Rediscovering African Wellness: An Examination of Health and Longevity

Ósìnàkáchì Akuma Kalu (OAK), the founder and board chair of Transdisciplinary Agora for Future Discussions (TAFFDs) and Co-founder Afrolongevity, provided profound insights into African health and wellness, highlighting the impact of historical, social, and cultural factors on longevity. OAK emphasized how colonialism, lifestyle changes, and traditional communal practices have shaped health outcomes in African communities. This report explores key insights from OAK’s discussion, emphasizing traditional health practices, social connections, historical challenges, and the imperative to revive ancestral wellness.

Traditional African Health Practices:

OAK highlighted the resilience of traditional African societies, where activities like farming and communal living fostered physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. He emphasized the central role of elders in passing down knowledge and strengthening intergenerational bonds within communities, contributing to holistic health practices. In his remarks, We need to understand how the people of African decent are hugely imparted by the emerging and the twilight of the 21st century with regards to pharmaceutical and with regards to health and wellness. So, when you want to discuss about health in Africa. The major issue is how the people of African decent receive the question or the message of health or how do people want to relate with regards to health and all that but when you look at it, the question, the recent statistical report that has to do with the average life expectancy signal for the people of African decent is the determining factor. So, it seems that Africans they’ve really move out from… there are a lot of things impacting their life expectancy; you can talk about poverty, you can talk about lack of good knowledge about nutrition, and you can talk about the imperialistic impact of colonialism that affected, impacted the way that they normally, their ancestors lived and seeing it as a primitive lifestyle and introducing another way of life that is really bad to their system, their biological composition and living to degenerational deregulation and thereby imparting their life expectancy gap.

Social Connections and Mental Health

He emphasized on the critical role of social connections in traditional African communities for mental wellness. OAK contrasted this with modern trends towards isolation influenced by Western cultures. He stressed the importance of openness, vulnerability, and communal support systems in maintaining strong mental health among African populations.

A lot of people always thinks that Africans did had poor mental health or health care infrastructure thereby suffering from lot of diseases and all that. But no, when you look at a key explanation about health which has to do with intrinsic capacity and vitality. You’ll agree with me that African has the strongest intrinsic capacity and vitality fully. So, they’ve passed through a lot looking at the wave of colonialism, the wave of imperialism, the wave of slavery and all that. How they were part like … and all that. There are still strong and you need to agree with me that this whole event has a way of imparting the minds of people and with the indoctrination of their health care practices. If you look at the history of Africa, you’ll see that our ancestors never suffered hugely on what we will call health challenges and that chronic and terminal diseases are just like new terms coming in to Africa. We always age well. When you study intrinsic capacity very well, we age very well. When you see an African few years ago, you’ll see someone at 80 going to farm and cutting plants, raking, and they farm from morning till night. Just like from 6 am till 4 pm, so, that has been their way of life. So, their vitality exposure is huge and they turn it into a ripple effect that they go there… they never had gym but they use the farming as a way of gyming and they had good mental health because Africans love communal way of living, they don’t isolate. They have this sense of belonging and there comes this idea of Ubuntu philosophy: I AM BECAUSE YOU ARE. You can find it in the words of Martin Umba, you can find it in the words of others. They tried to translate it but in Africa we have this philosophy of Ubuntuness because we need to reach out to our neighbours, we want communality, everyone must belong in a community. You must follow the ordinances of the community, you need to reach out to others, it’s all there. You see, in Africa we don’t have this idea that you see in the West, where you place an elder; an old person at old people’s home – No. You must care for the elderly, you must be close to them as a family because you need to learn from them, you need to know how they navigated life challenges and problems. And it gives them a sense of belonging and as such they won’t have mental health issues and they won’t suffer from other infectious diseases that comes with age related conditions.

Challenges and Western Influences

The challenges posed by Western influences, particularly colonialism and cultural disruptions, on African health practices. He critiqued the imposition of foreign values that led to societal divisions and diminished communal bonds, contributing to mental health challenges among African populations.

