Your questions answered about
Africa’s indigenous cultural heritage
The Kara Heritage Institute receives many questions from its supporters. Here you can find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Africa’s ancient heritage and its relevance today in the lives of the African people.
Q: what are the processes for ritual cleansing?
Mourning the dead is a universal practice which is mediated by religious and cultural practices in different societies. This usually involves the core beliefs and customs, spiritual practices, and certain expected behaviours that will be symbolic of mourning the death of a loved one .For example, when a death has occurred, there are prescribed behaviours and rituals performed such as what is worn, how the bereaved are addressed, how feelings should be dealt with and what will be done to symbolize the separation of the deceased from the people who are left behind .According to Kilonzo and Hogan (1999) clearly prescribed and strict rituals exist in every tribe determining for everyone the appropriate behavior in the face of death. In African societies, meticulous care is taken to fulfil the funeral rites, to avoid causing any offence to the departed also called the ancestors or the ‘living dead’ As an example there is a funeral ritual which is intended to be a public acknowledgement that a death has occurred. There are also cleansing ceremonies and rituals such as ‘ukubuyisa’, (a Zulu word to imply the return of the spirit of the deceased home or a memorial service, performed to complete the process of accepting the status of the deceased among the remaining members of the family. This custom is universal in South Africa .There are different names as per language to describe the ceremonies and the actual proceeding of the events.
Q: What is Karaism?
According to the writings in the Book of Divine Light, the very first record of African spirituality, around 5,000 years ago ancient civilisation in Africa practiced a religion that was based on what could be seen in the heavens. People linked their awareness of God and divinity to the sun, the moon and the stars and planets visible in the night sky. Because the movement of celestial bodies had a profound impact on human life (such as determining the seasons for planting or harvest) it was natural to study the meaning of the heavens and interpret them as evidence of divine power. Thus the study of astronomy and in particular the meaning of the stars in the Zodiac (i.e. the study of astrology) was the earliest manifestation of the awareness of the Word of God on earth.
This is a very simple explanation of what was actually an extraordinarily complex philosophy: In a nutshell, the power of the sun was the most important factor in the daily lives of humankind, therefore the sun itself was regarded as a manifestation of the Spirit of God, referred to in those times as The Unknown Creator, or The One (Ptah), or The Divine Light (Kara). Thus faith in the Divine Light or the Unknown Creator became known as Karaism.
Karaism as a spiritual philosophy was the beginning of a long history of worship of the “Sun God” in many guises before these evolved into the major western and middle-eastern religions that are practiced today. Some 4,000 years later, Karaism emerged in Southern Africa, in the Empires of the Sun established first at Maphungubwe and then at Great Zimbabwe a mere 1,000 years ago – and the influence of these societies can be seen in African culture to this day. As Africans, we can rightly be proud of the powerful influence of our religious heritage on today’s cultural identity and religious practices.
Q: When we say the 21st Century is Africa’s Century, what is our vision?
We envision an Africa that does not concern herself with racial and ethnic questions; an Africa that focuses on the principle of unity in diversity, her integration and development; century used to eradicate drug and alcohol abuse, and other manifestations of moral decay; used to rediscover, restore and harness African heritage and indigenous knowledge systems, in order to enlighten humanity, and empower it to combat racism, grass materialism, xenophobia and greed.
It is foreseen that the National Interfaith Council of South Africa (NICSA), will facilitate the necessary social dialogue to enable faith communities and society as a whole to find itself, as well as bridge rifts between a culturally, religious and linguistically diverse African people, through intercultural and interfaith programmes including spiritual and cultural activities. Her scholars should correct the distortions of African Origins, history and culture, which damaged the psyche of African people by making Africans accept the unfounded propaganda, that they are subhuman and inferior to other races. This means that, member states of the African Union (AU) must maximise the participation of the private sectors, civil society organisations, women, youth and people with disability, in social dialogues on Pan Africanism, integration and development.
