Imagine a small clearing in the Ituri forest of Zaire. A band of Mbuti pygmies are returning from a hunt. The women have run ahead of the game nets carried by the men to beat the ground and the bushes, terrifying small animals so that they rush blindly and headlong into the traps. The game, collectively caught, is carefully redistributed at the base camp.
But one of the hunters, wily Cephu, has cheated. Running ahead of the group he captured some of the game before they ran into the nets, and Cephu and his wife enjoyed the advantage of an early meal. Found out, Cephu is punished, told that if he does not wish to behave like a human being, that is, like a Mbuti – he is free to go his own way...alone. In other words, Cephu is banished.
But before two nights pass the hunter crawls back to the base camp, shamefaced and repentant. He has learned the lesson: outside the band there is only the ‘freedom’ of hunger, fear and isolation. Mbuti conceptions of liberty paradoxically imply constraint. Here, liberty means the relative freedom from danger and scarcity through participation in a closed and demanding but reciprocal human community.
Let's address several points in this small excerpt. First Cephu was not banished but forced to hunt with another band. Their are many bands of hunter hunting and an individual is free to hunt with other band for various reasons, one being personal acrimony. And in this case, the band collectively deciding than a person has acted selfishly, dishonestly, or greedy. These are all qualities that undermine the social fabric of society. To Scheper-Hughes it is a question of personal liberty but to the Mbuti it is one of greed, selfishness, and dishonesty.
Afrikan cultures realize that in order to live in a community, a collective sense of belonging must be developed in each person. Hence, communalism becomes the cultural theme of existence. And Afrikan art, songs, proverbs, and cultural institutions all reflect and reenforce this theme.
This is not to said there is no personal or individual express within Afrikan culture. It exist but already shaped by the greater understanding that the individual is a by-product of the collective, and never greater than it. We can learn a lot from the oldest extant societies on the planet but because some supposed evolution, more recent developed societies can ostensibly offer us more.