In the blockbuster science fiction film Black Panther, the people of Wakanda, a mysterious country in Afrika, the people worship the Ancient Egyptian/Kamitic deity Bast. There are so many angles with which we can approach the significance of this Cat-like Goddess, but we wish to look at the uses and abuses of power, both mythic and realistic by modern and ancient peoples. How much can Afrikan’s gain from the reinstatement of ancient rituals and how much of those rites have become truly obsolete. Here is a brief perspective of how Bast was invoked:
“Bast was associated with childbirth, perhaps because of the way a mother cat cares for her kittens – and the fact that she might have continual litters of them. During the 2nd Century AD Plutarch wrote, somewhat mysteriously, that the Egyptian Cat gives birth first to one kitten, then two, until the number seven is reached. He points out that this makes a total of twenty-eight, the same as the days of the lunar month.
Nowadays, Bast has assumed a mother Goddess aspect. While there is no doubt she has a side whose teeth and claws are bared, she is now generally regarded as benevolent. Her rituals involve music, feasting and dancing, when she can be petitioned to grant boons. Bast can be invoked to help with problems concerning domestic life, work situations and success, as well as love and good health, for the petitioner, their friends and families, or their cats. Any visit to the Temple of Bast, through visualization, is a time of serenity, contemplation and pleasure.” – ( http://www.occultlectures.com/kemetic-deities.html)
Today’s world is like the typical Game of Thrones. Competing queendoms, kingdoms, fiefdoms and principalities contest for a space in the minds of a mostly gullible public. Unfortunately for the less technologically and economically advanced kingdoms, the monopolization of resources has debilitating consequences. Loss of land, natural resources as well as Cultural heritage is real and it has deleterious effects. Afrikan scholars and cultural activists are doing their best to keep us woke. But there are challenges that include the apathy and fragility of the younger generations who hardly ever explore the depths of the war we are in. Writing in his ‘Cultural framework for the development of science and technology in Africa” Mabawonku states:
“The problem of scientific and technological development in Afrika was attributed to a predominance of exclusive hierarchical and fatalistic cultural categories. The challenge of science and technology development in Afrika would require a new institutional arrangement with appropriate cultural values and norms of behavior.” In essence, culture should be the basis for scientific and economic development.
If ever there was a clash of civilizations and of cultures, the 21 century is the most brazen battlefield. No idea, thought or narrative is left unchallenged, especially in the instantaneously reactive platforms of social media. Sacred cows have long been slaughtered and ‘vampires’ drcorate themselves with crucifixes, while sipping holy water, while myriad truths turn out to be lies.
With reality becoming more and more fragmented and a matter of perception and perspective, the roles of mythology, chance and mysticism are being reactivated and rededined.
The foundations of institutions/structures such as family, community, clan and nationhood are being shaken to their last shaky legs. Non-permanence and fragility are the order of the day even in fields where exactitude in calculation is the order of the day. One persons divine being is no more than a fantasy, a figment of active imagination, while another persons rationality can be construed as ignorance.
There are various knowledge systems and as many ways of life one can choose from.Freedom of choice, expression as well as other liberties are cherished as human rights. The institution of monarchy, the so called divine rights of rulers along with its various forms of servitude/servant-hood, feudalism and honor and dishonor is gradually losing its grip on the minds of many modern societies who pride themselves as traditional.
Not only are matters of gender equality as well as other already mentioned rights challenged, the deceptively formidable edifices of empire,royalty is becoming as passe as that old time religion. Some would think that the French Revolution did away with any notions of royal power. Yet, there are millions of people who still worship archaic Gods, and reverence their chosen kings and queens. The Ancient Egyptians/Kemetans are renowned for their many so called gods. But the theology and cosmic approach of Egyptians is still very much misunderstood. I have dealt with the fact that Abantu BaseKhemethi (The people of the Black land) were not just idol worshipers, but they, just like many other peoples throughout the Afrikan continent and other First Nations, had a healthy and holistic approach to the supernatural. They held a lot of things and phenomena sacred and associated each and everything with a particular attribute called NTR (Neter/Netcher/Nature), these Beings are symbolic of the essence of the elements that are among us and the people of Sudan/Nubia and Egypt/Kemet created immortal works of art that are also linked to science, governance and other fields. Everything is connected and attributable to another. There is a sense of purpose in everything, a singularity. A unity in the diversity. The ancients ensured that there is Ma’at or cosmic balance between the image and the realization. In this rediscobvery, we will find that Women play a significant role, both as mothers, daughters, queens as well as goddesses. As we know among the Nguni/Ngoni and Tonga, there is no King without a Queen Mother.
In the film Black Panther, the people of the fictional Wakanda kingdom do not only swear by Bast*, they also rely heavily on the language of the Xhosa’s. We will explain how significant the use of isiXhosa is in the context of telling such an Afrocentric yet universal tale. Let us start with a bit of description, who and what is this Bast?
