It is interesting and exciting when new scientific breakthrough is announced. The claps following it resonate far and wide. Usually, on its heels are recognition and awards of international importance. Often, the question is what are they coming up with next? As usual, those outside their community will open their ears and eyes for another breaking news. For Millennials used to a scenario like this, it is a single story. This is just the whole story of the world!
But there are more stories. It may not be as new and crispy as you want. Nevertheless, it contains interesting and useful elements. Unless one is exposed to such stories ones perspective may likely be limited to the world one knows.
Growing interest in cell biology and research has been wonderful with ‘great’ discoveries. One area in the body of studies relates to genetics is the Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).
DNA is not every day word on the street. In normal times even among the educated you may not read or see the word in a whole year. The pronunciation makes it unfriendly too. Yet, it is every day active operator as people interact in many ways.
Stated plainly, DNA means special and specific imprint in a cell that makes one unique, different and special. Like an adire cloth that has an imprint that is unique and specific that no other designer can exactly replicate no matter how hard he tries. At least that is how it seems for now. It is like your fingerprint.
As DNA is graphically shown to be long, the same way stories about it are longer. Further explication of genome and other tongue twisting scientific terms and rigmarole should not take our time here. At least, our subject is clearly on the table.
DNA discoveries have solved some genetically related issues. One does not need to be in the same location to ascertain paternity. Children who have been abandoned or rejected have reconciled with father’s after their DNA has been ascertained. Paternity has also been quashed following contrary results. Prisoners wrongly jailed for a crime not committed have been released as a result of forensic DNA outcome. Scientists say there are great hopes in matching and treatment of genetically susceptible diseases in the future. DNA has come with great aspirations and hopes. On the flip side, confusion and rejection have followed unexpected results leading to disappointments too.
Where does Africa stand in this issue as they were not known to have operated laboratories before modern times. What tools easily come to their aid? Are these tools still used in genetic analysis and decision making? Were there ring of accuracy and order?
To make iota of sense out of seemingly diametrically opposed approaches, one ‘scientific’ the other the ‘rule of the thumb’ (some assume), one has to purge himself of a linear thinking model to move a bit to understanding and not fall into a kind of fallacy.
Professor Claude Ake( social science as imperialism) is always useful and helpful in this invocation# He masterfully crafted in an era of buzzing lineal research conclusion, the understanding that there are many ways to look at a matter in a ‘scientific way’. One way may seem to be fine, but ‘do not ignore the alternative ways’. One may not subscribe to the alternative way but ones should recognize that there are perspectives.
In many of our communities gene is commonly used word. Ask for the word in your language if you do not know. In a part of Nigeria, the appropriate equivalent of gene is Aku. Aku is also the pubic area of the body or the hair. It is a term word that could indicate procreativity as well as a location approximating the procreative region. It is comfortably niched in genetics, personality and genealogy. Aku also means wealth. So, let us get yourselves freed from any illusion that can limit an advance.
Genealogy has strength in decision making in the past. It is today’s equivalent of DNA analyses. It comes strongest in decisions affecting marriage, representation, show of intelligence and wisdom. It has field day in attributions and cross referencing on broad issues of life and death. Are we seeing a relationship of the scientific and the unscientific?
Physiological features of individuals in an African community is known to relate to the primordial gene of the person. You hear older men remark that the behaviour of a child from his paternal or maternal lines determines the looks, eyes structures, speech mannerisms, color, height, bravery, beauty, even astuteness. They are quick to point to forebears that the dramatis personae has no inkling. Does this in its crudest not intone a DNA?
While this may not be tending toward lineal purist or racial supremacy, the traditional DNA built confidence in people, retell their history, check anomalies and enthrone decency in communities. An incorrigible thief is avoided in getting a friendly hand. A lazy drone entering a family line is checked. The issue of nature or nurture is skillfully addressed. The thoughts therein makes Mother’s Day an important event in some Igbo communities. Forefathers and foremothers are deep objects in the unknown African DNA.
Another subtle component in the African DNA tissue is the Ihu.
Ihuu is not merely a praise song or a listing of progenitors. It does more. Ihu adds to the family listings, ornamental expressions woven into analysis of individual/ group, cognomen, occupations, exploits, vulnerabilities, and generational attributes stretched to time beyond current knowledge and imaginations. It provides a deep African DNA analyses without a laboratory.
Occasion that provides liberal usage of ihu are joyful celebration like marriage. chieftaincy ceremonies. burials of kings, Omu, old persons, and carnivals – igba egbensu/ ine, ukwukpe and other dances.
The pain in this generation is the gradual and daily loss in death without any replication those with the mental capacity and astuteness to reasonably capture the tune, tenor and tending of ihu beyond regurgitating ancient art as if forced by the exigencies of a recall. African DNA and its usage have far reaching significance in genetic knowledge even in its crudest form.
Beyond this, many of us talk about our forefathers. Do we know too that there are foremothers. Have we ever asked our parents about their foremothers? For many including feminists in Africa, how many can recount the history of mothers beyond grandmothers. In an environment where swearing affidavit is used to establish age, and there are no public records, the knowledge of past mothers provides DNA details outside the laboratory.
If you can give a genealogy of 6 to 10 mothers before the current one, we salute you. Educate us on the method of establishing and keeping that list. How broad is your data on each of them?
African DNA is an explorative study that can deepen your thoughts on some of the ways societies used what they had to organize themselves and achieve breakthroughs. There are a lot to learn in your communities and a delay in its documentation may turn the knowledge not only endangered but a lost kind of knowledge. We welcome you to imaife “CRUDE.”