Matunda ya kwanza ya mwamuko wa wana Afrika: the first fruits of the Afrikan Renaissance
The holiday period is here with many cultures celebrating Christmas, Hanukah, and Genna (Ethiopian Christmas) among others. However, it is quite alarming that few in our communities are aware of a holiday that is rightfully ours: Kwanzaa. Yes, it is alarming, but not so much of a surprise, because most of the cultural, political and economic attempts to achieve self-determination in the worldwide Afrikan community are too often shunned by the colonized minds. Nevertheless, Kwanzaa is gaining popularity in the Diaspora and on the mainland – as it should – and consequently the sons and daughters of Afrika who have yet to be aware of it need to know what Kwanza is, where it comes from, and what is its importance in our journey as a people.
Kwanzaa is a seven-day (December 26- Jan 1) Pan-Afrikan holiday celebrating African culture, values, history, and progress. The name comes from the Swahili matunda ya kwanza, which, as some of you know, means first fruits. It is rooted in the ancient Afrikan tradition of celebrating the first harvest present all across the Motherland and throughout the ages; from the ancient Nubians and Egyptians, passing by the Ashanti and Yoruba kingdoms to the contemporary Zulu, Swezi and Thonga nations, all had their way of underlining this event.
The tradition was revived in 1966 during the Black Freedom Movement by Dr. Maulena Karenga, professor of Afrikan studies at California State University and scholar-activist, in order to provide a cultural boost encompassing all we stand and aim for as Afrikans, at home and abroad. As the endeavour is Pan-Afrikan in nature, the official colors are naturally red, black and green, the symbolic colors provided to us by the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Swahili was chosen for terminology as this vernacular language is the most spoken Afrikan language; it also helps to promote it as a lingua franca in the worldwide Afrikan community to replace colonial languages.
As it was in ancient days, Kwanzaa is a time to ingather the people, to reaffirm the common unity; to revere and pay homage to the bountiful forces that bless us every day; to commemorate the past and its lessons, reflection and time tp keep alive the memory of our models, our ancestors. Time to recommit to the journey we have to trod in our journey (righteousness) as a people and individuals, where it is important to put forward the best of Afrika and the Afrikan; and to celebrate the Good in all social, natural, and divine aspects.
There are seven days of Kwanzaa for each of the Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles):
- Umoja, unity;
- Kujichagulia, self-determination;
- Ujima, collective work and responsibility;
- Ujamaa, cooperative economics;
- Nia, purpose;
- Kuumba, creativity; and
- Imani, faith.
On each day, activities and events carrying the spirit of its principle are organized, and people are reminded to reflect on how they can apply these principles in their day to day trod.
The last day of Kwanzaa is also Siku ya Taamuli (the day of meditation): it is a day to spend in silence, and during which we assess past achievements and things to do in the future; foster a reflection on self, life and the future of the people; and recommit to the best of our cultural values. The three Kawaidaquestions, Who am I? Am I really who I say I am? and Am I all I ought to be? are an essential part of the meditation. In addition, an Adae celebration, or Akwasidae, may also be held on one of the days to commemorate our ancestors and our heritage.
The values put forward by the celebration of Kwanzaa are of the utmost importance to us, as Afrikans and as a people striving for upliftment, empowerment, prosperity and freedom. The meditation it carries is tremendously needed, especially at a time when auto-destructive and self-demeaning pseudo-cultures have huge influence on many of us. We give thanks for Dr. Maulena Karenga and his beautiful legacy, one that we must keep fruitful at all times. Kwanzaa is a part of our heritage, one we must proudly claim, preserve, and improve upon, in the same way we ought to strive to make our culture, our societies and our world better than we inherited them. For more on Kwanzaa and how you can participate, visit the official kwanzaa website.