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DEFINING A MOTHER-CENTERED
MATRIX TO ANALYZE
THE STATUS OF WOMEN
This article focuses on the significance of mother-centeredness to state development. Modem Africa is faced with the imposition of Western states that are fundamentally male-centered and antithetical to the well-being of Africa and her people and, for that matter, all humanity. Defining the Mother-Centered Matrix that underpinned the development of Kemet challenges the belief that the United States and other modem states are necessarily progressive. Issues of "development" from a culturally sensitive perspective highlight the importance of Kemet as a state model that can provide contemporary African people with examples of ways of governing and living that are still unparalleled by modem states.
A people losing sight of origins are dead.
A people deaf to purpose are lost.
Under fertile rain, in scorching sunshine there is no difference:
their bodies are mere corpses, awaiting final burial.
Ayi Kwei Armah (1973, p. xiv) In this work, Kemet (Ancient Egypt) is considered the progenitor of the modern state. It represents the first known model that produced an urban environment. Although there are recognizably different types of state structures, it can be conceived that this ancient model provided the pattern that influenced the development of other state models. This is not to deny the existence of other models that preceded and influenced the development of Kemet. In light of its achievements, Kemet's African origin places Black people at the forefront of the development of modern urban humanity. The conJOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES, Vol. 33 No. I , September 2002 3-24 O 2002 Sage Publications
historical. influences.000 years. Cornelissen. Cheikh Anta Diop's knowledge of Africa led him to challenge the school of Egyptology. 1995. 1997). In this regard.000 years before those of Europe (Yellen. archeological. and Cultural Organizations in Cairo. These findings affirm that Africa was the home of people whose tools were advanced some 50. From their linguistic. Obenga. Ancient Egypt could now be seen as culturally African. xiv). & Vercoutter. 553-556). Diop and his student Obenga challenged Egyptologists with prepared arguments that criticized some of the fundamental premises within the discipline. At the 1974 Symposium on the "Peopling of Ancient Egypt and the Deciphering of Meroitic Script. what Egyptology implies. they were able to cogently theorize that the northerly movement of humanity from central Africa to the rest of the world could be applied to the peopling of Ancient Egypt (Diop. . Leclant. & Stewart. Diop's (1974) mission was to reclaim Kemet for Africa by connecting its cultural characteristics to the rest of Africa. Scientific.4 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / SEPTEMBER 2002 tinuing inferiorization of Africa and her people challenges this assertion. As a result. that Egyptian civilization developed as a result of the impact of more northerly. so-called Caucasian. pp. further challenges the belief that Europe was the home of modem humans. Diop and Obenga deconstructed the notion that African people had little or nothing to do with the development of Ancient Egypt. and anthropological data. found in the Congo. Mehlman. In particular. He believed that "the history of Black Africa will remain suspended in air and cannot be written correctly until African historians dare to connect it with the history of Egypt" (p. the recent discovery of bone tools dating 90." organized by United Nations Educational. Moreover. They successfully opposed. This apparent contradiction has placed the field of Egyptology in a difficult position as it attempts to claim the greatness of European civilization by appropriating African cultural characteristics. Brooks.
For African people. for a people to maintain culture. 1996.' thereby unwittingly limiting his own theoretical analysis. Culture is embedded so deeply in a people that their human identity as people and individuals is shaped by it. p. colonization and neocolonization have severed and eroded much of the cultural memory. Among its many revelations. enslavement. More emphasis on this distinction will facilitate an understanding of the fundamental conflict between the African and European civilizations and state . Diop sought to rectify scholastic attempts to debase Africa and her people. African men and women trained in Western and Arabic schools and universities have been inculcated with alien (often anti-African) cultural renditions of their own histories. and psychology. the cradle theory is able to show how culture can ensure social change through domination and conquest and how social change can take place when a people regain knowledge of their cultural memory (identity) and rise up to challenge such conquest. Diop applied a European culture-based theory from Marx to his ideas on state construction and development. family. and societal "development.Dove / DEFINING A MOTHER-CENTERED MATRIX 5 DIOP'S CRADLE THEORY REVISITED Grounded by his love for humanity. language. Moreover. (Diop. The "cradle theory" was an attempt to show that distinctions among people could be linked to their cultural persuasions." Diop warned that Every people must edify its own culture and especially must write its own history rather than being content with a passive knowledge of [its] culture and history as misrepresented in foreign writings. it is necessary to preserve cultural memory through their historical knowledge. This work takes Diop's cradle theory further by arguing that the defining cultural-social characteristic of national or state societies is mother-centeredness or the lack thereof. 54) Even Diop did not escape from the Western cultural-historical paradigm. thus greatly influencing the construction of political structures and decisions concerning personal.
