Thursday, February 4, 2010

naming Africana griosh

Here's an excerpt from "THE STORY IN THE NAME," the very first section of the very first chapter ("The AFRICANA BIBLE: A RATIONALE") in The Africana Bible: Reading Israel's Scriptures from Africa and the African Diaspora.  The quotation below begins with the second paragraph.  This opener to the book is written by Hugh R. Page, Jr., Hebraist and Africanist.  (HT David Ker, linguist and translator in Africa)

     In some ways, the title The Africana Bible seems an odd designation for a work that seeks, in its conversation with the Bible, to bring to bear intellectual riches of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora.  Why the Latin terminology (that is, Africana) instead of a name derived from Akan, Kiswahili, or some other African language?  Why not a simpler, perhaps catchier title?  Would not a straightforward designation such as The African and African American Commentary on the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament be preferable?  In some circles, an appeal to nomenclature is made to resolve, once and for all, the fraught issues of classification and ownership.  In others, it is one stage, albeit an important one, in an analytical process....
      However, naming can also indicate problems that exist in defining genres, roles, and relationships.  It can call attention to the inchoate nature of realities that appear to be fixed.  It can raise questions about artifacts, cultures, or ideas.  It can allude to processes intended to promote reflection or foster contemplation.  Such is the case with the title The Africana Bible.  It suggests a mode of discourse that does not easily fit into the genre of commentary, insofar as that classification is popularly construed....
      [I]t is equally fitting to apply Barbara Holmes's designation griosh to the present volume.  Holmes's reflections on this term are instructive:
I have coined a different word to refer to hermeneutical skills that are particular to black bible interpretation.  The word is griosh, which is derived from the word griot, referring to African storytellers, who were also historians and keepers of cultural memory.  The sound sh is a symbolic marker of the hush arbors where Christian diasporan faith perspectives were honed.  (Holmes 2004:120)
      I see The Africana Bible as a work produced by those who function as poets and "storytellers" in academic, church, and other settings.  One of its main functions is to empower readers to ask questions and to consider further the meaning and implications of the First Testament and cognate writings for communities that revere them, that have been shaped by them, and that -- in some instances -- have be destablized by interpretations of them....  [T]his should encourage readers to trouble terms like Africana (that is, pertaining to things African and African Diasporan), Bible, commentary, and community.  It should promote consideration of important questions such as these:  Once texts are generated, are they no longer "owned" by their authors?  How do texts and their potential meanings change once they are gathered into an anthology like the Hebrew Bible?  Is there truly an overarching Africana culture?  Can we speak any longer of the existence of a (that is, a single) Bible acknowledged as authoritative in the Africana world?  What are the distinguishing markers of a community -- Africana or other?  To what extent is identity, within a community or on and individual basis, an absolute and noncontingent construction? 

No comments: