Marimba Ani

Marimba Ani (born Dona Richards)[1] is an anthropologist and African Studies scholar best known for her work Yurugu, a comprehensive critique of European thought and culture, and her coining of the term Maafa for the African holocaust.


Life and Work

Marimba Ani completed a BA degree at the University of Chicago, and holds MA and Ph.D. degrees in anthropology from the Graduate Faculty of the New School University.[2] In 1964, during Freedom Summer, she served as an SNCC field secretary, and married civil-rights activist Robert Parris Moses; they divorced in 1966.[3][4] She has taught as a Professor of African Studies in the Department of Black and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York City,[2][4] and is credited with introducing the term Maafa to describe the African holocaust.[5][6]


Ani's ground-breaking 1994 work, Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior, examined the influence of European culture on the formation of modern institutional frameworks, through colonialism and imperialism, from an African perspective.[7][8][9] Described by the author as an "intentionally aggressive polemic", the book derives its title from a Dogon legend of an incomplete and destructive being rejected by its creator.[1][10]

External audio
"Marimba Ani speaks" – Yurugu and the European asili

Examining the causes of global white supremacy, Ani argued that European thought implicitly believes in its own superiority, stating: "European culture is unique in the assertion of political interest".[7]

In Yurugu, Ani proposed a tripartite conceptualisation of culture, based on the concepts of

  1. Asili, the central seed or "germinating matrix" of a culture,
  2. Utamawazo, "culturally structured thought" or worldview, "the way in which the thought of members of a culture must be patterned if the asili is to be fulfilled", and
  3. Utamaroho, a culture's "vital force" or "energy source", which "gives it its emotional tone and motivates the collective behavior of its members".[1][9][11]

The terms Ani uses in this framework are based on Swahili. Asili is a common Swahili word meaning "origin" or "essence"; utamawazo and utamaroho are neologisms created by Ani, based on the Swahili words utamaduni ("civilisation"), wazo ("thought") and roho ("spirit life").[1][12][13] The utamawazo and utamaroho are not viewed as separate from the asili, but as its manifestations, which are "born out of the asili and, in turn, affirm it."[11]

Ani characterised the asili of European culture as dominated by the concepts of separation and universalism, with separation establishing dichotomies like "man" and "nature", "the European" and "the other" – separations that in effect end up negating the existence of "the other", who or which becomes subservient to the needs of (European) man.[9] Universalism takes this separation further, by applying the same logic to all people regardless of context and assuming that "as people become more 'rational', they become more 'universal'", i.e., more willing to be assimilated into Western European culture, the culture that has shaped the world's most powerful structures and institutions.[9]

According to Ani's model, the utamawazo of European culture "is structured by ideology and bio-cultural experience", and its utamaroho or vital force is domination, reflected in all European-based structures and the imposition of Western values and civilisation on peoples around the world, destroying cultures and languages in the name of progress.[9][14]

The book also addressed the use of the term Maafa, based on a Swahili word meaning "great disaster", to describe slavery, and Afrocentrist thinkers subsequently popularized and expanded on Ani's conceptualization.[15] Citing both the centuries-long history of slavery and more recent examples like the Tuskegee study, Ani argued that Europeans and white Americans have an "enormous capacity for the perpetration of physical violence against other cultures" that had resulted in "antihuman, genocidal" treatment of blacks.[15][16]


Philip Higgs, in African voices in education, described Yurugu as an "excellent delineation of the ethics of harmonious coexistence between human beings", but cited the book's "overlooking of structures of social inequality and conflict that one finds in all societies, including indigenous ones," as a weakness.[14] Manning Marable described Yurugu as an "elegant work".[17] Stephen Howe accused the book of "intellectual apartheid" for having two bibliographies and indexes, one for "Africans", mostly listing African American authors, and one for others; noting a lack of Asian and Australasian authors in these, he argued that Ani seemed as uninterested in the views of 70 percent of the global population as she accused Eurocentrists of being.[1]


  • "The Ideology of European Dominance," The Western Journal of Black Studies. Vol. 3, No. 4, Winter, 1979, and Presence Africaine, No. 111, 3rd Quarterly, 1979.
  • "European Mythology: The Ideology of Progress," Contemporary Black Thought, eds. M. Asante and A. Vandi, Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1980, (59-79).
  • Let The Circle Be Unbroken: The Implications of African Spirituality in the Diaspora. New York: Nkonimfo Publications, 1988 (orig. 1980).
  • "The Nyama of the Blacksmith: The Metaphysical Significance of Metallurgy in Africa," Journal of Black Studies. Vol. 12, No. 2, December, 1981.
  • "The African 'Aesthetic' and National Consciousness," The African Aesthetic, ed. Kariamu Welsh-Asante. Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1993. (63-82)
  • Yurugu: An Afrikan-centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior. Trenton: Africa World Press, 1994.
  • "The African Asili," Selected Papers from the Proceedings of the Conference on Ethics, Higher Education and Social Responsibility, Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1996.
  • "To Heal a People", ed. Erriel Kofi Addae, Columbia, MD.: Kujichagulia Press, 1996 (91-125).
  • "Writing as a means of enabling Afrikan Self-determination," Defining Ourselves; Black Writers in the 90's, ed. Elizabeth Nuñez and Brenda M. Greene. New York: Peter Lang, 1999 (209–211).

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Stephen Howe (1999). Afrocentrism: mythical pasts and imagined homes. Verso. pp. 247–248. ISBN 9781859842287. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Women of the African Diaspora". 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "Welcome to the Civil Rights Digital Library". 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "Ani, Marimba". 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  5. ^ Vivian Gunn Morris; Curtis L. Morris (July 2002). The price they paid: desegregation in an African American community. Teachers College Press. p. 10. ISBN 9780807742358. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  6. ^ "mksfaculty2". 2003 [last update]. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Melanie E. L. Bush (28 July 2004). Breaking the code of good intentions: everyday forms of whiteness. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 28. ISBN 9780742528642. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  8. ^ New York African Studies Association. Conference; Seth Nii Asumah; Ibipo Johnston-Anumonwo; John Karefah Marah (April 2002). The Africana human condition and global dimensions. Global Academic Publishing. p. 263. ISBN 9781586842208. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Susan Hawthorne (2002). Wild politics: feminism, globalisation, bio/diversity. Spinifex Press. pp. 17–19, 388. ISBN 9781876756246. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  10. ^ Marimba Ani (1994). Yurugu: an African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior. Africa World Press. pp. xi, 1. ISBN 978-0-86543-248-2. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  11. ^ a b Marimba Ani (1994). Yurugu: an African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior. Africa World Press. p. xxv. ISBN 978-0-86543-248-2. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  12. ^ Alamin M. Mazrui (2004). English in Africa: after the Cold War. Multilingual Matters. p. 101. ISBN 9781853596896. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  13. ^ Susan Hawthorne (2002). Wild politics: feminism, globalisation, bio/diversity. Spinifex Press. p. 388. ISBN 9781876756246. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  14. ^ a b Philip Higgs (2000). African voices in education. Juta and Company Ltd. p. 172. ISBN 9780702151996. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  15. ^ a b Pero Gaglo Dagbovie (15 March 2010). African American History Reconsidered. University of Illinois Press. p. 191. ISBN 9780252077012. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  16. ^ Marimba Ani (1994). Yurugu: an African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior. Africa World Press. pp. 427, 434. ISBN 978-0-86543-248-2. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  17. ^ Manning Marable (2000). Dispatches from the ebony tower: intellectuals confront the African American experience. Columbia University Press. p. 198. ISBN 9780231114776. Retrieved 4 July 2011. 

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