Before gaining independence from British colonialism in 1964, an estimated 3 million Zambians belonging to 72 tribes had traditional forums in their villages in which they discussed, contemplated and exchanged knowledge about all subjects. The men contemplated knowledge at the mphala among the Easterners and Insaka among the Bemba. The women contemplated knowledge and ideas at the mtondo or pestle and mortar among the women among the Easterners. I am sure the Lozi, Tonga, Kaonde, Lunda, and the 72 tribe tribes had different indigenous traditional names for such places of intellectual contemplation.
I am proposing that we create the first “Zambia Center for Contemplation of Knowledge”. This is a physical location where Zambian men and women from all parts of the country from the 72 tribes, all races, and the globe can retreat for the sole purpose of contemplating knowledge in a safe and secluded environment for a specified period of time. The selected intellectually seasoned men and women who will be privileged to report at the Center will have been very carefully recommended and selected for their life long devotion to both indigenous and external knowledge. Before most readers make their own assumptions of the purpose of this proposed “Center for Contemplation of Knowledge”, perhaps the best way to describe it is to explain what this Center will Not be.
The Center will NOT be a place where young men and women can stay to write Masters’ thesis and Ph. D. dissertations to gain their degrees and be a stepping stone to improve their CVs for future careers. We have 13 universities in Zambia and thousands of colleges and universities abroad where individuals who are seeking this type of training can go. This is not the place where those who want to conduct technocratic or R and D research will go because we already have universities, institutes, government institutions, and other national and international organizations where such research is being and can be conducted. This will not be a place for holding workshops because there are already thousands of hotels, lodges, and other entertainment complexes in Zambia and abroad where seminars, workshops, main stream professional conferences are and can be held. The attendees at this Center will not be sponsored by international donor agencies and NGOs as our country is saturated by donor influences the majority of whom do an excellent job in providing solutions to some of the major problems we face as a society such fighting HIV-AIDS, hunger and poverty, provision of clean water, and empowering women and girls. The place will prohibit alcohol and other possible mind-numbing activities that pass for entertainment as we already have a saturation of such establishments. Having described what it is not, what will be the purpose of this Center?
The Center will provide an opportunity for Zambian men and women to live in a beautiful and secluded quiet location for a while where they can contemplate ideas and knowledge. The retreat or place will be located away from the bright light pollution and noise of the cities. It will be best if the place overlooks a beautiful Savannah river valley or stream. The residents should be able to see both sunrises and sunsets. The residents and attendees will be asked to come with no valuable possessions. This place will be safe and peaceful with serenity and have no walls surrounding all the dwelling units. The attendees should provide evidence from themselves and perhaps others that they have spent most of their lives contemplating certain forms of knowledge to which they will devote themselves to during the period they attend the retreat at the Center. The retreat should be treated as a place for replenishing both the soul and the spirit. At the end of the retreat, the participants will be expected to produce some of the newly found ideas and knowledge for public consumption, to teach, create a community of genuine thinkers and scholars that will inspire future thinkers of Zambian men and women.
This is where serious Zambian men and women, who would be at least 45 years old, will seriously deeply reflect in a serene location all kinds of knowledge: challenges of personal life experiences, in history, law, oral and written literature, performing and creative arts including dance, philosophy, religion, spirituality, linguistics including and especially Zambian languages, in culture, economics, gender and sexuality, marriage, psychology, sociology, political and philosophical science, computer science, mathematics, statistics, food and agriculture, architecture, divinity, engineering, physics, astronomy and space, cosmology, chemistry, biology, intersection of modern and traditional medicine, and education. Some of the Western disciplines such Anthropology have been so contaminated, we should never hesitate to create new disciplines where necessary. Merely repeating or extending epistemological theories that were developed 200 years ago with European epistemology and elsewhere may no longer be useful or give us good explanations or answers as Zambians and the world continues to change and evolve.
If you read this as a Zambian begin to think how you can make this Center a reality. My thinking is that a good location for the first Center would be NegaNega Hills overlooking the beautiful Kafue River. Another location would be the hills overlooking Chinyunyu Spring or Rufunsa in Lusaka Province. In the Northern Province, Shiwa Ng’andu would be perfect or on the hills overlooking the Luangwa Valley on the Mfuwe Road. In the Southern Province in the Gwembe Valley, Munyumbwe would be a good location and also anywhere on the beautiful shores of Kariba Dam.
January 15, 2014
Who would some of the inaugural candidates for the Center? We have had some scholars in
Zambia who have done some definitive work on Zambian history and knowledge. For example, Prof. Robert Serpell for more than 40 years has been using modern psychology to analyze our Zambian culture and technology, The Significance of Schooling (1993).
Dr. Mutumba Mainga Bull researched; Bulozi Under the Luyana Kings: Political Evolution and State Formation in Pre-Colonial Zambia (1973), Norah Mumba, A Song in the Night: a personal account of widowhood in Zambia (1992), Professor Mubanga Kashoki published Sirarpi Ohannessian and Mubanga E Kashoki, Language in Zambia (1978). President Kaunda has written Riddles of Violence (1980). Vernon Mwanga, An Extra Ordinary Life (1982). Patrick Wele, Likumbi Lya Mize and other Luvale Traditional Ceremonies (1993). Dr. Yizenge Chondoka, Traditional Marriages in Zambia: A Study in Cultural History (1988), Naboth Ngulube, Some Aspects of Growing Up in Zambia (1989). These are perhaps the first Zambians who would be invited to the retreat. I am sure there are many more other Zambians. Perhaps one Zambian who impressed me about his dedication to knowledge was Mr. Sangweni who I had met 27 years ago in Lusaka. He had only a Grade 12 education and did not have any degree. But he was a self-taught phenomenal thinker.