Thursday, 16 October 2014

An Open Letter to African Intellectuals

An Open Letter to African Intellectuals

October 13, 2014 — The tag, 'intellectual' in reference to Africa refers to a certain type: western educated and visible in western media, maybe published in the West and maybe teaching at a western university. Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire writes to this type of African Intellectual.

Kenyan writer and intellectual Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s ideas were (and still are) relevant to Kenya and Kenyans, so the post-colonial Kenyan establishment had to shut him up. Pro-African intellectualism not welcome here. Photo: EPA
Kenyan writer and intellectual Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s ideas were (and still are) relevant to Kenya and Kenyans, so the post-colonial Kenyan establishment had to shut him up. Pro-African intellectualism not welcome here. Photo: EPA

Dear contemporary African Intellectuals,
We find your names on lists published in western media, among the top African Public Intellectuals, sometimes among the lists of Global Thinkers. And we celebrate. ‘Our’ thinkers are shaping the world, we say. You appear in TIME’s lists of Influential People. You have theorised about important things. About the end of capitalist hegemony. About the failure of the African state. About the representations of Africanness. About the rise of Afro-capitalism. About many things your Western audiences find very captivating. And this is why they rank you highly alongside their own intellectuals. You are indeed one of their intellectuals as well.
What if Africa needs or desires a different intellectual from what the West needs? How do you become an intellectual for both societies without losing relevance in the other? These are questions I want you to think about. I am writing because I seek knowledge. I want to understand if, on the streets of Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and other African countries, you are still the intellectual you are in the West. Let us exclude the prophet is not appreciated in their own home alibi, because we know for sure that Africa, or Asia, or South America does not identify intellectuals for Europe or North America. It can’t be that this prophetisation of intellectuals applies only to Africa!
What if Africa needs or desires a different intellectual from what the West needs?
I will refer to Africa’s immediate post-colonial period to show what I mean by relevance of an intellectual to the African condition. Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Haunted out of Kenya because his theorising was ‘radicalising’ the Kenyan rural masses and pockets of the urban elite, where he was taking his plays that hit hard on the neo-colonial nature of post-colonial Kenya, he has since found refuge in the West. You see, Ngugi’s intellectualism was in the language the majority of his people understand. Gikuyu. And so he became so influential in his own homeland and too dangerous to Euro-American interests in Kenya, and thus had to be eliminated. The story of his imprisonment over his writing is known to you. The story of the novel he wrote on toilet paper in his prison cell is also known. The story of his liberation of the Literature Department at University of Nairobi from the hegemony of English Literature to the fresh shores of African Literature is also known to you. No one will deny that Ngugi was therefore a Kenyan intellectual in his prime. His ideas were not only relevant to Kenya and Kenyans but also influential. We know this because were they not influential enough, the post-colonial Kenyan establishment would not have shut him up by all means.
Cross the border into Uganda, where Ngugi studied, at Makerere University. His contemporary Okot P’Bitek also exemplifies the image of a relevant intellectual to their society. P’Bitek believed that theory does not only belong to the hollowed walls of universities and addled pages of newspapers and books. He was head of the extra-mural department of Makerere University, based in his home-town of Gulu, not the ivory tower at Makerere. Ideas live with people. While he was director of the Uganda National Theatre (the first African director of the institution), he took theatre out of the elitist urban Kampala to the people, through festivals in the countryside and the work of a travelling theatre troupe. He was also active in Kenya with travelling theatre companies, after running away from Idi Amin’s regime. As he wrote in his posthumously published collection of essays, Artist, the Ruler, “In an African society, art is life. It is not a performance. It is not necessarily a profession. It is life.” I would like to extend the argument to intellectualism. Ideas are life. They must be relevant. Lived. Or they are dead and non-existent.
I return to you, our esteemed contemporary African intellectuals. Where are your ideas in our life, us Africans living in Africa today? I understand that your theorising makes sense to those who praise you and list you among the most influential thinkers of our time. But do they make sense to us? Do they benefit us? Do we live by them? When you leave your busy lives in Western universities, your non-stop lecture schedules in all the world’s (read ‘developed’ world) capitals and retreat to Africa, where majority of the population still lives in rural areas and obviously does not consume Western media, do you feel that your intellectualism is relevant to the lives we lead? Do you feel that the Socrates, Adam Smith, Hegel, Marx, Kant, Keynes etc. that you are always citing is relevant to our lives?
