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African Prestige


Tuesday, October 2, 2007
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‘We have to break the curse of “mental slavery” that has reduced our people to copycats of other cultures.’

I may not be a historian, but I love history. History helps me put the dots together to create a clearer perspective of what happened yesterday. By derivative reasoning, I can better understand the present. By “present” here I mean the New International World Order.

Being African born and as old as the state of Israel, I claim to have seen a bit of the world over the last half a century or so of my earthly life. I have read books, including history books that tell us that a European man was the first to discover Mt. Kilimanjaro.

I have also read history books that credit Dr. David Livingstone, the British missionary, for playing a key role in helping end the slave trade. Slavery time was an epoch in human history where black people from Africa were sold as merchandise into foreign “property owners” to provide free labor without reward.

More importantly, I have lived for a while in America where I meet people from this great nation who look like the sisters and brothers I left back home. The major difference between them and us is that they speak American English. (I am still struggling to understand some of their slang as I am more conversant with the Queen’s language. What we call maize, they call it corn!).

One other thing on languages, those of us from Africa have a couple of other native languages that we speak, but my African-American brothers only speak their English, and find it hard to even point to the map of Africa and say that’s where their ancestors came from. Everything has been taken away from them – names, language, culture, etc…. They were stripped of all connection from Africa, except for their black color.

The history books that we read, written by those who had enslaved our people, are written from their perspective. Their agenda to make Africans appear like a people without a culture, vision, tradition and education – all these have succeeded to “enslave our minds” into believing that we are incapable of doing anything for ourselves without them.

It is those same history books that demonize the black race that our children and grandchildren will end up reading thus cementing their minds into a “westernized mindset.” They will, if not awakened, continue to drop their beautiful African names replacing them with Mary, Paul, Bob, Catherine, James, Edward and the like. This is the starting point.

Come to think about it, if our names now (as Africans) are John Joseph, Walter Francis, Catherine James and the likes of Elizabeth Brown etc and so on and so forth, what names will our next generation of Africans bear? Those African names with historical meanings, our languages that define who we are or where we come from will slowly disappear.

Africans in the Diaspora have been easy prey to this cultural erosion Dr. Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, has dried up his voice to arrest this trend, but how many of us are listening?

The agenda of those who have sought to subjugate Africans as an inferior race will do whatever it takes to make us grow with a low self-esteem. Parents please help your children overcome this malady!

Africa, far from being misnamed the “Dark Continent”, has indeed been the cradle of civilization. The University of Timbuktu (now Mali) flourished in the 1300s to the 1500s with students coming from the Arabian Peninsula to learn at the “feet of masters of law, literature and the sciences” at a time when Europe was emerging from the Middle Ages.

“The manuscripts paint a portrait of Timbuktu as the Cambridge or Oxford of its day, where African historians were chronicling the rise and fall of Saharan and Sudanese kings, replete with great battles and invasions,” observes Joshua Hammer, a South African who studied archeological records of the great ancient civilization of Mali.

“Astronomers charted the movement of the stars, physicians provided instructions on nutrition and the therapeutic properties of desert plants, and ethicists debated such issues as polygamy and the smoking of tobacco,” he adds.

Manuscripts written in Arabic have been discovered in archeological excavations in Mali dealing with diplomacy and Muslim scholars then spoke about the rights of women, inter faith tolerance and on such matters as conflict resolution.

At one time, the German explorer Heinrich Barth, who had been sentenced to death due to violating local traditions, was saved by the spiritual leader of Timbuktu, Sheikh Al-Bakkay Al-Kounti. The great Islamic scholar argued that the Sultan of Masina should spare the life of the German as “he did not make war on us and he is a human being.” The German explorer was allowed to leave unscathed.

Most historians believe that the city of Timbuktu was founded in the 1100s by a Tuareg woman named Bouctou. She operated a rest stop for camel caravans along the Niger River that grew and developed to a city. The city reached its peak in the early 16th century under King Askia Mohammed who united West Africa in the Songhai Empire.

Timber, gold, salt, spices, fabrics, foodstuffs, cowrie shells and nuggets of gold were the main trading items. Timbuktu was to become a major center of learning and a great commercial city in West Africa.

Today, our children do not hear these great stories. Fortunately, UNESCO has taken up the task with the present Mali government to recapture this legendary civilization of Timbuktu. More importantly, South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki has also expressed support in ensuring that this rich history of our great African civilizations is preserved for future generations.

This is where it ought to begin. In order to reshape the destinies of the Africans and all black people in general in the Diaspora, our rich heritage must be passed on to future generations. Our children must be exposed to Africa’s great past. We have to help them believe in themselves as a people, a people with a past, a culture and a rich civilization. In so doing, we can help them curve their future.

African historians must come forward to tell African stories to our children. We have to re-write history books that form the bedrock of their formative years. We have to break the curse of “mental slavery” that has reduced our people to copycats of other cultures. We cannot afford to let other people define who we are, this is our topmost priority if we are to rescue future generations from this mental epidemic!

Next time you are asked who discovered the mighty Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, tell them that my [the author of this article] great-great grandfather, Kimborido Kasei Righiria, born and raised at the foot of the mountain, lived with it before any white explorer set eyes on it. Give him credit for that!

The views expressed here solely belong to the author and Mshale does not necessarily subscribe to them. You can comment on this article.

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About Swallehe Msuya

Swallehe Msuya was a senior staff writer at Mshale with extensive media experience in his native Tanzania. He was a general assignments writer. Investigative stories that Mshale undertook were normally his responsibility. Swallehe passed away in Sept. 2009 at the age of 61. Mshale will forever miss his tenacity and wisdom.

One Response to African Prestige

  1. slb2

    October 2, 2007 at 3:44 AM

    This article is one of the best I have ever read in this newspaper. I’d like to see it picked up and circulated as broadly as possible. What Mr. Msuya has to say is of desperate import, in my opinion.

    Re-write those history books! I’ve been an advocate for that for a long time.

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