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Between Black and African: on being homeless at home in Europe

Mogobe B. Ramose

The colour Black has got many associations such as the connotation of evil. It is also used in reference to the pre-historic ancestral home of the peoples originating from Africa south of the Sahara. Colonisation and the trans-Atlantic slave trade followed by the need for more labour in the industrializing West ensure the spread of the Black peoples around the world into countries far from their motherlands. Thus were the Black peoples initially strangers by coercion. They became a homeless people uprooted from their motherlands and provided with buildings for protection against the sun and cold.

For most of them the yearning to return to their motherlands was transformed into the necessity to establish a home in foreign countries: and so did they. But their Black colour provokes the undying question: `where do you come from’? This serves as a reminder, deliberate or not, that they belong to Africa. This question inscribes upon Blacks the identity of homeless strangers in Europe. In this paper we propose to answer this question by `I come from my mother’ as a challenge to the European idea that Black Africans are a homeless peoples at home in Europe.

  • One of my major current research areas is the concept of wholeness understood from the perspective of ubuntu. This is a basic philosophical concept among the Bantu-speaking peoples of Africa. However, conceptual affinities and ramifications are more than apparent among African peoples outside the linguistic sphere of Bantu languages. Against this background, the following are some of the theses and questions underlying the title I have chosen.

  1. Fragmentative reasoning is a basic obstacle to the construction of a whole-istic theory of a human community consistent with the idea that `we share a common humanity’.

  2. The conception of our universe as disjointed and fragmented organisms and entities leads to the construction of artificial boundaries for the protection of illusory identities.

  3. Racism is a dimension of fragmentative and bounded reasoning to be over through whole-istic reasoning.

  4. Human sexuality is colour and culture blind and so should inter-human relations be.

  5. No one is a stranger anywhere on earth since everyone is a child of the universe.

  6. Notwithstanding scientific and technological sophistication in the sphere of human reproduction, all human may confidently declare, “I come from my mother”. Since the “mother” is a human being in such a declaration, we all share a common humanity irrespective of culture, sex, creed or skin colour. “I come from my mother” is the biological-ethical imperative to reconstruct human relations upon the common humanity that we are all part of.

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