One of the tunes I learnt in primary school went like this: “Khwangwalaye, kuda konseku n’kulakalaka taye (Mr. Crow, you chose to be black so that you could show off your tie). Indeed a white patch beautifully rests on the African crow’s underside, like a massive tie. The crows I saw in Europe were different in that they did not have any white patch on their bodies. The primary school tune referred to above was, therefore, only applicable to the African crow.
Many people associate black colour with sadness, grief or sorrow or even with evil. White magic, for example, is considered better than black magic. In Africa, black is a colour that shows elegance, a colour to be proud of, just as the African crow seems to be.
At Msinja, the ancient Chewa rain shrine, the only colour anybody is allowed to wear was black. This requirement has remained so until the present time. The rain-makers observed that rain proceeded from the darkest of clouds and, therefore, only dark colours were considered compatible with the rain making ritual. Lighter colours would drive away the rain.
The central figure at Nsinja was a female priestess called Makewana (which translates to “mother of children” but is meant to convey the meaning “mother of all”). Makewana was not a poor person—she lived in a measure of opulence, as evidenced by her bed being made of ivory. But ivory is white in colour and, therefore, not in tandem with the Nsinja colour theme. As a result, all the ivory parts of the bed were covered with black cloth. White was not supposed to be anywhere near Nsinja.
So, black colour can, and often does, serve a good purpose. The computer I am using to type this article is all black (the screen is black too), and for a purpose! The screen receives light from blue, green and red channels. These colours are mixed in varying proportions to come up with all the different colours that need to be displayed. If all the three colours are mixed in equal proportions, for example, white is produced. This kind of colour mixing is what is known as the ‘additive colour scheme’ and it works when the background is initially black. You add various colour combinations to the black background to come up with desired colours.
The contrast between the white patch on the crow and the rest of its body adds aesthetic value to the bird. It is for a reason that God made crows black and other birds in a whole range of different colours. The best that the crow can do is to be proud of its colour.
God also created a diversity of human beings. It is for a reason that some are one colour, others have different colours. No human being has the right to despise another just because they are different from themselves. Every one of us is God’s handiwork. We need to cast away the misconception about some colours being intrinsically better than others. I, a black man, am as valuable as the person whose skin has a lighter colour than mine. That our skin colour is different should not be a reason for one race to despise another, or indeed for one race to be regarded as inferior to the other. We should rather get to accept, and collaborate with, each other for the advancement of all humanity.
Those who play or have attempted to play the piano will appreciate that to produce good harmony, a player has to strike the white and black keys. If one attempts to produce harmony by restricting themselves to one colour, their harmony will also be severely restricted.
We need harmony in this world, but holding one race superior to another will surely not produce that harmony. Black needs to be blended with white and all the sheds in between so that, in the words of Martin Luther King, people will be judged “not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”. If we let the blending take place, skin colour will be of no consequence at all, which is what things should be like.
We need to work together and cherish each other despite our superficial differences. Every one of us should cooperate in this endeavour for the good of humanity. Yes, we are diverse, but there must be unity in our diversity. The world would be a great place to live in if we momentarily forgot our differences and pulled together in one direction.