Dingo-Dingo: An Economy of Circles

The circular motif is one that nobly displays itself in all of the universe and in nature. Our very own Earth is one round celestial body, that orbits with other planets in a circular motion, around the Sun. A number of Afrikan stories of creation, make reference to the circle as the earliest shape of existence. BaKongo (Bantu people of Kongo), regard the circle as the central motif in understanding the creation of all cosmic bodies as well as the cycle of natural life; such as the lifetime of human beings. This motif also extends to their understanding of time as a cyclical process known in KiKongo as dingo-dingo. Circles represent the cycle of natural life. A pattern here on Earth, that has the potential to participate in this harmonious ecosystem, however has drifted far…far away…is our economy.

The current global economic climate is one that survives on strengthening the gap between peoples’ circumstances. We learn from Afrikan philosopher and critical thinker Nana Fu-Kiau, that this linear economic system many refer to as capitalism, “accumulates itself in the hands of few for the needs of few. (Fu Kiau, 2007)” A system that was built on the looting of Afrikan resources, the abduction of our people, and gangsterism of European thugs. This linear economic system, has found its feet in the modern world through creating an alienation between ourselves and the very land we come from. Where we could be producing and restoring natures balance, we are exploiting the Earth’s natural resources to a point of future exhaustion.

Embedded in our collective Afrikan knowledge systems, is a solution to this global economic crisis. And a solution that fills the gaps created by waste and inequity. This is an economy known to BaKongo asNkat’a dingo-dingo’; an economy of spirals. Guided by ancestral knowledge, I recommend an economic system that imitates this fundamental process of existence.

Sankofa: Lessons from Our Past

There was a time in the history of West Afrika, where cowry shells where used as a currency. This is one of the most sustainable mediums of monetary exchange because it surrenders itself to the law of nature. The availability of money is dependent on how many shells nature provides. The more care we gave to our land and our surroundings, the more money nature gave our community. This creates a cycle of accountability, and mindful living; which extends not only to how we cared for our environment, but how we treated our people. By exercising this cycle (dingo-dingo), in the modern era, we restore a relationship of balance and reciprocity between ourselves and the universe.

Today’s Industries

The food production industry in Ghana is far-reaching. Agriculture provides for about 54% to Ghana’s GDP, contributing to over 40% of exports and over 90% of our food needs, (FAO, 2020). There is an opportunity for Ghana to create a circular economy around the food industry. It all begins with one farmer and one wholesaler. An example; a farmer provides food to food sellers, markets or stores, and the food that is not sold (typically thrown into landfills), is then taken back to the farmer to be used as compost for the production of more food. This establishes a transactional cycle of reciprocity between all stakeholders, including the land. The more compostable material the farmer receives, the steadier the market becomes, and the more food security we provide for all.

Another case is in the construction industry. Accra is one of the fastest growing cities on the continent. Natural chateaus such as the Achimota Forest and the opulent green mountains that border the Eastern Region, are being infiltrated by new people on a daily basis. Cement buildings are erected everyday that contribute to over 40% of global carbon emissions, (Petkar, 2014). How do we then balance the disparity caused by construction?

As a nation with some of the most fertile land in the world, Ghana has access to ‘alternative’ building materials such as, earth, bamboo, wood, natural clay, natural fibre, and much, much more. The beauty of using natural materials to build is that; the materials used from the ground can go back into to ground once the house is no longer in use, feeding the Earth for generations to come. The major carbon footprint that comes from importing cement and transporting it in massive trucks is also eradicated. This creates dingo-dingo between ourselves and the land.

Our Lifestyles

For those of us who may not be not be considering building a new home, there are a couple of ways in which our daily lives can contribute on a micro level, towards creating a sustainable economy on a macro scale. This can be achieved by buying locally made clothing and accessories. The material used to make these items is usually locally sourced, eliminating the major footprint, that comes from international sweatshops (pollution, corruption and unethical practice), as well as importation. By buying locally made fashion, we are also putting our money back into our communities, securing a circular motif between ourselves as consumers, those working in the industry, and our environment. The same can be said for our food industry. Buying locally farmed, manufactured and produced foods, preserves the flow of monetary energy between ourselves as consumers, wholesalers, farmers, and our land.

A circular economy is designed to realign the disunion between material production and the spherical flow of nature. This is an economy based on our ancestors’ collective understanding of the mathematical, geometric and cosmological patterns (dingo-dingo) of the world.

While we wait for those who make speeches about ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ to wake up to the meaning of their words, we can make small moves to create circularity amongst ourselves.

Image by Megan Knapp

References & Further Reading:

Fu-Kiau, K. K. B. (2007). The Mbongi: An African Traditional Political Institution: a Eureka to the African Crisis: African Djeli Publishers.

Fu-Kiau, K. K. B. (1994). Ntangu-Tandu-Kolo: The Bantu-Kongo Concept of Time. In J. K. Adjaye (Ed.), Time in the Black Experience (pp. 17–34). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations (FAO). (2020) FAO in Ghana. Ghana At a Glance. [Available Online]: http://www.fao.org/ghana/fao-in-ghana/ghana-at-a-glance/en/

Kamalu, C. (1998). Person, Divinity and Nature. London, Karnak House

Mutwa, V.C. Zulu shaman (2003) . Dreams, Prophesies and Mysteries. Rochester: Destiny Books 2003.

Petkar, Sanket. (2014). Environmental Impact Of Construction Materials And Practices. 10.13140/RG.2.1.2581.0001. [Available Online]: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/290427381_Environmental_Impact_Of_Construction_Materials_And_Practices

World Economic Forum. (2020). Circular Economy and Material Value Chains [Available Online]: https://www.weforum.org/projects/circular-economy

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