Humanism in the Heart of Darkness: The Paradigmatic Luba-Bumuntu Art of Becoming Humane

Humanism in the Heart of Darkness:  The Paradigmatic Luba-Bumuntu Art of Becoming Humane

Mutombo Nkulu-N'Sengha, California State University, Northridge

Monday, October 07, 2013
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

“Bwino bonso ke bwino, bwino I kwikala biya ne Bantu.”

This Luba proverb states that “every knowledge is not knowledge, true knowledge is to know how to live harmoniously with our fellow human beings.” It conveys an African worldview that sees humanity and humaneness as intrinsically shaped by “knowledge-wisdom” that promotes human flourishing. A question arises: How can we properly study Africa and for what end? Insights from Edward Said and V.Y. Mudimbe’s scholarship call into question our constructed ideas of Africa, the Congo, and “Luba culture.”

This lecture will articulate the complexities of conducting research in Lubaland in the 21st century. After almost 20 years in the West, the speaker returned to his native land to undertake research on traditional cultures and religions, only to find himself immersed in an unfamiliar and profoundly transformed universe reminiscent of Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal or Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.  What is African culture? What is African in this “Africa of globalization?” Such are the questions confronting the researcher in today’s Lubaland.

Careful investigation of Luba notions of “Bumuntu” or the essence of personhood suggests that there is still hope in this proverbial “Heart of Darkness.” The audience is invited to discover this philosophical notion at the core of what may today be termed the “African miracle” of life within a sea of death, of “hope against hope,” of an Africa that refuses to die. But this raises other complex questions, of the raison d’être of 21st-century “African Studies” and the mission of the scholar in post-colonial Central Africa.

Dr. Mutombo Nkulu-N'Sengha is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Cal State Northridge, where he is also a member of the African Studies Interdisciplinary Program. He teaches about world religions, African traditional religions, American religious diversity, and peace and violence in world religions.  He is founder of the Bumuntu Peace Institute that works to foster quality education, the empowerment of women, human rights, and interreligious and intercultural dialogue in the Congo, as well as the protection and preservation of African traditional cultures and ancestral wisdom more generally.

Cost : Free and open to the public

UCLA African Studies Center310-825-3686

Sponsor(s): African Studies Center