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Time, African Time, and just… Time #TeachMeTuesday

concentrated young black businesswoman having coffee break in cafeteria

Hello All! Time, we all have it, we all know it, and to an extent, we all see it; but what lens are we seeing it through?

Let me backtrack, so, did you know that in Ethiopia right now it’s technically 2013? This is true; when I lived in Washington, DC; I met a lot of Ethiopians, and I served Ethiopians as clients who would teach me a lot. The one thing I learned was, Ethiopian New Year is in September! It is celebrated on September 11th. You see, like many African nations, Ethiopia has their own calendar that precedes the Gregorian calendar. Even Igbos, of present day Nigeria, had a calendar based on 4 market days, the 4th day being the Sabbath (prior to Hebrew concept), with 7 weeks in one month – if we can even call it months – as these are all western interpretations of Africa’s superior time system.

The Ethiopian calendar is 13 months, and did I mention that Ethiopia was never colonized? I always find that interesting, that where we can find traditions not tainted by western civilization, is in a place that was never colonized. Also, when I was in Namibia, the Himba people specifically who were not colonized, lived life outside of time. They did not use clocks, or even western interpretations of age. My students told me that their grandmother would say “she was born in the year of lots of rain”, and they were named after events. I watched the Himba people live a sophisticated, simple life; and they were wealthy because they shared their resources amongst Himba people, despite the narrative of them being “poor” due to their non-western systems, and their traditional attire of less clothing.

Himba People of Namibia, picture taken by me – Ndidi Love

Back to Ethiopians, I was using my knowledge of other non-colonial African systems to make my point on why the Ethiopian time system is important, because it represents what would have been if we were able to keep the systems that are inherent to us as Global African People; that includes, every person of African descent. We hear things like “black don’t crack” and “colored people’s time (CPT)” or “African Time”, or “Caribbean time”, you know! You see where I’m going? We have always separated our idea of time from what is mainstream, even if it is a joke, we still somehow know that our concept of time is different.

We live outside of time, inherently, things of importance came first. When I was earning my Master of Arts in Africana studies, one of the first things Dr. Sutherland taught us was that, in African worldview, if you are on the way somewhere and you see a person, you take time with them, you greet them, you don’t rush to go somewhere else, what is in front of you is important; everyone will meet up at the appointed time. I tried that for a week, after I came back from Namibia, and it worked! I remember saying, “I’m not going to use my phone for a week, and I want to see what it’s like”. I kid you not, every person I thought about that I needed to see, I met up with, randomly (well, not random but you get it). If I thought about them, the next thing, they were walking past me, and we got to talk about things of importance! I remember the culmination of the week being, meeting with everyone I needed to see at once, we all met up, naturally, no prior conversation, and we chatted for like an hour. We stood in the middle of campus, it was like 10 of us, and that had never happened before. All that was important to me happened that week without a phone.

When things are not aligning, we naturally won’t vibe with it, it is good not to force things. When we force things, especially if it does not feel right or natural, I feel like we hold up time. Once we begin to break free and allow things to happen naturally, I believe that is when time is on our side, and things begin to flow naturally. I believe this concept applies to the Global Black Diaspora as well, our concept of time was replaced with something else, and I believe we are breaking free of it and rejecting it. I am seeing it in the moves we are making, the reclaiming of African identities that we are not even realizing are African, and other concepts that are African, we just don’t have the proper name for it. We are literally getting back to a place of peace for us; one of alignment, one of purpose, and rejecting systems that have been traumatic to us. It is my observation, as the universe realigns, and I feel that we as a people are gaining back our youth, especially for all we’ve been through as a people, our youth was robbed form us as many of us understood and felt the realities of white supremacy (which I now will refer to as an inferior system) from a young age, despite income or status.

I started off talking about Ethiopian time, and tying it into other concepts of time amongst the African diaspora. I then moved into why it is important to maintain aspects of our concept of time the best way we can. I then talked about the revolution and reclaiming of African concepts of time. I think that we should deeply interrogate ourselves, and get down to what brings us peace, living outside of constructed time the best way we can as a solution. When we open up to our true selves and true systems, we allow life to flow naturally. I think we should investigate concepts of African time, and give it a try! This will truly help us become free and begin to unite with those aligned with our designed purpose, just as it did the week I had no use of my phone. Be blessed, Melanated Gems!

~Ndidi Love~

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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! ❤️