This might probably the hardest entry I have had to do this #WinterABC2022 but I was determined to attempt it. I did a little research on African spirituality and I came across this definition from a paper by Johannes J. Knoetze. Spirituality is not always religious but is always concerned with the quest for meaning of life. When such a quest involves an explicit reference to God or the Divine, then that spirituality is religious (Amanze 2011 ; Wellman, Perkins & Wellman 2009:1): ‘Spirituality’ then is not defined by an explicit set of religious beliefs or practices. On the contrary, spirituality does not need religion at all to define itself … Spirituality, therefore, is more about how people identify themselves, how they view the world, interact with others, and make decisions.
I found this passage quite enlightening as it gave a definition of spirituality without religion, growing up in the church, I have always associated spirituality with religion. Even though I knew they were probably not the same thing, I had never done any research on the issue until now. I thought then that I would write about how our African communal identity is African spirituality. At the core of what it means to be African has always been a sense of community. Africans are a people who do things together for better or worse, through the good and bad. As an example, both African weddings and funerals are incomplete without community. With the changing times and society, a more individualistic identity has emerged to the detriment of African society, one might argue. I would like to take a different angle.
We are a people who value our ancestors, respect our elders and cherish our families and friends. Religion is a big part of African identity and informs how we live our lives. For the religious, I believe it is important for one to examine their religion for themselves and understand it not from the view of their religious leader or parent for instance. From a Christian context, ancestral worship and value is something that is viewed with disdain even though according to research the Bible itself has elements of ancestral worship and value. I think it is important to explore religious communities and find one that you are comfortable with as a person and aligns with your values.
We respect our elders even though we might face abuse from them and do the same with our families. As financial independence become commonplace, people have found means to escape abusive households, families, marriages, friendships and societies at large. One would rather be alone or seek a community that is accepting and loving when they stand to benefit more from getting the love and assurance they need from their family and community. An argument can be made for the rise in individualism being due to the negative environment one is born in. There is nothing wrong with seeking new communities. As a matter of fact, it is encouraged, it is a form of African spirituality.
Perhaps it is time to seek the right community in our African spirituality journey, a community that embraces one flaws and all, a community that gives one a chance to publicly express how they feel be it their joy, success, sadness or depression. It is also time to seek healing, a cultural evaluation of how some of these customs and behaviours are not good for the wellbeing of society. We practice African spirituality everyday even though we might not realize it and have probably lost the meaning of it. As I alluded in my piece about the importance of reading black history, I hope we come to embrace one another and give each other room to be our true selves, only then will we return to the true meaning of African spirituality.