The Sunday News
THE long and arduous journey has begun. The journey happens to coincide with the resumption of my decades, old column, “Cultural Heritage.” It is indeed a very welcome development as the journey is of a cultural nature to take me to a cultural monument.
The journey begins at the time when I have just completed my first Lockdown 2021 book titled, “Bhudaza: My Beautiful Face, Painted Faces of Women from Matobo District.” The book certainly shares a lot of cultural ideas in common with the cultural heritage resident in Stonehenge.
I have a book titled “Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery: Stonehenge” written by Mike Parker Pearson from the University College London’s Institute of Archaeology. Written on the third page of the book are the following words; “To Pathisa with best wishes from the author,” below which is his signature. While I may not be certain about the circumstances leading to my getting to possess a copy of the book, I do remember that it was presented to me at Amakhosi Cultural Centre some years back by one CJ Stone, a prolific user of Twitter.
I read the book through, once and then the second time. I got convinced I had to tuck my brains and mind into the book. I had already written several books relating to African Thought. I realised, as I went through the book, that there was a lot of the African Mind in the Stonehenge. So, by offering my Afro-centric interpretation, I would enhance my own understanding of our African culture as represented at the Stonehenge. At the same time, I would add value towards interpreting the cultural landscape resident in Stonehenge.
It had apparently become clear to me that the minds behind the creation and construction of the Stonehenge were close to possession of African ideas, more than those held by the English today. The scientists and archaeologists will need to access cultural knowledge, beliefs and symbolism from Africa in order to broaden the horizons in their daunting task to interpret the Stonehenge. Indeed, I found evidence of being receptive to African ideas on the part of the author. That encouraged me.
The author made reference to some archaeologist friend of his from Malagasy by the name of Ramilsonina. Ramil, as Mike refers to call him in the book, in trying to interpret the significance of the use of stones explained that back in his own country perishable materials such as wood, fabric, and plant materials are reserved for the living in terms of their clothes and houses. Ephemeral life on earth is assigned ephemeral items whereas eternal life after death (burial) is attended with stones which are eternal as a result of their solidity-rock of ages.
Just for Mike to tolerate that stimulated me. He was not like some of our academics who dismiss at the click of a finger ideas originating from African ancients. I remembered the saying that is attributed to Africans, “We do not die, we return.” Death and afterlife have always excited me. Eternal life is what is expressed in the saying rendered above. In my latest book I included this saying, “The death-life cycle is self-powered and eternal.” Expressions of eternity, continuity, endlessness and perpetuity of the human species find several expressions at the Stonehenge and associated structures such as the Darrington Walls and the Woodhenge will be many.
For example, the researchers unearthed, carved in chalk, a phallus with two testes. I immediately remembered the expression I coined several years ago, “Individuals perish, humanity is forever.” Just how feasible is that without what the phallus-in-chalk symbolises? Symbolism will play a prominent part in interpreting Stonehenge.
Current Archaeology wrote as follows about the book. “A striking and original interpretation of the awe-inspiring Stone Age site from one of the world’s foremost authorities on the archaeology of death and burial.” Research had indeed proved that there were burials at the Stonehenge, some of cremations and others not. It is Africa’s ideas regarding death, the afterlife and ancestors that shed light on the spirituality at work behind the creation and construction of the Stonehenge and its associated cultural landscape.
We hear it said quite often that Africa is the cradle of humankind. If that be the case, the ancients that migrated away from Africa would have taken with them ideas from Africa before dumping and abandoning them wherever they settled. It should not be surprising therefore, to find the seemingly strange and curious match in cultural expressions resident at Stonehenge.
As will be shown, the people who introduced farming to England are thought to have come either from Turkey or the Mediterranean Sea. The proliferation of African ideas at the Stonehenge is just overwhelming.
Another factor that persuaded me to look at the Stonehenge was the approach the researchers adopted. They sought to establish existing and formerly existing but associated features, be they cultural or natural. It is an approach that seeks to unravel relatedness within a geological and cultural landscape.
The choice of location for so monumental a structure with great spiritual significance would not have been haphazard or done at the whim of the group leader. The worldview of the people together with their cosmology would have dictated location. The creators and builders as a spiritual people (this to be shown later) would have been guided by the movement and location of the cosmic bodies at certain times of the year.
In any case, positions of cosmic bodies in the heavens dictated the timing for the holding of certain rituals and ceremonies. This the researchers found to be the case. The summer and winter solstices were captured at Stonehenge.
The overarching ideological, cosmic or spiritual narrative derives from the relatedness of the various features, be they geological or cultural. The more formative and critical were the geological aspects. Each feature has its own cultural, cosmic and symbolic attributes that explain its existence and role within the broad and interlinked features within the landscape.
However, each cultural feature stands in relation to other features so that there is one theme that connects all the features together. What cannot be accommodated are philosophical contradictions. The cosmic and terrestrial phenomena initiated, informed, directed and conditioned cultural phenomena, the built environment which is in line with the dictates of nature as understood by the members of the particular community. What was the single major theme at the Stonehenge cultural landscape?
This approach to interpretation is found in seashell divination, which apparently took place at Stonehenge as evidence the presence of seashells and the glass stone marble.