Yea, social connection had been fundamental to people of Africans by traditionally, Africans don’t have things like fences. You don’t put fence because traditionally we never had things like gas, I grew up where we never had things like gas, stoves… So you make fire through woods, so you don’t lock your kitchen. You cook, take your food inside, so you keep your kitchen open because when you come out, you want to make fire to prepare something in your house, you need to check out where smokes are coming out so you need to walk to that direction to get some fire to make your fire. So, there is this openness and intergenerational connection. So, you must pay attention to details, you must attend family meetings, you must reach out to your brother; the social connection is so strong that when you don’t reach out to family members, friends they see you as a wicked person. Traditionally, in Africa, you don’t need to call a friend that you’re coming to visit, right. So, you might be attending a meeting and you say, oh! it gets late, you just have to say oh! I’m in your area. So, they need to make plans for you. You don’t need to pre-inform them. It’s all about this Western notion of trying to be ethical, you need to have some measures, some standards that brought about some many wrong doings in Africa. I’ve already said that in some of my writings. If you check my Facebook posts, you check my LinkedIn Posts; I talk about how Western lifestyle impart Africa. How people from the West and Europe try to build a standard for the world without being inclusive, trying to tolerate the cultural background that birthed the people you are forcing a lifestyle upon. So, we had a way of doing, we had social construct that is so healthy, compassionate, empathetical that you won’t see people suffering from mental health. So, there is this idea in the West that you don’t intrude people’s personal life, it’s not like that in Africa. Once your body language is not telling well; people need to find out what is wrong with you, they must force themselves on you. They want to help you, they need to help you because they know there is this African notion, in Africa philosophy, there is this African principle that states that a child is born to the community and not to the family. So, it is the duty of the family to give the community a child but it takes the community to raise a child. So, a community owes a person a sense of belonging. So the care for the common good is holistic. It is not on a micro level or intra-relational level. It is inclusive, it gives you that sense of belonging and you feel the sense of belonging. So, tell me how someone living in such a society will suffer from mental health? It is this isolatory way of living that creates mental health, that creates the lack of being vulnerable to your society, that creates lack of openness. There is no social group, there is no peer group that allow you to be vulnerable to yourself because you see them as a family, so when you swallow everything it imparts you psychologically because perceptions and impression creates an idea and you start painting a mental picture that might take you down the lane. So, you need a support system and the traditional African society was built in such a way that it supports everyone without affecting their mental health negatively.

Impact of Historical Events

Deliberate historical events, such as colonial partitions and cultural erasure, significantly impacting African health and longevity. OAK discussed how these events led to societal disintegration and contributed to contemporary health disparities, underscoring the importance of understanding historical contexts in addressing present health challenges.

Africa is actually degenerating but we are trying to build back this mindset that kept our ancestors together and that helped them to live stronger and better. So, now people tend to be overprotective of themselves. People are now building with fences and they wouldn’t want you to come in and there are a lot of issues like people being scared of being assassinated or poisoned and all that. We never experienced this in the traditional African society. So, the idea of building, you know, in Philosophy language there is what they call “referents and reference.” Everything that you see communicates something in your mind, so, its triggered something when people start building with fence and when people no longer live a certain way, it sent a message. You see people are now being overprotective and this never happened not until the Western influence. And one of the dangerous things that happened with the Western influence, in Nigeria to be precise is the attempt to abolish the teaching of history. So, must people do not know their history which make them to a kind of live a life that they think is original to them and they see that life as a way of life not understanding that every human person needs to understand their cosmology, culture and tradition because if you do not understand this things, you might have existential struggles to navigate. Now, the Western influence imparted Africa social (construct), their behavioural pattern because when you talk about the social of Africa or the way Africans behave, you need to interpret it from micro level to macro level because the man by nature; though a social being, translates the society from the immediate environment. The micro nuclear by the family but from the person into the family, from the family to the community, from the community to the society at large. So, it is always like that but there must be ordinance of reason, there must be order and those order of reason had been there in the traditional African society not until someone came and said how you’re living is not good, you need to live this certain way. And here we are today they introduced a new way of living that they say our own way of traditional living was primitive. It’s not even helping, there is no proven result because it even avail this notion of “man being a wolf to the fellow man. You become afraid of your fellow man, you can no longer see vulnerability as strength, you now see vulnerability as weaknesses. But I always tell people, even if vulnerability is seen as weakness, weakness is never wickedness. So, society need to start rethinking certain things and to see that for someone to be vulnerable to you, it means that the person trust you, right? So, that is how the traditional African society is built in such a way that you can be vulnerable to your fellow man and which means you trust your fellow man. But what we are experiencing now is hugely not… to an extent is never the way our ancestors lived and we’re not getting the required result. So, that’s why Afrolongevity, we are trying to deconstruct and to reconstruct a paradigm and to bring back Africans back to their biodiversity, the way their ancestors lived and to teach them certain things. If there are certain ways that we need to really mitigate or to improve upon, why not? We’ll do that. It’s just for us to preserve our species and our kind and if we can do that, I believe that we’ll improve the life expectancy… we’ll close the life expectancy gap in Africa and improve the wellbeing of Africans.

