I confess I never thought much about Africa. It feels far away – despite it is not from the middle of Italy, where I live. Refugees are coming from there, we hear about tribes killing each other, somewhere “down there”, about women who have to fetch water from far: the stereotype is: a primitive country, or better a primitive continent where even the wild animals are in danger to not survive the human greed.
There would be much to say about these assumptions held by the somewhat arrogant and superior western minds. But this is not the moment for it. I am aware that, me too, had these assumptions somewhere in the back of my head, when I found the invitation to the “First Integral African Conference” in my inbox. People who are open to integral thought in Africa? Wow! I became very curious and decided to attend, especially as it was connected with a tour through South Africa. This tour wouldn’t have been the typical tourist route but would show us the reality of the country, guided by local integralists.
I travelled to South Africa with an open mind and an open heart, and I met amazing people and situations. I absorbed the atmosphere, the colors, the beauty of the people in movement, the differences in almost everything, from housing to shops to surrounding. Not everything was “nice” from a western tourist’s point of view, but always astonishing and it allowed me to revisit my hidden assumptions which I had carried around with me for many decades.
The conference took place in the “Cradle of Humankind”, an unusual building, covered with green grass from the front side. It was like entering into a cave. Inside a huge round open space with water fountains in the bottom. It was not just a decorative spring which you would expect in a congress center, but a huge area, 15 m or more di diameter, I guess, and also very deep down, from where huge water jets came up and disappeared, over and over again. A truly archaic atmosphere in a modern building. Underneath is a museum where you enter a boat-like vehicle and swim around and underneath the waters, a fear-and fun journey for groups of children visiting the place where human kind is said to have started.
The conference itself was organised perfectly, the venue, the food and, last not least, the speakers and other contributors. My first deep insight took place right with the first keynote by Dr. Nceba Ndwayiba who gave the title for the conference “Doing Human Better”. Never had I thought before that the main thing we Europeans exported to other countries and continents was our way of thinking, our way to reason and our claim that our way is the only possible way. I never really had given any thought before to the possibility that there could exist other ways, not only in how we SEE the world (this we know from Integral Theory), but also how we THINK. A thinking which is not necessarily bound to our rational logic, to our way to construct theories and plans. I suddenly realised that also “Integral Theory”, which is so helpful to understand the world better, is a product of this specific way of thinking, as much as we try to integrate “eveything”. The very basis of our philosophies are taken for granted. We are not aware of the axioms of our being in the world, and even less that there could be other axioms to construct philosophies upon. And when we notice other ways of thinking which are unfamiliar to us, we dismiss them as primitive. Voilà!
Back to the conference: Three days filled with talks, workshops and casual conversations with your neighbors in the room, at lunch, wherever. Doing human better, by creating connection. This was beautifully achieved. As for myself, I got to know so many beautiful people who I want to know better and learn about what they are doing in the world. The Wisdom Factory gives me the unique opportunity to invite them into conversations which then I can share with the world on my website, Youtube, and other social media.
To kick off the the series of AFRICA -conversations I talk with Paddy Pampallis, the “motor” behind the conference, who has done an amazing job in putting everything together. With her friends and colleagues, she was leading us through these remarkable days with an incredible amount of resilience, calmness and friendliness which created an open and welcoming space for all of us participants.
I am grateful for this conversation with her on Zoom. I enjoy her truly feminine way in being a highly competent person. She is a role model for feminine leadership, in my opinion.