All these aspirations are grounded in the belief that, the human body is the prison or tomb of the soul, the indwelling Spirit, God within that is known as the Divine Spark (chikara). This imprisonment by the physical body makes the soul forget its divinity and divine origins and focus on its material, at the expense of its spiritual needs. Every human being must therefore awaken to the fact that he or she has both spiritual and material aspects, and must minister to the needs of both. This reawakening or regeneration of our spiritual being could be achieved through a spiritual renaissance encompassing, music and dance, meditation, and cultural games such as chess. These practices re-establish the personal relationship of the individual with the son or Word of God, who is the gateway to and from God. Thus cultural activities are the hallmarks of Karaism – The Religion of Light.
All in all Africa has produced hybrid populations that are so intertwined that racial or ethnic purity is an irrelevant pipe dream, Africa must move out of racial and ethnic categories, and embrace the humanity of all because at the beginning, we were One, and we have been becoming One again.
Q: What are the early origins of Karaism?
Karaism is an ancient African theology, dating back to the beginning of recorded history. It was the foundation of ancient African religion and philosophy. Its influence permeates African traditions and cultural history to this day.
The name ‘Kara’ means sun or light, and thus the spiritual Philosophy of Light that defines the ancient spiritual beliefs of Africa became known as Karaism.
Some 14 centuries before the birth of Christ, Karaism took root during the reign of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Thothmoses III, the legendary founder of the great Solar (Kara) Society, which taught the spiritual Philosophy of Light.
In the ancient city of Annu, later known as Heliopolis (City of the Sun) located in the area of present day Cairo in Egypt, Thothmoses III commissioned the building of his famous sun temple, which featured the Khemetic pillars later know as Cleopatra’s needles.
These legendary pillars were inscribed with sacred inscriptions derived from the teachings of the Ancient Ones of Khem, the priesthood of the Horus kings from the land of Khem (in the region of Africa’s Great Lakes) who founded the ancient empires of Ethiopia and Egypt.
Pharaoh Thothmoses III himself was a descendant of the Horus Kings, and he selected as the symbol of his faith the solar cross which combines a cross within a circle and depicts the union of the four polarities of the earth, probably the oldest symbol in the world.
Q: In the ancient African religion of pre-Christian times, how did people interpret divine creation and the origins of humankind?
The African sage Khem also known as Ham (from whom the Khemetic and Hemetic philosophy originate) taught ancient Africans that in the beginning there was nothingness, and from that nothingness emanated the One or First Come. The One was popularly known as Ptah, after whom the ancient African empires of Egypt (Hakaptah) and Ethiopia (Atpu) are named.
All the aspects of life came out of this God. Human souls came from the Divine Light of Heaven and descended into their physical bodies. On their descent these souls inherited seven aspects (elements) of good and seven aspects of bad – together these aspects were known as the ladder of creation, and constituted the human conscience. These 14 aspects were also used to determine the African Moral Code, by which all people lived.
The first human ancestors evolved from the mind of the creator God Nunu or Dzivaguru and landed on the island of reeds. The African Holy Book also known as the Book of the Dead, states that the mind of God recorded the history of the creation of the Gods and the World.
Q: What is African cosmology and how has it influenced African culture and traditions?
The first known inhabitants of Africa, in the regions now known as Ethiopia and Egypt, as well as their descendants who migrated to Southern Africa, observed the movements that take place in the sky, the heavens, and the universe beyond the earth's atmosphere. From these movements, they developed solar and lunar calendars.
They had a week of 10 days, twelve months of 30 days each and the thirteenth month of 5 days. They divided the year into four quarters of three months each. They dedicated these four quarters and three seasons to the gods which were worshipped at specific times determined by the movement of the sun, the moon and the planets.
This study of the sun, moon, stars and planets became known African cosmology, and resulted in the formation of the African religion which came to be known as Karaism or Sabaism. The religion of Karaism dominated every aspect of African life, stipulating when people planted, when they harvested, whom they worshipped and when they initiated their young men into manhood.
Q: Why do black people believe that God was a white guy and what's the truth about Christianity and African Culture?
Although the roots of Christianity can be traced back some 5,000 years to Ethiopia and the region north of Africa’s Great Lakes, Christianity in its present form evolved only 2,000 years ago and historical circumstances resulted in its geographic spread into the Western world, where people were predominantly white. Since it is human nature to imagine God in human form, the belief amongst Westerners was that God was ‘white’ and that Jesus was a white man (although historically he was Asian and he probably had a brown skin).
