WITHOUT LANGUAGE, DECOLONIZATION IS FUTILE BY NKANYISO NGQULUNGA

“That is why they had to name everything for Afrikan people, from rivers to mountains because Europe had dehumanized Afrikans.”

6 AUGUST 2019

For any nation that exists in this world has its history, language and cultures that epitomizes the communal development of that particular nation. I write today as an attempt to debunk the myth that English represents all of us, we were a colonized continent, politically, socially and cultural our colonizers conquered us.

In history we know that the colonies epistemologies could not accept the native’s languages nor cultures, African scholars in literature who could write poetry, novels etc. were always excluded, if those writings were presented in languages such as isiZulu, Yoruba or Swahili. The main point was to entrench the colonial domination over African people that English was sufficient, and that it represented exceptionalism. The British colonizers took upon themselves that any intellectual production that should take place should in English so that everything else represents Europe. It did not reflect the social experiences of Afrikans but Europe, and was a demonstration that their knowledge is universal. Therefore, nothing that came outside the English language met their standards.

The entire academic structure from the history has been exclusively white, the languages being used in academia is white thus it is not easy in that situation to develop our languages. As Prof Ngugi Wa Thiong’s point out in his decolonization of the mind book “The choice of language and the use to which language put is central to a people’s definition of themselves in relation to their natural and social environment” I won’t dwell much explaining the history of English language.

The colonization of the Afrikan people was the genesis of dominating them, economically, cultural and socially. The purpose was to culturally alienate people and redefine what colonizers thought of Afrikan people with their cultures, colonizers could not interpret the meaning of the disequilibrium between people and ancestors therefore it introduced Christianization of knowledge to declare our own cultural beliefs as uncivilized or barbaric. Europe presents itself as monotheistic that there is no any other knowledge that can exist except for their knowledge, the Afrikan disciplines were in existence but through epistemic colonial rule, they made sure that Afrikan teaching and languages become unattractive so that even Afrikan people can themselves can feel inferior when they express themselves in their languages.

That is why they had to name everything for Afrikan people, from rivers to mountains because Europe had dehumanized Afrikans.

To define the context South Africa is currently engaged in a robust debate about the English language being used mostly in model c schools, some of the parents lamented that the isolation that their children have to go through because they can only articulate themselves in English. Moreover, the other dissenting view is that English is a colonial language, therefore, it is unacceptable for our young children to speak English, the conundrum is that South Africa did not get independence in 1994 because independence would mean that we rename everything, we also focus on decolonization of knowledge as well as our languages being included in academia. The entire colonial setting remains even after 25 years of the so-called democracy, the education system that was exclusively white and natives were not allowed to enroll for has now been generalized for the benefit of everyone. Everyone in the country now learns all these disciplines, which are anti-black.

The argument is that English is a universal language, taking your child to a school that teaches them English is to prepare them for a globalized era. “To be a student is to be a technician, learning to apply theory produced elsewhere, we risk producing the high-cost caricatures yet another group of mimic men and women for a globalized era. The alternative is to rethink our aspirations not just to import theory from outside as another development project but to aim differently and theorize our own reality” Prof Mamhood.

The quagmire is that we were a colonized nation, domination by colonial settlers for 400 years; psychologically they manipulated us that we view whiteness as modernity, sophistication and we view ourselves as subjects to serve the system. The colonized was forced to learn the English Language to prove to the colonizers that they (we) can also mimic them, we have seen Afrikans sharpening English accent just to be viewed intelligent.

What is Language? Language is communal developed, it is constituted and developed by the people, they give meanings into things, and the language represents their cultures as well as their identities to the world. How can speaking SeSotho or IsiZulu viewed as backward? Because the dominant ideology of whiteness manifests itself that, those who are oppressed by it begin to speak in its defense. The spiritual connection as Afrikan people can only be accessed through our languages. Language immerses us into a cultural world, a child that speaks English because of the current colonial and Eurocentric education system does not belong to a cultural world but your child is a mimic, your child draws aspirations from whiteness that is why your child is getting an isolation.

Afrikaners did not opt for interdisciplinarity in 1948 when they took over power. They created their institutions to develop Afrikaans until today that Afrikaans became a close alternative to English. There are many Afrikaner speaking people who cannot read or write in English but they have businesses in the country, they teach children Afrikaner cultures because they have invested so much in their language.

Afrikans, we remain conquered, cultural, economically and socially. Ours is to focus on the decolonization project to develop our knowledge as opposed to employing defensive mechanisms when the Eurocentric education is at the question, one may ask why I wrote this article in English. Because I agree with Walter Rodney where he said “The ultimate task of the guerilla intellectual is not simple to reject white bourgeoisie thought, white institutions, and white learning mere rejection does nothing to wage a struggle against a power structure on its own terms. Rather, the guerrilla intellectual must actively wage a struggle for the terrain of academia, of knowledge production, of knowledge distribution, and finally, they must free the whole structure. To do this, the guerrilla intellectual’s first level of struggle must be within their own sphere of operations”