Of course you know for sure that every society is based on certain philosophies, ideas and systems. Or else it would not be a society. Who or how do you think the ideas, philosophies and systems that inform our lives came to exist? Or are you still purveying the fiction that these philosophies are dead-dying? They are not, I can tell you. They are evolving and what they are becoming is not necessarily a replica of Euro-American life. There is such a thing as African contemporaneity that is not mimicry of European culture nor is it a re-imagination of an African past. If you refuse, come and I take you to Nyanja, the village of my birth and upbringing. Or do you think the okadas in Lagos or boda bodas in Kampala are mimicry of the West? Did our ancestors ride them? There is your hint. But you are the same advising African city managers to ban these things because in your Euro-American vision, they do not exist!
Know why our sewage pipes keep bursting? Workers of National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) yet another burst pipe on Jinja Road in Kampala. Photo: Wilfred Sanya
Know why our sewage pipes keep bursting? Workers of National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) yet another burst pipe on Jinja Road in Kampala. Photo: Wilfred Sanya
I will share something I learnt from a renowned African journalist, Charles Onyango Obbo. In Kampala, there is a big sewerage problem. Whenever it rains, or even when it does not, you find sewage freely flowing on the city streets. According to Charles Onyango Obbo, much of Kampala under colonial times was inhabited by Europeans and Asians, and so the infrastructure was to serve their needs. He says that these Europeans and Asians did not eat heavy organic food and so their waste was lighter. Africans on the other hand eat heavy organic food. The sewage pipes made for Kampala in colonial times were therefore light as the waste would not be heavy. Africans took over most of these houses that used to be inhabited by the Asians and Europeans on independence. The size of sewage pipes has not changed. Even new pipes bought are as small as they were then. Africans have not urbanised culturally. They still eat their heavy organic food. And the pipes are always bursting. Kampala is stuck with its sewerage flowing on the streets? Why? Because the post-colonial intellectuals have not decolonised their thinking. They think for Euro-America shadows. But Africa has not necessarily become a shadow of Europe. This is probably why in the West, Africa has intellectuals that speak to a reality the West knows. In Africa, these same intellectuals are leading to solutions that cause more problems. Like the flowing sewerage.
There is such a thing as African contemporaneity that is not mimicry of European culture
Most of you have been insistent on the need to ‘develop’ Africa. Some of you speak about this development in the economic sense, while some of you talk of social development. You are partly responsible for the cliché that Africa is bedevilled with ignorance, poverty and disease. Our esteemed African intellectuals, have you asked yourselves if this development you preach is necessary or even desirable for African populations? Have you re-thought what development actually means? You now talk of Globalisation! Dear fellow Africans, is Africa the centre of the globe in your globalisation vision? If Euro-America is the centre in this globalisation vision, is this then, not Westernisation? Isn’t this why Euro-America calls you African intellectuals? Is this not your utility to them? You centre the future on them and yet you are African by descent. You intellectualise for them. You are their intellectual but also African.
As I conclude, I would like to quote one of you, Andrew Mujuni Mwenda, Foreign Policy Top 100 Thinker, TED speaker etc., to whom I wrote in January 2014 about his obsession with Socrates and search for an irrelevant intellectual space in the Ugandan media (see my letter to him here). After a visit to Dubai, he literally swallowed much of his preaching about neo-liberalism and confessed:
” … what makes nations successful is the ability to find public policies and political institutions that their people understand. Part of the problem of Uganda (and Africa) is that we spend so much time reciting foreign ideologies chapter and verse but always fail to relate them to our realities. Thus while our problems are local and the demands to solve them are locally generated, the tendency is that when it comes to designing solutions, we retreated to theories drawn from textbooks.
These theories evolved in North America and Europe to explain a specific historical experience – how changing technology drove structural change and all this led to political struggles. These struggles were nourished by existing norms, values, traditions, and shared cultural understandings and therefore produced a specific institutional set-up. It is unlikely that one can cut and paste it on a society with different social dynamics and they work. Therefore, a major source of failure in Africa may be this mismatch between demands and solutions.” Read the whole column here.

