Victory for African Knowledge Systems


SanfomasBy Serge St-Arneault, M.Afr
I was privileged to be in South Africa when the funeral of Nelson Mandela took place. But I was attracted by an unusual article published by The Sunday Independent newspaper on the 22nd December 2013.
“The Supreme Court of Appeal has taken a giant step in recognising the wisdom of our ancestors, and the upliftment of indigenous beliefs” wrote Annelie de Wet. In short, it is about a case whereby the Court gave justice to Johanna Mmoledi (46), a sangoma, who won against her former employer. She was fired for taking a month’s unpaid leave in order to finish her thwasa process – an African spriritual/psyshological healing process followed by initiation.
Sunday_Independent_(South_Africa)The Court acknowledged that “Mmoledi’s ailment does fit in with the pre-existing African knowledge system of ukubizwa (the ancestral call, manifesting as a set of objectivity known psychological and physical ailments) and thwasa…” Even though, the judgment seems to maintain a narrow reduced definition of African traditional healing (ATH) as a “belief system”, the door has been opened whereby an employer runs “a serious risk by dismissing employees’ cultural issues summarily without trying to understand their import”.
“Yet western psychologists are ‘objective’ enough to appear as expert witnesses. And they are professionals who uphold the reality of unseen forces such as the psyche, or the unconstious – just like sangomas upholding unseen ancestral forces.”
Beyond this labour case dispute, this saga shows that “knowledge of the subjectivity and fluidity of proples’ most cherished assumptions – even what is called scientific evidence – removes the basis for intellectual imperialism in a multi-cultural society.” What a victory indeed!
In other words, “seen from a therapeutic point of view, ancestral practices, through ritual and ceremony, offer a most powerful and healing entrance into the universal human unconscious.”
Dreams_Fenza_bookIn my view, this article supports the research published by FENZA published in January 2013 entitled “Dreams. Where do Biblical, Zambian and Western Approaches Meet?” More specifically, the fifth chapter entitled “Zambian approaches to dreams and Western psychology: towards a pastoral approach” by Bernhard Udelhoven, makes a significant contribution in our worldwide perception by saying that “attempts to positively combine Western and Zambian approaches in a way that remains true and respectful to the different understandings of human life, start maybe by nature from a postmodern paradigm: building on assumptions of epistemological pluralism (meaning an awareness that no single theoretical framework can explain reality in its totality), different theoretical foundations – even when they seem to be mutually exclusive – are allowed to stand side by side so as to come to a fuller appreciation of reality.” (page 80)
Full article from the newspaper – PDF

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