When modern Christianity came to Africa, it was brought in by the Europeans who had a strong belief that Jesus and God were white. This belief is still so strong, that even today many black people are taught the Jesus was a white man.
Both the course of history and geographical proximity resulted in African spirituality being strongly influenced by both the Middle-Eastern and European civilisations. The only civilisations that did not influence Africa were those of Central and Southern Asia and the Far East. Thus today the mainstream faiths on the African continent are Christianity and Islam. Ironically, one can argue that both of these religions have been successfully integrated into African culture precisely because their roots can be traced back to early African spirituality.
In earlier times conquerors and colonists established their control by converting those whom they defeated or suppressed into adopting their own languages, cultures and religions. This phenomenon had existed since the beginning of time: the usurper oppressed the usurped. The concepts of individual liberty and equality are very recent developments in human behaviour.
It is Africa’s tragedy that when Western Christianity encountered Africans and Asians, these civilisations were dismissed as pagan and were cruelly suppressed. For instance, the Crusades of the Middle Ages involved Christian armies from countries like England, Germany and France travelling to the Middle East to fight and conquer the so-called ‘infidels’ (unbelievers) and convert them to Christianity. Christian kings truly believed it was God’s command they should go out and conquer all non-Christian peoples and force them to convert to Christianity.
The legacy of such views has filtered down to the present day. Kara Heritage Institute is sharing the responsibility for educating 21st Century Africans about their true spiritual and cultural heritage.
Q: What is the history behind the Maphungubwe World Heritage Site?
The enormously significant, historical Maphungubwe heritage site was declared a United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site on the 3rd of July 2003, seventy-one years after its discovery by a local African man named Mowena, who led a local farmer ESJ van Graan and his three sons to his discovery. This resulted in archaeological excavations by the University of Pretoria, a South African institution which one of Van Graan's sons had attended. Located at the intersection of the modern day borders of Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa, it is the integral discovery of the Maphungubwe empire which stretched from the Zoutpansberg (modern day Makhado) in the South to the Matobo Hills in South Western Zimbabwe. The influence of the Maphungubwe civilisation reached as far South as the escarpment and the Olifants River in the South. The origins of the Maphungubwe Empire were traced back to the Leopard’s Bambanyanalo (K2) settlement, dated to about 980.
In the 7th century the Northern parts of Limpopo province were occupied by the Ngona and Khoi-san people, and from 800 the Maphungubwe Empire emerged. Socio-cultural life revolved around the Bambanyanalo Settlement which was located about a kilometre from Maphungubwe Hill, before its abandonment to the iconic hill, the place (ma), the hill of the jackal (phungubwe), of the stone (bwe). Maphungubwe was not only a royal court but also a spiritual and rain making centre, here the Kalanga worshipped their rain Goddess, the Queen of Heaven (Mwari we Denga) or the Great God (Muhali Muhulu). The Vhavenda and VaTsonga call this Goddess Nwali and Nwari respectively. The sacred Kalanga rulers lived and ruled from the top of the hill and controlled a great empire which traded in gold, ivory, rhinoceros horn with the Chinese, Indians, Egyptians and Arabs, and cultivated millet, sorghum and cotton, whilst keeping domesticated cattle, goats, sheep and dogs.
The distinctive features of Maphungubwe Civilisation were a belief in one God with subordinate Gods and ancestors, a sun centred world view which places the Sun at the centre of creation, the royal fire as the highest form of divinity and royalty, worship of the feminine principle, divine Kingship or Queen-ship, a culture based on metallurgy and livestock and a solar and lunar calendar of a week 10 days, 12 months of 30 days each and the 13th month of 5 days. The Empire declined from 1240 and was abandoned in 1250. The royal court and trade centre moved north to the Great Zimbabwe empire which was known as Bokhalaka, thus the territory between the Limpopo and the Olifants River was also called Bokhalaka or Guruhusekwa. The abandonment of the place of the hill of the Jackal of Stone did not mean that the Maphungubwe culture disappeared without a trace. The culture persisted for at least a further 200 years in the Zoutpansberg and the Matobo, and persists with the Kalanga people to this day. Thus the Maphungubwe and Great Zimbabwe cultures were founded by the same people, and were substantially the same.
