Jones M. Jaja writes that the African people regard myths as a direct expression of the universe and of their inner and outer experience of themselves in relation to the world around them. Myths are not merely symbolic or a product of human imagination. He states “Myths are seen as vehicles conveying certain facts or truths about man’s experiences in his encounter with the created order and its relation to the super-sensible world.” (1)
African myths are an expression of culture, history as well as man’s relationship with God and all other living beings, seen and unseen. The purpose and value of myth in the African societal setting is both explanatory as well as acting as a socializing agent to educate the young as to meaning mysteries of the universe and humans’ place in it.
Various creation myths all over Africa “explain how and why the different natural phenomena came into existence, the forces behind their perfect working and the relationship that existed and still exists between man and the creator God and the universe”. (1) At the core of African cosmology is the belief in a Supreme Being (which predates the advent arrival of Christianity); a belief in the ancestors; a belief in the spiritual nature of a person and God’s imminence; and, culturally defined rites of passage. The ancestors are a source of guidance and needs to be approached through appropriate rituals.
“The African view of the person and worldview are founded on a holistic and anthropocentric ontology (Akbar, 1996; Kambon, 1996; Biko, 1998; Teffo and Roux, 1998; Holdstock, 2000; Eagle, 2004). This implies that humans form an indivisible whole with the cosmos (and therefore a unity with God, other human beings and nature).” (2) At the heart of the African worldview is the idea that ‘we become persons through other persons who relate to us as persons’. This fundamental interconnectedness between self and others is reflected in the concept of Ubuntu, meaning a person is only a person through others, prioritizing the interdependence of relationships as an embodiment of our humanity (3).
Written for @jungsouthernafrica
- Jones M. Jaja. (2014) Myths in African concept of reality. International Journal of Educational Administration and Policy Studies Vol. 6(2), pp. 9-14, DOI: 10.5897/IJEAPS11.060
- Henning Viljoen (2017) African Perspectives (Chapter 17). Personology : From individual to ecosystem. Cape Town: Pearson
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