. The two main cradles of civilization-the southern cradle. Cultural distinctions between these cradles are attributed to the arrangement of female1 male power relations. 522). In such societies. 17) terms. in the spiritual realm. pp. 19591 1990. 195911990. 1989. what Amadiume (1987. unlike in Europe. These two cultural entities have had an impact on each other. 1978. once populated Arabia. conquerors from the northern cradle imposed patriarchal beliefs and practices that manifest today. or what is known as the Middle East. Southern cradle or mother-centered people. seek female-male reciprocal power relationships (Diop. Africa. p. the line of inheritance through the mother is known as matrilineal or. for that matter. Africa. Europe-represent modes of societal structures that are almost antithetical to each other. all humanity. 99). 1998. even patrifocal or father-focused societies in Africa. A concept of the Akan system (of Ghana) is that the Mogya (blood). pp.6 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES 1 SEPTEMBER 2002 development. whereby the line of descent is through the father. Over time. and the northern cradle. for instance. Mother-centered literally means mother-led societal and cultural constructs. p. do not take their husbands' names when they marry and concessions with naming and lineage are made (Odotei. It is important that. Hebraic. This article focuses on the significance of mothercenteredness to state development. produced mother-centered societies. creating "zones of confluence" (Diop. for instance. Mother-$ocused/matrifocal. and Islamic religions (Dove. 1995. is given to the child by the mother (Opoku. Over time. 194-196). p.The Ga women (of Ghana). 66-72. T'Shaka. Modern Africa is faced with the imposition of Western states that are fundamentally male-centered and antithetical to the wellbeing of Africa and her people and. the migration of African people to the northern clime produced patriarchal male-centered societies. Kemet is a state model that can provide contemporary African people with examples of ways of governing and living that are still unparalleled by modern states. as Christian. p.' balance between the feminine and masculine principles is sought from the physical and material to the spiritual planes. where humanity began. 55). Within the Mother-Centered Matrix.
Dove / DEFINING A MOTHER-CENTERED MATRIX 7 p. 46). children. This imbalance or injustice is the basis for conflict and aggression. All progeny are required to reproduce this hierarchy within the family. T'Shaka. Concepts like race and human difference follow the same logic and are justified in a hierarchical ordering of humanity. the bearer of culture. 43. father-led societies seek male-centered control over women. The mother is viewed as the bringer of life. which constitutes the smallest unit of the family and therefore of society. The family in this matrix seeks a reciprocal relationship between the female and male members. father-centered. Hierarchical notions of superiority and inferiority rationalize reasons why the woman should be subservient to the man. or father-led. Outside her function of child-bearing. As T'Shaka (1995. The maintenance of this unequal partnership must be continuously justified. 39) postulates. In contrast to the mother-centered family structure. and elders. These societies can be called patriarchal. It was from this cultural matrix that the notion of justice was created. This family reproduces hierarchical personal and social relations as a result of the domination of the male over the female. this balanced relationship is the basis of a "just society. is equal. 29) Although the potential for mother-centered societies is to seek reciprocity and balance among the members of society. It is reflected in the social order with examples like disrespect for women. it may be said that if the partnership between the female and male. individuality and the priority of self above others is a fundamental tenet of this cradle belief system." In light of this. and others. 195911990. p. then all that evolves from this power structure will strive to reflect this equality. . and the center of social organization (Dove. female and male members of the family will be equally respected for their contribution to the family's development. according to Diop. 1998). (Diop. For example. contrary to the matriarchal custom which demands the opposite. the conduit for the spiritual regeneration of the ancestors. The woman is considered a burden that the man dragged behind him. p. her role in nomadic society is nil. Having a smaller economic value. it is she who must leave her clan to join that of her husband.
. whereas patriarchy is associated with nomadic traditions arising from harsh environments. Its development hinged on the voluntary coming together of cities. are built to the cultural specification of European patriarchy. it is a contention of this article that patriarchal power relations are unable to provide the social environment conducive to the . pp. For Diop however. p. Kemet is characterized as a mother-centered civilization that evolved from agrarian. Intrinsic to this model is the cultural similitude among the people that invited and cemented the fundamental precepts for this state construction. In whatever system. One may say therefore that the preservation of femalecentered institutions is critical to the survival of the MotherCentered Matrix. This suggests perhaps a natural tension between male and female power relations that in its most concrete form manifests as patriarchy. and villages along the Nile river based on collective interests in supporting a national authority that could advance the fulfillment of their needs (Diop. particularly the United States. environmental concerns far more greatly affect the dynamics of these relations. Kemp. towns. 129-130. It is from this construction that the first urbanites were produced. 1989. As previously asserted.8 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / SEPTEMBER 2002 Amadiume (1987) asserts that contrary to Diop's idea. men incessantly sought to control women and their services. and succeeded more often than not" (p. 1991. 62). An example put forward by Houessou-Adin (1998) was that during the Ibo women's war in Nigeria. "it was not a 'harmonious dualism' between men and women in matriarchal systems. 84). but also against some indigenous men and the colonial authority the men collaborated with. . sedentary societies. women fought not only against British colonial taxation under "indirect rule" and the destruction it caused to their power bases. . SIGNIFICANCE OF CULTURE TO STATE DEVELOPMENT The modern states. The origin of the MotherCentered Matrix is attributed to an agrarian lifestyle in a climate of abundance.
