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The Concept of African Time/CPT Time: Culture Wednesdays


What is African Time, Colored people’s time, and Caribbean time? As much as we joke about our relaxed perception of time, it is rooted in African views of time that date way back to before we had watches or clocks. I found it interesting that when I was in Namibia in 2012, the Himba ethnic group did not practice a western sense of time. In fact they have a very well run community that lives according to African time. It’s not a relaxed attitude, just an emphasis on letting events happen in their own time.

I remember one of my students in Namibia telling me that his grandmother knows his age by the events that were happening during the time he was born. He stated that she does not know his age according to western standards. For example, instead of saying that he is 15, she would say that he was born in the year when there was plenty of rain. In her mind, she knows his age, but to us, we may not understand.

In the book, “Things Fall Apart”, Chinua Achebe makes a lot of references to the African concept of time. On page 11, he wrote that during the planting season, Okonkwo worked daily on his farm from “Cock crow until chicken went to roost”. On page 19, he wrote that “the drought continues for eight market weeks…” On page 22, he wrote that “Ikemefuna was ill for three market weeks”. Again, on page 23, he wrote that “Ikemafuna came to Umofia at the end of the care free season, between harvest and planting.” He also wrote on page 27 that, “yam, the king of crops, was a very exacting king. For three or four moons, it demanded hard work and constant attention from cockcrow till the chicken went back to roost”.

I encourage you to read this excellent article on the African concept of time, found here:

I remember when I was in grad school, I left my phone home for a week, and everyone I wanted to see, I ended up seeing. I remember even meeting up with one person and suddenly other people I needed to see ended up showing up, and there was a group of us just meeting up at the right time. Nothing like that had ever happened before; it showed me that what is meant to be will be. I found an excerpt on Wikipedia that affirms this statement, “African cultures are often described as “polychronic,” which means people tend to manage more than one thing at a time rather than in a strict sequence. Personal interactions and relationships are also managed in this way, such that it is not uncommon to have more than one simultaneous conversation. An African “emotional time consciousness” has been suggested which contrasts with Western “mechanical time consciousness.” I found another article that states “Combining responsibilities is an aspect of our culture that is directly influenced by our communalism and our sense of time. Therefore time was for man to control and not to control man. This does not mean, nor imply that Africans had no sense of punctuality in their concept of time.” (

It is important to note, that time is not wasted in Africans concept of time. Theres is a time for everything, as order is important to a society, but events are not forced. According to Nkem Nwankwo, “Punctuality is not one of the virtues of the Aniocha man”, it is because, “He takes time over his snuff and his palm wine and if you attempted to hurry him from either he would excuse himself by reminding you of the proverb; where the runner reaches there the walker will reach eventually.“ The most important thing was to arrive.(

The purpose of providing this information was to show that everything, even colored people’s time/African time, has a history and reason. Take time to read the articles I referenced, and ask any questions!

Enjoy Loves! ❤️

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