The Quiet Scream Within; Perspectives on Culture, Violence and Transformation within Afrikan Masculinities

By Baba Buntu

Copyright © 2012 eBukhosini Solutions, Johannesburg

All rights reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher or writer.


I am a Black man

An Afrikan man

In time of war

Present me with harmony but

Speak not to me of peace

Until victory is ours

Present me with unconditional love

that I might

present us with unconditional liberation

George Edward Tait




The institution of family-hood is generally seen as the foundation in Afrikan cultures. It represents the cornerstone of social, political and economic development and a platform for learning and prosperity. A brutal history of invasions, oppression and colonialism has, to a large extent, destroyed some of the cultural foundations Afrikan family-hood is informed by. In addition, as the Afrikan family strives to keep up with ‘modernity’ – an over-arching aspect of reality that for all intents and purposes easily translates into ‘Westernization’ – traditional values are further exchanged for new, and often alienating, principles of livelihood. This sets a stage for confusion, disintegration and weak structures for passing on indigenous knowledge. These challenges seem to affect Afrikan and Afrikan Descendant families throughout the Pan-Afrikan world.

This article will examine how these changes of Afrikan family-hood have impacted on the role of men and the understanding of Afrikan masculinities. The man is traditionally seen as the “head” of the household, a title that indicates ability to provide fair and just leadership which empowers each and every family member. However, a number of obstacles have caused instability and deteriorated the role of the Afrikan man within the Afrikan family; Escalating divorce rates, domestic violence, alarming statistics on sexual abuse and rape, absent fathers and an occurring “norm” in many societies to see Afrikan men as violent, criminal and redundant. Are the voices of Afrikan men – often seen to be reflections of domination, control, anger and affect – noted? ….relevant? ….representative? ….focused on transformation? Some current discourses and cultural-ideological notions will be examined in order to pose some concerns in relation to particular challenges faced by Afrikan men.



What is masculinity?

Masculinity has been defined as a set of role behaviors that most men are encouraged to perform. Gilmore (1990) studied masculinity cross-culturally and found it to be an achieved status which almost universally includes toughness, aggressiveness, stoicism and sexuality. Scholars discuss masculinity as a collective gender identity, one that is fluid and socially constructed, rather than a natural attribute (Courtenay 2000).

Multiple masculinities exist in all societies, reflecting factors like race, class, age, religious affiliation and geographic location (Morrell 2001). But, even if a pluralistic nature of masculinities has been identified, not all masculinities are equal. Instead, cultural groups construct ideal notions of masculinity that may be enforced. This hegemonic masculinity (Ratele 2008) is the ideal that men measure themselves against, and are measured against by others.

Habermas (1976) and Connell (1995) have traced the notion of hegemonic masculinities to the emphasis on power in capitalist cultures. As Connell points out, however, to identity hegemonic masculinity purely with physical aggression would be a misrepresentation as the hegemonic idea also embodies the power of reason and claims to represent the interest of the whole society (Connell 1995).

The study of masculinity has largely been a Western-dominated analysis of how white men in Europe and North-America negotiate an identity in relation to expectations, positions and roles. The collective experience of Afrikan men is quite different to men of European descent. Both the historical injustices of enslavement and colonialism meted out against Afrika, current global racism and neo-colonial power imbalances have marginalised Afrikan men, both in their own perception and in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Morrell (2001) has described the construction of masculinities in Afrika as both a local and a global process. Globalisation reshapes the arena in which notions of masculinity are expressed, necessitating an in-depth examination of transformations that are occurring in particular contexts. In times of change, Morrell says, men demonstrate reactive, accommodating or progressive response.

Interestingly, the study of masculinity in Afrika has been overwhelmingly represented by female researchers who are not of Afrikan descent. Perhaps in response to – or in opposition of – the adaption of Western-based feminist scholarship and interventions throughout the Afrikan continent one can now see a slowly emerging tradition of masculinity studies. And, increasingly, the studies of gender – as both women and men – takes on less of the anthropological investigation of “subjects” by external researcher and is becoming a self-reflective, forward looking analysis. The trend to move away from Western-based feminism to a more Afrikan-centred womaism has also inspired a more Afrikan-founded outlook on masculinities.

