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African examples of intimate human relationships with the environment

African Totem poles, Egyptian gardens, and Oromo cosmology as expressions of intimate human relationships with the environment
© UNESCO, Philosophy Manual : A South -South Perspective (Paris, 2014)
African examples of intimate human relationships with the environment
African totem poles represent the unity between human families and their members that include plants and animals. It is even “forbidden” to separate humans from the natural world and “dealings with flora and fauna [are] severely restricted (Philosophy Manual, p. 50). It is even considered to be “inhumane” to isolate human beings from their environment and to domesticate animals and trees.
Even gardens and parks are constructed in such a way that “human beings and nature merge as one.” Egyptian gardens, for example, serve as safe havens for romantic intimacy wherein sycamore trees are made to speak and invite promenading lovers: “come, then, and spend a happy day, then tomorrow and the next day, three complete days of rest in my shade… and I shall utter no (indiscreet) word to reveal what I have seen.” (p. 54).
Beyond gardens and parks, the Oromo tribe “considers the cycles of nature, the coming of the rainy season, the movement of the stars, solar cycles, the movement and the cries of the birds, the nature of entrails, the behavior of domestic and wild animals and the condition of trees in order to grapple with practical problems of everyday life and future problems. From their practical experience, they know the growing characteristics of each crop and tree, suitable environments, the number of months of rain required, planting and harvesting times, crop care and crop labor requirements….” (p. 53).

Questions for discussion:

  • Can you cite and share similar relationships of intimacy between humans and the environment in your own culture?
  • Do you agree that it is “inhumane” to isolate humans from their environment? Please explain your reasons in the comment section.
© UNESCO, Philosophy Manual : A South -South Perspective (Paris, 2014)
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