Journalism in the service of society

Encountering the Africanist, Baba Amani Olúbánjọ Buntu 

There are people you meet and their image lingers like forever in one’s mind. When I first encountered Dr. Baba Amani Olúbánjọ Buntu, PhD. I was not sure what to think. It was not possible to place him in my usual map of identities. He had the look of any intellectual from University of Ibadan or the home of radical down-to-earth scholars of the University of Ife of yore. Why strain myself when he is just a click away? Please meet the Director of eBukhosini Solutions, Johannesburg, South Afrika. 

 So how does he represent himself? 

Buntu: I am a Pan-Africanist and decolonial practitioner, seeking to initiate and support programs for African liberation; mind, body and soul. My family is from Anguilla – a small paradise in the Caribbean, but I have lived more than half my life in South Africa. I also honor my lineage back to Yorubaland and I have spent some years living in Norway, Europe. So, I can truly say my life has been a Pan-African learning journey.  

Editor’s note: “Anguilla was colonised in 1650 by British settlers from Saint Kitts and thereafter remained a British territory, administered as part of the Leeward Islands colony. The British did not encounter any Arawaks on the island, but in 1656 a raid by Indians from one of the neighbouring islands wiped out their settlement.” (Source: Internet)

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Buntu at one of the sessions

Buntu: “In South Africa I am Founding Director of eBukhosini Solutions, a family-run organisation specialising in Afrikan-centered education. We coordinate a number of community programs, engaging our youth, parents and communities in practical applicability of African history, knowledge and science. We are very passionate about empowering the African Family, as we see this as a source to regain our collective power.”

“I have obtained my Master’s and PhD from University of South Africa, in Philosophy of Education. As a writer, researcher, mentor and organiser for the last 35 years, I focus primarily on the practice of leadership informed by African cultural wisdom, decolonial politics and healing.”

The forgoing gives a brief context to the man, his mind and probably his mission. I met him at a conference of Africanists and scholars of Africa. It was only logical to ask him about his impression of such a large gathering in terms of knowledge production and dissemination

Buntu:  I participated in ECAS 2023 in the capacity of a research engagement I have been doing this last year for Platform (Norwegian Institute for Prevention of Radicalisation and Extreme Violence) in Kristiansand, Norway. One of my foci is epistemic justice, so at the European Conference of African Studies (ECAS) I was particularly interested in the presence of African knowledge holders and African-centered perspectives. In Academic spaces around the world – including Africa – we have gotten used to African scholars who represent Western-centric approaches to knowledge. And I met quite a few of them in Cologne as well. It is disturbing to me to witness that, even as we increasingly speak about decolonising spaces of knowledge, many of us are not free to do our research and lecturing from genuine African perspectives; We still uphold and show loyalty to non-African scholarship as primary sources. This is quite dangerous; we may think we have made progress when we see that the number of African scholars has increased. Yet, we need to ask: To what extent do they represent perspectives that are drawn from African worldviews and contribute to what Africa needs right now?

One panel I found particularly interesting was titled “Used futures, silenced present and recreated pasts”. It was facilitated by Kwamou Eva Feukeu, Martins Kwazema and Abius Akwaake. It was a refreshing exercise as it differed quite distinctly from other panels. Instead of a lecture, everyone engaging present were guided through a participatory method of archiving the past and present, while articulating a future vision of Africa. The workshop explained “Futures Literacy”, which according to Fekeu, Ajilore, Bourgeois & Karuri-Sebina  is defined as “a multi-dimensional capability that begins with an awareness of the imaginary nature of the future, thereby opening up a learning frontier as people explore” . 

 As we divided into sub-groups and began a process of imagining “the future of schools of the past”, it dawned on me how important it is to know Africa’s past, in order to have a concept for its’ future. For me, my association with the word “school” was inspired by ancient spaces of learning and leadership. It resonated with me, as I see this as a pillar in decolonial work: Drawing from our ancient concepts and finetuning them for contemporary usage, inspired by a notion of Africa’s future as a space of liberated existence. 

The workshop proved the notion that African culture is not future-oriented wrong. We often think of future studies as a Western, and relatively new, concept. And seem to have forgotten that through holistic expressions in African arts, philosophy, architecture, science, spirituality and life wisdom, Africa has always engaged with anticipations of – and preparations for – future scenarios. I enjoyed the exercise – which enabled us to merge memory, science, emotions and commitment into knowledge development. 