The masculinity of faith

The study of masculinity has particular relevance to spirituality, faith and ideology. Leon J. Podles, in his examination of men’s role in the Christian church, might have provoked a number of people when he said that “the ideology of masculinity has replaced Christianity as the true religion of men” (Podles 1999:xii). But the examples to back this statement up are quite numerous. For some time concerns have been raised about gender disparity in Christian churches. Apart from a heated discourse around women empowerment – including views on women in leadership – another, less profiled phenomena can be observed; the lack of men in the church membership. Men are represented as leaders and conveners of main activities in churches, but women dominate as members of congregations.

Interestingly, this phenomena has not been given much attention in theological writings, although it seems to have been around for quite some time. Podles (1999) observed that throughout the recent history of Western Christianity, men have become absent from churches. Christianity has been criticised by feminists for its patriarchal focus, but increasingly, women constitute the majority of the membership. Podles explains this as a result of a process he calls the “feminisation” of Christianity. In an almost mob-like scenario the author describes how women have taken over churches and turned churches in to no-go areas for men. He articulates the dilemma in the question “Can a man be a Christian?” and suggests that the appropriate answer is “no”, for two reasons; either men are seen to be too bad for Christianity or Christianity is too effeminate for men.

Podles is concerned that Christianity has let go of initiation into manhood and masculinity, and left churches redundant in being able to respond to the need for the “real masculinity” many men currently are searching for. Although having studied mainly Christianity in the West, he asserts that the gender disparity has an even more adverse effect on Black communities. Jawanza Kunjufu (1997) has advanced a similar argument. In his view Afrikan-American men see religion as being for women: too passive, and too soft and emotional. Drawing from his own surveys, Kunjufu offers additional reasons for the poor showing of men at church: Not wanting to dress up; not wanting to give their household authority over to a pastor; and for many, the heavy influence of sports in their lives. He reports that his Black male parishioners consider church to be a place for passive wimps and other weak people who need help.

Although the subject has not been given much attention in a continental Afrikan context, it can be asserted that Kunjufu’s observations could hold some truth for the Christian experience in Afrika too. Within a patriarchal paradigm, men are seen to be conquerors and protectors and not men who “turn the other cheek”. Further, with many Afrikan communities facing challenges of socio-political instability, the response offered by churches in praying for change might not sound very appealing to men who are eager to see practical change.

A “touchy-feely” presentation of the gospel may have turned men who, seemingly, seek strong masculine validation. An article in Sowetan, a South Afrikan newspaper, confirms this notion by expressing that the church has increasingly developed into an intimidating space for men (Madikwa 2011). Allegedly – and more so in charismatic churches – contemporary Christianity has lost the masculine sense of a struggle against the forces, having been watered down to passionate feelings and emotional ecstasies that men find difficult to identify with.

Afrikan solutions to masculinity

Increasingly, Afrikan men are asking the question “what does it mean to be a man?”. The weakening of the traditional institutions that used to provide responses to this question in many parts of the continent exposes the need for validation and guiding mechanisms towards sound development of Afrikan masculinities. As the modern Afrikan man aspires to be successful within in a largely Eurocentric defined world – a world he is expected to succeed in, but also denied from – the cost might be the loss of a cultural self, an authentic self. The centrality of cultural norms in Afrikan family and community structures, points to a rich and prioritised understanding of identity development. Traditional institutions and systems of knowledge that represent a toolbox from which new and relevant remedies can be extracted to aid Afrikan men in their quest for self-determination.



The Afrikan family

The institution of family-hood, in the sense of an extended kinship based structure, is generally seen as the foundation in Afrikan cultures (Mbiti 1989). Family in this context includes many sub-institutions, such as extended family structures, polygamous marriages and the inclusion of the spiritual realms of the not-yet-born and the deceased (ancestors). Political unrest and socio-economic challenges have forced many Afrikans to seek opportunities in urban city-centres. These migrations have also impacted on family structures. Throughout many parts of the Afrikan continent reports of factors contributing to the deterioration of the Afrikan family can be observed; escalating divorce rates, domestic violence, alarming statistics on sexual abuse and rape and single-parented households. As observed by Burrell (2010) a growing tendency to stereotypically label Afrikan men as violent, criminal, lazy and redundant has emerged. Examining the many studies that confirm increasing incidents of violence among Afrikan men, few seem to explain the root causes of these phenomena, understand the implication this has on modern Afrikan family structures and seek to develop guidelines for transformative Afrikan masculinities. 