resources. the Spartan state and these modem states used terrorism and barbarism to build their societal structures. Whereas the construction of the state of Kemet required the collaboration of indigenous people in its organization. However. specifically women and children. and energies supplied the states with their power base. by genocide. in particular. Moreover. The evolution of this patriarchal state structure is contingent on the genocide of the indigenous or original people. South Africa. Culturally. and of all people generally. the opposition is essentially ethnic and will always be resolved. they institutionalized the continuing domination of and dominion over a conquered people whose lands. If for whatever reason the conquering ethnic group refuses to mix with the indigenous conquered element and bases its domination on this absolute separation. the basis of women's power in Africa. ( P 132) Most of the modem states like Australia. A historical reality is that Kemet was the first known state. 1991. 1991. New Zealand. the United States. p. Kemet embraced the ideal of developing human potential because of its Mother-Centered Matrix. The cultural similitude in the construction of these states reveals the distinctive differences between mother-centered and patriarchal power relations. African spirituality. Israel can also be viewed in this light. may be characterized as patriarchal. pp. An important quest of this article is to link the quality of a civilization (the treatment of women for example) to the symbolic representation of the mother. . and so on belong to this model (Diop. In this way. and based on structural similarities in the United States and other Western states. 132). the European ability to replicate this state model is limited by its lack of cultural knowledge concerning the Mother-Centered Matrix and. the United States may be likened to its ancient forbear. 132133). they should be viewed as imitations. Differences regarding Kemet and the United States are related to cultural distinctions between the people who designed them.Dove / DEFINING A MOTHER-CENTERED MATRIX 9 wellness of African people. As Diop (1991) postulated. the Spartan state model (Diop. created by descendants of Europe. in ancient and modern history. Canada.
in the forms of legends of the founding of cities in which the conquered people are charged with all the sins . grips the conscience of the conquerors and gives rise to an expiatory literature. . The necessity to produce and maintain wealth requires the prioritization of armaments. more value was placed on the energies of captured and enslaved African people. Paradoxically. Over time. Ironically. 1991. In other words.10 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES 1 SEPTEMBER 2002 During the development of the U. a feeling of collective guilt. When the process of eliminating the native population is completed like a snake that has finished swallowing its victim. .S. . In this type of state. the need for and the capacity to sustain a massive military institution receives a high priority. (Diop. the arrival of Europeans signaled the dawning of the enslavement and extermination of the First Nations people. as in the obvious case of Rwanda and Burundi and less obvious cases in other parts of Africa where traditional people whose lands are exploited by the state can be deprived of their benefits and allowed to die through neglect (as if deprivation of basic needs is traditional). 133) Movies were and are used as a medium in contemporary times to debase and criminalize First Nations people who were forced into exile in the least productivelarable land spaces. which is hard to suppress. and diseases brought by Europeans was catastrophic.p. 72) cited an estimate of 68 million indigenous people who died in the holocaust. the murderous people in this way regain a pristine conscience. Their lives were expendable because Europeans placed a premium on their lands. The decline in the indigenous populations owing to enslavement. genocide. the nation was taught a fabricated history of how the West was won. Another irony is that the imposition of this state model on conquered groups. indigenous people may themselves become agents of oppression and genocide. many African-descended people have and continue to play significant roles in the continuing genocide of First Nations people. the ensuing patriarchal domination was devastating. model (and the states of South America). Carew (1994. As an essentially mother-centered people. p. who are trained to sustain it. can produce the same results. not on their energies. indigenous to the Americas.
