Sankofa—the Need to Turn Back to Move Forward: Addressing Reconstruction Challenges that Face Africa and South Africa Today

Jennifer Slater



The Sankofa, a mythical African bird that moves forward while its head is turned backward toward a golden egg on its back, inspires the considerations of this article. The egg here represents a treasure in the form of historical wisdom. This article suggests that Africans have to rediscover and reclaim historical wisdom to address contemporary problems and challenges. It addresses the tension between universalism and particularism that continues to move Africanism to Westernism: a process that is regarded as undermining the soul of the continent. Knowledge of the past provides the potential to repossess what it means to be human in Africa. Since re-memory captures the emotional memory, it serves as a dynamic source for spiritual recovery, healing and reconciliation. To build a collective historical memory of historical wisdom; therein lies the necessary illumination. This article realises that the wisdom of history and tradition possesses the ability to redefine and reconstruct social and religious problems from within the frame of memory. It endeavours to show that a Sankofa connection with the African past provides sustenance for understanding and embodying the present and the future.


Sankofa; reconstruction; African wisdom; leadership; xenophobia

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2019 Jennifer Slater

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.