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Loss of African languages and culture

27 May 2014, 11:18

Africans from ancient times have had words for everything. It was the language, oiled by words and vocabulary, that took centre stage in the functioning communities. Africa had almost everything stolen from her.... except language.

That, too, has been a casualty of white-washing Africa and the discrediting of everything ancient African. The decimation of African languages and culture wrecked havoc on the collective psyche of African thought and advancement.

Loss of, and stunted language, denuded a people of pride, history and purpose. For generations spanning centuries, Africans spent half their time learning and mastering the languages, cultures and religion of their oppressors, to the detriment of their overall well-being.

Over time, especially during the period of colonization, words disappeared from use and circulation. And those remaining, their meanings were often lost and distorted. In order to oppress the natives and fulfil their objectives, Europeans had forced Africans to take on their language and culture so they could see themselves through the lens and the paradigm of the enslaver. This gave Africans a false sense of belonging; a soothing determination to be seen to belong and yet not be a part of; a distorted sense of purpose in helping advance the economic upliftment of their oppressors while gaining little else other than a pat on the back.

This form of outright racism and hate is perhaps best explained by Edwin Smith, the 18th century missionary. He wrote in detail about the methods European colonizers used to suppress Africans and make a success of colonization. In his book The Golden Stool he writes on page 186: "The first method begins by destroying the institutions, traditions, religion of the people and then superimpose upon the native ruins whatever the conquering governing power considers to be the better administrative system. The other method is to graft our higher civilization on the soundly rooted native stock, bringing out the best of what is in the native tradition, and moulding it into a form consonant with our modern ideas and higher standards."

This would be forgiven perhaps had it not originated from a man of God.

He goes on to say: "One of the most effective ways to suppress a people is by putting a device in place that will dissociate those people from their God, their spirituality, their culture and their history. So missionaries put in place their perpetual empowerment over the minds of those whom they deceive [with religion]."

With less and less usage meanings of words and established cultures and traditions lessened and finally disappeared. That is why it was so important for slave traders and slave masters to constantly mis-educate, and in extreme cases kill the older slaves as they were the walking history books with knowledge of where the slaves come from. These older ones still possess the blue-print of the cauldron of national pride, purpose and identity. They were that one-last remaining link to the slaves' dignity, knowledge traditions, wisdom and culture. On the other hand, across the continent African knowledge and customs were harshly prohibited and classified as barbaric and backward - chiefly because of the European fear that these pillars evoked in the people - the original sense of being, justice and purpose. It was necessary to terminate that one last remaining link to African pride at all costs, in the mission to carve up Africa and drink of her buried treasures.

And it would take twice the number of years for Africa to regain her identity.



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