Let the Voices of the Ancestors Be Heard – An Ancestral Approach of African Spirituality
The last few decades have seen a resurgence of interest in older spiritual traditions including Native American Shamanism, Ancient Egyptian (Kemetic) teachings, European Paganism, Buddhism and Taoism. What is rather striking is despite this clear desire to seek knowledge and wisdom from the ancients; there is one voice that is noticeably missing; that of the indigenous Africans outside of Egypt.
Despite Africa being a massive continent and known to be the origin of humanity it is quite perplexing to observe the lack of research and interest in this area, as consequently, it also follows that it is the home of humanity’s original spiritual and religious thought as well.
What’s more interesting is that while Ancient Egypt is held in high regard for its spiritual understandings, the rest of the traditions within the continent are stigmatized and labeled as ‘witchcraft,’ even though they share the same fundamental philosophies and principles which inform the various practices. This association with negativity has its roots in the Colonial period when Africans, both continental and Diasporic, were forbidden from practicing their ancient traditions and their forms of worship became stigmatized, demonized and outlawed, which forced these practices underground. In addition to being prohibited, Catholic missionaries labeled these practices acts of the devil and this negative association with the help of the media has continued to the present day.
In realizing how powerful media influence can be, filmmakers Dalian Adofo & Verona Spence-Adofo decided to explore this topic through the film as a means of challenging the falsehoods around it and? released their self-funded documentary Ancestral Voices: Esoteric African Knowledge in 2011.
‘The film opens up a discourse on why African spiritual systems are demonized yet the Abrahamic Faiths in particular and other spiritual systems are revered the world over. Using comparative analyses, it explores tenets found across the various religious and spiritual systems to show the vast areas of overlap and commonality; ultimately posing the question, if they are so similar in framework and ideas, then what is the yardstick used to claim it’s all evil and negative? It also covers the impact of the media and colonialism in presenting a distorted view of it that does not foster accurate understanding or perception of it.’
When asked about the motivation behind the film Verona Spence-Adolfo said:
“I was blown away when I started learning about these ancient spiritual traditions. The information I came into resonated deeply and I was amazed by how far removed it was from the negative propaganda I had been taught. What stood out for me is how empowering these teachings are and the way it changes your perception of reality.?”
The couple released the sequel to the first film s years later in 2017 after travels around the world to interview a range of traditional healers, initiates and academic scholars. The documentary Ancestral Voices: Spirit is Eternal in 2017 is described as:
‘A systemic exploration of African spiritual cosmology, philosophies, and practices across millennia from the ancient Black Egyptians to contemporary times continentally and its legacy in the Diaspora in systems such as Haitian Vodou and Brazilian Candomblé.
It highlights the depth of commonality between them and proves they are but different branches of the same tree, that is, they share a common origin and are in essence, the same. Topics covered include the African conception of the Creator/‘God’, Nature and the Natural Forces, the nature of humanity, Ancestral veneration and communication and various forms of African rituals and prayers.
Systems covered include Akan (Ghana), Dagara, (Burkina Faso), Kemetic Science (Ancient Egypt), Haitian Vodou (Haiti), Zulu (South Africa), and more.’
In response to the sequel, Dalian Adofo explained:
‘It was important to us to make a comprehensive film that not only explores the philosophy of various African traditions but to also include information on practices as well. A lot of the feedback we received has been from those saying they wanted practical advice on how they could lead African spiritual centered lives. So the film provides not only information but also the tools for people to develop themselves.
It also plays a big part in highlighting that Africans across the continent, despite having various cultural expressions do share core philosophies which could fall under the title of “African Spirituality”/ “African Indigenous Spirituality” that should afford them the same rights as other religious groups. Thus, allowing practitioners to be given the same rights and respect as other religious and spiritual adherents.’
In expanding the narrative further, there was also an accompanying book published by the same name in 2016 with a comprehensive breakdown of their research findings. It covers the same topics as the film and is currently available in English and Spanish.
In 2018 the duo launched ‘Living an African Spiritual-Centered Life’ which is an online multipart educational lecture series covering various aspects of how spiritual principles and Natural cycles and processes inform and govern practices and ritual.
When asked what their motivation is to keep doing this work, Verona replied:
‘We are dedicated to ensuring that the narrative that surrounds indigenous African spiritual traditions is one of balanced, information free from colonial/religious propaganda
It’s time to let the voices of the ancestors be heard.’
You can learn more about Ancestral Voices and their work using the social contacts below.
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