EBOLA - The Designer War

From Ghana: Ebola is not real and the only people who have gotten sick are those who got shots from the red cross. Other than the original facebook post, this web site is the first one to carry this and it needs to be spread, the future may be riding on this one, ARCHIVE, POST POST AND RE-POST!

Nana Kwame wrote: 
People in the Western World need to know what’s happening here in West Africa. THEY ARE LYING!!! “Ebola” as a virus does NOT Exist and is NOT “Spread”. The Red Cross has brought a disease to 4 specific countries for 4 specific reasons and it is only contracted by those who receive treatments and injections from the Red Cross. That is why Liberians and Nigerians have begun kicking the Red Cross out of their countries and reporting in the news the truth. Now bear with me:
Most people jump to “depopulation” which is no doubt always on the mind of the West when it comes to Africa. But I assure you Africa can NEVER be depopulated by killing 160 people a day when thousands are born per day. So the real reasons are much more tangible.
Reason 1: This vaccine implemented sickness being “called” Ebola was introduced into West Africa for the end goal of getting troops on the ground in Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. If you remember America was just trying to get into Nigeria for “Boko Haram” #BULLSHIT but that fell apart when Nigerians started telling the truth. There ARE NO GIRLS MISSING. Global support fell through the floor, and a new reason was needed to get troops into Nigeria and steal the new oil reserves they have discovered.
Reason 2: Sierra Leone is the World’s Largest Supplier of Diamonds. For the past 4 months they have been on strike, refusing to provide diamonds due to horrible working conditions and slave pay. The West will not pay a fair wage for the resources because the idea is to keep these people surviving on rice bags and foreign aid so that they remain a source of cheap slave labor forever. A reason was also needed to get troops on the ground in Sierra Leone to force an end to the diamond miners strikes. This is not the first time this has been done. When miners refuse to work troops are sent in and even if they have to kill and replace them all, the only desire is to get diamonds back flowing out of the country.
Of course to launch multiple campaigns to invade these countries separately would be way too fishy. But something like “Ebola” allows access to an entire area simultaneously…
Reason 3: In addition to stealing Nigerian oil, and forcing Sierra Leone back to mining, troops have also been sent in to FORCE vaccinations (Deadly “Ebola” Poison) onto those Africans who are not foolish enough to take them willingly.
3000 troops are being sent in to make sure that this “poison” continues to spread, because again it is only spread through vaccination. As more and more news articles are released as they have been in Liberia, informing the populous of the US lies and manipulation, more and more Africans are refusing to visit the Red Cross. Troops will force these vaccinations upon the people to ensure the visible appearance of an Ebola pandemic. In addition to this they will protect the Red Cross from the Liberians and Nigerians who have been rightfully ejecting them from their countries.
Reason 4: Last but not least, the APPEARANCE of this Ebola “pandemic” (should Americans not catch on) will be used to scare the countless millions into taking an “Ebola vaccine” which in reality is the pandemic. Already they have started with stories of how it has been brought to the U.S. and has appeared in Dallas, how white doctors were cured but black infected are not being allowed to be treated, etc.
ALL that will do is make blacks STRIVE to get the vaccine, because it appears that the “cure” is being held back from blacks. They will run out in droves to get it and then there will be serious problems. With all we have seen revealed about vaccines this year you would think we learned our lesson. All I can do is hope so, Because they rely on our ignorance to complete their agendas.
Ask yourself: If Ebola really was spread from person to person, instead of controlled spread through vaccination – then WHY would the CDC and the US Government continue to allow flights in and out of these countries with absolutely no regulation, Or At All? We have got to start thinking and sharing information globally because they do not give the true perspective of the people who live here in West Africa. They are lying for their own benefit and there aren’t enough voices out there with a platform to help share our reality. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, paralyzed and disabled by these and other “new” vaccines all over the world and we are finally becoming aware of it. Now what will we do with all this information?
Reference: Jim Stone Freelance


Monday, 22 September 2014

Schools in Uganda | Article by Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire

Why are schools punishing children for speaking African languages?

