Choose your country and language:

Africa

  • Global
  • Angola
  • Botswana
  • DRC
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • shotLeft

Americas

  • USA
  • Argentina
  • Brazil

Asia Pacific

  • China
  • India
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Australia

Europe

  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • United Kingdom
Back
South Africa
Culture
History
Family
Lifestyle
Cape Town
Johannesburg
Durban
Bloemfontein
Kimberley
Polokwane
Port Elizabeth
Nelspruit
Pretoria

AAfrican ancestors continue to give Africans a shared and personal sense of self-affirmation, identity and unfettered belonging. No wonder the legendary Zulu poet Mazisi Kunene is not just known for his epic Shaka the Great, but for another majestic poetry collection, Ancestors and the Sacred Mountain. In African literature, the role of the ancestors features greatly in works ranging from Chinua Achebe’s classic Things Fall Apart, Ola Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not to Blame, and AC Jordan’s The Wrath of the Ancestors. There is no doubt that visits to parts of Africa like Gorée in Senegal and Elmina in Ghana where the transatlantic slave trade was the most severe, are also a way of evoking the world of African ancestors, albeit through traumatic memory and remembering.

It is befitting that today the island of Gorée off the coast of Senegal, opposite Dakar, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Touring Gorée, once the world’s biggest slave trade port, helps mankind to ensure that such an inhumane experience “never again” occurs, as the iconic Nelson Mandela taught us all.

TTo this day, kingdoms such as those of the Ashanti in Ghana and the Zulu remain key touchstones in the history of Africans and their reverence for their ancestral forebears. In the songs of the great griots of Mali, Fela Kuti’s rebellious Afrobeat sounds, soukous sounds of the Congo and the migration songs of Southern Africa, ancestors are unashamedly and deeply evoked. How can one forget South African Hugh Masekela’s classic tune, Stimela?

Despite many Africans having embraced religions that are not indigenous to Africans a few centuries back, Africans still attach enormous honour to ancestors. Although today Christianity and Islam are the most dominant religions in Africa, ancestors are still important for most Africans. This is not because Africans are children of a lesser God. Africans continue to grow in part because they too have strong ancestral protectors that have kept them and their spirits defiant across the ages. Without African ancestors, it is impossible to imagine the very idea of Africa and the Africans.  

It is not an exaggeration that African ancestors have stubbornly kept Africa and the African Diaspora a potent force in the world. Africans are taking their place in the world. African ancestors confirm loudly and boldly that Africans are not children of bastard trees. They help warn the African child early on not to be reckless with fire or water. They help instil a sense of responsibility to something bigger and richer than material wealth.

Without an indebtedness and humble submission to the will and guidance of the ancestors, most Africans feel lost and are often obliged to conduct various rituals to appease the ancestors. Any African who genuinely values maintaining balance in their life, fears the wrath of the ancestors, and strives to always respect them. 

WWhen Africans acknowledge the existence of their ancestors they are celebrating a past that matters and is dear to them. They are valourising the power of their indigenous spirituality and strong connectedness to the land they lost or may still have. Each family member is generally told about their ancestors through the oral tradition—another aspect of the African experience that matters a great deal. When Africans slaughter beasts in their traditional ceremonies, they talk to their ancestors and in the course of doing this, the head of a family would often recite names of that family’s ancestral line. Without writing any information down, this calling of the ancestors helps pass critical knowledge as well as family-specific rituals and values. When a child is told about their ancestors, this is often done by people who care about their family’s lineage and who believe in the cyclical continuum of spiritual life.

Ancestors give Africans a sense of pride, purpose and appreciation of life as it was, as it is and as it will forever be. Ancestors are forever alive in the African world and cosmological view of life. Ancestors connect Africans to their beloved ones, bless their fertility festivals and intervene when spiritual blockages and polluting elements threaten order, happiness, health and life. Africans call on their ancestors when thunderstorms of life threaten to engulf and even annihilate them. For most Africans, holistic metaphysical balance is impossible without the evocation of ancestors. To believe in ancestors is a major tenet of being African. It has always been like that. And let it be so forever. From Cape to Cairo. From Morocco to Madagascar. Long live African ancestors!

AAbout the author

Dr Velaphi Bhedlindaba Mkhize is a poet, an author and an African healer/spiritualist. He is the President and Founder of both Umsamo African Institute and South African Healers Association. Velaphi is a consultant on Umsamo philosophy and is highly regarded as an authority on African traditions, culture, values, ancestral wisdom and African healing. He is a columnist for Isolezwe newspaper based in Durban and Ukhozi FM.