Call to Action: Reviving Traditional Wellness

OAK passionately advocated for reviving traditional African wellness practices, emphasizing natural diets, communal living, and cultural pride as essential components of holistic health. He called for educational initiatives, collaboration, and a reclamation of ancestral knowledge to empower African communities towards improved health outcomes and longevity.

It was intentional, right? if you look at… if you study the colonial history and their mandate. It was intentional and I always tell people that I find it fascinating why the communiqué of the Berlin conference is not public, not shared among Africans because Europe and America knew they just partitioned Africa. Europe to be precise partitioned Africa as among those stuff and for them it’s a dumping ground, experimentation ground and when they came up with different policies: you’ll see policy of assimilation and policy of association being introduced and they brought in tools like religion, that’s actually killing the people of Africa, that is making them to fight each other. As you can see, the Muslims feel that their religion is better, the Christians feels that theirs is better and they abandoned their African traditional religion, what we call “omenana.” So, they abandoned that to think that theirs is better, some of these things impart the mental health of people and also impart their wellbeing. So, people are not thinking right and there are a lot of mortality rate as regards to religious conflicts and all that. So, I also think that it is intentional because the way Africans practice all of these things, you can’t find it that way in Europe and America. So, they use those things as tools to bring in divisions among brothers and sisters. You need to also understand that there was nothing like Nigeria, there was nothing like Cameroon, there was nothing like… So, when they partitioned, they brought in those naming and they brought in those things like erm… to share equitably colonies. The British, the French colonies and the Portuguese colonies and all that. So, they partitioned it among themselves and said okay, we’re going to call this place West Africa, we’re going to call this place Nigeria, we’re going to call this place Cameroon. So, you’ll be in charge of this place and I’m going to be in charge of this place. So, those partitioned when you look at them, you know, because Africans they’re not divided in country line, Africans are divided among ethnic lands so it becomes so difficult for that trust to be there. Forcing me together with a different tribe of different ethnic groups bring in this sense of I need to be myself because this person doesn’t understand me. There’s forceful marriage called amalgamation. It’s also a problem with regards to the mental health, the social construct of the people of African decent. So, there are a whole lot of things to unpack there because it was intentional, it was deliberate for a selfish reason. That’s why they introduced the policy of assimilation as part of the contract for Africans to go with what they call “independence” and later they sign things like commonwealth and all that. But you can see that there is no commonwealth. Africa is richer than any continent in the world, mention any mineral, natural resources you can’t find in Africa yet Africa seems to be the poorest because the control is still there, they still have huge influence. They decide those to be President in Africa. They fund political agenda, they ensure that the smart ones don’t become political leaders in Africa so that they can control them. They give them the needed support and ensure that they still have direct and indirect influence in deciding who becomes your leader. So, there’s a whole lot of things to talk about and tell me when you have analog leaders in the digital age, how can you make policy that impacts the 21st century with in accelerated growth and complexities because the future is faster than you think. It becomes so difficult for you to understand, so they are creating more problem for the younger generation. So unless, we raise more people that understands these basics and people who are ready to be social entrepreneurs that knows how to identify problem. People that understands that they are also leaders in their area of functioning, it would be difficult for us to bridge this gaps. So, we need to bridge this gap before we accelerate the needed growth.