Kemet.C. shows Narmer's victory over Asian invaders during the time of the Old Kingdom.700 years B. To circumvent this situation.200 years B.C. The school of Egyptology begins the dynastic period some 2. sometimes known as Menes. 21 1. rather it suggests that peace is deemed preferable. In fact. even during its imperialist phases. Hittites. 1991. Nevertheless. 19). xvii). p. This condition does not negate the ability of mother-centered societies to go to war. Africans designed a boundary between the north (Lower) and south (Upper) . like Diop. It appears that militarism was more of a defensive tactic. p. Walker. which depicts the unification of upper and lower Kemet.E. (Chandler. and priest. the weight of civilian power compared to military power was far greater. Presently. traced military improvement and technological advance to outcomes based on historical warring rivalries among European societies and kingdoms. By his account. for example. this period began 5. prior to King Narmer's triumph in uniting Upper and Lower Kemet.000 years after the date provided by historian. Egyptologists regard King Narmer.000 years B. p.E. in that the security of its resources from invaders was paramount to its development. Williams (1987) postulated that White Asian settlers trying to take control constantly threatened indigenous Africans. 129). C. Lower Kemet in the north continually suffered from incursions of invading settlers. in Kemet. Moreover. he placed the antiquity of Kemet to 17.C. Conversely. p. Persians. the New Kingdom XVIII dynasty when Thutmosis I11 was able to secure and maintain a vast empire. 120.Dove 1 DEFINING A MOTHER-CENTERED MATRIX 11 Kennedy (1989. and "military aristocracy" was not the "focal point of society" (Diop. Manetho. marriages among members of the ruling families to the princesses of potential enemies were considered political victories and peacemaking enterprises. p.E. who wrote the dynastic history of Kemet in 241 B. 1999. was considered less militarily oriented than invaders like the Hyksos. Hilliard. and Greeks. The Narmer palette. offering a clear record of early patriarchal attempts to conquer and secure that area.C. The change in these dates has a great bearing on the ability of Europe to claim the European origin of Kemet. as the first of the dynastic kings who came to power 3. 1991.E. scholar. 1991.
the conflict. possibly one of the most contentious findings was the archeological evidence of professor Bruce Williams from the University of Chicago. was to affect the lineage of kings and queens as well as the kings' loyalty to Africa. The system of matrilineal or mother-focused inheritance through the mother required the allegiance to the mother to be maintained if the culture . Williams (1991) said. 90) In this case.12 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / SEPTEMBER 2002 to keep marauders out of the south. This finding is rendered even more startling by the fact that advanced political organization was not believed to have come to Nubia. Over time. This event is known as the uniting of the Two Lands. p. as C. 1991. An archaic Horus incense burner showing a royal procession with a king wearing the crown of Upper Kemet was found in Qustul in Lower Nubia or Upper Kemet. Narmer effectively brought the north under the control of the south. B. through African rule. MOTHER-CENTERED VERSUS FATHER-CENTERED CONTRADICTIONS It is possible to equate the continuing conflicts in the north of Kemet to tensions between mother-centered and patriarchal values and beliefs. continuous African rule lasted for the first six recognized dynasties (B. In this way. Williams. for another 2. through marriage into the African lineage. 146). Throughout the dynastic years. Nevertheless. mother-centered values would have eroded.500 years. to become legitimate monarchs with allegiance to their fathers. (p. With regard to the uniting of the Two Lands and the African Black origin of Kemet. King Narmer may not be credited with the acclaim of being the first dynastic king. or anywhere south of Egypt. It may be that the Nubian (African) antecedents of the development of state structure are far more ancient than previously thought. The great 1960's rescue effort has recently unveiled a birthplace of pharaonic civilization several generations before the rise of the first historic Egyptian dynasty. the Asians or Whites were able. Williams (1987) argued.
the kings ruled from Napata in Kush (C. Piankhi's sister. Amenirdas 1. AFRICAN INFLUENCES IN HEADING STATE In both the Ancient African and U. Williams & Finch. Until the resurgence of the Mother-Centered Matrix. was installed by her brother as Chief Prophetess of Amun and ruled the Principality of Thebes (L. Piankhi of Kush. Williams & Finch. 1985. These women. Piankhi and succeeding kings of that dynasty made a concerted attempt to return Kemet to its old kingdom mothercentered beliefs and values. 1987. For the Kemites. Williams. 23). 1985). This dynasty was considered another and most likely the last high point in Kemet's development (Goldman. their . pp. 23-24). Napata was the capital of the south domain that included areas into Africa's heartlands. 1987. Importantly and keeping with mother-centered principles. Although. 90).Dove / DEFINING A MOTHER-CENTERED MATRIX 13 was to remain intact. working through their own prime ministers. even by the time of the Greeks. were in effect rulers of Upper Egypt. They made it a practice to install their female relatives as highpriestesses of Amon at Thebes. 1997. p. 1991. (L. p. systems. southern Kemet took legitimate African sovereignty as the first king of the 25th dynasty. 212) noted.S. the Kushite rulership was shared between women and men. Monges. 1985. While the priestesses ruled Upper Kemet. the Kushites restored not only the institution of the High Priestess called the Divine Adoratrice of Amun but also the proper worship of Ptah at Memphis. Over two millennia after Narmer. regenerated by the Kushite rulers of the 25th dynasty. Williams. L. pp. 22-23) Thebes was known as "the Mother of Cities" (C. both in terms of the line of royal descent and in its spiritual focus. the importance of women's roles had declined substantially. Kemet was still essentially mother focused/matrifocal. the head of state is responsible for malung critical decisions. They undertook massive restoration and public works in Thebes and throughout Upper Egypt. As Johnson (1978. p. Williams & Finch.