“Bast (known as “Bastet” in later times to emphasise that the “t” was to be pronounced) was one of the most popular goddesses of ancient Egypt. She is generally thought of as a cat goddess. However, she originally had the head of a lion or a desert sand-cat and it was not until the New Kingdom that she became exclusively associated with the domesticated cat. However, even then she remained true to her origins and retained her war-like aspect. She personified the playfulness, grace, affection, and cunning of a cat as well as the fierce power of a lioness. She was also worshiped all over Lower Egypt, but her cult was centred on her temple at Bubastis in the eighteenth nome of Lower Egypt (which is now in ruins). Bubastis was the capital of ancient Egypt for a time during the Late Period, and a number of pharaohs included the goddess in their throne names.”
There is still much to be unlearned since the beginning of the decolonization wave, Afrikans and other First peoples have to find value in their own myths, our own sciences as well as our own languages. The Europeans and other members of the white race have founded their civilizations upon Greek, Roman as well as Nordic tales, both mythical and historical. It is high-time that Afrikans also mine the reservoirs of their past to construct future civilizations.
Indlela Ibuzwa Kwabaphambili …
Green Ankh Works in Collaboration with Mercurial Films and CineCulture is delivering an in-depth Master Class on Esoteric Africa, Afrikology, Afro-Futurism and the History and Future of Black Science Fiction …
Everybody gets the Blues! This is what I thought this morning, while driving to BK bookbinders to print yet another batch of my book Rock ‘n Rule – I was listening to one of my many mix-tapes ( I never can decide what to listen to so I decided to put it all into either mix-tapes /Compact Discs or in a USB ).
Between the Hip Hop, Reggae-Dub, Jazz, Afro-Fusion and Rhythm&Blues,one can never be done with these labels, these boxes; there came along songs by such artists as Msaki and The Golden Circle and the indomitable and deeply engaging voice of Lhasa de Sela; The Mexican-Canadian artist was introduced to me by a very intelligent and eclectic Romanian ex-girlfriend a couple of years ago. I am yet to thank her for this and many other indelible gifts she may not be aware that she bestowed upon me. Only the music lives to tell the soundtrack of the journey.
Now, I am working on a film project about the Life and Dreams of an intriguing friend of mine and I am actively listening for Soundtracks or Cinematic music to fit with the spirit and images of this quasi-magical project. Hearing Lhasa’s song My Name, this morning got me so very inspired, I almost did not reach my initial destination. All I wanted to do was park by the roadside and somehow register this light-bulb moment, perhaps match the song with some of the images and texts that we have already put together.
Lhasa sings with such melancholic surrender and the musicians accompanying her carry her lovelorn tales with dexterous precision. The music is at once very modern or electronic based, yet remains decidedly grounded in the minimalist genius of the individual players.
Such is the power of music. We have even considered making the film project a sort of tapestry of sounds, scenes that a woven together in such a way that they form a coherently multi-storied collage. But let me not give away too much. I am now listening to Blue Note recording artist Lionel Loueke’s Heritage project, a swooning and magnificent project, co-produced by pianist/keyboardist Robert Glasper. Yet again, my ‘scatter-brained’ Self discovered Loueke’s Karibu album, another ‘gift’ from a friend who called Osmosis Liza, who is actually involved in the film project.
By sheer coincidence, (If we can call these strings of serendipitous incidents coincidences), Karibu contains a version of Naima, the John Coltrane song I recently told the lady who is the main subject of the project that I wanted to include in the Soundtrack. This is the difficulty with labeling music. This version of Loueke’s version of Naima is so string laden, electric and expansive, it is only the clarinetist and bassist who make it vaguely recognizable, yet somehow this now seems to be the perfect fit for this Afrocentric tale that we are trying to tell.
Here are the Lyrics to the Lhasa song that captured my imagination; I so hope that one can obtain the Rights to use it once the whole film is ready for Production etc:
Lhasa de Sela – My name (The Living Road 2003)
“Why don’t you ask me How long I’ve been waiting / Set down on the road With the gunshots exploding / I’m waiting for you In the gloom and the blazing / I’m waiting for you I sing like a slave / I know I should know better / I’ve learned all my lessons / Right down to the letter / And still I go on like this Year after year / Waiting for miracles And shaking with fear /
Why don’t you answer /Why don’t you come save me / Show me how to use All these things that you gave me / Turn me inside out So my bones can save me / Turn me inside out You’ve come this close/ You can come even closer / The gunshots get louder / And the world spins faster /And things just get further And further apart / The head from the hands And the hands from the heart /
One thing that’s true Is the way that I love him / The earth down below And the sky up above him / And still I go on like this Day after day Still I go on like this / Now I’ve said this I already feel stronger / I can’t keep waiting for you Any longer / I need you now not someday When I’m ready /Come down on the road Come down on the road
My name, my name Nothing is, nothing is the same / And I won’t go back the way I came My name, my name Nothing is the same “
The sadness and the sheer Blues of these lyrics and the way the late Canadian-Mexican singer carries it just grabs at the heartstrings and will not let go until the last phrase.
We will be showing this film very soon in Durban. We hope that many of you come and view and discuss the issues it raises.