African ritual teaches self-discovery, integral to decolonization


When Devi Mucina asked the Ubuntu chiefs of the Chewa and Ngoni people of Malawi and Mozambique, Africa—his people on his paternal family side—for permission to escort UVic master’s students to this place to experience the coming-of-age male ritual unique to this tribe, the chief said yes...but under one condition.

“He explained that I had to go through the ritual myself first,” says Mucina, who returned from the experience in March 2019 even more committed to arranging this dynamic community-centred learning opportunity for his students working towards their Master of Arts in Indigenous Governance.

“I see my work on Ubuntu as a ritual that is directing me toward my embodied Black self-discovery as performed away from my African home and community,” wrote Mucina. In this book, embodiment is theorized as a form of learning that is not solely cognitive—less mind-intellect, more body-spirit—where ways of teaching, learning and knowing through lived experience, which may seem out of place in Western academia, are, in fact, integral to decolonization.

At the center of Mucina’s lived scholarship are questions about how Indigenous men’s relationships support and renew traditions grounded in holistic relational engagements, as with coming-of-age rituals, yet remain grounded in decolonizing Indigenous men’s holistic wellness.

Mucina hopes student can learn first-hand about the Chewa and Ngoni traditions and about performative educational engagement. “Indigenous research has taught me that we discourse ourselves and our traditions anew when we encounter the traditions of others.”