More than fifty years down the line, there are indications that the cultural survival of Africa is under threat. Culture may be seen as the constellation of the learned ways of feeling, thinking and acting that enables a group of people to understand themselves and the world around them. This is facilitated by a narrative conception of the self, where, as Alasdair Maclntyre points out, individuals make sense of their lives in terms of the stories in which they find themselves. Thus, they come to define themselves as members of a particular family, ethnic group, nation or continent. The recent calls for secession by the English-speaking Cameroonians and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) reflect a loss of faith in the national narratives of Cameroon and Nigeria respectively. Such a loss of faith in a grand narrative can be caused by economic and social inequalities. Culture is not only something we are born into; a passive acquiring of ways of feeling, thinking and acting. Stuart Hall argued that we position ourselves in culture. This allows for agency when thinking about culture.

Despite the “African Rising” tale, the continent is marred by growing inequality and deprivation. The increase in the rate of unemployment, lack of basic social amenities, ailing and dilapidated educational and health facilities, poor governance and unbridled corruption, are some of the factors that seem to threaten the once-held faith in a multitude of new and hopeful nations and in the continent. One of the consequences of all these is the massive migration of Africans to other African states and outside the continent. All of these put the cultural survival of Africa at risk. Culture is here taken in its various dimensions: political, economic, social, legal and environmental.

Chiedza, Journal of Arrupe Jesuit University, has for its theme of Volume 20, No.1, May 2018: The Cultural Survival of Africa. In this issue, we intend to reflect on various factors that threaten, as well as ways of ensuring, the survival of Africa both at individual and collective levels. What are the historical factors that has shaped the cultures of Africa in their various dimensions? Can we talk with any precision about a homogenous African culture or is this simply a refusal to acknowledge Africa's diversity? There is the view that cultures never die; that they constantly transform to accommodate new contexts and contingencies. Is the vibrancy of that process of transformation and the new manifestations of African culture worth celebrating? If the understanding of the self as belonging to a nation is through narratives, who controls national memory? What are the effects of censorship of art, books and school curricula on the national memory and the sense of belonging to a nation? Does censorship sometimes have its basis in cultural fundamentalism? What are the prospects of freedom of expression as a fundamental human right in contemporary African states? Can the failure of the nation-states be traced back to the inadequacy of colonial-imposed boundaries? If the identity of a group of people is partly shaped by recognition or its absence, what is the place of recognition in the cultural survival of Africa? What is the role of the media in ensuring recognition and survival of cultures? In the current era of social media, with its breadth and increasing ease of access, how can it (the various social media platforms) contribute to cultural survival? Does the anonymity present in the use of social media pose any threat to public opinion?

Many have viewed the recent change of regime in Zimbabwe as a victory for public opinion. How do such changes guarantee the survival of democratic institutions? Does the recent withdrawal of Burundi from the International Criminal Court (ICC) serve the interests of the citizens or that of the leaders? What kind of reforms are needed in the political institutions of Africa to guarantee survival of Africans? What contributions can Africa make to the rest of the world?

The recent discovery of slave markets in Libya has been greeted with an outburst of condemnation. Should these condemnations be directed solely at the slave traders or the governments of the nations from which these migrants come? How does the growing population of internally displaced persons affect the survival of a people and a nation? Is secession the way forward for Biafra and English-speaking Cameroonians? How much importance has been given to the survival of the ecosystem? What contribution can science and technology make to ensuring survival? All of these issues affect the cultural survival of Africa in its political, legal, economic, social and environmental dimensions.

Published: 2019-01-13