Volume 10, Issue 4
Spring 2009

Michael Ba Banutu-Gomez. Africa: We Owe it to Our Ancestors, Our Children, and Ourselves. Lanham, MD: Hamilton Books, 2005. 214p.

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“We owe it to Our Ancestors Our Children and Ourselves” is a one man reflection of what Africa is about pausing evaluative questions for readers to explore. It indicates Africa right from its title page but internalizing much more of the authors own African environs and what transpires therein.

His pride of being Africa is impeccable and in the introductory chapter of the book, the author reminisces over what it was like when he was in Africa and then concludes the chapter by stating his mission to serve as an effective, responsive and creative leader in private and public organizations and government.

A sense of everything African is made known by the author however as his story based on a debate he stirs and reinforces with notable quotes from other authors to substantiate his arguments targeting African professionals, students and leaders into having insight into the continents traditional acumen and opportunity to development.

Issues relating to the significance of African culture such as the significance of African music, the link between the dead and living, child birth, elders, traditional religion, medicine and occupations. As well as health and education management in the African traditional setting, marriage, family, environmental management, implications of rural – urban migrations on labor and democracy in Africa are deliberated upon.

A depiction of what life was about, mostly in Banutu – Gomez’s Gambian experience indicates the oneness in African practice as well as the value of life, marriage, family and health.

The authors description of Africa portrays a continent possessing its own functional values, development models and strategies, yet these are dormant which leads to his critique that necessitates such interventions as thoroughly understanding and respecting each others needs, designing more flexible public institutions by replacing the ineffective European vertical hierarchies of our past with modern horizontal networks that link together African people in a continental alliance, investment in Agriculture, sharing knowledge and skills as well as having African leaders achieve organizational coordination by mutual adjustment. Some harmful customs like forced marriage and female circumcision are noted with caution by the author to be cultural but not moral.

However it is basic to note that the basis of the narrative given in the book holds bias and therefore an objective opinion is more appreciated in terms of the author urging an African management and development model but also identifying opportunities in the Western culture that would enhance the African model. Rather than rubbishing the Western culture wholly as irrelevant. For example he insinuates that we cause conflict and confusion when we move away from our traditional forms of music and music instruments. The author would do justice to indicate what exactly was in the African music that was good and part of the revolution would be to achieve a better music model probably African but with comparison to the western music model. This not only helps strengthen the African models but also makes them applicable to global integration.

The author needs to realize that culture is dynamic and though it is only right that Africans evaluate what they had and value what their tradition culture can produce, it is only fair that they add value to their traditional cultures by integrating positive cultures from else where.

Another point of contention among others in Gomez’s deliberations is seen in the message that the elders should still be in custody of society’s wisdom. This notion can be disapproved based on the reality that gray hair does not necessarily mean wisdom because wisdom ought to be practical and proper reasoning built on experience and knowledge not simply age. Therefore it is no wonder that a character in Chinua Achebe’s traditional placed novel ‘Things Fall Apart’ Unoka is Okwokwo’s father and elderly, but not highly regarded or even sought after, while his son Okwokwo raises high to the position of an elder or bearer of wisdom due to his experience and fulfillment of his society’s norms. Besides this in contemporary time’s age does not represent virtue, in contemporary Africa some elderly folks have become symbols of vice as well therefore forfeiting the right to be sought out as wise and able guardians in society.

The subject of God as Gomez inducts could not be possibly envisaged as the author implies. That Africans worshiped one God and ancestors were not considered to be gods. The reality of African religion is ingrained in worship of the ancestors – not just recognizing they lived and hold memorials of in their honor but also in believing in the living – dead. Sacrifices are made to the spirits of those long gone and they are adored as gods. The essence of such titles as Nasibati and Nyamuhanga only recognized the creative force of nature to be God the creator and maker of all things.

The book makes a great contribution to literature on Africa providing a shared experience with constructive quotes from other sources to enhance the quality of information the author gives as he states his arguments of what Africa ought to do. However there is a lot of speculative thought than application. To create an African model of development or more functional values there is need not to simply talk about how things were and what ought to be done but how ought it to be done with reverence being given to the past traditions and how best these can be recovered, rejuvenated and appreciated practically.

Linda Lilian
Mountains of the Moon University