Afrikan history – the missing pages

Largely written from a Eurocentric perspective, Afrikan history has essentially become the history of European presence in Afrika. However, thanks to the impressive academic work of many Afrikan scholars, Eurocentric thesis has not remained unchallenged. Through the work of Cheikh Anta Diop, Yosuf Ben-Jochannan, Theophile Obenga and many others, light has been shed on the many Afrikan civilizations that flourished for thousands of years throughout the Afrikan continent; Ta-Seti, Kemet (Egypt), Kush, Axum, Nubia, Songhay, Ghana, Mali, Oyo, Benin, Congo, Carthage, the Swahili coast states and Great Zimbabwe[1]. According to Robin Walker there is ample evidence that Afrikan civilization dates back a good 10,000 years (Walker 2006). Despite disagreements between some scholars about research details, it is increasingly accepted that Afrika played a significant part in contributing to other world civilizations and laid a strong foundation for developments within sciences and philosophy).[2]

A saying goes “the darkest aspect of Afrika is our ignorance about it”, a statement that demonstrates the massive discredit and denial Afrikan history has been subject to in, so-called, “mainstream” Academia. Professor Amos N. Wilson has described the collective case of most Afrikans as being one suffering from amnesia; not remembering history, not remembering culture, not remembering sense of self:

Amnesia means an undiscovered self, an emptiness, a self incapable of self-understanding its own motivations, a self incapable of self-direction and self-determination, a reactionary self, a self that does not understand others or the world in which it exists – a fatalistic externalized self. To rediscover one’s history is not only an act of self-discovery; it is an act of self-creation – a resurrection from the dead, a tearing away of the veil, a revelation of the mystery (Wilson 2002:52).

The loss of history is also loss of culture. Chinweizu has described culture as an immune system with an inherent defence mechanism against external destructive forces (Chinweizu 2005). Referring to how Afrikans have been so gravely dislocated from their cultural ethos he talks about the “niggerized consciousness” of Afrikan people. With the use of this term he is implying that the Afrikan has internalised a misconstrued understanding of self, which impacts on all social behavior he/she engages in. Embedded within this analogy is a strong notion that perpetuated oppressive behavior (ex. enslavement), in the case of Afrikans, has led to self-alienation and, on a deeper level, acceptance of its’ “truth” (i.e. performing the role of the enslaved). This does not only pose a serious limitation on the Afrikan personality and purpose, but also separates the Afrikan from his/her potential to assert power. The Afrikan becomes inherently powerless because he/she believes this is his/her final destination. A notion which the Afrikan must vehemently debunk and liberate him/her-self from.


Why are Afrikan men angry?

Many Afrikan men seem to have a deep-seated rage which sometimes manifests in violence and can be seen as a multi-layered response to hundreds of years of oppression. bell hooks asserts that Black men are often “… stuck in the place of rage. And it is the breeding ground for the acts of violence large and small that ultimately do black men in (hooks 2004:60).

Amos Wilson has described the existential outlook of many Afrikan men as being “…a frustrated man (…), an angry male; an enraged man, whether or not the anger and rage are consciously acknowledged” (Wilson 1990:117). The frustration and aggression from being Black in an Anti-Black world can lead to a deep sense of fear-based rage and a disposition to act out on hate against the oppressor or oneself (Cress Welsing 1991). Joy Degruy Leary (2006), in her book “Post-Traumatic Enslavement Syndrome”, examines how injustices meted out against Afrikans over many generations during enslavement and colonialism manifest as a legacy of reproduced social ills.

Psychiatrists, Price M. Cobbs and William H. Grierson, in their classic study “Black Rage” (1968) wrote that Black rage is a “healthy cultural paranoia” developed by Black men as a coping mechanism to deal with constant racial stress. Perhaps this is a more fruitful view than the labelling of Black men as stuck in the past, emotional and self-pitying when trying to understand Black men and anger.

Tom Burrell (2010) believes that a theory of Black inferiority has been advanced, to the extent of having become a “brand”, through a history laden with racism and color-consciousness. By ascribing to stereotypes of Black behaviour and a multitude of dysfunctional social institutions, in which violence and disintegration form the basis of Black people’s self image, a cycle of hatred against self and others have become a norm. Additionally, as observed by Ratele (2008), constant exclusion from the institutions and life processes that, in modern culture, defines manhood (i.e. employment, material wealth and power to influence society), breeds a traumatic experience of powerlessness.


