As a Westerner, I grew up thinking of Africa as a vast continent very far away, which really had very little to do with me. My ideas about it were formed by a Kipling's Jungle Book and Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and it was not until much later that I realized the imperialism inherent in each view. It is very rare, however, that one is provided a window into a culture that enables the viewer to learn through the heart as well as the mind. Bekeh Ukelina Utietiang's Afridentity: Essays on Africa gives one that window. Utietiang writes in his introduction that in the speaking engagements arranged to promote a previous book, he often encountered people who knew very little about Africa, and he was shocked to learn how many of them were actually African; young Africans are losing sight of what it means to be African and fast imbibing the Western culture they think is superior, he writes. He composed this book to help people understand the culture he loves, the culture he does not want to see die. He discusses the irony that Africa is perceived as primitive when it engendered so many advances in art and science in ancient times. He shows us its degeneration under colonialism, and its struggle to retain its autonomy. He analyzes the tension between Christianity, Islam, and Traditional African Religion (which, by the way, is still very much alive). He introduces us to the beauty, sophistication, and complexity of African languages, and reveals African philosophy couched in popular song. In one of the best essays, he looks at the failure of democracy in Africa and suggests an alternative more in line with traditional African governmental structures. What Bekeh Utietiang shows us in this book is an Africa full of life, love, and spirituality and potential, if it could only give up its pursuit of Westernism and rediscover the power of its own identity. --Karen Bernardo, Director, Coburn Free Library, Owego, New York
About the Author
Bekeh Ukelina Utietiang is a native of Obudu, Nigeria. He holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Philosophy from the University of Ibadan, the premier university of West Africa and a Masters of Art degree in Religion and Culture from The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. Bekeh has written numerous scholarly articles on African religion and culture. Afridentity is his third book. He is a clergy of the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling - Charleston, West Virginia.