This experiment to me represents knowledge revival in two senses. Reviving my grandmother’s knowledge: she herself couldn’t tell me how she processed maize in this way, being bodily gone from this world; but at least I know that she did. In a second sense, this is knowledge rebirth – using beneficial indigenous knowledge from a different place (Mexico) where I am (Kenya).
This is the kind of knowledge rebirth or revival I became interested in as I travelled in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, and studied Latin America and the Caribbean more broadly. All these being places that have been influenced in some way by the African continent, and places with an indigenous movement that is alive.
After meeting with and interacting with young people doing things in their communities through my travels, I believe that one must first feel rooted somewhere in order to do activist work.
My host brother in Brazil says “those ‘You Have Tos’ that people give you can be dangerous. You have to first find and know yourself before you can do this.” He was a practitioner of Candomble, an Afro-Brazilian religion that has its roots in West African religious traditions. His sister, also an organiser in their neighbourhood, had a similar sense of rootedness and responsibility to her community.
In Mexico City, I met a young bright woman, Lupita, who ran a coffee bar in a community centre. She also taught single mothers how to roast coffee through a cooperative she started, all while writing her thesis on indigenous Mexican dancing. The dance is art, prayer and history in movement. She too felt a strong connection to indigenous Mexican traditions, and her other work in the arts was a testament to this.
In the words of Jennings school district superintendent, Tiffany Anderson, ‘This work [of making a difference] is faith-filled work. … Whether you wrap that in Christianity or not.”
Read the rest of my reflections on inclusive and alive indigenous knowledge on Brainstorm.