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Opinions of Monday, 27 January 2014

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

From boisterous rapper to budding scholar:

…The art of copying the white man’s ways

By George Sydney Abugri

Originality in the creative pursuits of our society is all but dead if it ever lived. There is a total obsession among Ghanaians and many Africans with imitating and copying everything with a Western label on it:

Knowledge is universal and that means aspiring African scholars will have to continue to study, cite and quote Western scholars if their work is to be accepted as true works of scholarship for the award of academic degrees or publication.

It is a fact of history that now appears to have intellectually enslaved African scholars to the point where we fear to question long-held and existing philosophical and academic arguments and assumptions espoused by Western scholars.

Even outside academic essays and theses, you still find many African and Ghanaian scholars copiously and happily quoting Western scholars to support every written or spoken word, and you wonder if there would have been any knowledge to quote if Western thinkers had not been creative and explorative in their thinking.

Such arguments might quite understandably upset the status quo and anger various elements in society who are content with living a big lie, but it may well worth be the effort.

There does appear to be an acute shortage of African thinkers ever worthy of quote, except perhaps for occasional references to Africans and Westerners of African descent like Kwame Nkrumah, Martin Luther King, Macolm X, Marcus Garvey and a few others.

Read newspapers articles, books and magazines from across Africa, and you will notice how African writers and scholars and you will appreciate the extent to which Africans scholars and intellectuals are all but enslaved by Western thought and philosophy.

With a rich store of specialized bodies of knowledge provided by western thinkers and philosophy why bother to generate critical, creative and original thinking of our own?

African movies but especially Ghanaian and Nigerian films pack so much pornography and violence, two familiar features of many Western movies. Our propensity for imitation and copying of all and everything Western gets truly embarrassing: The movie industry in Nigeria has to be Nollywood and that in Ghana Ghalleywood.

On and off stage, from ear rings, sunglasses, singing voice mode, hand gestures, every young musician in Africa is trying to look and sound every bit like the gangster rapper from the Bronx. Local arts and entertainment media give them all the help they need. For the media, it is all about creating celebrities who will then provide the news that sells for cash.

The football club in Ghana today that does not bear the name of an English League clubs instead of a Ghanaian name is perhaps, the exception.

Even Africa’s sections of Africa’s clergy has fallen victim to the affliction and this is particularly true of clergy in some of the charismatic churches: Many Ghanaian and African pastors have adopted the lifestyle and manner of evangelization of the flamboyant, television-happy preachers of the American Bible belt both in tone, spiritual pomposity and their generosity with ungrounded promises of prosperity and miracles.

The situation appears to have its funny side, as the westernization of African evangelization has so attracted all manner of jokers who parade as clergy:

In Ghana, someone is a bishop not because he has undergone a rigorous period of pastoral formation and been in the pulpit for many years but because he dresses in hideous robes and says he is a bishop and the media call him that.

The next thing you know, he is making newspaper front page headlines as pervert, rapist, swindler or doom-saying “prophet”, given to hawking miracles or predicting the coming deaths of prominent compatriots first thing every morning but that is a digression.

Maybe we should turn to Mudimbe for help: African anthropologist V. Y. Mudimbe, is the author of The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge.

Mudimbe describes his book as "an archaeology of African gnosis as a system of knowledge in which major philosophical questions have arisen concerning the form, content and style of Africanising knowledge."

The man’s book has got me confused because ,as you can discern from my preceding arguments, I am not aware that our continent’s philosophers and thinkers have began "Africanising" any body of (universal) knowledge yet.

Every concept, every precept, every body of knowledge we Africans have, has been imported wholesale: Law, journalism, medicine, engineering, philosophy, anthropology, and political systems. None has been "Africanised."

Very little if any of what we adopt, is ever adapted to suit the peculiarity of our developing world circumstances. Worse still, we cannot in all honesty claim to have had great thinkers who have made significant contributions to universal knowledge.

In his book, Mudimbe wants us to ask two critical questions in our pursuit of true independence and progress as Africans: "What is the meaning of Africa and being African?" and "What is the philosophy part of Africanness? "

Chapter one of the book which is titled "Discourse of power and knowledge of otherness" dwells on the famous "scramble for Africa" which marked the beginning of our subjugation and subsequent total dependence on the West to date.

We are hopelessly dependent on others for everything from development aid to the practical knowledge necessary for enlightenment and socio-economic progress and advancement.

We even import used underwear, used handkerchiefs, used sanitary pads, used cutlery, used clothes and used computers but with the Mudimbes of our continent there is hope of a coming African renaissance. Website: Email: