The Ontology of the African VII: Play and Wound


If a leader or intellectual is not articulating the values and necessities of robust human pride to his people, he or she is a dangerous traitor unworthy of the position  – Guynes

The ontology of the African unfortunately involves ‘senseless play’ to perpetuate it as derisory and it becoming more visible due to social media; it has always been that way. The upliftment of the African people is what is necessary in our ontology not play.

In Sapele during the 1980s I spent quite some time with a guy named Samuel Akpevwa, my in-law, who had an interesting saying which caught the interest of whoever was listening, mostly because of the subtle and spontaneous drama he presented it with. Samuel repeated the saying so often it sometimes got tiresome but never boring. I will never forget the freshness of the first few times I heard it. His saying was (corrected from broken English);

“If you play you wound. All these small small children you see crying all over the place, it is play that causes their tears. Adults too wound themselves seriously when they are careless with their words or actions because of play and sometimes they too cry”.

The saying was then followed by a couple of humorously told elaborate examples then would suddenly go quiet. Samuel was rather taciturn but he thoroughly enjoyed the “If you play you wound” act to the point of unrestrained expansiveness. The interest people had in Samuel’s saying was that he instantaneously provoked them into remembering the deeds of those who should know but did not and even if they did their greed, narcissism, power hunger, miscalculation or sheer folly would isolate them far from common sense and reason.

A mechanic by profession Samuel understood the ontology of the African in ways many educated African would often deny in order to save the very skin he or she is not allowed to be proud of. It is always more tragic when the one who wounds himself or herself with play is at the top of the pile. How can the ontology of the Africa improve when those at the top decrease it? A man can never be greater than his people, therefore, the worst thing a man can do is make a career of deriding and dismissing his people incessantly especially when it is unnecessary, just to please his non-African or African paymaster.

In the film Django Unchained, Samuel L Jackson plays the archetypal “Uncle Tom” who despises his own people just to be a privileged servant in his wealthy master’s house. The Uncle Tom could not bear another Blackman, Django, ride a horse that he presumed only he could rude. Africans who think that the man shits diarrhoea on them everyday is their continental treasure cannot know what is good for them; they cannot have a good ontology. The modified “Uncle Tom” industry is thriving in Africa and too many cannot wait to secure their place in it; play and toys of an indulgent and expensive kind are the stuff of their dreams, never real work, never real thought. Their work and thoughts enriches the ontology of the non-African while it leaches their very own.

A great people are always enlightened to the value of their pride. A great people are always enlightened to the value of their pride. A great people are always enlightened to the value of their pride “I am black and I am proud, shout loud” was very scary when James brown released it as a song during the Civil Rights era; but it did some magic. Our leaders and intellectuals do not do magical stuff for the pride of their people; they just shit and shout the wrong things. Well that is magical for the non-African.

If a leader or intellectual is not teaching the values and necessities of robust pride to his people he or she is a characteristic traitor. Where appropriate use criticism, use condemnation, use encouragement, use wisdom, use knowledge, use education, use practical resources, use good livelihoods, use whatever means available to teach the African pride, robust human pride. Create practical structures, things and feats that generate, boost and entrench such pride in the soul of the African in parallel to the pride of citizens of other continents.  Pride in luxury is that by which the ontology of the African fails. When the Nigerian drives a Ferrari in London he is automatically suspected of being a criminal if he is not a Premiership footballer by non-Africans, his pride in his car is no more than he can show it off to Africans.

The unspoken primary function of a people is to instill pride in themselves; the more magical and embedded in the cultural heritage the better; that makes for a good ontology. I say again, that makes for a good ontology which teaches its people robust pride in themselves, collectively and individually. Some Africans may ask what is there to be proud about with the expectation of a predictable negative answer; such people are looking for a Mercedes Benz, a big house and a holiday in Miami but act as if they are critical, courageous and thoughtful. Other simply but sincerely disappointed in Africa’s perennial and predictable vicious cycles of poverty and hapless development traps.

