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Feature Article of Thursday, 12 December 2013

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis

Ama Mazama: An Intellectual Warrior

Dambisa Moyo, an international economist, uses her education to press for radical reforms in African economies, fiercely arguing that foreign aid makes African governments lazy, irresponsible, corrupt, and, that, more provocatively and controversially, foreign aid stifles African ingenuity and, therefore, undermines Africa’s development (See her book “Dead Aid”). However, Ama Ata Aidoo has used the power of literature to raise pertinent issues of social inequity, a moral question whose nature disproportionately affects women in our society.
In fact, through the medium of literature, Aidoo has forced society to look inwardly at itself, asking rhetorically if the relational “binary opposition” between man and woman can be suitably rearranged for the good of society. Similarly, both Toni Morrison (See “Beloved”) and Nadine Gordimer (see “Burger’s Daughter) have used the power of literature to expose brutalities, atrocities committed against Africans by Europeans, in America and South Africa, respectively. Mother Teresa, Efua Dorkenoo, Dr. Hawa Abdi (and her daughter Dr. Deqo Mohamed), and Leymah Gbowee have used the power of transformative knowledge, wisdom, fearlessness, and force of personality to force society to make better decisions and choices.
Tebello Nyokong has relied on her scientific skills to make ground-breaking contributions to oncology, with her impact mostly felt in the area of photodynamic therapy. Patience Mthunzi’s remarkable contributions to biophotonics are well known. Madam Curie’s important work on nuclear physics and the seminal work of Rosalind Franklin, a co-discoverer of DNA—though all the credits have gone to her male counterparts—Francis Crick, James Watson, Maurice Wilkins—in unraveling the structure of DNA does not merit belaboring here.
We are still waiting for what an orphan, Maud Chifamba, a poor, home-schooled Zimbabwean girl who broke academic records, in the entire history of Zimbabwe, to enter the University of Zimbabwe as an Accounting Student, at 14, has for humanity upon graduation! Girls, women and their priceless intellect. Indeed, Ngozi Okonja-Iweala, Florence Kanyike, Kwegyir Aggrey, Malala Yousafzai, and Leymah Gbowee have been right all along about the political economy of educating girls. Specifically, Aggrey’s statement to the effect that educating men at the expense of women is detrimental to national development is, at this crucial point in Africa’s life, apt.
Truly, educating a woman, insisted Aggrey, was akin to educating a family, that’s, extending the social and economic benefits of education to an entire family. More pointedly, womanhood, Aggrey seemed to imply, shared essential points of moral and philosophical mutual exclusivity with a home, the family. This directly points to the creative role of women in Africa’s development economics. Moreover, a World Bank report—“Voices Of The Girls: Crossing The Barriers Between Youth, Gender, And Poverty”—adds a powerful voice of conscience to the discussion.

This brings us to the person and work of Dr. Ama Mazama, a mother of three and influential thinker in Western and African academia—and she’s married to sociologist Dr. Garvey Lundy. She is a great woman of physical beauty, strong personality, sense of purpose, and intelligence. Mazama is both rhetorically and literarily eloquent. Who is Ama Mazama? She was born Marie-Josée Cerol in Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean. Why did she become Ama Mazama? In one of our correspondences with her, she admits: “I changed my name to Ama Mazama because I came to realize that I was an African woman, and therefore needed to have a name that reflected my identity, instead of the colonial identity imposed on me by those who had enslaved and colonized my Ancestors.”
In fact, name change, like hers, is the first pre-requisite for psychological decolonization. Interestingly, this, then, leads to decolonizing one’s personality. In addition, Mazama’s transformation recalls one of the unforgettable moments in the life of one of our uncles, in which an African-American lady, now his wife for more than two decades, said she had come to Africa to find an African man to marry, only to find that, like herself, her would-be husband, too, bore a slave name. Correspondingly, our uncle was the proverbial Samson and she was not ready to be the proverbial Delilah. How perceptive of her! Certainly, Fanonian or Freirean Conscientization begins with conscious self-knowledge.
What is Mazama? The name “Mazama” is “tender and violent love” in Kikongo, the latter being part of the Bantu languages, which, are themselves, according to linguists, part of the cluster known as Niger-Congo languages. “I took names that came from different parts of Africa (West and Central) to symbolize my Pan-African commitment,” Mazama explained further to us. Her name is probably why she unabashedly and unapologetically loves the African world, even going so far as to place herself in the vortex of Africa’s intellectual, political, and cultural renaissance.
This is evident in her intellectual and social activism across the world. Indeed, she has displayed both “tender and violent love” in her critical defense of the African world, as Marimba Ani, Molefi Kete Asante, St. Clair Drake, Chiekh Anta Diop, WEB Du Bois, and several notable scholars working in the field of African and African-American Studies have done on behalf of Africa. Du Boisian works like “The Gift Of Black Folk,” “The World And Africa,” “The Souls Of Black Folk,” “Black Folk, Then And Now,” and St. Drake’s “Black Folk Here And There,” all point to their “violent love” for Africa. We may, however, assume the phraseology “violent love” to be rigorous thinking or scholarship.
Yet “violent love” equally demands a countervailing entity, more like the “action-reaction” phenomenon in Newtonian mechanics. Mazama, therefore, is, to a degree, a creative embodiment of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, philosophically speaking. In fact, this “violent love” for Africa has typified the pantheon of personalities which includes men and women such as Kwame Nkrumah, Harriet Tubman, Molefi Kete Asante, Sojourner Truth, Dedan Kimathi, Assata Shakur, Marcus Garvey, Paul Bogle, Malcolm X, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela, Amilcar Cabral, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
We may ask: How has she been so successful in balancing her “tender love” and “violent love” without philosophical or intellectual implosion? Part of the panorama of philosophical reasons for successfully containing the implosion is her sheer arsenal of emotional intelligence, her disarming affability, her high degree of cultural consciousness, her analytic versatility, and her intellectual independence! This is a formula for creativity. Read her body of work and religiously follow her activist politics to understand what we are saying.
Quite impressively, Ama Mazama, a co-founder of Afrocentricity International, obtained her doctorate at the age of 26, from the prestigious University of La Sorbonne, France, the alma mater of Cheikh Anta Diop and Hilla Limann. She graduated with highest distinction in the area of linguistics. The website of Afrocentricity International has this biographical synopsis on her: “Dr. Ama Mazama is the Per-aat and Executive Director of Afrocentricity International…has published thirteen books including The Encyclopedia of African Religion; The Afrocentric Paradigm; Africa in the 21st Century; L’Imperatif Afrocentrique as well as scores of articles in research journals.”
Actually, Mazama has published seventy articles in research journals. The website continues: “In addition she has translated the works of Molefi Kete Asante and Marcus Garvey into French. During the past twenty years Dr. Mazama, a Mambo, has demonstrated service to the community by organizing, training and teaching masses of African people who are devoted to recapturing the philosophical, political, and cultural traditions of the ancestors. Dr. Mazama, who is an initiated Mambo, also teaches African Studies at Temple University.”What are Per-aat and Mambo?
Per-aat is ancient Egyptian for “Great House,” a holy sanctuary where the Egyptian deity Atum, a self-created deity, the first of deities, and principal deity of Lunu, an ancient Egyptian city, was worshipped. In fact, the mythology and philosophy surrounding Atum form the basis of today’s “atom” in modern science, according to Martin Bernal (See “Black Athena”) and George James (See “Stolen Legacy”), a transformative idea, which, fortunately for us, has spurred many discoveries in the sciences, providing insights into nature. In other words, the scientific concept of “atom” did not originate with the Greeks, least of which is Democritus (and his teacher Leucippus), the two foremost Western thinkers credited with discovering “atom.”