Rage; rooted in violence, manifested in violence

It is rather in the expressions of rage that the unhealthy nature of some Black men’s choices are demonstrated. Behaviors of violence, abuse, suicide and drug abuse do little more than channel aggression. The end result of each action rarely changes the power structure it is done in opposition to and. Invariably, the person will end up being more of a victim by his own actions than a conqueror. Yet, these behaviors continue to be manifestations of inner traumas. bell hooks (2004) describes a situation where Black men are driven to enact “rituals of blood”; to desperately achieve patriarchal manhood through violence to dominate and control:

If black males are socialized from birth to embrace the notion that their manhood will be determined by whether or not they can dominate and control others and yet the political system the live within (imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy) prevents most of them from having access to socially acceptable positions of power and dominance, then they will claim their patriarchal manhood, through socially unacceptable channels (hooks 2004:57-58).

Political changes in the post-enslavement scenarios of Afrika have also shifted the cultural assumptions around family and community. Eurocentric dogmas of hegemonic and oppressive masculinities have been enforced to such an extent that they are almost seen to be inherent in Afrikan social organisation. In many parts of the continent one can find proverbs, allegories and symbolic language that justifies, and even promotes, violence. Young Afrikan men today, heirs to Pan-Afrikan liberation thoughts of the 1960s, but also prisoners of a globalised world in which Afrika has been placed on the bottom, now ask themselves “What is Afrikan manhood”? And the answer is not necessarily provided by fathers, uncles and community leaders anymore. Increasingly, the commercial idolisation of Black hyper-masculinity has taken precedence in defining manliness. The iconography of Black men in music videos, magazines, TV-shows and within the music industry objectifies the ideal Black man in the images of thugs, scheme-tricksters and womanisers with few other responsibilities than to party all night long.

An interesting, but dangerously effective, myth gets established through popular culture; the Black brute who only has money and sex on his mind and could care less about honor, traditions and planning for the future. This becomes a role model for young men who are in need of identities that can respond to their sense of powerlessness and represent clear alternatives to their own fathers’ failures. The one-dimensional, racist stereotyping this role model is shaped by can easily go unnoticed in what appears to be liberated, strong, self-determined and ground-breaking masculinity. This also has a spiritual dimension. In a world view determined by extreme materialism – where money and all you can do with it; move out of poverty, impress the opposite sex, alter your physical features and have influence – cultural traditions seem redundant and irrelevant. As spirituality is associated with submission, collectivism and selflessness – the opposite of idealised masculinity – it also represents a non-desirable direction for young Afrikan men who want to feel powerful.

Violence result from complex conflicts stemming from multiple sources; a long history of repeated layers of domination, conquest and societal upheaval, racist notions, stereotypical imagery and continuous derogatory type-casting of Afrikan males. It is a mine-field of disconnections between “traditional culture” and contemporary notions – impacting on gendered identities, a legacy of loss which includes male confusion, exacerbated by deep-seated, accumulated and unresolved anger. Further, violence is held up, in as much as there is general outcry against it, as meaningful, yet sanctioned, emotive response to the need for power emanating from the aforementioned problems. This becomes a cycle which is repeated, criticised and discussed, but never broken, as it has become integral to socially acceptable cultural views.



Men, masculinity and violence in Afrika

Barker and Ricardo (2005) noted the following tendencies in the development of masculinity in Southern Afrika:

  • Masculinity has, traditionally, a place of priority
  • Depends, often, on an older man who holds more power who decides when a young man is able to achieve socially recognised manhood
  • Expressed through initiation practices, rites of passage, often including male circumcision, holds an important place in the socialisation of boys to men
  • For many young men, sexual experience is frequently associated with initiation into manhood, but also violence and coercion (threats, force) are common features in people’s sexual relationships (the perceptions of men’s right to violate/dominate women)
  • Is responsive to the multitude of social changes, urbanisation and political upheaval, including civil unrest and, in some countries, lack of national-level social institutions

There are several dynamics that impede on Afrikan young men’s relation with conflict and violence (ibid.):

  • Many young men have historically been combatants in armed conflicts, to such an extent that participation in conflict has become an important part of socialisation of boys – a point that may also have great importance in societies where needs for social recognition has increased due to lack of employment (conflict and violence has an empowering effect)
  • The extreme nature and magnitude of some conflicts has made brutal violence a learned behavior, reinforced by social structures in the community and in the family
  • The traumatic after-effects of young men who have been recruited into rural militias and armies through coercion or voluntarily – no system to deal with healing
  • Young men who are affected by conflicts migrate differently and more than women and older men
  • The link between violence and masculinity in criminal activities, gang-activity, ethnic-related violence
  • The youth population is large in most regions of Afrika and the way young men need to navigate their development of masculinity between violent conflicts and challenging socio-political environments

