Building a shared Africanness / unity #language #diversity #panAfricanism

25 Aug

The kerfuffle about language and about mandating kiSwahili (or other but just one language) in order to build African unity got me thinking.

I am not a fan of the idea of unity. Calls for unity always feel to me like somebody is being thrown under the bus. Dissent ends up being reduced to ‘you are dividing us’.

I do, however, like Simphiwe Dana believe in a shared Africanness, a shared identity.

I wrote down some thoughts on how we can do this without relying on one language.

1) Language – Learn another African language

  • Due to the 7 degrees and network effects, by learning at least one other African language,  more Africans will be connecting to each other on an individual basis in different languages.across the invisible barrier of language.
  • By doing this, we contribute to maintaining the full diversity and richness of African languages.

2) The second idea is that we should actively commit to interacting with a diverse multitude of Africans. We can counter the societally natural homogeneity that comes with familiarity. In some ways, one African language idea is about creating that comfort of sameness.

3) We can nurture curiosity about other African people, cultures, knowledge systems and worldviews. Africa is diverse – appreciating and immersing in it is a good counter to the homogenising influence of hegemony.

4) Find, connect to and amplify the voices of the most marginalised. Power operates to silence many in Africa. Let us counter.

I spend more time tweeting about Greece than South Sudan. Every time, I catch myself I find information on the civil war and ongoing crisis. There is not much information but the very act of finding and sharing, sends the market signals that there is demand for the information. In time, there will be more.

I cherish my African identity and believe that honouring the diversity and the richness of that diversity is the way to build a shared Africanness.

In other words, ‘unity through diversity’ as called for in the South African coat of arms.

Audre Lorde “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences”


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