To Restore the Dignity of Man: Towards A Human Century 2 (My IABA Lecture)

Part 2
By Uduma Kalu

Fig 6: Stepwise derivation of the African Archetype; Rindre Pot.

If one recognises that the “IZU” symbol is presented in two-dimensional space, an object on top of the structure would generate the square pyramid. The square-pyramid is employed in the building of Pyramids; stools and display of crops for sell by Africans. And one object on top and another below the plane would generate the OCTAHEDRON. The octahedron is the most stable structure in all nature. It is the structure of diamond. It is also central to the structure of important natural substances, such as water, the hemoglobin of blood and chlorophyll in leaves etc.
Animalu has shown that at the heart of the African curvilinear system is the Z-cobra, equivalent of the triangle, basic ELEMENT of universal structure, and tetrahedron basic structure of all nature8. The Igbo symbolize tetrahedral structure in two-dimension by “ekwuato” (tripod), its triangle-base, and symbol of ERIMA, the Igbo ideal of the organic community (see fig. 7). Of interest is the Igbo word for the number three, 3, “ATO”, contained in the term “ekwuato”. It comes from the verb “ITO”, to be stuck. If we follow a number system in which one (otu/olu) implies loner, two (abuo) means split, three means stuck, four means stable and five (ise) means extra (that is stable plus one) etc, we realize that “stuck” implies structure formation. A relevant Igbo expression holds that “ihe ruo ato ya-ato na-anya”9. That is to say, when a process gets to three, it locks into place. “Anya” in the expression means, literally, eyes as the Igbo call openings like the keyhole of a padlock ‘eyes’. Three makes structure! Three-sided structure, the triangle, is the first or primary structure of the African World system. The triangular three-cusped hypocycloid is the primary element of structure of the African world system as Animalu had deduced from the African archetype and derived Z-cobra. It can easily be shown that the “ekwuato” appears to be, in the first instance, to the ordinary eyes, ‘half’ a four-cusped hypocycloid. And for a world system that believes in complementary-binaries, that important natural structures come in complementary pairs (e.g. upper/lower Egypt in the Nile valley and Ikenga/Ihitte community structuring among the Igbo in the Niger-Congo basin), it would be logical for us to expect such an important structure as the IZU to be constituted of a binary.

Fig. 7: Ekwuato the triangle; Object on Top Generates a Tetrahedron

These two most fundamental structures in nature are also, therefore, the most fundamental structures of the African world (see Figs. 8 and 9.) Just like the triangle is the most fundamental element of structure in both nature and the African world.

Fig.8: Tetrahedron and Octahedron; Fundamental Structures of Nature.
These two structures are each exploited for African constructions; from the pyramids of the Nile valley to the “mpata”, the octahedron and “Oche-nze”, the ‘dioctahedron’ and Noble’s stool in the Niger basin, to children’s games, testing ability to destabilize stable structure, as “Okwensirim” game.
A contrast of the African concept of boundary as seen from Igbo eyes and the Western world concept will highlight one more unique aspect of the African world system.
In Western eyes the boundary is an exclusion point. A limit, border, bound, termination, edge, margin, etc. In African eyes the boundary is an inclusion point, a coupling point. The activity at OKE, the Igbo boundary, also called AGBATA, for instance is IGBA-AGBA – to couple (same sense as copulation). Whereas a population of discrete entities populates the Western world, the African world is populated by a chain work of coupled entities. (Neighbours are copulants, AGBATOBI). Designs on African dresses, particularly Nigerian caps are nothing but a relentless effort to elaborate on this point. The African world is a network world…. a natural CYBERWORLD. A CYBERCOSMOS! Nothing stands alone. “Ihe kwuru, ihe akwubido ya!” Everything in the World stands on everything else. An act at one point in the African world reverberates through the whole system. A 16th century Benin Bronze sculpture of two mudfish-in-copulation illustrates the African concept of the boundary and network world (A close view of the four fins will show them as quarters of the Izu, while the scales are designed into a network; see Fig. 10).

Fig 10: Copulating Fish; African Boundary as Bini Art.

