African Ubuntu philosophy can help de-colonise colonised mindsets

Panaji: The humane balm of Africa`s `Ubuntu` philosophy, among several other indigenous concepts, have to be developed by the Southern (developing) countries of the world if they are to exorcise their minds of colonialism, leading political scientist Peter Ronald de Souza said Monday.

De Souza, director of the Shimla-based Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), was speaking at a conference on De-colonisation, Development and Diaspora: The Afro-Indian Experience organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and the Goa government here.

"Ubuntu is very, very important concept. The Southern countries need to develop new concepts like these of our own, instead of following Western concepts which we have been handed down. Such concepts can help to de-colonise the colonised mindsets," de Souza said, adding that an alternative epistemology was necessary to produce a different order of discourse.

The ancient word of Ubuntu has its roots in the Bantu language spoken in parts of southern Africa and roughly translated into English means "humanity towards others".

"I discovered what a powerful idea Ubuntu was. It was challenging the theory of justice. Western justice needs conclusive evidence which can provide justice to victims. Here`s a philosophy which challenges that. It provides justice but in a different way," de Souza said.

He also said that institutions like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was set up in South Africa after the abolition of apartheid, were necessary in the process de-colonising the Southern countries colonised past and that such unique institutions should be replicated across colonised nations.

The mission of the TRC was to bear witness to, record and often offer amnesty to the perpetrators of crimes relating to human rights violations, as well as allow for reparation and rehabilitation.

The political scientist also said that apart from concepts and institutions, there was also a need for development of `Southern` icons and texts.

"We need to develop new icons of the South. There are Gandhi, (Nelson) Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi, which are obvious examples. But we need another rung of icons for people to follow," de Souza said, adding that the lives of these leaders indigenous to the colonised countries, needed to be "mined for elements of the future".



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