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  • Writer's pictureASFA

Dreamtime Science And The Endangered Arts Of The Sages From Singwaya

An insidious attribute of the 17th century Cartesian zeitgeist and a legacy of modern philosophy introduced in Africa during the European scramble for colonies, is the idea of substance dualism which advocates for the separateness and distinct nature of mind and matter. Within the operating framework of this worldview, subjective experience is dispossessed for the benefit of scientific objectivity. This disposition underpins the current socio-ecological crises faced by the Mijikenda community -- a constellation of nine cultural groups composed of the Giriama, Kambe, Jibana, Chonyi, Kauma, Duruma, Ribe, Rabai, and Digo people. Thriving on a false dichotomy of contesting worldviews, this colonial paradigm remains ingrained in the present lives of Kenyans.

In conversation with the Duruma council of ritual administrators, one of the main challenges facing their community is mitigating the looming dangers of the desertification of their land.

As a consequence of ongoing deforestation activities fueled by the illegal charcoal business in Kwale county, this council points to the process of modernity as bearing responsibility for ecologically desensitizing generations of people, who've been led to believe through modern education that indigenous knowledge systems are outdated modes of being.

According to members of this council, the process of understanding cannot be engaged in the absence of context. They argue that modern education assumes an objective world of facts which exist independent of the subjective world, failing to discern the interrelated hierarchy of forces that center human experience as the mediating factor between nature and culture. They further point to the degradation of our natural world as a consequence of the desacralizing nature of the process of industrialization, which achieves its end by isolating people from their instinctual roots. In order to assimilate a hybrid perspective that affects instinctive patterns of behaviour offsetting the negative implications of this hyper rationalization, members of this council are embarking on a quest to share some of the esoteric teachings embedded in their traditional cognitive science of dreaming.

In the worldview of the Mijikenda community, dreaming is the language of Spirit. The images produced during this state of consciousness are said to be dynamic expressions of intrapsychic events, whose function is to constellate the self in context to their cosmology. According to Mzee Mwakalu Chiti -- a senior healer of this council, the barrier between objective and subjective realities is a fluid one, facilitating channels of communication enacted during special rituals that integrate the conscious with the unconscious mind. This is achieved through various mediums including but not limited to the power of speech, which takes the form of poetic incantations recited in memory of the nine original archetypes, also referred to as their ancestral dreamtime architects.


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