September 17, 2014 — Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire looks at the various reasons for ostracising African languages in African schools and shows how unconvincing they are, arguing for more vigilance in the defence of the use of local languages in African schools.

Student being punished in front of a classroom [760 x 435]
In various schools in Uganda, and some other parts of Africa, children as young as five are punished for speaking African languages, indigenous languages and mother tongues at school. The modes of punishment differ. The most common one in Uganda is wearing a dirty sack until you meet someone else speaking their mother tongue and then you pass the sack on to them. In some schools, there are specific pupils and students tasked with compiling lists of fellow pupils and students speaking mother tongues. This list is then handed over to a teacher responsible for punishing these language rule-breakers. According to Gilbert Kaburu, some schools have aprons that read: “Shame on me, I was speaking vernacular” handed over to an offender of the No Vernacular rule, who then is tasked with finding the next culprit to give the apron. Most of the punishments, in their symbolism emphasise the uselessness of the African languages.
Commenting on a photo of two children in Uganda wearing dirty sacks as punishment for speaking their mother tongues, Zimbabwean writer, Tendai Huchu says:
“That sums up our self loathing and inferiority complex. Junot Diaz once said we do a better job of enforcing white supremacy ourselves than white supremacists ever could. I should add, notice how the punishment consists of wearing sack-cloth. The image is telling. You are rags if you speak your own language.”
Halima Hosh, agreeing with Tendai Huchu opines:
“It’s outrageous. What a slave mentality that a colonial language is considered higher or better/more worth than their own local language. Unbelievable. Do the Europeans learn any African language in school? No. Why not? Because we are not proud of our heritage, not proud of our languages, not proud of Black African history. These teachers need to be fired.”
This image of two kids forced to wear sacks for speaking Luganda in school generated much discussion on Facebook this week.
This image of two kids forced to wear sacks for speaking Luganda in school generated much discussion on Facebook this week.
The loud symbolism and absurdity of the punishments for speaking local languages and the colonial roots of the practice aside, there is no convincing argument for the contemporary ostracization of African languages in African schools, fifty years and thereabouts after independence. The justifications for the present-day banning of African languages in African schools range from the need to prioritise the learning and quality of English/French (insert any other European colonial Language) over the local languages to the building of national unity and identity through globalisation. Below I show the demerits of these arguments.
Speaking African languages affects the learning of English
It has been argued that vernacular affects the learning and speaking of English (or any other colonial language) thus children need to unlearn their mother-tongues so they can learn and speak English better. Speaking English with indigenous language-inflected accents to those who make this argument is not a good job of speaking the language. There is effort put into enforcing a British accent (whatever that means). The assumption is that the less local language you speak the better your English speaking and writing abilities and vice versa.
Henry Odhiambo II, who studied from a school where children would be caned for using their mother-tongues at school in rural Kenya says that:
“it instilled so much fear that when we met outside school the kids weren’t sure what language to speak to each other thinking they may be reported and get a beating, the sad thing is that what was being spoken would pass for gibberish if a true English speaker were to give their own honest opinion.”
This elite was deliberately mis-educated to hate their own ethnic identities
From Odhiambo’s experience, we see that children lose confidence so young for being punished for speaking ‘vernacular’ yet confidence is an important attribute for good learning. Learning by punishment is not necessarily effective learning, thus the more children are forced to learn English by sacrificing their mother-tongues, the worse their English language proficiency gets.
English is needed as a common language
For many a multi-ethnic African country, with several indigenous languages, it is argued that it is important to ‘enforce’ English as a common language. Kibibi (not her real name) says that unless you start conducting official business and exams in vernacular, which she has problems with because it reinforces differences, it is important to enforce the speaking of English. She adds that she was bullied for being ‘uppity’ in primary school because she could not speak Luganda, which is not her language and thus is not spoken in her home.
The vulgarisation of ethnicity in many African countries was essential to the divide and rule policy of the British as it emphasised the de-tribalisation of a class of elite that would be left in charge of the colonies at independence to easily transition into neo-colonies. This elite was deliberately mis-educated to hate their own ethnic identities while the majorities of the populations were deliberately left to continue their life as normal in their ethnic organisations. In multi-ethnic countries like Uganda, the offspring of the Anglicised elite feel that ethnicity is a negative influence on the growth of national unity. They thus support a de-tribalisation policy.
The problem is that de-tribalisation in post-colonial Africa is impossible. People are tied to their ethnic identities and education does not necessarily de-tribalise them. Neither is it true that speaking the same language guarantees unity. Rwanda and Somalia are good examples. Despite linguistic unity, the two countries have had enough experience of civil strife. Kenya, with its Kiswahili promotion policy and English preference since 1963, still experienced ethnic strife in 2007. Co-existence is not necessarily homogeneity. There can be unity in diversity, including linguistically.
