Chief Fela Sowande's Philosophy
  and Opinions

"I see the Africanization of Black Studies as requiring the restructuring of Black Studies — a total restructuring if need be — sso that it rests on the traditional Thought-Patterns of Traditional Africa, which thereby become its reason for being, its life essence, the actualization of these Thought-Patterns in the day to day lives of common folks being its specific objective, to achieve which nothing will be allowed to be an insurmountable obstacle."

 — Chief Fela Sowande (1905 - 1987)



Fela Sowande was born in Abeokuta in 1905. He was the world renowned Nigerian concert organist, composer and conductor, who had the honor of being admitted as a Member of the British Empire (M.B.E.) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1956 for his "distinguished services in the Cause of Music." The Federal Government of Nigeria awarded him with the Member of the Federation of Nigeria (N.F.N.) in 1964. Fela Sowande was commissioned by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Information, upon Nigeria's liberation from British rule, to compose the nation's "National Anthem" in 1962. In 1968 the State of Lagos awarded Chief Sowande the "Bagbile of Lagos" (the Traditional Chieftaincy Award) in recognition of his research into Yoruba folklore. Later the University of Ife conferred on him the Doctorate Honoris Causa in Music in 1972. 

We take pride in the fact that our work has been guided for twenty-five years or more by the philosophy and educational opinions of Chief Fela Sowande, the late Professor of  Ethnomusicology and Black Studies at Howard University, the University of Pittsburgh and Visiting Distinguished Professor of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University. Chief Sowande has willed to those who are committed to creating African education programs four graphic models essential to the conduct and administration of Africa-based educational programs: 1. Two Program Harmony Models  and 2. The Africentric Paradigm of Curricular Holism. HieroGraphics Online will introduce the browsing public to a number of Sowande's works which he, while he was alive, refused to put before the uninitiated public.

Black Experience of Religion

Continuities and Discontinuities in the Religious Experience
Peoples of African Descent

By Chief Fela Sowande, Howard University, March 1970*


Introductory Note

irtually no aspect of the Way of Life of Peoples of African Descent domiciled in or outside Africa can be profitably discussed, or even cursorily examined, without attempting first to clear the air of the smelly smog of long established misconceptions, which have led in some instances to the weirdest emotional attitudes imaginable, and have consistently prejudiced intelligent and dispassionate communication on these matters. These misconceptions have also, in my view, contributed effectively if indirectly to the curious idea now currently held in so many quarters, that Africa proper is covered by what is termed these days: Sub-Saharan Africa; an idea as tenable and as logical as would be the idea that America proper is sub-Mason-Dixon-line, using the Civil War and subsequent political events in evidence. What is more, however, it seems to me sometimes less and less remote that in the by no means distant future, sub-Saharan Africa may be replaced by Equatorial Africa as representing Africa proper.

In the meantime, as the study conducted by Project Africa in the Fall of 1967 documents, to American Secondary School students, sub-Saharan Africa is "a hot, primitive land, where wild beasts prowl the steaming jungles stalking and being stalked by black savages armed only with spears and poison darts," that is, when the "natives, who live in villages (and) are not sitting "in front of their huts beating on drums."

At the level of American grown-ups, I think we would discover that a similar study would reveal that an abnormally high percentage of adults possess a philosophy quite close to that of the Illinois minister who was preaching about the Brotherhood of Man one Sunday in 1943, and declared that the "Our" in the Lord's Prayer: Our Father which art in Heaven, refers to that family of God which included the citizens of the United States, the peoples of Great Britain, the heathen of China, the cannibals of India, the headhunters of New Guinea, and the savages of Africa.

It is clear that there is not much sense in talking about the religious experience of the peoples of African descent, while whatever one says is likely to be related to a jungle Africa sub-Sahara, occupied by illiterate, poor, dirty, half-naked, diseased, savage, black Africans. But this virus of informed ignorance is no longer a local disease but an epidemic, which has become so wide-spread that it has affected blacks as well as whites. We all know those blacks domiciled in Africa who think that they are the salt of the earth, far superior to their black African brothers and sisters on the same continent, and much more so to blacks outside Africa. Then there are those blacks domiciled outside Africa, and they thank God that they are not like other blacks, that they do not carry an African passport, and that if they are not yet in the mainstream of the civilized world of the whiteman they soon will be.

But this type of blackman, whether or not he is domiciled in Africa, is the true Niginji. What is a Niginji"? I first heard the term used by my black American professional colleagues in London around 1936; completely mystified as to what on earth the term could mean, I asked them; my ignorance amused them greatly, and between bursts of uncontrollable belly-laughs they explained that a Niginji was their term for . . . quote — an educated nigger! — unquote. They added, for my edification: you can take the hick out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the hick. An educated Niginji is more of a liability to the race than an un-educated one, which — I thought to myself at the time — was just as valid an observation for Africa as apparently it was for America, and possibly for other countries where you have sizable groups of blacks.

It is therefore essential to attempt at least to show that the popular fallacies which pass for facts about the Blackman have no foundations whatever in truth, not so much on account of our white as of our black brothers and sisters; obviously we must consider those young ones who are in danger of being turned into Niginjis by a so-called educational system that could not be further removed from real education; and we must consider the not-so-young, who have so far managed to escape having their black souls raped by the propagandist anthropological sciences of our times, and who are still seeking meaningful answers to the many important basic and relevant questions that have been occupying their minds, seemingly for generations.

Unfortunately, clearing the air of misconceptions cannot be done in one or two short paragraphs. But it is imperative that at least it should be attempted, even though it means encroaching on the space that would otherwise have been devoted to the main theme, and raises the additional problem of keeping this Paper within reasonable length.

These are some of the thoughts that have determined to an appreciable extent, not so much the content as the form and the length of this Paper. I can but hope that the results will stimulate deep and sustained thought, among my white as well as by black brothers and sisters.

What we humans call "a second" is but a unit of Time which drops briefly into the lap of the measurable contemporary Now, from the inexhaustible store of the limitless immeasurable Future; it stops briefly in the Now as it makes its way towards its final destination in that unfathomable Eternity of Yesterdays, where it becomes one of the priceless jewels of experience in the inexhaustible treasure house of the Creative Forces of Evolution.

The times we live in today are such that, to my mind, for reasons far too involved to permit outlining here, every such "unit of Time" underscores the fact that it is suicidal to permit ourselves not to see beyond the color of the skin which happens to cover that physical house we occupy temporarily, and which we shed when we pass on, as one day we must. According to Mutwa, the Zulu traditional priest author, Bantu philosophy believes that every soul gains experience over one thousand years, of which only seventy short years are spent in human form. Seventy out of one thousand still leaves quite a tidy number.

Therefore, Black Experience of Religion must be examined in terms of Human Experience of Religion, and not as something existing outside human experience, that of the Human Race within which, whether we like it or not, the Black Race is totally contained. . . .

Note Well: HieroGraphics Online will periodically post on this Web site additional installments of "Chief Fela Sowande's Philosophy and Opinions." Currently we have posted Sowande's . . . 

There will be others. Watch for them!   

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