Community Culture Clinic

Embodying The Sacred: AfriKan Spirituality in Barbados

This is Part 1 of a series in the Culture Clinic blog with Dr. John

This series is a transcription of The Rev’d Dr. John Hunte, King Shepherd of Israel Chairman, Council of Spiritual Baptist Churches of Barbados, for his address at Sung Eucharist in the St. Michael’s Cathedral.

First, I want to give thanks, to the divine energies that sustain us, to the forces of nature that surround us. I ask us to remember and acknowledge the energies of this land’s original inhabitants the Ciboney, the Kalingos and the Tainos, all those elevated energies who were born in this place, those who made it across the deep waters, those who may still be found in the waters. I also give thanks for those on the continent who are connected with us. I acknowledge you and all that you come with, and I greet all of you in peace. 

Then, I want to offer gratitude for the opportunity of sharing these thoughts with you. To the Bishop for his courage to offer this platform to speak to AfriKan Heritage, and to the Dean and others for extending the invitation for me to share.

As I prepared, I reflected on the many thoughts and conversations I had over the years with several colleagues in the Barbados Dagara Village, the Ile Cabildo Omi Omi in Cuba and Barbados, my colleagues in the Council of Spiritual Baptist Churches and the Barbados Christian Council. I begin with lyrics from the late Bob “Nesta” Marley, to frame my thoughts.

Open your eyes and look within: Are you satisfied (with the life you’re living)?

We know where we’re going, We know where we’re from. We’re leaving Babylon,

We’re going to our Fatherland. Exodus, Movement of Jah People (Marley)

OPEN YOUR EYES

The song Exodus pays tribute to us, people who are constantly on the move, ever-changing, ever-evolving, ever-producing, and retaining aspects of ourselves to adapt to new situations. As we engage as the Republic of Barbados, to what extent that we can recognize ourselves as AfriKan? How we embrace this has a direct effect on our ability to accept and acknowledge our spirituality from an Afrikan perspective?

Born, christened, raised, and confirmed in the Anglican faith, I was baptised in the Spiritual Baptist faith as a young adult. Here we honour God and pay respect to our ancestors, a remit that resonates with many Afrocentric and indigenous practices. From this perspective, intellect, philosophy, spirituality etc has its origins in AfriKa and is in its essence AfriKan. This fundamental shift that has helped me reclaim humanity. And it is this shift that colonizing tropes and the systems that currently occupy our minds and regulate our bodies fear most.

Intellectualizing spirituality is a common trap. Trusted colleague and teacher in the Dagara tradition, Kambire Ikaivla, likens it to pouring water into an upside-down glass. Spirituality offers circumstances for contemplation, meditation, turning over, sitting with it allowing the wisdom to emerge, and our responses to shift. Western education often conditions and instructs more than educates.  What we call spirituality is often a kind of prescriptive religion meant to keep us dependent and is not a useful concept for healing introspection and validation. This trap that potentially limits our spirituality is where we reside. 

Photo taken from The Nation Nigeria News

Our dilemma lies in racist rhetoric. “How can the untutored AkriKan conceive God?… How can this be? Diety is a philosophical concept which savages are incapable of framing?” Swiss-German author, Emil Lugwig, questioned our ancestors access to spirituality. The remnants of such rhetoric has yet to be addressed: it has opened doors to insecurity, self-denial, and self-hatred. It disconnects us from our identity, hides, it becomes a mask that comforts, with symptoms visible enough for you not to face the pain. There are more useful ways to address these issues.

Stay tuned for part 2

Culture Clinic is a weekly column crafted by Dr. John Hunte. It identifies the impact of Culture and Creativity in the Caribbean. Photography by Adrian Richards.

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