English is the international language of business
It is also argued that English and other colonial languages offer advantages to children in today’s global language. It is their passport to the global stage. Business within the hallowed walls of the Bretton Woods institutions, or at the World Economic Forum is not yet conducted in IsiZulu, Yoruba, Luganda, Lingala and other African languages and so African children need to know an ‘international’ language to survive at that stage.
Shiphrah Nidoi suggests that:
“we can learn western languages without shunning our own. English is our official language, it is internationally recognised. For popular African languages to be recognised internationally, we need to stand our ground and draw attention to them by speaking the languages. Embrace your heritage, it is beautiful. The world will go with what goes.”
I agree with Nidoi. Despite the fact that indigenous languages are not effectively supported by state policy and none has been made Uganda’s official or national language, communication in the country happens more in indigenous languages than English (the official language) or Kiswahili (the national language). Mass retail trade in Kampala is largely impossible without the knowledge of Luganda, the most spoken indigenous language in the country. Multinational companies in the telecommunications sector have to translate their adverts to a minimum of four indigenous languages to reach the target markets. There are far more indigenous language radio stations in the country than English speaking stations, reaching a much larger audience. The Luganda daily tabloid-newspaper Bukedde sells more copies than any other daily newspaper, many of which are in English. Global businesses thus need the indigenous languages to be able to penetrate African markets.
I will not speak vernacular in class
It is illogical to abandon the indigenous languages while the populations that provide market for products stay hooked to them. We are losing our competitive advantage over foreign companies in our own markets. The list of the United Nations official languages (or any other international organisation) is not fixed. More languages can be added if there is proof that they are important for the conduct of their business. The core purpose of language is communication and people in the business of running international organisations understand this hence the encouragement of multilingualism in diplomacy and international relations schools. If Africans do not support the use of their own languages, no one will do it for them.
Amos Kasibante, who once confronted a Uganda Education Minister in the 1980s over the policy of punishing children for speaking indigenous languages is livid about the situation. He asks:
If Africans do not support the use of their own languages, no one will do it for them
“Why are politicians who are engaged in anti-colonialist rhetoric not challenging this practice? How can it survive today under the fundamental change ushered in by the NRM (the Yoweri Museveni-led National Resistance Movement came into power in Uganda in 1986 promising very many reforms, with a decolonisation rhetoric underpinning many of the suggested reforms)? How come there is no flood of protests in the media about the prevalence of this practice? How come the Ministry of Education is quiet about or oblivious to its existence? How come that even churches are quiet about it and even some church schools could be perpetuating the abuse?”
Barbra Natifu agreeing with Tendai Huchu and Halima Hosh reasons that the practice is a consequence of colonised minds. She suggests that the language debate should be re-tabled and the dehumanising treatment of children stopped. She labels the punishment of children for identifying with their own cultural and linguistic identities a crime against humanity. In her opinion, this must end and the education curriculum reformed to incorporate indigenous languages.
There have been debates as to the extent and relevance of indigenous languages in the Ugandan curriculum at many levels. No such debate exists when it comes to English. In 2012, a proposed new curriculum scrapping Ugandan indigenous languages from the Ordinary Level sparked an outcry in local language rights activists’ circles, including an online petition to the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament. The idea was reportedly dropped.
In the same country Uganda, there is a policy that the language of instruction at early primary school education levels is the predominant indigenous language of the area, up to Primary Three. In Primary Four, teachers are guided to use both the indigenous language and slowly transition to using English. This policy is however grossly disregarded by a number of private schools, especially in urban areas whose logic according to Gilbert Kaburu, an Education expert, is to prepare pupils early enough for national examinations set in English. Most government-aided schools in the rural areas comply and indeed there are cases when it is suggested that their dismal performance in national examinations is due to the use of indigenous languages in the lower levels of education.
There is hope that with sustained advocacy, that the ostracization of indigenous languages will end. The Ministry of Education can be put on pressure to monitor schools that implement a No Vernacular policy. The Ministry can also be pushed to ensure the implementation of instruction in local languages in the early stages of primary education. We are the same people who lose out in the global marketplace, but also in our own home-grown markets because we are losing our competitive advantage in the name of speaking others’ languages best. The core purpose of language is communication and to communicate with the larger mass of the African population, one needs to speak the African indigenous languages.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Nyornuwofia Agorsor | Artist from Accra, Ghana