Q: What are the origins of Zulu people?
The ancient history of the Nguni people is wrapped up in their oral history. According to legend they were a people who migrated from Egypt to the Great Lakes region of sub-equatorial Central/East Africa. The Nguni group migrated along the eastern part of southern Africa in their southward move from central Africa. They migrated southwards over many centuries, with large herds of Nguni cattle, probably entering what is now South Africa around 2,000 years ago in sporadic settlement, followed by larger waves of migration around 1,400 AD. Some groups split off and settled along the way, while others kept going. Thus, the following settlement pattern formed: the Swazi in the north, the Zulu towards the east and the Xhosa in the south. Owing to the fact that these people had a common origin, their languages and cultures show marked similarities.
The Nguni (Ndebele, Swazi, Xhosa and Zulu tribes) diverged from the Sotho-Tswana and Tsonga within the past 1,000-2,000 years (Jorde et al. 1995). At some point along their southward journey, they came in contact with San hunters, which is why they now produce the "click" sounds that characterize their languages today. Within the Nguni nations, the clan — based on male ancestry — formed the highest social unit. Each clan was led by a chieftain. Influential men tried to achieve independence by creating their own clans. The power of a chieftain often depended on how well he could hold his clan together. From about 1,800AD the rise of the Zulu clan of the Nguni and the consequent Mfecane that accompanied the expansion of the Zulus under Shaka, helped to drive a process of alliance between and consolidation among many of the smaller clans.
Q: Where did the traditions practised today in the Mudjadji Dynasty originate?
During the 7th Century the Limpopo Valley was occupied by the Ngona and Khoi-San people. Then from about 800 to 850 the area was settled by the Shroda (Insingami) who were Sotho speaking people. They were followed by the Kalanga speaking Bambandyalo who settled there between 950 and 1150. The Kalanga speaking founders of this village pushed the Sotho members of the Moloko culture into Botswana where they established the village of Taupye Mohale (Toutswe a Mogale).
The Kalanga speaking immigrants intermingled with the remaining Sotho people in the area and produced the Venda culture and language. The Kalanga introduced the institution of divine or sacred Kingship in the new settlement of Bambandyalo. From about 1400, more Kalanga speaking people from modern day Zimbabwe crossed the Limpopo River, and settled in the Zoutpansberg (Makhado) and Kruger National Park regions. These people included Vhambedzi and Vhanyai and were known as the Vhathavatsinde (the Mbire section of the Kalanga people) from Great Zimbabwe. Here they further displaced the Sotho speaking people who had settled around 1300. The Vhathavatsinde further comprised the people of the Dove (Vhakwevho) also called people of the Wild Pig (Dzinguluve), and the people of the Elephant (Dzindou).
The Vhathavhatsinde were themselves displaced by the Vhasensi or Masingo, who came from Vhuxhwa in the Belingwe or Mberengwa province of modern Zimbabwe. These Vhasenzi of Ramabulana, Tshivhase and Mphaphudi arrived in the central Zoutpansberg (Vhuthuvhatsinde or modern day Makhado) in about 1700. They were received by their Vhakwevho matriarchal uncle Mpyayapenga and settled at Tumvi. The Venda Kingdom of Thohoyandou was born here.
The Masingo and Vhathavhatsinde descended respectively from the Rozwi houses of Moyo and Soko Mbire, both houses descended from the Rozwi of the Mwanamutapa dynasty. After the collapse of Great Zimbabwe around 1450 the Mbire section of the Rozwi dynasty broke away and established the Khami Empire. Succession disputes between the Moyo and Mbire led to the takeover of power by the Moyo house which established its royal court at Danangombe (now Dhlodhlo). More Vhathavatsinde from the new Khami Empire migrated south into the Limpopo province, followed by the Masingo from Danangombe after further succession disputes. Therefore, the Valobedu of Mudjadji the Rain Queen can trace their history to the Mwanamutapa dynasty of the empire of Bokhalaka in modern Zimbabwe.
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