It is almost exactly one week since the World Health organisation declared a coronavirus pandemic. It’s as though we are living in a World War. This feeling hit me strongly when Nigeria closed its borders to UK flights, which was well overdue, but nevertheless left me with a piercing sense of estrangement. Certainly, these are times of harrowing systemic collapse that our generation has never experienced. I remember how my Finnish grandmother would tell me unforgettable stories of living in war times, and how my Nigerian grandmother would tell vivid stories of living under colonial rule. One day we will tell our grandchildren of this moment in history, and our fear and concern will convert into evocative stories that teach future generations about the coming and going of human suffering and human triumph.
For all intents and purposes, it is not an ideal time to launch a book.
So why do I feel overjoyed to share the news that Sensuous Knowledge is OUT NOW?
Mostly, perhaps, because I have been agonisingly, impatiently waiting to share the book with the world! Being a blogger, I’m accustomed to publishing my writing instantly once it’s complete. Having to wait many months for design, print, etc. to be finalised, has thus felt like an eternity.
(I’m still equally eagerly waiting for it to become available outside of the UK)
But also, the truth is that I wrote Sensuous Knowledge for a wounded world. I wrote it for people who are fed up with current modes of thinking. I wrote it for curious minds, and people who yearn for paradigms of thought that are enlivening instead of toxic. And so while this may not be a good time to launch a book, it is the right time to launch Sensuous Knowledge.
I’ll let the book give a taste of its own intention with an excerpt below.
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In Of Africa, Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka wrote that Africa as we know it today “remains the monumental fiction of European creativity.” But “if there is one offering that passively awaits to irradiate the world with a seminal humanism it is the ‘invisible’ religion in the African continent.” The time to irradiate the world with the depth of insight from Africa’s knowledge systems and the black diasporic culture derived from it is now. This insight has been devalued by a Europatriarchal worldview that has called it every possible name that would diminish it—primitive, tribal, urban, street, slang, third-world, you name it—for too long.
Women, by contrast, “see ourselves diminished or softened by the falsely benign accusations of childishness, of nonuniversality, of changeability, of sensuality,” as the black feminist lesbian poet Audre Lorde wrote in Sister Outsider. We have been brainwashed to mistrust our ways of knowing that could be classified as feminine because the word feminine has been so abused. In her writing Lorde often referred to the “Black Mother” as an embodied feminine wisdom, a source of “that dark and true depth which understanding serves, waits upon, and makes accessible through language to ourselves and others.”
African feminist knowledge systems imbue feminism with the knowledge of the metaphoric Black Mother. They bring in a love for spirit, as the author Alice Walker said in defining her influential theory, Womanism. Spirit means different things to different people. I use it to imply an individual and collective internal essence that makes our character, moods, beliefs, memories, and attitudes. To imbue knowledge with spirit is thus to view the arts, dance, proverbs, ritual texts, epic poems, musical traditions, creation myths, life histories, women’s traditions, and utopias—all things you could say have to do with spirit––as sources of insight.
By interweaving the feminine and the masculine, the measurable and the immeasurable, nature and technology, history and futurism, the local and the global, the intimacy of poetry with the impassivity of science, the thrust of political reality with the tenderness of the arts, the innate knowledge of mythology and the critical thinking of intellectualism in an interdisciplinary fashion that draws from a range of traditions, ideologies, and streams of thought, I offer Sensuous Knowledge as a humble attempt to plant a seed that may blossom into what I hope is an invigorating Africa-centered, woman-centered, and black feminist synthesis in the harvest of universal ideas.