Subtitled “A personal view on how to transcend our heritages of birth”, Emmanuel S Kirunda’s third book, “Beyond the Fourth Heritage” is a passionate entreaty to his reader to take on a new mindset he himself terms “The Heri of Kesa”.
Born out of a wealth of curiosity, experience, travel, and tragedy, Emmanuel’s book can be called a well-layered petition and thesis that appeals to all mankind but very specifically Africans to go beyond their three heritages (tribal, religious and colonial) and bring about the next stage of humanity or consciousness.
It’s very honest of Emmanuel to call it a personal view because in his writing, there are numerous references to his personal life and history and how they influenced him up to this point. More so, it is worth appreciating Emmanuel for the respectful and empathetic tone he uses in this book given that the themes tend to be highly corrosive.
It’s hard for me therefore to write the review without constantly referring to the author. Him and the idea he proposes are one and he goes to great lengths to make it perceptible to the reader.
Emmanuel doesn’t delve into his view immediately. He is aware of the different mindsets in the world in his readers and takes time to build up to it, taking care to unravel ignorance, gently reject stereotypes while proposing a better way. One way he does this is in the first part of the book where he reduces all humans to the same level with what he calls “collective unconsciousness”. This being a state where all humans start off unknowing, or in a state of sleep. He is careful to include Africa into his thought, especially the fact that all human life starts in Africa. In fact this one notion seems to be haunting his every thought because, how can the cradle of the world be so left behind having given birth to every other race?
When he starts the thought of collective unconsciousness, the idea of God comes into play. What’s intriguing about this is the distinction between what he calls the Source God and the created God.
*You will observe through out the book, Emmanuel is greatly influenced by very philosophical minds. Sigmund Freud, Ali Mazrui, Spizona, Sagan and more…*
What ensues is a progression into the history of man and his civilisations. Their differences, their similarities and how they converge to the present day civilisation that he terms the Western European Civilisation.
These are some of the best parts of the book for the historical junkie. Emmanuel takes you on a trip through time and around the world. You go from the prehistoric age, to the bronze age, to the middle age and then the modern era spanning the Ancient Egypt, MesoAmerica (Mexican to Central America), Mesopotamia (Ancient Arabia), Ancient China, Indus Valley and Andean (South America) civilisations.
Emmanuel takes good time to dissect the most recent influential civilisations; European Classical civilisation, Islamic civilisation and Western European civilisation, discussing their merits and what he terms sins. It is never in a vacuum because his thoughts are all with a backdrop of where the African mind fits in all of this. When he starts to talk about the Bicameral mind, the premodern mind and the modern mind, he’s essentially finding a way in to challenge the African mindset.
“The first major negative effect of our encounter with the dominant civilizations of the Arabs and Europeans is that it dismembered our psyches. Whether historically since then, or currently in many instances of our interacting with the outside world, we exhibit the following four psychological ills: 1) a mentality of victimhood, 2) an inferiority complex, 3)
an eagerness to consume foreign things, and 4) the African’s eternal dilemma.“
He goes on to say that the most serious problem is the African’s eternal dilemma and explains
“The dilemma is this: For the African, the more educated and advanced we become in this modern world, the more we are cut off from our spiritual, emotional, intellectual and traditional African roots. This separation causes what I have called an eternal dilemma, because while we are full of Western education and ideals, they are usually incompatible with African traditional ways which require we respect and revere certain cultural customs. We are forced to pay lip service to the “merits” of such customs yet at the same time our Western education and research shows them to be primitive, backward or immoral. With more Western education, we get removed from our roots, but no tree can stand tall and reach far into the sky if the roots are cut off. The dilemma creates a cognitive dissonance that can create the greatest of psychological conflicts in all of us educated Africans.”
One cannot agree enough. There are very many symptoms of this in the world today – the advent of Enviri za Nacho, Migration Literature, Afropolitanism. Emmanuel hit the nail on the head but doesn’t stop there.
He is very vocal (sic) about the oral traditions of Africa and how the lack of a writing culture is one of the causes of our backward place in the world. I like the fact that Emmanuel despite his engineering background notes the fact that without the written, we fade away.
“The Heri of Kesa” then is the prescription for this African predicament. However it is not for Africans alone.
He has applied himself mentally on a wide array of topics, the most important being spirituality and rationality (the unseen and the seen, the measurable and the unmeasurable, the divine and the scientific). He is not ignorant of the tension between the two and suggest that perhaps this is meant to be.
Beyond the Fourth Heritage can be called a philosophical endeavour but Emmanuel has grand plans for it. He wants it to be the source of new thought, new consciousness and new civilisation that goes beyond what is already here.
In this book, he clearly goes the way of David and Goliath as changing mindsets and civilisations at that is no mean feat. However perhaps he is applying his own theory, that maybe the Heri of Kesa can be the concentrating agent that brings to life a new age!
A very engaging and informative read, Emmanuel.