It is activity at the boundary that inspires another important element of structure in the African Cosmos… the SPIRAL. A look at African designs will show varieties of spirals. These include double spirals, basis of DNA …the molecular basis for heredity and life.
The confluence of two rivers is their AGBATA. This confluence is usually called ‘AGBATA DI NA NWAYI, literally coupling – point of husband and wife, by the Igbo. The whirlpool that forms at the confluence is a very important natural phenomenon to the African and of great ritual interest and observational fascination. The whirlpools at confluences have led to one of the general conclusions about the world by the African. As the Igbo put it, “UWA WU OGBAHIRIMEHI” … the world is a WHIRLPOOL. A realm of spirals of forces and of order amidst chaos. The spiral represents the RECRUDESCENCE, the creative intersection of worlds and forces (This apparently, explains the python as an important African symbol … a live spiral decorated by nature with the African archetype-like shapes).
The whirlpool picture of the World is consistent with an ever-changing world…uwa wu mgbanwo-mgbanwo! We note that “INWO” which describes the changing or transforming world actually means ‘TO METAMORPHOSE’, as in a snake shedding its skin for a new one (this, again, emphasis the importance of the snake symbol in the African world system; it symbolizes creative dynamism, such as metamorphosis). The African world is like ‘EHIRIMEHI’ or ‘EHIMEHI’ for short, the SPIRAL. The African world is in a perpetual state of metamorphosis (This fact is celebrated in the Mbari, ephemeral art, and tradition). This, also, is consistent with the world as unfolding and as a realm of chance. A realm of probabilities…uwa wu ahia! Only probabilistic knowledge is possible in the African world. This explains why AGWU/THOT/HERMES TRIMEGISTUS, the patron-spirit of knowledge/science in the African World system is a spirit-of-chance. The African knowledge man (the medicine men) throws the dice in search of knowledge. What the Igbo call “igba-okwe” or “igba afa”. There is no final knowledge in the dynamic African world system of continuous change and probabilities… amamihe wu oke ohia, anaghi epiocha ya epiocha! Knowledge is a great forest that can never be exhaustively probed!
With the triangle, tetrahedron, octahedron and spiral, the African world system has the key structural elements to construct the cosmos, as we know it. The African cosmos mirrors the natural world known to Science. With key elements of world structure and an epistemology that prescribes eternal search for knowledge, the African world system is a natural world for new knowledge, new skills and reconstructions. Like the symbolic snake, shedding old skins for new ones, in perpetual cycles of metamorphosis, the African world is a perpetual state of creation and recreation … uwa wu mgbanwo-mgbanwo!
There is one more African concept which the ancient Egyptians called MAAT and Igbo call OGU. This concept means a cosmic force that drives relationships in the COSMOS towards a stable equilibrium… a cosmic equilibrium dynamo. This cosmic force dynamizes the African network world. The stable equilibrium generated by this cosmic dynamo is LIFE (Note that the Igbo word for life, NDU, comes from the verb idu, to stay or to be). Ogu/Maat is the apparent origin of the fact that the African world is universally animated… ANIMISM.
Without an understanding of MAAT/OGU, the African world system cannot be understood. It is a cosmic force to which all-cosmic entities; gods, animate and inanimate beings are bound and are expected to have consciousness and commitment to OGU (ijiogu). All are expected to broadcast Ogu (ijuogu) for the preservation of all (ndu-mmiri, ndu azu! life to all; Universal life is the end product of Ogu). Ogu/maat animates the African world.
The symbol of OGU/MAAT in the Nile valley is light, sunlight 10. And so it is among the Igbo of the Niger-Congo system. The Igbo hold that “OGU WU IKE”. OGU IS ENERGY! A cosmic force! The African Cosmos is an ogu-energized system.
If OGU/MAAT is conceived in the ordinary physical energy sense, one is dealing with African Cosmology. If conceived in a transcendental sense, one is dealing with African Theology (OGUNDU is an appropriate term for African traditional religion). But we note that the boundary between African cosmology and theology is an African boundary; a coupling point. A bond, and not a separation. This is why non-Africans, sometimes, find African religiosity in everything African difficult to comprehend. All are linked to all!
Ogu/Maat, which Theophile Obenga translated roughly as “JUSTICE-TRUTH” for lack of A Western equivalent concept, is “cosmic order. The African world is a network world … A, natural, cyberworld. A cybercosmos! Nothing stands alone. “Ihe Kwuru, ihe akwubido ya!” Everything in the world stands on everything else in cosmic equilibrium. An act at one point in the African World reverberates through the whole system. This is important! The African world system requires a very high moral order to maintain stability. This is because in a non-linear system, such as the African world, arithmetic events have geometric reverberations. This is what the Science of Chaos calls the butterfly-effect, where the flap of the wing of the butterfly in New-York can reverberate as a thunderstorm in London. This would explain the emphasis on truth and justice in traditional African society, and the emergence of chaos in African societies when these factors are lacking. As it is said:
In the same league of grand ancient African scientific experiments as The Great Yam Experiment that established the lower Niger yam civilization of Africa is the grand worldview simulation shown in the images below (Fig. 11). These images, as part of the Igboukwu archeological collection, are more than a thousand years old. Having formulated the UWIZU, the CYBERCOSMOS, the ancient Africans introduced different beings into it to observe, as well as show, how they see it. The visage of each being type shows clearly that different beings see the world differently. UWAWUGHOTU! … Worldviews are different! Each person and people have a different worldview.


Fig 11a: Uwaumunwoke; man’s World. Fig 11b: Uwaumunyanyi; Woman’s world.

The study of the African World system can be called “IZUOLOGY”, the Science of whole systems and complexity. This is in sharp contrast to the “reductionism” of the currently dominant Western scientific paradigm of interacting with the world. Although, the western mode has done exceptionally well in such less complex areas as physics, its performance has be dismal in such more complex areas such as social sciences. The holistic African paradigm can come to the rescue here, if well articulated.
Interestingly the West has realized the difficulties posed by reductionism. Western thinkers are, currently, trying to obviate this difficulty through the new science called, ironically, Chaos11. The core ideas of the “science of chaos” or Chaology do not flow naturally out of Western atomistic cosmology of discrete entities. African cosmology would, with necessary name change to Izuology, provide a more natural springboard for it and thereby enrich African and World science.
Also important is the fact that the western reductionist paradigm is not natural to the African mind. Handling modern science from a more natural “Izuologic” or holistic-complexity conscious framework would be more productive for Africans and the world, just like African art and music have been.
Africa societies are currently (2006 AD) in a general state of chaos. African Cosmology offers a reasonable explanation for this phenomenon. A non-linear world system, such as Uwizu, the African dynamic network world, subjected to even small perturbations will transform, over long time, into chaos as Africa has done. We also now know that only Truth-Justice, Ogu/Maat, the force universal equilibral order, will restore natural order to Africa. This knowledge is the first, critical, step to the realization of the necessary rejuvenate metamorphosis, which the African world system prescribes for itself at all times.
All aspects of a people’s culture flow, logically, from their cosmology. This explains the observation of the artist C. C. Aniako that the key motifs of Igbo art, which is only a variant of African art, include “geometric and organic designs of lines, spirals, diamonds (octahedra), triangles, crescents (curvilines), etc.”12 These motifs are expected from African cosmology, as outlined in this paper. The dominant influence of African art on modern world art, like African music, testifies to the efficiency of Uwizu cosmology as a creative framework. The application of the networking and synergetics motifs would also be natural to the self-conscious African scientist, as excellently realised in the great computing science work of P. C Emeagwali, a father of the internet.
The sciences of such phenomena as biology and the economy that involve complexity and demand a holistic approach for their deeper appreciation would be quite amenable to the epistemology that is inherent in African cosmology. This is against the current dominant European epistemological regime applied in these fields in which biology is alienated from the Biosphere and economics from the Economy, bur rather anchored on human Psychology with its gross limitations.

I am not saying my idea is final. No, it is just the beginning. I hope that by the end of this conference, we will be able to find out other ways to change our world, and make it a better place than it is now. And that can only begin when we understand that we are all interconnected- man and his universe- and that no society or individual is free from the misery that afflicts the other. As we say in Nigeria, what goes round comes around.


One Response to “To Restore the Dignity of Man: Towards A Human Century 2 (My IABA Lecture)”

  1. garyM Says:

    on the money again bruv

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