For the African, once he or she is validated by the non-African for good works they start to do good play. The validation of the non-African is the worst thing an African can seek as an end in itself; it brings about play and if you play you wound. Grand banquets, presidential inaugurations, eminent personality groups, toothless do-gooding, celebrated eccentricity, fund-raising appearances, launching countless memoirs, acquired non-African tastes, marriage to heirs and heiresses; it is all play. These things are all real but play. Nevertheless, as they play do they have to pull the ontology of the African down? When seriousness, industry, constructiveness, invention, innovation, trade diligently and effectively replace play, the ontology of African will be uplifted.

American, White, Harvard, Eton, Upper-class, artist, intellectual, scion, royalty, French, surgeon, banker; ancestry, pedigree; it is all about pride in one’s own nationality, career, family, heritage and alma mater. Those unenlightened to the ‘pride of self’ always lag behind in everything except that which is play. It is not surprising too many Nigerians are proud of ‘one-hit cunning’ and ‘advance fee fraud’. All ethnicities have criminals in their stock but only those without pride revel in crime as if it was a badge of honour. And this is Africa’s ontology because those with the ‘responsibility’ did not foster a ‘culture of pride’.

Yet, we have African leaders and intellectuals who promote that which is non-African and condemns that which is African for the sake recognition, aid funding, popularity, fame and a privilege to mix favourably with the non-African. They pretend to their people and followers that the solutions to the African problem are love, technology, good leaders, working institutions and education. In that case we have to ask the right questions.

How can an unrepentant tribalist preach love in Africa’s countless multicultural societies? How can African who preaches against industrial policy in Africa in favour of the free market be helping the possibility of a technological explosion in his continent? How can we have good African leaders when the ‘African disaster’ is a function blamed spinelessly on followers? How can institutions developed by non-Africans to solve non-Africa problems work so smoothly in Africa even with the witcheous conditionalities attached? How can the education served to Africans be useful when they have not heavily invested in creation of homegrown centres of excellence for learning? Sincere answers will tell you where Africa’s eternal suicide is coming from. Open your eyes wide, and then open then again a little wider progressively till you can see the reality for what it is.

When you need a Nobel Laureate as evidence of the intelligence of the African, your pride in yourself has failed you, especially, one given to ‘play and wound’ antics. If winning the Nobel Prize was based on a high IQ many would not have won it at all. If you need the unilateral orders of a king to do what your soul and conscience unrelentingly tells you not to do your pride in yourself, people and land have failed you. If you need leaders who rob your nation into such extreme poverty that crossing the Mediterranean in ‘death boats’ with 90% probability of sinking is your best hope of a basic livelihood, your pride has failed you.

Pride is complete; economic, political, social, cultural, linguistic, technological, artistic, scientific, sexual, spiritual, pride has to be complete. So when the Nobel Laureate, king and president makes your pride incomplete you do not need them unless you want to be sprayed eternally by their toxic diarrhea. After all, masochism [a component of the ontology of the African] is inevitably learnt by the African from all including the Nobel Laureate, king and president. It is a very derisory ontology of the African to live with his or her despair and pain while intellectuals and leaders play in extreme luxury which turns out to be their spectacular undoing.

If a Nobel Laureate can talk of his people like a befuddled puppet, a king act thoughtlessly because he likes to appease the crowds with dancing and a president behaves like an “I know it all” buffoon listened to for hilarious comic value only the ontology of the African is in very bad shape. The non-African loves the sight of African who are foolish, thoughtless and uninitiated especially those of great stature; adopting a serious demeanour and not laughing like a desperate-to-please Uncle Tom does not help – the ontology of the African catches you the same way it catches the Khoisan.

Recently South African kicked the ontology of Africans in the teeth by killing ‘foreign Africans’ resident in their land. These same South Africans traumatised by Apartheid have such low pride in themselves they could only muster very little by way of hostility towards ‘foreign Africans’. The Apartheid embedded deeply in their souls dammed their humanity unleashing nastiness. Their only humanity that came from them was not inflicting hostilities on non-Africans.  Shout Mandela! Shout Freedom! Shout Peace! Shout Rainbow! Those are the shouts of an ever-impoverished ontology of the African necessary to make that of the non-African safe.

Anytime an African plays with his ontology, she is deliberately or inadvertently wounding it. Please remember; if you pay, you wound.

Grimot Nane

Sketch: courtesy

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