Masculinities develop and change within cultural fluidity and are not necessarily static. It is obvious that the multiple sources of historical and political oppression have caused much anxiety, confusion and misdirection around Afrikan men’s identity. This presents an opportunity to challenge current understandings of Afrikan masculinity, interrogate what violence is a response to, and formulate recommendations on how to decode explanations and solutions articulated in Afrikan indigenous knowledge systems.


Emerging traditions; Afrikan-centred gender studies

The studies on Afrikan men and violence have, more often than not, been the voices of people studying Afrikan men, not the voices of Afrikan men themselves. Largely, the emphasis in these studies has been on history, post-colonial/post-Apartheid analysis on political power, gender identity and sexuality. Few have attempted to substantially enter the territory of violence and describe it from a male perspective.[3]

In a solution-driven, rather than solely problem-focused, inquiry it becomes meaningful to, in the words of Molefi Kete Asante, locate the process of finding solutions to problems affecting Afrikans in the experience of Afrikan people (Asante 1987, 2003). Asante, who is seen as the father of Afrocentricity, has helped to provide a paradigmatic platform which grew out of opposition to a Eurocentric reality which was seen to dominate research, historiography and much of the field of knowledge (Akbar 2003).

Over the last 20 years, several Afrikan scholars have analysed the Afrikan family, writing unapologetically from an Afrikan perspective. Interestingly, the analysis have developed in a close dialectic relationship between the Afrikan Diaspora and the Afrikan continent. Some of the influential woman scholars who have contributed here include Ama Atta Aidoo, Ifi Amadiume, Marimba Ani and Nah Dove and among men, we have seen the impact of scholars such as Na’im Akbar, Mwalimu Baruti and Kopano Ratele.

As many statistics of Afrikan men’s behavior and actions show an alarmingly negative picture, there is a need to go beyond just studying the numbers of offences. A position must be developed, wherein one must expect from Afrikan traditions that they will have some clues, guidelines and practical steps in how to deal with injustice, anger and extreme violation of moral codes.


Culture as guideline for thought and behavior

Afrikan culture is far more complex than what has traditionally been portrayed in modern academic scholarship. Marimba Ani (1994) examines the pervasive anti-Afrikanism that is engraved in the discipline of anthropology; a tradition of Eurocentrism which functions “to satisfy the needs of the European ethos” (1994:3) Laden with extremes – from extremely judgemental and degrading to downright romanticising and fluff, Afrikan traditions have largely represented an amusing spectacle for external observation. For the purpose of this study we shall look at the worldview and social connotations involved in defining, shaping and sustaining male identity within Afrikan culture. We shall speak of Afrikan culture in the singular, well aware that this, by its very nature obscures – and sometimes even ridicules – the diversity of customs, meaning and thought articulated throughout the Afrikan continent and its’ Diaspora. John S. Mbiti (1989) has argued that, legitimately, one can acknowledge diversity and still “emphasise also the commonalities and potential unity (not uniformity) within this diversity”, when speaking of Afrikan religiosity.

In “The Heartbeat of Indigenous Afrika”, R. Sambuli Mosha (2000) describes the Afrikan worldview as follows:

  1. A firm belief and profound reverence in the eternal divine mystery, expressed through faith in a Supreme Being (God)
  2. Ongoing human formation, reformation and transformation through spiritual, moral and human improvement
  3. The intrinsic unity between individuals and communities, in a two-way process that balances the individual versus the collective
  4. A living, interconnected and interdependent universe with emphasis on holistic living

It becomes evident that violence and oppression constitute violations against this Afrikan worldview. This is not to say that Afrikan cultural practices are devoid of oppressive practices – female genital mutilation for example, is practiced and culturally endorsed in parts of the Afrikan continent – but in its basic foundation Afrikan culture is people-centred and overwhelmingly guided by humanistic values (ibid.). To this picture we must also add that culture is not static and that oppressive structures seem to have increasingly become acceptable with the dawn of invasions, enslavement and colonialism through both Arab and European conquest (Williams 1987). The question of what is traditional becomes important. How far back should go to find “authentic” Afrikan culture?