Tomatoes are part of the deadly nightshade family, poisonous to some but play a big role in Ghanaian domestic life as there is a market dedicated to the red fruit. The fish is the symbol for Christianity. The colours on the girl's face could refer to the Lebanese/Chinese/Indian invasion of Africa and the way in which the Continent is having to come to terms with becoming more culturally diverse. The mathematics or science, in the background, doesn't necessarily always add up. The lines repeated on the blackboard are a form of punishment in a borrowed language of a Colonial past. The Fish and tomato Trader in Class again? I like this work immensely as it's multi-layered and has real depth. The dominant use of the colour blue could suggest the idea of being all at sea...i.e. adrift or lost in a made up world without roots.

Tomato Market | Accra Ghana

The series of works encourage thoughts about the African conditioned snobbery of education and the acceptance of the elitist societies. Change comes about via rebellion and thinking organically without the aid of global support. The community makes the change but the artist must engage the society in order for permanent change to have everlasting effect. So let us look at this and your other works again. What is meant by all of this? Education = Mental States of Africans (Ghanaians) | Food = Wealth and as we can, da 5 aday it no dere so let us ask ourselves, who is benefiting from the education, who is able to be educated and who is doing the educating? These are the rainbow questions the artist is talking about. The African (Ghanaian) all but disappears when placed in a CLASSROOM; full of high class, middle class and the under class. Who benefits from the wealth of Africa (Ghana) everybody but the Africans (Ghanaians) so again they become invisible and so the Africa (Ghanaian) is no longer in the picture at all.

Nyornuwofia Agorsor | Artist from Ghana
Nyornuwofia Agorsor | Artist from Accra, Ghana

Here are some images of works within the series:



Saturday, 2 August 2014

Issues of Homosexuality

Gays: Guardians of the Gates

An Interview with Malidoma Somé
Copyright © 1993 by Bert H. Hoff

This article appeared in the September, 1993 issue of M.E.N. Magazine.




Malidoma Somé recognizes that he learned more through his initiation as a Dagara tribesman than from his PhDs from the Sorbonne and Brandeis University. His name means "be friendly to strangers," and he is charged by his elders of the Dagara tribe of Burkina Faso (east of Nigeria and north of Ghana) with bringing the wisdom of his tribe to the West. His book Ritual: Power, Healing and Community (reviewed in this issue) is highly praised by Michael Meade, Robert Bly and Robert Moore. If you were not fortunate enough to catch his reading at the Elliott Bay Bookstore last August, you can find out more about him through the book and tape reviews in this issue.