the other was a god-priest among the living" (Diop. 195911990. pp. Critical to understanding the role of divine kingship is the recognition of its symbiotic relationship to the role of the queen. pp. p. Diop. Williams. a sheep must be sacrificed to prevent danger befalling the chief's subjects" (Warren. Even today. 13) The tradition of the priestly role of the Kemetic King has been linked to other African kingships (Asante. 1995. 140).14 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / SEPTEMBER 2002 king was considered both central and divine to their existence-the embodiment of the creator on earth. The woman had political power as well as the general running of the country. 152-154. 42). One was a man priest. Wimby. Monges. p. p. 90-96. 41. "The African king was distinguished from the Northern king by his divine essence and by the vitalist character of his functions. 36-47).p. pp. 138." "there was equality between men and women. he was expected to "guarantee cosmic order" (Diop. T'Shaka. Regardless of this cultural continuity. (Schwaller de Lubicz. the kingslchiefs of the Ashanti of traditional Ghana are still considered "sacred because of the link they have with the ancestors and gods the chief's blood is sacred. as did her sisters in other parts of Africa" (p. "The king carried the ka force of the nation and this force was the collective solidarity of the people"' (Asante. 36). . The King had the power to bring good harvests. 1986. As Wimby (1985) asserted in her discussion on "Female Horuses. in case of injury or loss of blood. C. 1977. 1987. 1990. 195911990. 1985. after years of European colonial domination. It was a science directed toward the embodiment of spiritual knowledge. 89-90. 2000. pp. 2000. toward the internalization and corporeal expression of intellectual and spiritual powers. p. rather than the mechanistic utilization of knowledge-power for the exploitation and manipulation of the earthly environment. there is no evidence to suggest that divine kingship existed in the European world regarding their royalty. 1974. 102-108. p. p. 64). 334). 96-99.pp. 195911990. 64. The potential divinity of humanity was sought by the Kemites through their belief in the transformation of humans in becoming godlike. 1997. indeed. p.
collective values.Dove / DEFINING A MOTHER-CENTERED MATRIX 15 It is evident. The protection of the people was viewed as a spiritual accomplishment. The culture of Kemet remained African and essentially mother centered despite the corruption of foreign patriarchal values. Thus. Karenga. "the military role of the King was toned down and took second place after his priestly and agricultural role" (Diop. reciprocity. p. ancestral esteem. p. pp. Carmthers. and so on. pp. honesty. 1986. In this way. In the United States. 1994. 162). Communion with the spiritual world and the practice of the order of Maat as an ethical and moral enterprise was seen as a way of controlling disorder and chaos (Budge. 1959/1990. What is so significant in this state structure is that there is not separation between religion and politics. the secularity of the political system is underpinned by Christian (patri- .S. peace. pp. cxix. He must display these feminine qualities as the example of god on earth during his sovereignty. p. a stark difference between Kemetic state structure and U. her presence and manifestation in institutional organization and human culture ensured the righteous existence of humanity as part of the cosmic order. 108-109). truth. Maat is the personification of the mothering ideal (Karenga. balance. however that the Greeks and others who were students of higher learning in Kemet imitated mother-centered traditions and rituals without the experiences of the thousands of years of spiritual training that had gone into producing royal families who understood their obligations. consideration for humanity and nature. 1967. structure is the attainment of spiritual enlightenment and social cohesion. Religion was synonymous with women's power. The divine king pays deference to her feminine divinity. and love and respect for the family constituted the continuation of the environment and thwarted danger. 1991. 1994. She stands for justice. Prior to the northern invasions. All members of society were expected to maintain and preserve the social order by practicing the mothering ideal of Maat. 352-394. 3-30. 154). She was also revered as a goddess who is critical to the ascendancy of the spirit reaching heaven.