The strict social education of boys and young men in traditional Afrika did not allow for violent or sexual activities outside of the morally acceptable (Black 1997). Boys were raised to be respectful and productive husbands and family heads. In her critique of Western definitions of the role of gender in Afrika, Ifi Amadiume sees the Afrikan, pre-colonial, traditional society as organised through matriarchy with a moral system based on “…peace and cooperation, and forbade human bloodshed, imposed a check on excessive and destructive masculinism” (Amadiume 1997:122).

The Quiet Scream Within

The title of this article alludes to the many unmentioned conflicts Afrikan men navigate between; the burden of discredited history, the loss of self-knowledge, the marginalisation in the global space, the exclusion from economic power, the unresolved anger, the self-hate and the many effects these conditions pose on Afrikan men and their families. Challenges that Afrikan men articulate more in what they do not say than in what they actually say; a quiet scream within.

Before we continue, let us affirm the following: With an uncritical approach one could easily end up with a viewpoint which postulates that Afrikan masculinity in itself is a problem. That being an Afrikan man is a problem per se. We should never lose sight of the overwhelmingly positive and balanced contributions Afrikan men represent to their families and communities. Pointing at challenges as they are experienced by Afrikan men is not done in the service of negating problems facing Afrikan women. The intention here is not a competition on who is the most oppressed, but a keen interest in how the Afrikan family can be revived and empowered.

Why are men silent? When we highlight the muted voices of men, we are simply pointing to a problem that should concern the rest of society. In my experience, there is a militant we-cannot-talk-about-this realisation on the part of many Afrikan men. This might stem from perceived – and experienced – sanctions against what we could call expressions of vulnerabilities. The analogy would be as follows: Since society – other men and women – has a strict expectation to how I should assert and demonstrate my Afrikan masculinity, and since I continuously experience to fail as I try living up to these expectations, I become insecure and even doubtful of my own masculinity. Since masculinity is a socialised process, this assumption will be even more in need of validation if I have not had access to a role model for my masculinity development – in the form of a father or a father figure. As much as I am aware of this disempowerment, I also know that this is something I cannot and should not talk about. So, in my need for a “real masculinity” I teach myself coping mechanisms and adopt introvert and extrovert behaviors which, at the very least, enable me to act out a convincing masculinity. My sense of masculinity will grow proportionately with the feedback I get on how convincing my acting is. Should I fail to convince, I am acutely aware that my masculinity – and, with it, the whole purpose for my existence as a man – will be questioned, ridiculed, doubted or excluded. Finally, if I express these vulnerabilities, I will have made a complete fool out of myself and announced to the world that I am unable to assemble the very basics of my identity as an Afrikan man, something that I am already over-determined to be.

It is this quiet scream within Frantz Fanon articulates in “Black Skin, White Masks”: I came into this world anxious to uncover the meaning of things, my soul desirous to be at the origin of the world, and here I am an object among other objects.

An example of an Afrikan institution that has traditionally given voice to what men go through, what they must face and how they should carry themselves is the Rites of Passage ceremonies or initiation rites. These are – simultaneously – educational, preventative and restorative interventions to safeguard positive and relevant masculinity. If we examine the principles such initiations have been founded upon, we realise that they articulate positions we easily can revive and adapt in response to modern challenges;

Rites of Passage – principles to shape Afrikan masculinity

Ten basic principles of Afrikan education found continent-wide for educating and socialising children[4]:

  1. Separating child from the community and routines of daily life

Separation has a deep spiritual meaning; It prevents distraction

  1. Observing nature

Afrikan schools were built on observing nature. Cycles of growth and development are based on universal principles of life, so nature can become the teacher.

  1. A social process based on age

Education in Afrika is a social process as opposed to the Western educational emphasis on individualism. Afrikan education is a social process conducted in groups. Observations of children indicate they learn in groups. All children are expected to master all requirements from beginning to end as a group; this is the Afrikan way. There are no gifted, average, and impaired groupings.

  1. Rejection of childhood

“When you become a man, you put away childish things”. A point of departure should be based on a ceremonial shift, so everybody knows it’s time to quit playing and be serious.

  1. Listening to the Elders

In Afrikan education, the most significant part is conducted by the Elders. Wisdom is more than knowledge. Young children need to be exposed to wisdom and that doesn’t always mean degrees. Elders play a major role in the education and socialisation of children in traditional Afrikan society.

