Spirit of Africa

Amal Chatterjee
9 min readNov 23, 2018

Source : Google photo of Ubuntu children playing

Synopsis : The indomitable spirit of Africa and the Africans made me write this blog that was long overdue. I have tried to explain this spirit in Africans through a video and many colorful power points that should educate you and make you aware of the beauty of Africa and its people though they may be quite diverse in their languages, art, culture and traditions. One thing that is universal in Africa is their joyful spirit.

I have always marveled at the spirit of Africa where I have spent a great deal of time in many countries working with them in development work. I have learned from them what it means to be a helpful being who is a part of the community, where every person helps the community in every possible way without the slightest hesitation and so unselfishly. I have learned from them the value of hard work , love for their neighbors, sharing , caring for others and the feeling of pride in their culture, their way of living, their ancient traditions and their art.

I have eaten with them their simple meals, danced with them during their festivities, lived like them in their villages and even built my house with their help in a rural village far from the city.

I have trusted them with our children and they in their turn adopted us as theirs in the village and made us feel being apart of their community that has never happened to me and my family in other countries. My wife lived happily in our adobe house that was unique in design that I made myself and gleefully coated the floors with cow dung paste every week to give the rooms a dust free hard surface. ( Please read my blog called How to be self reliant anywhere here).

Today I will write about a very unique country of Burkina Faso where the African spirit I write about is shown in this video I post here.

Watch this video to see how the whole village joins hands in building a beautiful adobe house for one of their neighbors using the soil, the straw, the grass for the roof and the decorative paints extracted from natural sources in keeping with their traditions.

They sing together while working showing joy and excitement in doing such community work in their true African spirit to help build their neighbor’s house who when required does the same for others. The whole process is free because they only use what the nature provides with such bounty and build a truly beautiful house with their bare hands. This is the spirit of Africa that the westerners who have never been to Africa denigrate as primitive living and scoff at their mud houses.

They even came to our beautiful house in our village that we were so proud of and looked for a refrigerator and generator and openly wondered how we could live under such “ primitive conditions “ because they failed to see the beauty of an African village and joyous and peaceful way they all lived in total harmony with the nature and each other.

This is true of most people in Europe and Americas who have never been to Africa or have visited only to denigrate their great culture and traditions calling them heathens and uncivilized and are ignorant and filled with misconceptions . The missionaries are at the forefront of this effort to “civilize the Africans “ and who do not know or understand what it means to be an African and their glorious culture and traditions. They do not know that we all have our roots in Africa where our ancestor Lucy first appeared in the Rift valley millions of years ago.

The Africans have always lived the way they do in total harmony with the nature and their surroundings in their communities where everyone knows everyone , where the old people sitting under the baobab trees keep a sharp eye on all the children who play nearby and do not hesitate to chastise them when they mis behave or get into fight with other children. They always kept an eye on our children and even fed them so we never worried about where our children were at any time of the day. Our baby daughter loved riding piggy back the African way.

We learned that the African way of carrying the children on their back in a sling was the most practical and comfortable way for the children. Their simple way of pounding the corn and sorghum to prepare their meals every day was beautiful and efficient. They grew all their vegetables and fruits they needed near their village and raised their chickens and guinea fowls or goats and cows.

We got fresh milk, fruits, vegetables , eggs and chicken from them whenever we wanted. They gave us gifts of a fawn and a monkey to keep as our pets and asked every day how we were doing. They brought us cow dung every week so that my wife and the maid could coat all the rooms. They provided us the maid as well.

The African spirit I write about today is what makes Africans so unique because their spirit and humanity touches your heart in a way not found anywhere. I see some of it in Haiti where the slaves taken from Africa settled long ago and still maintain some of the traditions of their ancestors.

The African traditions and music, language, art and craft vary a great deal from country to country that makes the continent so unique and beautiful. I have made many power points on African art and craft that are worth a look to understand how varied they are and still maintain their wonderful spirit so check them out here ( African art and craft power point ).