In stable times it had wealth in plenty and in circulation. In Kemet. the emphasis on spiritual development and the centrality of divine kingship was maintained. An abundance of food. 259) Pyramid complexes centralized the state location. the centrality of traditional religion to the lives of the Kemites kept the social dynamics of the state intact. have acted as a general control over the whole economy simply on account of its magnitude. Massive bureaucracies maintain and control the economy through banking and global investment.16 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES I SEPTEMBER 2002 archal) ideology. the president is considered the most qualified human to take office on behalf of the people's interests. The energies of the state were focused on the development of creative social skills. This secular system is built on the success of the unholy war waged against the indigenous people. 89-90) suggested. p. (Kemp. artifacts. in these times. inventions. In the United States. The ability of the president to make sound decisions regarding the political economy is vital. Commerce through import and export was invaluable to the life and sustenance of Kemet. . 1989. As Kemp (1989. Although these pyramid complexes were early kingdom (African) projects. the divine mother plays no role in tempering his activity. which must. and the enormous bureaucracies were administered by priests and priestesses. The findings of Davies and Friedman (1998) were that these complexes housed immense production resources from fish processing plants to food production facilities and warehouses as well as housing for working people. It was essential for the support and institutional maintenance of their spiritual beliefs. When the state was strong and well organized many people gained much from its redistributive mechanisms. The president is not trained as a high priest or expected to be blameless in his action. His election is often predicated on his looks or personality or ability to convince others of his worthiness based on rhetoric4and not the divine speech required in Kemet. as with the concept of divine kingship. wealth was also produced through accumulation. As to be expected in a patriarchal facsimile. and so on provided exchange for world trade. offering to all. pp. the prospect or the dream of a life far above subsistence level.
there is none in authority higher than the president. 1998. She sometimes manifests as the cow mother suckling a king (Hornung. ideology was/is critical to maintaining its structure. Hathor was during the earliest times served by sixty-one priestesses and eighteen priests. p. 147). While in the United States. 1982. By the time of the Eighteenth Dynasty women were no longer even part of the religious clergy. cxx). She is depicted wearing cow horns with the sun disc between them. 110). as are the consequences of their existence. were considered goddesses and as the bearers of new generations had immense responsibilities regarding the teachings of the future kings and queens. Queen mothers. was the original divine mother and was associated with kingship. the institutional development around these ideologies is different. According to Stone (1976). from the Old Kingdom Dynasty. the Queen Mother had authority over both his ascendancy to the throne as well as his worthiness when in power. but served as temple musicians. Although she predates Auset (Isis). (p. Again their differences can be attributed to the Mother-Centered Matrix and patriarchal orientations. 75-81). she later becomes the wife of Heru (Horus). music. the son of Auset (Isis) and Ausar (Osiris). p. She is of Nubian origin and is associated with healing as well as considered the goddess of love. SACRED IMAGES OF DIVINE MOTHERS Hathor. 1982. in the State of Kemet. like the kings and queens. She was a universal goddess and the Greeks later called her Aphrodite (Hart. the Father.Dove I DEFINING A MOTHER-CENTERED MATRIX 17 For Kemet and the United States. Obviously. 1967. pp. She is also known as a creator goddess. an ancient predynastic goddess. 38) The Goddess Neith is a divine mother (Budge. She originates in the south and was said to have followed the Nile . and dance. A belief in the justification of the order is necessary whether the emphasis is on its spiritual or material maintenance. p. while the Goddess known as Neith was attended solely by priestesses. She is called the Mother of the Gods (Hornung.
particularly in Upper Kemet (Hart. 1998. Sakhmet is a lion goddess. pp. her son. Her title is god's wife. 1998. Mut is a southern concept and had a priest (and priestess) following. She is fearless and known as revengeful and at the same time loving. she is a divine mother of kings. She manifests as a lion and vulture and is seen wearing vulture wings on her head. and Jesus or Auset. is a divine mother also known as Mother of the Gods (Budge. 131. She wears the crowns of Upper and Lower Kemet.18 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES 1 SEPTEMBER 2002 down to the north of Kemet. 1998. Sobek. She is the consort of Amun and their son is Khonsu. This union is regarded as a sacred triad (like Mary. She is known as the mistress of the two lands (Upper and Lower Kemet). The symbol of the crocodile signifies the might and strength of kings. Cxiv). a moon god. and she is of the Old Kingdom. better known as Isis. 187-189). pp. . Bastet is an Old Kingdom cat goddess. 1998." She is associated with kingship. Auset is often seen with Hathor's cow horns and sun disk and is sometimes known as the "great sow. She wears the red crown of the North. She is from the south and her original form was of a lion (possibly Sakhmet). she is depicted as the symbol for a perfume jar and is associated with perfume (possibly related to ritual in shrine visitations and offerings). Sakhmet is associated with Mut who appears as a lion. There are many depictions of her feeding Hem. Her crown is a throne that is also her symbol for the Mdw Ntr. and Heru) (Hart. pp. Auset. an image that precedes the Madonna and child by several thousand years. 54-56). pp. pp. is symbolized as a crocodile. pp. 101-106). (although her title of Mistress of the Bow may be linked to Ta Seti. God. Her best known role is as the wife and sister of Ausar (Osiris) and the mother of Heru (Homs) (Hart. Cats were mummified with respect to her powers (Hart. 128-129). She is a divine mother and connected with healing and medicine. 1998. Like the others. She is considered fierce and a warrior who is a protector of kings.134). having a following of priests (and priestesses) (Hart. The Goddess Mut (Mut is the root word for mother) was symbolic of the king's mother. 1967. In the Mdw Ntr. known as land of the bow and located in the south). Ausar. Bastet is known as the Lady of the Two Lands. She is associated with kingship.