To visit
Experiences

Related articles

  • Breathtaking scenery

    Patricia Chiloane: Serurubele Boutique Hotel

    Breathtaking scenery
    Patricia Chiloane: Serurubele Boutique Hotel
    Patricia Chiloane is a passionate and dedicated ambassador of Mpumalanga province. She is a descendant of landowners, who have lived in the area of Bushbuckridge for generations. When she initially conceptualised Serurubele Boutique Hotel, the MBA graduate’s goal was to create a tourism ecosystem to benefit everyone in the small town. Her other goal was to elevate Bushbuckridge on the tourism map. The land on which Serurubele Boutique Hotel is built has been in her family for four generations. The hotel’s name, Serurubele, is derived from the SeSotho word for butterfly, the small insect that is endemic to the Lowveld. As visitors walk through the hotel, they are immersed in the story of the region. The hotel’s 16 luxury rooms are punctuated with pictures of the Lowveld butterflies, paying homage to the natural splendour of the area.
  • Bustling city life

    Marina Appelbaum: Nikos and Old Ducky French Cafe

    Bustling city life
    Marina Appelbaum: Nikos and Old Ducky French Cafe
    South Africa is a marvel. Not only does the country boast warm and welcoming people, but it has also an array of culinary offerings enough to cater to any palate and feast. We continue with our celebration of South Africa’s women in the tourism and hospitality sector and this time we catch up with foodie, Marina Appelbaum Marina Appelbaum grew up in the kitchen of the iconic Three Sisters Cafe in Hillbrow which her mother ran for 28 years, with a family legacy like hers it is unsurprising that she is the owner of two thriving eateries - Nikos and The Old Ducky French Café in Pineslopes in Fourways, Johannesburg.
  • Breathtaking scenery

    Mpho Molema: The Workshop ko Kasi, Northern Cape

    Breathtaking scenery
    Mpho Molema: The Workshop ko Kasi, Northern Cape
    Despite its scenic landscape and being home to the Eye of Kuruman (a wondrous natural spring known as one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere), Kuruman in the Northern Cape is not often the first place that one thinks of when we speak about tourism in South Africa. Mpho Molema, a native of Mothibistad township in Kuruman, defies this status quo through The Workshop ko Kasi”, an eco-tourism and creative hub offering authentic African experiences to visitors from all over the world.
  • Breathtaking scenery

    Khosi Tyobeka, Zimase Travel

    Breathtaking scenery
    Khosi Tyobeka, Zimase Travel
    Khosi Tyobeka has built her business around making travelling easy and accessible. Her company, Zimasa Travel, provides tailor-made travel solutions; from planning to the execution of travel or conference needs. The award winning entrepreneur’s flair for business runs in her family. When she was growing up her mother operated a food business in their small village in the North West Province .
  • Vibrant culture

    South Africa’s Eastern Cape, Nelson Mandela’s home province

    Vibrant culture
    South Africa’s Eastern Cape, Nelson Mandela’s home province
    Home to glorious stretches of beaches, mountainous terrains, jaw-dropping rock formations, a rich catalogue of plant and wildlife which includes the Big 7 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo, Southern Right whales and Great White sharks), South Africa’s Eastern Cape province is also the birth place of the late global icon and humanitarian - Nelson Mandela. The acclaimed leader, whose birthday is celebrated globally through acts of kindness on 18 July, was born and raised amongst this province’s lush valleys and winding rivers.
  • Breathtaking scenery

    The Upper Karoo Route: meander through Northern Cape from Victoria West to Calvinia

    Breathtaking scenery
    The Upper Karoo Route: meander through Northern Cape from Victoria West to Calvinia
    The Upper Karoo Route from Victoria West to Calvinia via Carnarvon offers the beautiful landscape of Northern Cape (strewn with daisies in spring), rare wildlife and a thriving, hospitable culture.
  • Vibrant culture

    Xhosa cuisine: a delicious blend of ancient and modern

    Vibrant culture
    Xhosa cuisine: a delicious blend of ancient and modern
    Visitors to South Africa should make sure they try Xhosa cuisine, whether in its Eastern Cape heartland or anywhere else that offers umngqusho, amasi, ikhowa and other delicacies.
  • Vibrant culture

    Xhosa traditions: discover Eastern Cape’s indigenous culture

    Vibrant culture
    Xhosa traditions: discover Eastern Cape’s indigenous culture
    Cultural villages and museums in South Africa are great places to learn more about Xhosa traditions and how these express the culture and beliefs of this ancient Eastern Cape people.

South Africa on social media

Copyright © 2024 South African Tourism
|Terms and conditions|Disclaimer|Privacy policy