Before They Came

by Oliver Mbamara

Before the coming of colonialism and western civilization to Africa and some other parts of the world, people related with life and the environment in various ways. They lived and practiced there various cultures in ways befitting their particular societies.

Cultural practices were limited by societal or geographical delineations, and each society respected the other’s cultural practices when they differed or even disagreed. No society insisted that its own practice was the best or exclusively preferable. Colonialism and modern day “civilization” came with doctrines and packaged-cultures of the colonizing powers, which were in turn imposed on the colonized territories.

Accepting colonialism and its version of civilization meant accepting other antecedent factors such as foreign religion, foreign language, and foreign law, which were all new to the societies of the colonized territories. In most cases, these foreign cultures were imposed on these societies while their ancestral cultures were either suppressed or eradicated. While some of these ancestral traditions have subsisted in some societies and in some minds, some brothers and sisters have become colonized or reeducated. Some have even joined the imperial authorities and their modern day representatives to condemn the same tradition (particularly, religion) that sustained our ancestors as a community of happy and contented people for several thousand years.

There was no alternative to accepting colonization. Our ancestors did not have the choice. Those societies that attempted to challenge the imperialist powers paid with their lives and their existence as a people. As great as they remained and will always remain in our eyes and memories by virtue of the fact that they put up such brave resistance with simple sticks, machetes and bows against the much more advanced and deadlier weapons of the invading colonialists, the truth is that they lost the resistance, and were forced to accept the cultures and traditions of the imperialist masters, regardless of how conflicting these new cultures turned out to be to what we had observed in these societies from the beginning of their times.

I am aware that religion has always been a controversial topic but this is not about what we believe or do not believe. It is about what the true facts are – our forefathers worshiped GOD before the coming of colonialism and modern day civilization. Everyone is free to practice whatever religion or culture he/she finds comfortable, but let us not distort the facts. Our ancestors were not evil or idol worshipers. They had their religion through which they worshiped GOD Almighty in the way they knew best. Their practices may not have been the best but they lived happy and long lives. My own grand father – “Mbamara Ekejiuba Duruojikeyeme” was a renowned herbalist who healed people and helped his society with what he knew about life and GOD. He respected God and lived to be at least One hundred and twenty years on record. The fact remains that we worshiped GOD before they came.


(Our ancestors were not idol-worshippers)

In those days before they came,
When morning came with its light of dawn,
The sun bestowed its shine freely on us.
And when our elders woke, they called on all
To express great thanks to God almighty,
For his blessings bestowed through the light.
In those days before they came,
When the season came for rain to fall, the
Heavens opened and showered its blessings (upon us)
So the soil was fertile and the trees were fresh.
And when the people farmed the harvest was rich.
So festivals were held to thank the Almighty God.

In those days before they came,
When we sought to travel to distant lands,
We rowed our boats across the river’s horizon,
And fished for fishes from the lakes to the seas,
We relished the visions of the dancing ocean, and
Praised God’s majesty expressed in the seas and rivers.

In those days before they came,
We knew God and worshipped him greatly.
We saw God in the light of dawn and the rising sun,
We saw God in the rain and lightening through the cloud,
We saw God in the moon and stars up in the sky,
We saw God in the lakes and rivers merging with the seas.

In all we saw, we gave God names to worship him,
But they came to colonize and re-civilize us.
They brought their religions, and found fault with ours.
But before they came, we worshipped God, not idols.
We knew God; we loved God well before they came,
We worshipped God, and still we do.

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