Dove / DEFINING A MOTHER-CENTERED MATRIX 19 However. She is responsible for the total well-being of the people and the village (Rijssel. orators who are mostly female. (p. 70-71) In northern Ghana. . For instance. Although Kemet was able to defend itself militarily. pp. often a sister or mother of the chief. the Tindaana (land priestess) is the overall leader of her village near Tamale. Besides this. . (Yankah. a female functionary responsible for women's affairs. Conquest and invasion were the tools of cultural disruption for terminating the Mother-Centered Matrix. As Diop (195911990) theorized. . she has a critical role in the political arena. 1995. 18). In the villages. she also has her own body of counsellors and akyeame. THE DECLINE OF THE MOTHER-CENTERED MATRIX According to Stone (1976). She has her own court. or obaapanin. the internal breakdown of its values regarding its spiritual . the official counselling body to the chief often includes an aberewa. queenmother. even today. . among the Dagomba who have few women who become priestesses. the position of the queen mother is one still coveted by parts of traditional Africa. In Egypt the concept of the Goddess always remained vital. though. . 1999. The aggressive focus of the patriarchs on war and conquest is incompatible with southern cradle development. the Akan of Ghana rely on the wisdom of the elder lady. 35) Male deities did not appear until the beginning of the dynastic periods. the northern cradle patriarchy was antithetical to the southern cradle mother-centered societies. chiefs are typically male. Stone links the gradual loss of women's status to IndoEuropean influences. the positions are meaningless without an ohemmaa. . who has a hand in the choice of the royal successor and participates in the legislative processes. even in predynastic Kemet the Goddess held supremacy in Upper Egypt (South). an older woman. . . . where she sits in jurisdiction over certain domestic issues. p.
even after the conquest of Kemet. There is evidence of some patriarchal institutional structures and customs developed to safeguard women and therefore families from the imposition of alien cultures. The subversion of Mother-centered values such as the focus of mothering as a critical social skill. It was southern or Upper Kemet that defended Africa from foreign invasion. mother-centered people are unable to withstand the cultural onslaught. Kemet as an African state oversaw the protection of internal Africa. 1990. L. women were placed at the mercy of male domination and chaos followed. the veneration of feminine spiritual energy. It had required all the members to exhibit the compassion and care that a mother would bestow on her child. along with the responsibilities of transmitting knowledge and wisdom of the cultural values required to become a balanced member of society.20 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / SEPTEMBER 2002 beliefs played a significant role in its demise and that of matriarchal societies Africa-wide centuries later. These remnants of societies at the lowest historical point in their struggles against extinction cannot be considered serious evidence to challenge the fundamental Mother-Centered Matrix of their origins. Queen Mothers of Kush. It seems that without knowledge of northern cradle beliefs. . Williams & Finch. 1985. The erosion of the Mother-Centered Matrix was predicated on the disruption and corruption of the social order of the state of Kemet. That is not to say that attempts by tradition-based societies to patriarchalize have not occurred in response to avert cultural conquest. respect for members of society and the institution of the priestess ended this ancient order. The order of the Mother or Maat enabled each member of society to understand herthis responsibilities to others. 20-32). p. The Queen Mothers continued their rulership and defense of Nubia (Sudan) right up until the Christian era (Finch. Once the respect for the Mother was defiled. The Greeks and Romans never conquered the Candaces. as evidenced by the conquest of the world by Europeans.