These seven power points are a treasure trove of beautiful photos of African tribes ( in three parts), African art and craft, African wildlife and birds of Africa that will bring you a wealth of knowledge about Africa that only a power point can bring to you. I have put a lot of effort to make these power points over a long period of time so enjoy them and share them with anyone who is interested in Africa, its people, its culture, its art and its wonderful wildlife. These power points will make you immensely knowledgeable about a continent and its unique beauty that a simple blog can never do.

There is this misconception that people who live like the Africans in their adobe houses and without any modern amenities like running water and electricity are primitive and poor. They may be poor as compared to others but primitive they are not. They have a rich culture and tradition of their own that should be emulated and not looked down upon by anyone. Missionaries do more harm than good by trying to influence the Africans with their culture and traditions because the imported culture and traditions are unsuitable to the African way of living.

I was told by an American that when the missionaries told the African women in their villages that they must cover their breasts with bras because showing nude chest is immoral etc., they did so but the wire of their bra cut into their flesh causing wounds that were infected thus making the women suffer more. Without bras, they did not have such horrific problems and their smooth skin glowed with health. African women do not wear clothes due to modesty but as a function of the climate so being topless is not immodest but quite natural for them. I never considered them immodest but I am not a missionary.

What I want my readers to understand is that the African people are proud of being the way they are and do not need others to tell them how to live. The western influence has done nothing but harm to them in many parts where they have given up their beautiful homes and live in rectangular ugly homes with tin roof that is extremely uncomfortable and hot most of the time. But such homes are promoted by the church school educated elites who have discarded their traditions and consider themselves civilized by adopting Christian names.

I have written many blogs that discuss the isolation and loneliness of the western culture that promotes selfishness and apathy in people. I have written about many social ills that afflict the so called civilized people who get into drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, gambling and many such vices, who inflict harm on others through gun violence and anti social behaviors . They should learn from the African how to live peacefully by helping each other in their communities.

If you go to any rural community or small town in America and Europe, you may face hostility at first because they do not like you just because you are different from them. Not so in Africa anywhere. There if you visit any village, you will be asked to wait while someone goes to find the village chief. When he arrives and asks you about the purpose of your visit, he then gives orders to prepare a hut for you and to prepare hot water so that you can wash and clean yourself while women prepare a meal for you. After you have washed and eaten , only then the village chief invites you to his village forum where he may introduce you to the villagers and explain the purpose of your visit.

If you look at the art and craft of Africa, you will be impressed by their originality and quality of art and craft. They make wonderful musical instruments themselves using gourds and animal hides and make wonderful drums that are still used to send messages at night to neighboring villages using a Morse code of their own and such messages can be relayed hundreds of kilometers. They make clothes and potteries ,foot ware and jewelries using only the natural materials available to them.

The African designers are now world famous for their originality of dazzling colors and intricate weaving of textiles. African models are world famous for their beauty and poise. They are very innovative about how the women dress their hair into intricate works of art that our daughter in Zambia likes so much.

But what I like most about the Africans is their spirit of helpfulness to each other. Whatever they have, they share with their neighbors including food and shelter. No one fights over a piece of land because people do not own the land. The village chief who is democratically elected decides who will cultivate which piece of land and freely allocates it to those who need it the most.

I have seen this spirit of helping each other in Africa myself because I have lived in their villages and shared their hospitality. It is true that the women work hard to fetch water and firewood from great distance in many parts and then prepare the meal of the day by pounding the corn or the millet and do many other chores that are tedious and tiring but it does not diminish their spirit so they sing joyfully while helping build their neighbors house as you will see in the video above.

What Africa needs is an understanding of their spirit and their way of life . They have suffered a lot during the period of slavery when the western countries treated them like cattle to be sold to the highest bidder so the concept of Africans being inferior to others was born resulting in racism that still persists. I have written about the Scourge of slavery in one blog so read it.

People who do not understand the Africans and their way of life , their culture and their proud heritage still insist that they need to be educated and Christianized. This should be stopped. One must learn to look at them with clear understanding and empathy. Only then you will begin to appreciate Africa and its inhabitants. I hope this blog brings to you new knowledge and makes you more aware of the beauty of their culture and spirit.

Note : My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links :

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Anil’s biography in English.

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Amal Chatterjee

I am the village bard who loves to share his stories.