Lessons from our ancestors - surviving tough times

Africans civilisations have had to endure long periods of difficult times and throughout history they have created habits within the communities to ensure their survival during such times. This weekend I lent myself to the study of what the modern world can learn from the practices our ancestors adopted through troubled times.


Elders and senior members of tribes would first gather themselves together to discuss the matters and troubles that fell upon them. All the wisest individuals were called to these meetings and representatives of different ages and sexes to have the voices of all represented. They would ponder over the issue and map a way forward. If the evil they faced had been experienced by any member of the tribe, that member was called to tell of how they passed those times. This calling of a council, served to ensure that essential information was shared among the leaders in preparation to be passed down to all members of the community.
Together they would pray and call on their God to ask for guidance and the protection of their people. They would present their plans in prayer to be blessed and approved.

The elders would then call official gatherings of all people in the area. The chosen area would often be in the mountains, far from all matters below. Sometimes the gathering of people would take days as members travelled long distances to be present. Land was abandoned, cattle left unattended in order to have every single member of the tribe in attendance - this is how important it was to be together and to hear what was to be told.

Spiritual songs would be sung by the community whilst they waited. Through the belief of creating an atmosphere of spiritual awareness, they believed that the elders would be blessed with divine insight on the situation. This atmosphere would serve to keep the spirits of members up and ensure a peace throughout the community. The elders would then exit their place of deliberation to share the plans they have for the community and the message they have received from God. Detailed instructions would be laid out to ensure a collective understanding.

Once again, now with the entire community, prayers would be offered to God for His mercy and guidance through the situation.

Then celebrations would commence. Food would be prepared and thus the celebration of life would take place. People would feast and share in the joy of being together. Children would play and there would be laughter among the adults as they acknowledge the trouble that has brought them together.

Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu - A person is a person through other people

Translation: 'I am because of who we all are'

Zulu Proverb