There is no simple definition of Afrikan religion, just like with all complex bodies of knowledge.
But I can start by saying: it is a valid spiritual, cultural, sociological and political body of knowledge developed by Afrikans in their interest and image to answer questions about their daily life and cosmological purpose in order to enhance the forward flow and improvement of their lives.
It sustained Afrika for millennium. In fact, it was at the core of the first civilisation in the world which was developed by Afrikans—Kemet Civilisation (Greek misnomer ‘Egypt’).
It thrived as the spirituality promoting harmony, fertility, community, respect and family for Afrikan people. However, with the incessant invasion, enslavement and conquest of the continent, it is having trouble to be accorded its due recognition and respect.
First, under invasion, invaders usually bar the way of worship of the invaded’s religion. Second, due to control over social-political-economic life of the invaded, the invaders usually strategically accord privileges to those who ridicule, despise and desecrate not just the knowledge itself, but the tools, the sites and custodians/practitioners of that knowledge.
In doing this, they usually enlist the brightest and those most fertile for leadership in their community and the rewards accumulated by those enlisted is projected as manifestation of the potency of the invader’s god.
This is why, after a long, repeated practice of the above, few people who are ‘educated’ have respect for it. Most people who have been in touch with it, who mainly live in rural Afrika, have more respect for it.
That notwithstanding, most Malawians unconsciously practise it, particularly at crisis-prone points of life like death (burying people with a reed mat), birth (the woman living with older women after first birth, grandmother giving a baby the first shaving), puberty (initiation ceremony sites in the bush or near a river are protected against wild animals using indigenous knowledge).
This why it can be said that much as Afrikan religion is oral, it is written—for those who care to read—in the indigenous music, our indigenous wedding ceremonies, our funerals, our initiation ceremonies, our birth rituals, our language, our beer-drinking, our social and family relationships, and in the rituals at our shrines.
MODE OF WORSHIP:
There is first an acknowledgement of the Creator [Namalenga, Chauta, Chiuta]. This is the Great Source. The Nourisher of all life with the generous gifts of water and sun, breath, and all the earth’s natural wonder and beauty.
Below the Creator are territorial/communal/cultural/national spirits or ‘gods’. These include Mbona, Bimbi, MakeWana, Chikang’ombe, Nyangu, Chaminuka etc. They may also be called upon by individuals.
Then there are family spirits. These are those people in your family who passed on. Afrikan religion believes life is eternal, moving in a cycle. So, death is material; but spirit continues. Our beloved Ancestors live. They guard us and they are also our disciplinarians who want us to remain to our Self, customs, beliefs and traditions.
To please them, we make offerings. It can be at a tree, shrine, or grave site. Whenever anyone is sweeping a graveyard, they are engaging in ancestral communion. Whether they like it or not! When making the offering, you call the names of the Ancestors and you plead with them to receive the offering.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Lecture By Dziwapo Chamutolo (Chairperson for Kabula Chipembedzo cha Makolo Branch) to Malawi Lost History Whatsap group on 4th November 2018.