But I also met inspiring scholars and practitioners who are firmly grounded in African perspectives and are important thought leaders within a movement of future-oriented knowledge holders with a solid foundation within our rich tapestry of knowledges indigenous to Africa. I made contacts that I am still in communication with; and with some we are planning further collaborations within our common fields of interest.

Can you share one or two of those you met and the inspiring scholars and practitioners who are firmly grounded in African perspectives. 

Buntu: One of the scholars I met is Martins Kwazema whose research Interest is in General History with concentration on West African sociopolitical and economic cycles. He also identifies patterns, wildcards, black-swans, trends and mega-trends that shape perception of reality, time and space. He also understands layered causes and effects that disturb past and present spaces to fortify the capacity for anticipating and creating alternative futures. Apart from Martins, I also had the pleasure of meeting Eva Kwamou Feke who is an anticipation specialist & complexity researcher. She “tended to hear similar types of scenarios coming up. The future of development. The future of a continent whose resources are at the service of the rest of the world – free of charge. The future of a youth ready to slave themselves away for past and future generations. A future based on selling ourselves out. Sounds familiar?” They did an interactive session on Afrikan Futurism; I found it interesting to combine imagination, political consciousness and science in a conversational engagement on Afrikan temporality.

 What contribution did you make at the ECAS conference?

With my interest in empowering the African family, I have also spent 15 years developing transformational methods for and with African men. At ECAS 2023 my presentation title was “The Future of African Men: Decolonizing Power Constructs through Indigenous Knowledge”. I wanted to engage fellow African scholars in a critical conversation around our experience with patriarchal power, how coloniality has shaped African manhood and in what way our ancient knowledge have valuable lessons that can be applied in our future perspectives of what meaningful African masculinity should look like. 

It was humbling to get the opportunity to share my perspectives with scholars from different parts of the world. But one interesting thing was reaffirmed to me: As African men within academic spaces, many of us cling to colonial definitions of manhood and many of us are skeptical to transformational work on ourselves. As I work predominantly in communities and outside of western-centric institutions, this is something I have observed repeatedly. And for me this is a critical point; As African men within institutions of learning we hold great responsibilities for impacting on future thoughts and practices in relation to identity, culture and societal roles. Sadly, it seems that many African male scholars have become part of the problem; and this stands in contrast to men in the communities I work, who demonstrate great courage in being ready to engage, change and redefine what kind of men we need to be.

As I soaked up many interesting viewpoints and angles from fellow scholars in a number of panel presentations, I also paid close attention to how the word “decolonization” was applied. I found that instead of explaining a robust critique against Western dominance and a firm repositioning of what and who have been “othered” within Academia, many African researchers used the term to explain dynamics that I would rather call “diversity”, “representation” and “multi-disciplinarity”. This was a timely reminder for me, to be even clearer in my own position of what decoloniality must mean for us as Africans; there is a great need to ensure it is not watered down and made to sound “cute”. Decoloniality is never cute. It is painful. It breaks the world we have gotten used to. And it cuts – even into our own minds, hearts and souls. And, if it doesn’t – it simply isn’t decoloniality. Its necessary, but very ugly.

I also want to mention my most memorable take-away from Cologne: The African community in the city had approached the city to demand that they also have a presence during the ECAS conference. Within a European context, this is quite significant: The established norm is that “Africa” is a subject discussed in many universities and conferences, but African representation and community involvement is mostly absent. The community in Cologne was not going to accept that! They had put on an incredible program with presentations, dialogues and performances that both made the African presence in Germany present to the visiting scholars and represented thematic angles that were meaningful to the resident African community itself. Through Sonnenblume Community Development, a collective for Black artists and community leaders, I was invited to be a panelist on a dialogue about activism and community development. As much as I enjoyed the whole ECAS experience, this was – by far – my most inspired moment; meeting and engaging with the community of Africans living in Cologne. I learned so much!  And again, I noticed that many visiting African scholars may not take the time to engage with the community of Africans resident in the hosting city of a conference; perhaps this is also why many community members do not look to African academics for support and understanding; too many come across as snobbish, distant and “too good” for community engagements….  


Conferences are not just for exchange of ideas but they have become channels for networking and meeting interesting scholars doing remarkable researches. The other interesting parts of conferences is the post-conference activities when contacts made become life-long connections. 

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