Source:African Rhythmic Patterns

African people throughout the world have a world view which is conceived as a universal oneness.There is an interconnection of all things that compose the Universe. ” The African cosmos is like a spider web: its least element cannot be touched without making the whole vibrate. Everything is connected, interdependent.”‘ This interconnectedness is conceived as a kind of “vitalism” or life force which pervades all of nature: rocks, trees, lower animals, the heavens, the earth, the rivers, and particularly man, who is a vessel for this oneness which permeates and infuses all that is.

Relationships between men and within men are regulated by notions of flow. Flow is rhythm and rhythm becomes a useful way of conceptualizing African people’s rendering of the notion of personality. Definitions of personality in the West emphasize the uniqueness and the insularity of the individual. Because of the vitalism and rhythm that constitute the genetic structure and dynamics of life, it is essentially nonsensical to speak of a separate and isolated entity called the “self.” Rhythm then becomes a key concept in understanding the function of the person from the African perspective. The concept of vibration, movement, or flow unifies all people and all things.

Therefore, the point of emphasis for an African Psychologist would be the relationship and the interconnection between people rather than focusing on the separateness, uniqueness or individuality of people.From the perspective of the individual, the life process is regulated by their submission to the rules of life.

The African maintains their internal rhythm by the observance of certain basic ideas of self-respect and respect of others. Proper rituals and relationships that reinforce their connection with the “tribe” (community) renew the recognition of the universal life force that flows within and through the person as a whole. On a very concrete level this is reflected in the considerable social orientation of African people. The very idea of isolation or seclusion among African people is synonymous with madness. The coming together and sharing with each other in a harmonious manner reaffirms the rhythmic flow between self and others.

Dancing is highly symbolic and significant when viewed within this context. The rhythmic nature of music that shatters the illusion of separateness and fuses the listeners into a shared state of being becomes an affirmation of unity among the people.

Throughout the world, social gatherings among Black people constitute a high priority value. Dance is a ritual that actively expresses the reunification of the dispersed forces of oneness.

It is interesting to observe how the phenomenon of participation permeates Black group settings. The common pattern of call-and-response found in all settings from the fields to the church, from political rallies to religious observance; the rhythm of shared participation becomes the tie that binds the diversification of function. The leader in his authority makes a call; the listener shares in the call by responding and supporting the call of the initiator. The rollicking “Amens,” “Right ons,”That’s right,” which characterize the ongoing support of the audience soon obscure the distinction between the speaker and listeners and, again, the motif of oneness is restored. The key idea of is that its meaningless to conceptualize an individual personality among African people.

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