During one of the Conflict Hours at the Mendocino Men’s Conference Malidoma spoke eloquently on indigenous people’s views of gay men. He kindly agreed to elaborate on his views as he sat with me among the redwoods of Mendocino.

Bert: At Conflict Hour you told us that your culture honors gays as having a higher vibrational level that enabled them to be guardians of the gateways to the spirit world. You suggested that our Western view limits itself by focusing only on their sexual role. Can you elaborate for our readers?

Malidoma: I don’t know how to put it in terms that are clear enough for an audience that, I think needs as much understanding of this gender issue as people in this country do. But at least among the Dagara people, gender has very little to do with anatomy. It is purely energetic. In that context, a male who is physically male can vibrate female energy, and vice versa. That is where the real gender is. Anatomic differences are simply there to determine who contributes what for the continuity of the tribe. It does not mean, necessarily, that there is a kind of line that divides people on that basis. And this is something that also touches on what has become known here as the "gay" or "homosexual" issue. Again, in the culture that I come from, this is not the issue. These people are looked on, essentially, as people. The whole notion of "gay" does not exist in the indigenous world. That does not mean that there are not people there who feel the way that certain people feel in this culture, that has led to them being referred to as "gay."

The reason why I’m saying there are no such people is because the gay person is very well integrated into the community, with the functions that delete this whole sexual differentiation of him or her. The gay person is looked at primarily as a "gatekeeper." The Earth is looked at, from my tribal perspective, as a very, very delicate machine or consciousness, with high vibrational points, which certain people must be guardians of in order for the tribe to keep its continuity with the gods and with the spirits that dwell there. Spirits of this world and spirits of the other worlds. Any person who is at this link between this world and the other world experiences a state of vibrational consciousness which is far higher, and far different, from the one that a normal person would experience. This is what makes a gay person gay. This kind of function is not one that society votes for certain people to fulfill. It is one that people are said to decide on prior to being born. You decide that you will be a gatekeeper before you are born. And it is that decision that provides you with the equipment (Malidoma gestures by circling waist area with hands) that you bring into this world. So when you arrive here you begin to vibrate in a way that Elders can detect as meaning that you are connected with a gateway somewhere. Then they watch you grow, and they watch you act and react, and sooner or later they will follow you to the gateway that you are connected with.

Now, gay people have children. Because they’re fertile, just like normal people. How I got to know that they were gay was because on arriving in this country and seeing the serious issues surrounding gay people, I began to wonder it does not exist in my own country. When I asked one of them, who tad taken me to the threshold of the Otherworld, whether he feels sexual attraction towards another man, he jumped back and said, "How do you know that?!" He said, "This is our business as gatekeepers." And, yet he had a wife and children -- no problem, you see.

So to then limit gay people to simple sexual orientation is really the worst harm that can be done to a person. That all he or she is is a sexual person. And, personally, because of the fact that my knowledge of indigenous medicine, ritual, comes from gatekeepers, it’s hard for me to take this position that gay people are the negative breed of a society. No! In a society that is profoundly dysfunctional, what happens is that peoples’ life purposes are taken away, and what is left is this kind of sexual orientation which, in turn, is disturbing to the very society that created it.

I think this is again victimization by a Christian establishment that is looking at a gay person as a disempowered person, a person who has lost his job from birth onward, and now society just wants to fire him out of life. This is not justice. It’s not justice. It is a terrible harm done to an energy that could save the world, that could save us. If, today, we are suffering from a gradual ecological waste, this is simply because the gatekeepers have been fired from their job. They have been fired! They have nothing to do! And because they have been fired, we accuse them for not doing anything. This is not fair!

Let us look at the earth differently, and we will find out gradually that these people that are bothering us today are going to start taking their posts. They know what their job is. You just have to get near them, to feel that they don’t vibrate the same way. They are not of this world. They come from the Otherworld, and they were sent here to keep the gates open to the Otherworld, because if the gates are shut, this is when the earth, Mother Earth, will shake -- because it has no more reason to be alive, it will shake itself, and we will be in deep trouble.