The rest of the credits for atomic discovery go to India, specifically to the Vaisheshika and Nyaya schools of thought, that’s. Meanwhile, the African origination of the idea via ancient Black Egypt is completely obliterated by Eurocentrism. This blatant appropriation of non-European ideas without proper attribution is why Dr. Chandra Kant Raju, a world-famous Indian mathematician, asks the titular question: “Is Science Western In Origin?” Then again, the recent experiment conducted by CERN scientists, in 2012, to determine the properties of the fundamental particle of nature, the so-called Higgs boson, was possible because of the prior discovery of “atom” by Africa.
In particular, this is what we are indirectly saying: African ingenuity made the discovery of “atom” and, by extension, the CERN experiment, possible. That’s, we need to give ourselves partial credit for these revolutionary discoveries. More importantly, Dr. Mazama’s work is partly involved in reclaiming these historical African ideas and their contemporary byproducts for Africa—via the culture wars currently being waged primarily in the West—as well as in fashioning relevant theoretical models capable of helping Africa address the challenges of modernity.
Specifically, alleviating political kleptomania and poverty, fighting ethnocentrism, promoting gender equality, expanding democratic rights to the masses, eliminating “ethnic” wars on the continent, raising the standard of living for the masses, countering the scourge of malaria (and other tropical diseases), improving maternal health and public hygiene, encouraging the acquisition and use of technology and building scientific knowledge for national growth, etc., are part of the suit of goals Mazama is presently pursuing via her active scholarship and social activism.
On the other hand, according to Diodorus Siculus, Democritus spent five years in ancient Egypt? Doing what in ancient Egypt? We do know he wrote about Egyptian mathematicians, and, pointedly, had high praise for Egyptian mathematical knowledge. He also wrote about Meroe, the capital of Kush, part of present-day Sudan. Kush was part of the chain of advanced civilizations on Eastern and Northeastern Africa. In fact, Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, ranked Aksum (Kush) as one of the four powerful civilizations in the ancient world, alongside China, Rome, and Persia. Democritus is believed to have travelled as far as Ethiopia.
Finally, Mambo is High Priest in Vodou religion. The male version is Houngan. These are Haitian terminologies. Also, Dr. Garvey Lundy, a Senior Fellow at the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies, we believe, is from Haiti, a legendary land whose astute African military leaders defeated the strongest European armies of the day including Napoleon’s. Dr. Lundy’s Haitian nationality may explain some of the connections he has with his wife. Having said that, the titles, Per-aat and Mambo, borne by the sinewy personality of Dr. Ama Mazama, carry an atmosphere of great responsibilities.
It’s not an easy responsibility to home-school three children, teach university students, author textbooks and series of scholarly articles, travel around the world to educate people about the African world, serve as Provost and Senior Fellow at the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies, hold seminars, serve as editor on the “Journal of Black Studies”….We shall return with a sequel(s) with an in-depth analysis of her body of work. Then, we shall also look at Afrocentricity International and the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies.

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