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The Impact of Indigenous African Thought on Pastoral Counseling
by Mazvita Machinga

While discussion in this chapter focuses on indigenous African thought from a Zimbabwean perspective, most of the concepts are applicable throughout the continent of Africa. Africa is a continent with over 50 countries and hundreds of tribes and languages. As stated by Mbiti (1990), “While the religious expressions in Africa are diverse, concrete and observable, one cannot claim the same thing about the thinking behind them. The philosophy underlying the various religious and cultural expressions of the African people is the same” (p. 5). This indicates cultural diversity and heterogeneity, yet a simultaneous homogeneity in epistemology and philosophy. Thus, the diverse tribes and identities need to be valued and respected. It is improper to view Africa as monolithic; rather it should be viewed as collectivistic and having a faith factor that is active and powerful. The religious locations of all Africans are influenced, to some extent, by indigenous African thought.


What Is Indigenous African Thought?


Indigenous African thought and worldview are characterized by the basic relational ontology of ubuntu, transpersonal realities, collectivism, and the belief in the Supreme God- Musikawanhu. This God is All-powerful or the Almighty. Furthermore, behind everything in African thinking, a mystical power is present, whether one encounters a good or bad experience. Everything is interdependent, hence, traditional African ontology, epistemology, axiology, and cosmology are all relational. These terms describe a value framework and the nature of daily African realities. The value system of most African societies is built around respect of oneself as it relates to others and to the whole. 


Ubuntu: A Relational Ontology

The African philosophy of ubuntu accurately expresses the relational ontology that undergirds indigenous African thinking. Relational ontology views relationships as central to how Africans formulate things, expressions, and understanding. The African worldview of umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (a person is a person through other persons) is the pillar of day to day interpretation of life (Forster, 2010). du Toit (2004) summarized the concept of ubuntu in African thought when he wrote:


                       In Africa, a person is identified by his or her
                       interrelationships and not primarily by individualistic
                       properties. The community identifies the person and not
                       the person the community. The identity of the person is his
                       or her place in the community. In Africa it is a matter of “I
                       participate, therefore I am.” Ubuntu is the principle of “I am
                       only because we are, and since we are, therefore I am.” (p.33)


This means that African thinking is family- and community oriented more than individualistic. In addition, according to Couture (2017), “ubuntu concept corresponds closely to the idea of human worth and dignity” (p. 15). For Africans, only in community and with the participation of all can life be built. According to Magesa (1997), for Africans, “relationships receive the most
attention in the adjudication of what is good or bad, what is desirable and undesirable in life” (p. 65). The life of the individual can only be grasped as it is shared. As asserted by Mulago, for an African, “the member of the tribe, the clan, the family, knows that he does not live to him/herself, but within the community. He knows that apart from the community he would no longer have the means of existence” (as cited in Magesa, 1997, p. 66). In addition, indigenous Zimbabweans adhere to rituals which bind together all members of the group, the living and the dead, nature and Almighty God. All this demonstrates clearly the place and role of relations within
indigenous African thought

Collectivism in Architecture & Design

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