Bert: Christianity has separated spirit from body and spirit from Earth. And earlier you talked to us about Christianity suppressing your culture. So there’s a suggestion here that suppression of homosexuality would be the way for the Christians to shut down the gateways, shut down the spirit, and shut down our connection with the Earth.

Malidoma: Yes! That’s right! Christianity stresses postponing living on earth, as of we are only here to pack up our baggage and prepare for a life somewhere else "out there." Jesus Christ is right here, man! And of course anyone else who knows more, who knows better, will be suppressed.

And you start with the gatekeepers. You take the gatekeeper and you confuse his mind. You threaten him and you throw him in the middle of nowhere. Then nobody knows where the gate is. As soon as you lose the whereabouts of the gate, then you have a culture going downhill. What keeps a village together is a handful of "gays and lesbians," as they call them in the modern world. In my village, lesbians are called witches, and gay men are known as the gatekeepers. These are the two only known secret societies. These are the only groups that will get together as a separate group and go out into the woods secretly to do whatever they do. And if they find you during their yearly symposium, they have the right to kill you.

Unless they go out on their yearly symposium, the village cannot be granted another year of life. They have to go out to do what they do, in order for the village to feel safe enough to live the way it has lived before. This is why, to me, we’re playing with our lives.

Bert: So our culture may not be granted another year of life.

Malidoma: That’s right! Every year it feels like the number of years that this culture is entitled to live is getting smaller. So God only knows how close to the chasm this culture is. This constantly- reiterated discomfort and hatred for the gay person is again another indication that every year we might as well be prepared for the apocalyptic moment when the stars start to fall to the earth.

You see, unless there is somebody who constantly monitors the mechanism that opens the door from this world to the Otherworld, what happens is that something can happen to one of the doors and it closes up. When all the doors are closed, this earth runs out of its own orbit and the solar system collapses into itself. And because this system is linked to other systems, they too start to fall into a whirlpool. And the cataclysm would be amazing!

Ask the Dogon, they will tell you that. The Dogon. They’re a tribe that understands this so well, it’s amazing, mind-boggling. And it is a tribe that knows astrology like no other tribe that I have encountered. And the great astrologers of the Dogon are gay. They are gay. There is a dull planet that, in its orbit, is directly above the Dogon village every 58 years. Who knows that, but the gay people.

I mean, I’m not just trying to make gay people look fine. This is the truth, man! I’m trying to save my ass!
Why is it that, everywhere else in the world, gay people are a blessing, and in the modern world they are a curse? It is self-evident. The modern world was built by Christianity. They have taken the gods out of the earth sent them to heaven, wherever that is. And everyone who aspires to the gods must then negotiate with Christianity, so that the real priests and priestesses are out of a job. This is the worst thing that can happen to a culture that calls itself modern.

Bert: That theme came up earlier with you and Martín, the Mayan shaman here, that if a modern society wants to shut down another culture they will go out and kill the keepers of the ritual.

Malidoma: Oh, yes! Because they know that this is where the life-pulse of the culture is. This is where the engine room of the tribe is. So if you go and bomb that place, then the whole mechanism shuts down. That’s pretty much what’s at work in the third world, and what has happened here with the Native American culture. And the thing about it is that humans are going to be begetting gatekeepers, no matter what. This is the chance that we’ve got. So maybe that means that sooner or later we’re going to wake up to the horror of our own errors, and we’re going to reconsecrate our chosen people so that they can do their priestly work as they should. Otherwise, I just don’t understand. I just don’t understand. My position about it is not so much that gays be just forgiven. That’s just tokenism. But that they serve as an example of the wrong, or the illness, that modernity has brought to us, and that we use that to begin working at healing ourselves and our society from the bottom up. That way, by the time we reach a certain level, all the gatekeepers are going to find their positions again. We cannot tell them where the gates are. They know. If we start to heal ourselves, they will remember. It will kick in. But as long as we continue in arrogance, in egotism, in God-knows-what form of violence on ourselves, no, there’s that veil of confusion that’s going to continue to prevail, and as a result it’s going to prevent great things from happening. That’s all I can say about that.