  1. Purification rituals

Afrikan education is full of rituals and symbolic purifications for rebirth or change, such as cleansings, invocations and libations. Events that are symbolised are internalised and made meaningful.

  1. Test of character

Via demonstrations of courage, loyalty, commitment and persistence.

  1. Use of special language

New vocabulary, sounds and symbols are created.

  1. Use of a special name

Special names are used which are symbolic of certain characteristics. Symbols or names that have special meaning are also chosen.

  1. Symbolic resurrection

Upon completion of the process, one demonstrates what has happened to him by a ceremony that says “I am now reborn into the community”. The community stops its business and welcomes him back as part of the community.



I am a Black man

An Afrikan man

Fighting for the future / heading for home


            Be my momentum


            Be my challenge


            Be my reward

George Edward Tait



We have looked at how changes of Afrikan family-hood have impacted on the role of men and the understanding of Afrikan masculinities. Our concern here has been a critical examination of the challenges Afrikan men face in a world that denies them. We have seen that the violence Afrikan men inflict and encounter have multiple sources and meanings. And that the challenges many Afrikan men are convinced they cannot articulate can be responded to in culturally appropriate ways; a Pan-Afrikan, cultural approach to what Afrikan masculinities should mean in the 21st Century. This is a challenge that the Church also should respond to, given the fact that men seem to lose interest in the Church

Afrikan culture, in its’ rich diversity and deeply rooted humanism provides many tools that can be revived and further developed in response to current challenges. Rites of Passage has been mentioned as an example of an Afrikan cultural institution with educational, preventative and restorative potential of great contemporary relevance. With keen awareness of the deeply rooted moral philosophy engraved in Afrikan knowledge, there is a necessity to re-investigate its’ roots to identify tools for prevention of, and cure for, violence and guidelines for peace building and healthy human relationships.

For Afrikan men’s voices to be deemed worthwhile to articulate and listen to, an Afrikan-centred foundation must be rebuilt and made credible. With the many layers of invasions, cultural imperialism and destruction of socio-political institutions many of the traditional institutions may now have been lost, or at the very least minimised in impact. But, they can be reinterpreted and revived to facilitate a moral regeneration of Afrikan masculinity, as functional to the restoration of the Afrikan family.


Akbar, Na’im. Papers in Afrikan Psychology. Tallahassee, FL; Mind Productions & Associates, Inc., 2003.

Amadiume, Ifi. Reinventing Afrika – Matriarchy, Religion & Culture. London/New York: Zed Books Ltd, 1997.

Ani, Marimba. Yurugu – An Afrikan-centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior. Washington, DC: Nkonimfo Publications, 1994.

Asante, Molefi K. and Ama Mazama (Eds). Egypt Vs Greece and the American Academy. The Debate Over the Birth of Civilization. Chicago: Afrikan American Images, 2002.

Asante, Molefi K. Classical Afrika. New Jersey: The People’s Publishing Group, 1994.

Asante, Molefi K. The Afrocentric Idea. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1987.

Asante, Molefi. K. Afrocentricity – The Theory of Social Change. Chicago, Ill.: Afrikan American Images, 2003.

Barker, Gary and and Christine Ricardo. “Young Men and the Construction of Masculinity in Sub-Saharan Afrika: Implications for HIV/AIDS, Conflict, and Violence”. The World Bank Social Development Papers; Conflict and Reconstruction 26 (2005).

Black, Daniel P. Dismantling Black Manhood – An Historical and Literary Analysis of the Legacy of Slavery. New York/London; Garland Publishing, Inc., 1997.

Brown, Jill, James Sorrell and Marcela Raffaelli. “An exploratory study of constructions of masculinity, sexuality and HIV/AIDS in Namibia, Southern Afrika.” Culture, Health, and Sexuality 7:6 (2005): 585–598.

Burrell, Tom. Brainwashed – Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority. New York: SmileyBooks, 2010.

Changing Men is Southern Afrika. Pietermartizburg: University of Natal Press, 2001, pp. 3–37.

Chinweizu. “Ancestral Culture and Modern Survival: The Example of Meiji Japan.” Lagos, 2005. <> (10 November 2011).

Madikwa, Zenoyise. “Why Men Hate Church”. Johannesburg, 18 October 2011.

<> (10 November 2011).

Connell, Raewyn. W. Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity, 1995.

