Time and the tango – Part 2

Finally, Fu-Kiau emphasizes the centrality of time, to Bantu understanding of the universe and its processes of “creation, transformation and functioning” as well as “life itself and its functioning”. Time, he thus concludes, makes “both nature and man” comprehensible.

As in many other non-Western cultures, Bantu time is essentially circular. (The dead “return” to their ancestors.) But in an essay for the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Alexis Kagame invoked a “Pre-Being,” that is beyond space and time—and hence non-circular.

Indeed, Kagame posited, in “The Bantu Concept of Space-Time,” that “This
Pre- Being does not belong to any of the four categories [muntu, kintu, hantu or kuntu]…; it is neither man nor thing and it neither spaces nor temporizes and it also knows no modality of existence”.

Such an entity, Kagame urged, can never be an “essence”—not even that of non-existence!: “It…can only be understood as The One Who Necessarily Is; or The One Who Never Needs to Start to Be…this Pre‐Being,…knows no before or after”.

Western religious philosophers will be quick to claim this as proof of the so-called “Melchizedek factor” (or General Revelation) in Christian theology—which holds that the Creator implanted a consciousness of his existence in all living beings.

Compare this description of Melchizedek, for instance, which Wikipedia lifted from Hebrews (7:3): “’Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life,’ thus giving him an almost godlike status”.

Yet the Bantu Pre-Being is also logically akin to 1-Planck time—an infinitesimally small fraction of the first second after the Big Bang explosion, in which the Universe was born (13.8 billion years ago).

Planck time (notated as “one,” with forty-three “zeros” behind it!), is the point at which all cosmological models break down. “Looking backward,” observes the Hyper Physics website, “the general idea is that back beyond 1 Planck time we can make no meaningful observations…”

Physics of the Universe, speaks concurringly: “Planck Time…is the closest that current physics can get to the absolute beginning of time, and very little can be known about this period”.

The Bantu formulated their vision of the universe, without the advantage of modern mathematical tools—not to mention the lightening-fast supercomputers—which contemporary cosmologists have at their fingertips.

All the same, they created a culture in which copper smelting and the minting of metal currency throve before the coming of Europeans. I remember reading, in a biography of Henry Morton Stanley, that some slaves were transported to the “New World” on Bantu-built ships.

This is heady stuff, coming from the land of “King Kong”: The famous Congolese gorilla, which Hollywood used symbolically, to propagate its contrived stereotype of the African, as a beast endowed with great brawn but little brain.

As a Black man, Barack Obama is heir to this Hollywood legacy. But how much of the reality was he conscious of, while doing the tango in Argentina?

What are we to make, of a Black President, who failed to visit Nigeria—the genetic hub of his race—performing such a racially and historically evocative dance?

Was it mere diplomacy? Or a worm-hole in space-time: A way of communing, ritually, with the Originators of hantu and the tango?

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