In the same way. It seems evident that the depiction of the Mother in the United States is debased. Her sons and daughters live in chaos on the movie screen and in real life in the interests of capital gain. becoming extinct. is an every day reality. The conquest of Africa was the conquest of the woman. According to the African world view. there can be no order. Maat. spreading across the world. As Ayi Kwei Armah (1973) warned "A people losing sight of origins are dead" (p. The old order of the Mother. It is only by uncovering historical culture connections that African people may institute Sankofa and review ancient values as a basis for creating a future where the sanctity of the Mother can prevail in the interests of true world development. These realities have become mainstream. lies bleeding and debased. and those who remember her are marginalized. Africa.Dove I DEFINING A MOTHER-CENTERED MATRIX 21 THE CONQUEST OF AFRICAIMOTHER In the United States. She. the Mother is debased. not divine. that represented African stability produced the first urban people. xiv).' This is Africa's task-is she up to it? . for the sale of entertainment or commodities. the African woman is more often than not sensationalized as the unfit mother in all mediums. The portrayal of the woman. The question of whether modern states like the United States can be considered superior or progressive compared to the Ancient African state should be answered in the context of the image and status of the Mother. as the Hollywood or real-life temptress and the sexual object. whether African or European. The rape and murder of women is a central theme in many movies just as it is in real life. Kemet can provide contemporary African people with examples of ways of governing and living that are still unparalleled by modem states. her murder is witnessed in Hollywood as a cultural norm. when Maat is debased.
New Brunswick. (1994). (1973). Davies. C. Diop. Carruthers (Eds. (1974). NJ: Transaction. A. Chicago: African American Images. (1986). denoting societies dominated by women. Mother-Centered Matrix acknowledges this reality. K. New York: Dover. (1998). in reality. London: Karnak House. & Friedman. C. E. 2. Civilization or barbarism. A.. Two thousand seasons. are expected to believe that politicians are honest. Chicago: Third World Press. offering terminology more in keeping with and relevant to this belief.A. K. The wisdom of governance in Kemet. J. Rape ofparadise.). Trenton. London: British Museum Press. economies are separated from their historicalcultural bases and cultural issues are made irrelevant.22 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES I SEPTEMBER 2002 NOTES 1.S. pp. Sankofa. V. Egypt. W. Members of U. Diop.). The belief itself is hypocritical because. J. The African origin of civilization: Myth or realit). (1994). M. Asante. Of Gods and men: Egypt's old kingdom. The cultural unifyofBlack Africa. The African worldview. see Dove (1996). (2000). Egypt revisited (pp. people know that politicians are not generally honest. (Original work published 1959 as L'Unite culturelle de I'Afrique noir). Los Angeles. (1996). Amah. 1946-1960. The Egyptian book of the dead. Karl Marx used a European-based cultural analysis to correlate the impetus for social change to economic concerns. A. A. 5. hypocrisy is viewed as a fundamental characteristic of European culture.Afrocentricit) & knowledge. Kemef. Mother-Centered Matrix is a concept that moves away from the common use of matriarchy. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books. Brooklyn. Budge. R. (1991). 3. In M. 117-182).W. REFERENCES Amadiume. Ani. For further information on Karl Marx's ideas. A. C. Trenton. Diop. Chandler. Carruthers. . (1967). Karenga & J. Diop. Towards the African renaissance: Essays in African culture & development. Afrikan matriarchal foundations: The Igbo case. CA: University of Sankore Press. Van Sertima (Ed. It implies a synthesis of positive beliefs and values from the past and the present. In this way. (1987). Yurugu. 4. M. (1991). NJ: Africa World Press. Rhetorical ethic is a manifestation of this condition whereby the verbal expression of this ideal is possibly aspired to but not practiced. Oxford: Heinemann International. Diop's (1959/1991) definition of matriarchy relates to male-female reciprocity as a basis for social order. NJ: Africa World Press. C. The ancient Akan belief. 3 12-317) conceptual framework regarding culture. B. is that one should take the best from the past to build the future. for instance. Asante. NY: A & B. In I. M. The ka is known as a vital force. The Egyptian philosophers: Ancient Afrlcan voices from Imhotep to Akhenaten. K. Carew. I. (1990). society. Chicago: Lawrence Hill & Co. Within Ani's (1994. an energy of life associated with the spirit. London: Karnak House. (1990).
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553-556. (1995). E. Amiddle Stone Age worked bone industry from Katanda. Upper Semliki Valley. Temple University. the State University of New York at Buffalo.. Zaire. Science. Prior to her move to Ghana. Nah Dove is an advisor/consultant living in Ghana. M. J. and Pennsylvania State University at University Park. Philadelphia.. Brooks. scholar her continuing research focuses on investigating the social and global implications of African cultural identity to Women of the African Diaspora.. As an interdisciplinar3. 268. & Stewart. Cornelissen. . A.. Makers of Social Change. She is working on a follow-up book to Afrikan Mothers: Bearers of Culture. Mehlman. S.24 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / SEPTEMBER 2002 Yellen. E. J. K. DI:Nah Dove taught at Medgar Evers College in New York.
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