Courtenay, Will. “Constructions of Masculinity and Their Influence on Men’s Well Being: A Theory of Gender and Health.” Social Science and Medicine 50 (2000): 1385–1401.

Cress Welsing, Frances. The Isis Papers – The Keys to the Colors. Washington: C.W. Publishing, 1991.

Davidson, Basil. Afrika in History. London: Phoenix Press, 1991.

Degruy Leary, Joy. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing.

Milwaukie: Uptone Press, 2006.

Diop, Cheikh A. Civilization or Barbarism – An Authentic Anthropology. New York: Lawrence Hill Books, 1981.

Diop, Cheikh A. Precolonial Black Afrika. Connecticut: Lawrence Hill & Company, 1987.

Diop, Cheikh A. The Afrikan Origin of Civilization – Myth or Reality”. New York: Lawrence Hill Books, 1974.

Gilmore, David D. Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990.

Grier, William and Price Cobbs. Black Rage. New York: Basic Books, 1968.

Habermas, Jurgen. Legitimation Crisis. London: Heinemann, 1976.

Hill Jr., Paul. Coming of Age. Chicago: Afrikan American Images, 1992.

hooks, bell. We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity. London: Routledge, 2004.

Houston, Druscilla D. Wonderful Ethiopians of the Cushite Empire. Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1985.

Jackson, John G. Introduction to Afrikan Civilizations. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1995.

James, George G. M. Stolen Legacy. Virginia: Khalifah’s Booksellers & Associates, 2005.

Kunjufu, Jawanza. Adam! Where Are You? Why Most Black Men Don’t Go to Church. Chicago: Afrikan American Images, 1997

Mbiti, John S. Afrikan Religions and Philosophy. Oxford/Portsmouth/Ibadan/Gaborone: Heinemann, 1989.

Morrell, Robert. “The times of change: Men and Masculinity in South Afrika. In Robert Morrell (Ed.)

Mosha, R. Sambuli. The Heartbeat of Indigenous Afrika – a Study of the Chagga Educational System. New York/London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2000.

Obenga, Theophile. Ancient Egypt & Black Afrika – A Student’s Handbook for the Study of Ancient Egypt in Philosophy, Linguistics & Gender Relations. London: Karnak House, 1992.

Podles, Leon J. The Church Impotent – The Feminization of Christianity. Dallas: Spence Publishing Company, 1999.

Rashidi, Runoko (Ed.). Afrikan Presence In Early Asia. New Brunswick/London: Transaction Publishers, 1995.

Ratele, Kopano. “Analysing Males in Afrika: Certain Useful Elements in Considering Ruling Masculinities.” Afrikan and Asian Studies 7 (2008): 515-536.

Shefer, Tamara, Ratele, Kopano, Strebel, Anna, Shabalala, Nokuthula and Buikema, Rosemarie B. From Boys to Men – Social Constructions of Masculinity in Contemporary Society. Landsdowne: UCT Press, 2007.

Tait, George E. “I am A Black Man”. In Herb Boyd and Robert L. Allen (Eds.), Brotherman . New York: Ballantine Books, 1995.

Van Sertima, Ivan. Egypt Revisited. New Brunswick/London: Transaction Publishers, 2004.

Van Sertima, Ivan. They Came Before Columbus – The Afrikan Presence in Ancient America, New York: Random House, 1976.

Walker, Robin. When We Ruled – The Ancient and Mediaeval History of Black Civilisations. London: Every Generation Media, 1994.

Williams, Chancellor . 1987. The Destruction of Black Civilization – Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D. Chicago, Ill.: Third World Press, 1987.

Wilson, Amos. N. Black-on-Black Violence – The Psychodynamics of Black Self-Annihilation in Service of White Domination. New York: Afrikan World Infosystems, 1990.

Wilson, Amos. Understanding Black Adolescent Male Violence – Its Remediation and Prevention. New York: Afrikan World Infosystems, 2002.

[1] The history of ancient Afrikan civilizations is well documented in the works of Asante (1994), Walker (2006), Jackson (1995), Diop (1974, 1981, 1987), Houston (1985), Van Sertima (2004), Obenga (1992).

[2] See Asante and Mazama (2002), Rashidi (1995), Van Sertima (1976) and Davidson (1991.

[3] Attempts have been made in analysis by Ouzgane and Morrell (2005), Richter and Morrell (2006) and Shefer et. al. (2007).

[4] Adapted from Hill (1992)