So, we can always complain, it’s very important to reawaken the consciousness to say that the effects… for there to be an effect there was a cause, right? So, we also need to work, we also need to work very hard. Education is key, sensitisation is key, outreach program is key. It’s very difficult to disambiguate what people have accepted to be true for a long period of time. Collaboration is also key. You need to firm partnership across boards, you need to also start a kind of an educational system that you take the message home from basics because there are some persons that might find it rebellious that what you’re saying is wrong and they give you references, citations and all that. Yes, there must be citations, there must references but where are we with those references? So, you need to go back a little bit to history to check the lifestyle factor and how people lived, their vitality at age 80 and the vitality of people who are living now at age 80; you compare and contrast. So, we need to start relearning and it takes a lot, including finance, it takes money, it takes time, it takes energy. You need to be very security conscious, you need to be intelligent enough because the traditional systems are not smiling; they are ready to kill you because you’re speaking the truth. You know, I did make a post on LinkedIn that led to some persons in big pharmaceutical companies reporting my post, calling it false information and all that. So, LinkedIn permanently restricted my account not until people lodged a lot of complaints: inboxing LinkedIn, sending a lot of message for my account to be unrestricted. It happened and when you see that on Facebook, you see people reporting my posts, reporting everything. People from the big pharmaceutical, the big pharmaceutical company, people from the big foods and people from the government. I didn’t lie, I just gave a historical account of how the big food funded research in some Universities and it was taught in the Universities and which created some diseases and all that and from there the big pharma now provide solutions for the Universities which create internal generated revenue for big government because they will champion in overseeing those things. So, that’s how it works, that’s the game. So, I just think, Ok, can we now look at it to say okay, this is the problem and how the problem comes to be. And, we need to teach our people how to eat, you know, they need to understand that what you eat, where you eat and how you live makes your longevity. Yes, everyone including those in the big government knows that ultra-processed foods is not healthy yet they market it because they get enormous money from tax, and they preach that it is good, they sponsor and approve false marketing and it affects the wellbeing of the people. They make money from it by providing solutions. We need to also understand that added sugars and substance are… Our ancestors never eat processed sugar and added sugar and they never suffered from diabetes, they never suffered from insulin problem, they never suffered for anything; some of these terminal diseases that’s becoming prevalent in Africa today never existed among our ancestors because we ate stressed food, we ate plant based food, we ate proper protein and we were eating… We never fried, our ancestors never fried food. Our ancestors, what they did was roasting and grilling. So, they never fried. We know how nutritious this things are. People coming in to teach us, our ancestors might have failed in certain aspects but not in nutrition. They understand what nutrition is. So, we taught the rest of the world what eating and what feeding is because humanity started from Africa. If there are people that needs to teach people what it means to eat and what it means to be healthy, it should be Africans and not the rest of the world. I always say this but people think that they know better more than their ancestors. Unless, the scientific evidence that humanity started from Africa is wrong.

You know, the traditional system was natural, was naturalistic. There was nothing like preservative, using the chemical preservative in storing foods. So, it’s either you’re eating junk , I understand that some times the difficulties in evolution and population, providing for population is no longer there and that led to some other… But there are solutions through what they call vertical farming could solve some of these problems. But however, we need to understand that in traditional African everyone had a farm, everyone does garden and everyone must be a subsistence farmer. So, you must have something, where to get your food to feed your family which is very important, right? not until the white collar job, what you call the white collar job, going to office and all that. So, we receive … everyday, we receive sunlight everyday. We were conditioned to the type of work and lifestyle, make it so .

I think we’ve really exhausted them a bit. Next time we will also look at other things to discuss about. There are also things we can consider, talking about the health care sector and maybe the origin of medicine. How, if Africa is the origin of humanity. How then are people coming back to help Africa, how do people think that Africans are not getting it right and why would they want to teach Africans on how to get it right? since Africa is the origin of humanity.

So, I would tell the world that they should embrace their culture and they should love their culture and tradition.They should embrace that which preserve their ancestors and they should eat naturally and they should avoid processed foods. They should also avoid added sugar. They should love one another and to live in peace and harmony. Having a difficult conversation is more better than going into war and having crisis because we need to preserve our specie and we need to understand that life is the chief value. Life is precious, we need to handle it with care and the best way to do that is to love one another and to embrace better social connection and then to understand that vulnerability is strength. That even if vulnerability is seen as weakness by others. Weakness is not wickedness.

OAK’s insights underscore the necessity of reconnecting with African heritage and values to promote holistic wellness and combat modern health challenges. He emphasized the transformative power of embracing vulnerability, community, and traditional living for the wellbeing and longevity of African populations. This report encapsulates OAK’s vision for revitalizing African health through a return to ancestral wisdom and communal solidarity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *