African Communalism: The fight for the Vigil

"We want Auntie Hellen"

"You will never prosper. Yes, we all know you are a village prostitute! Greed and isolation have corrupted your eyes. Do you know why you are still single and childless? Useless woman! Yes, even the Chairman knows you are barren! We can lynch you right now if we wanted but we won't because it would be useless to kill a useless person! Idiot! Come out of your sister's room if you are strong; come face the wrath of the community if you can."- The crowd hurling insults at Auntie Helen’s sister.

Oh, let me give you a sneak peek to the event that brought us to this fateful incident. Well, Auntie Hellen used to stay in the community and due to her kindness and hospitality; she was considered the new mother Theresa. I even remember that evening when i was about to feast on my usual kikomando (chapati and beans), she arrived and handed me a dish of spaghetti. Damn, was she sent by Angel Elijah to come rescue me? I couldn't tell! When she found children fighting, she could stop and offer sweets and advise them to make peace. She finds a child struggling to carry a 20 liter Jerry can of water back home; well her help would be guaranteed instantly! Oh my, that village dance when she delivered 10 crates of soda and 5 liters of waragi for the chairman's daughter's introduction ceremony, we considered that a divine intervention! Auntie Hellen was the name on everyone's lips; she won over our cold hearts! She portrayed a high stratum of moral integrity amidst the already collective individuals in the village.

The community considered her their own and she considered them hers. In other words, the mantra of African communalism that embarked from this urban village left me astonished! But now, Auntie Hellen is no more! She transited to another life-the spiritual one! She is a cadaver! So why were the village members hurling insults at the deceased's sister? Because she had denied the community the right to vigil-that should be encompassed in our constitution soon! How could she just transport the corpse of mother Theresa for burial like that? Without even a night of vigil with her people in the urban village? What would the elders tell the sweet little children when they ask about her whereabouts? They vehemently opposed her individualistic idea of rush burial!

Rationally thinking, it was Aristotle who first stated that man is a social animal; other philosophers picked on that notion. One thinker Edwin Smith captured this form of sociality when he wrote:
The Africans have hitherto lived in the collective stage; the community has been the unit, every individual interest has been subordinated to the general welfare. In many respects, this excites our admiration, even envy. There is a solidarity that civilized communities find it hard to attain.”

The aftermath made me realize that we (Africans) treasure the ones that have always been so dear to us! It will not matter whether they are still with us or gone, we somewhat love celebrating them through a unified effort! We would fight for what we rightfully call ours-our child, our wife, our house, our leader and so forth.

It is not an illusion to have the values and principles of African culture running through a few contemporary urban dwellers neither is it a depiction of somewhat failed modernism. The African spirit of solidarity has for long been entailed for instance in Kwame Nkrumah’s Consciencism; Kenneth Kaunda's African Humanism and Julius Nyerere's Ujamaa. For the concept-African communalism-to flourish in the 21st century and beyond, societal settings must eliminate the blurred thought that it is archaic and simply embrace and fuse in their daily lives.

In Memory of Auntie Hellen 


  1. This is a good read. Africanisms and individualism have no correlation.

  2. Proud to be African!!! A good read indeed.


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