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Lerato Scribess Sibanda

Lerato Scribess Sibanda - Power.Passion. Purpose - I am a writer, academic and spoken word artist --

Writing back to ourselves: The issue of reframing black African identity

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THE TOPIC of the rewriting of history is more complex than merely writing back to the West, as it has been framed before. I think, it ultimately also commands that we write back to ourselves, to affront and poke at ourselves and not each other, to purge ourselves of our fractured Self all in order to heal as black nations in Africa and within the diaspora. It requires further that we reconfigure our psyche, to remind ourselves (and not the West) that we are not savages lost, that our uniqueness in fact holds a divine purpose, and that we are not a troubled people but rather a beautiful one, showcasing our magnanimous potential and pioneering prowess in many industries and innovation.

Also, we black peoples need to confront ourselves in the matter of being a typically tribalistic public domain and market system, which has fostered tribal warfaring, xenophobia, and genocide in times past in various parts of Africa. And, many of these stories are not documented. Why should we cover them, particularly in our contemporary digital age? We ought to cover them not to condemn or barrage ourselves but to learn from our mistakes and to see and learn how we overcame our own weaknesses before and, how we new countries (in my opinion, any country that has gained independence less than 80 years ago is still young or new country) can build our nation-states and hold a thriving citizenry. As South Africans, we can learn to operate with integrity when we are in power without falling prey to the looting of our own people.

Another interesting feat to consider is to infiltrate the secondary education system in our continent with a Bantu and other clan map or “family tree”. This map can break down how various groups evolved, merged, and even diverged due to agrarian life forms and nomad life cycles. Many South Africans for one do not know that the Zulu nation, which is a Bantu clan, originally came from living alongside the Congo River. They trekked to the Western Cape first to tend after their cattle only to find the Khoi as the first natives of our land (more information on this may be found at the Swellendam museum). Now the question arises, why is it that there is so much xenophobia in our nation targeting people that are virtually our brothers and sisters from a little further away? Truth is, we do not know ourselves nor do we comprehend our own value. Another little point: I find it interesting how a South African will show love and respect to a black American but not to a Malawian foreigner – an example- once they hear them speak and see their “Africanness.” We do not seem to exercise xenophobia and intolerance to European tourists or ex-pats as we do African nationals from other countries. All these things are a travesty and a shame.

It is no longer enough to iterate like a broken record of how we need to rewrite African history. Now we need to get on with it and celebrate each other’s efforts. I would love the end goal being an encyclopedia of African heritage and innovation as part of the school system continent-wide. I also suggest that creatives and innovators alike begin to employ popular art and culture as well as documentary and biopic to package our authentic narrative, developed by us for us (first).

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