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    Beatrice Daniel

      Source: Wikipedia

      A celebrated British historian once declared that there was only the history of Europeans in Africa. This has left many Africans, especially the scholars, asking what is behind this lack of knowledge and looking at the historical record from different sources to prove that assumption wrong.

      The historiography of Africa has been following divisions, schemes, and sequences which had been set by the Europeans who in the past claimed that there was no such thing as African history. Also, they opined that the history of Africa began with the history of the Europeans in Africa. Having this mind-set, in creating what they called African History, the early Eurocentric historians who had hitherto focused on Europe periodized African History in sequences as they fit and proper. Thus dividing African History into periods that tended to focus on events that coincided with the intrusive European explorers rather than events that happened earlier than that.

      However, researches so far revealed that the structure of African history had more to do with the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade than with African experiences. African history should be divided or placed in such a way that the multiple fragments such as her past, cultures, arts, languages, religions, philosophies, cosmology, crafts, aesthetics, music, dance, warfare, farming, architectures, rituals, etc. are taken into account so as to represent the characteristics and peculiarities of continent’s history.

      Most of Africa was under the yoke of colonialism from about 1885 to the end of the Second World War. Hence, this made colonial historiography to hold sway. This imperial historiography depicted Africa as a continent that had no history. Therefore, according to it, the Africans were a people without history. It is common knowledge that colonialism had very negative effects on almost all aspects of Africa’s life.

      Source: Black History Month UK

      Prior to colonization, the continent had suffered under the weight of the European rampage epitomized by the Atlantic slave trade. This trade existed for more than four centuries and saw the depredation of the continent, affecting its future and prospect. As a result of this, there was no hap between slavery and colonialism, thus leading to a lot of distortions of Africa’s realities. We can say that the writing of Africa’s history by Europeans initially meant that they wrote from their perspectives on the continent and also what they deemed fit, and not essentially about Africa’s past realities. Hence, it is no wonder African nationalists and the Pan-African movement pushed forward the reconstitution of Africa’s heritage. This they did through the study and writing of African history by Africans.

      On this note, many African critiques have frowned at some literary works of the Europeans. One of such literary piece is Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The novel has been regarded widely as a critique of European colonial rule in Africa. The major reason for the criticism of Conrad’s novel as a racist is that African cultures are depicted in a biased way. Therefore, Heart of Darkness has been labelled to have been written from a racist point of view.

      In Chinua Achebe’s 1975 public lecture “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”, he criticized Joseph Conrad. He described Conrad’s novella as “an offensive and deplorable book” that de-humanized Africans. According to the Nigerian novelist, Heart of Darkness incorrectly depicted Africa as the antithesis of Europe and civilization which ignores the artistic accomplishments of the Fang people living in the Congo River basin then when the book was published. Achebe argued that the book promoted and continues to promote a prejudiced image of Africa. From his words, the book “depersonalize a portion of the human race”. He therefore concluded that it should not be considered a great work of art.

      Africa being the world’s second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases, is home of an estimated total of over 3000 tribes, each with incredibly different cultures, languages, and traditions. Some of the tribes in Africa are well known, like the Masai, who have deeply rooted traditions and culture and are known for living a nomadic lifestyle and herding cattle for a living; the Zulu, which happen to also be Africa’s largest ethnic group which boasts of 11 million people; and the San and Batswana people of the Eastern Kalahari, with a rich cultural heritage that is over 20,000 years old. There are thousands more that exist with each having equally fascinating communities and traditions that will forever captivate the modern world.

      Before colonialism, Africa was estimated to have up to 10,000 different states and at least 3,000 distinct ethnic groups with around 2,000 different languages spoken and each of them having different dialects. Africa also boasts of enormous wealth of mineral resources, which includes some of the world’s largest reserves of fossil fuels, metallic ores, and gems and precious metals. These in addition to a great diversity of biological resources: the intensely lush equatorial rain-forests of Central Africa and the world-famous populations of wildlife of the southern and eastern portions of the continent.

      The human race can be traced to African origin because the oldest known skeletal remains of anatomically modern humans (or homo sapiens sapiens) were excavated at sites in East Africa. In Omo, Ethiopia, human remains were discovered that were dated at 195,000 years old, the oldest known in the world. Pre-humans skeletons have been found in Africa dating back between 4 and 5 million years.

      Earliest human remains in Eastern Africa dated to more than 230,000 years ago.  Source: Lab Manager

      Another interesting fact is that fishing expeditions were first organized by Africans 90,000 years ago. At Katanda, a region in northeastern Zaïre (now Congo), elaborately polished and barbed finely wrought series of harpoon points were recovered. Also, a well crafted tool believed to be a dagger was discovered. These discoveries suggested the existence of an early aquatic or fishing based culture in Africa.

      An interesting fact to portray that Africa has history is that the people were the first to engage in mining 43,000 years ago. In Swaziland at Bomvu Ridge in the Ngwenya mountain range, a hematite mine was found. In addition to that, more than 300,000 artifacts were recovered including thousands of stone-made mining tools. Adrian Boshier, who happens to be one of the archaeologists on the site, dated the mine to 43,200 years old.

      History records that Africans pioneered basic arithmetic 25,000 years ago with the discovery of the Ishango bone. This is a tool handle with notches carved into it and it was found in the Ishango region of Zaïre (now called Congo) not far from Lake Edward. Also it was discovered Africans cultivated crops 12,000 years ago. This is said to be the first known advances in agriculture. It was Professor Fred Wendorf who discovered that people in Egypt’s Western Desert cultivated crops of barley, capers, chick-peas, legumes, lentils and wheat. In addition, their ancient tools used for the cultivation were discovered, which were grindstones, cutting blades, milling stones, engraving burins, hide scrapers and mortars and pestles.

      There are other facts to support African history and prove to those who are in doubt that Africans lack history. About 9,000 years ago, discoveries shows that Africans mummified their dead. Example, the earliest mummies known in Ancient Egypt by at least 1,000 years. Also worthy to mention is the Great Sphinx of Giza which was fashioned with the head of a man combined with the body of a lion. This points to the fact that Africans carved the world’s first colossal sculpture 7,000 or more years ago.

      Egyptian Mummies

      It is therefore pertinent to state here that anyone who says or claims that Africa has no history lacks the knowledge. With the existing sources, records and archaeological evidence, it is worthy to believe that Africans have history before the European intrusion, Atlantic slave trade and colonialism.

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