like we exclusively make regulations on that. However, the modern continental African is rather different from earlier Africans. I find that there are three types of modern continental Africans: the pro-western African, the Sankofa (return to the past) African and the one who stayed in the rural area or with a rural area mindset (not necessarily by choice). All have their interpretations of “African”, if they even accept such a concept.
The pro-western type is usually anti-African, and consequently wants to erase whatever might seem African, however illogical it may be. The Sankofa African usually has ideas of a past that can be questionable. Rarely does that past encompass migration across the continent and the globe. As a result, their concept of the past is usually a tribal or ethnic history which is far too limited; only a fraction of the hours since Africans started civilization. The rural African going about their life through tradition and culture does not do so consciously. This way, foreign and domestic practices get passed on as indigenous customs. That makes questioning their interpretation of African a valid position.
This brings me back to where I started; what is African and who is African?
Additionally, can natural progression or consequences of everyday life be called tradition or culture? An example of this is the preference of fat women in many ancient continental societies. Seeing that it was a result of enhancing the chances of gene propagation, and therefore survival, can it be seen as tradition or part of culture?