|USA Africa Dialogue Series – Cheikh Anta Diop|
Can you imagine the repercussions if an African prophecy about the world’s end had not been fulfilled?
Just a little bit of patience and I’ll soon be through with notes on my own take on “The Naipaul in us” and by Naipaul I mean both V.S. and his late brother Shiva.
When it comes to humility there’s
My world and universe is filled with people. More significant than those that I mention, are all those that I don’t and have not yet mentioned.
This is for your understanding only, from an older uncle. It’s not an academic thesis, but some of the anecdotal background /blackground information is necessary. I find it incredible that you are not familiar with Cheikh Anta Diop. What and who else are you not familiar with? And mind you, reading his stuff is more important than reading some of the cockroach houses that others have written about him or built around him. So you had better get started.
There’s the poetry of several spiritual traditions about God being a treasure that the seeker must find or a mystery that the seeker must solve. Some traditions say that He is to be found in the heart of the seeker, some others say that He is closer than the jugular vein of the believer and then there’s the whole cosmos out there, the starry dynamo of the cosmos & galaxies also to be found inside – and to be found more plentifully in material time out there. I thought about these things as I read this report in DN a few days before the world was billed to end (according to ancient Mayan Prophecy), that “The Egyptian pharaoh Ramses III had his throat slit when he was assassinated.Thought about these things some more as I skimmed this morning’s Dagens Nyheter which reports that Higgs’ particle is the greatest find out there, this year. I guess that some mystics discovered Higgs particle inside and within, a very long time ago and in just about one billionth of a second – the time it took the Prophet of Islam ( s.a.w.) in the miraj to travel to the throne of Allah and all the way back.
How far can we test the limits of rationality without talking about miracles? At the time of the Miraj it was supposedly one of the wisest men in Mecca (at that time) Abu Sufyan (later on to be known as Abu Jahl “The father of ignorance”) who challenged the credibility of the Prophet of Islam’s night journey. He proposed to the prophet , “ Muhammad, you want us to believe that you ascended into heaven? OK Muhammad, raise one leg from the ground, fine, and now raise the other leg and let us see if you can really fly”
I asked an Ayatollah (here in Stockholm – at the Central Station – he was on his way to Paris by train) I asked him the same kind of question : What does it mean in the Quran that Allah took Jesus up to him? The Ayatollah explained that “up” simply means another dimension. Well, what else would your material mind want it to mean, that Jesus boarded Ezekiel’s chariot or some other kind of space rocket from another planet with destination the throne of Majesty?
Finding Higgs’ particle is slightly different from digging in the bowels of history, although the motivation is the same: “ Seek and ye shall find” I guess that that’s what Cheikh Anta Diop did, with the tools available to him – and one of those tools is the imagination’s capacity for the interpretation of the material evidence and the more mystical elements – including language communications.
You know how Afrocentric we tend to be, especially in the USA- Africa dialogue series – even those of us who cut our teeth on Latin and then French, long before ever dreaming in Arabic.
For some of us who hail from West Africa the cross border cultural impulses from Negritude country Senegal were sources of inspiration and always uplifting, but these were mostly private investigations on our part , because for “A” levels French we read Andre Gide’s “La Porte Étroite” (under the benign eye of A.W. Rogers, a Belgian) and not any of the poetry of Senghor, of David Diop or Birago Diop or Tchicaya U Tam’si ( as I was to discover in Ghana, Gerald Moore’s poetic idol of the Roman Catholic faith) and although Negritude first sparked off as a literary movement – Aime Cesaire and people like Léopold Sédar Senghor and so on , in close alliance with first and foremost Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X – on the continent followed by some ideological vibrations emanating from Sekou Toure’s Guinea Conakry and Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana – one could conveniently extend the series to encompass the Haitian Revolution, the new impetus after the abolition of the slave trade etc.. not to mention Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie and the Rastafari
Why didn’t we study any African poetry in secondary school? Because we were a former British colony – the first that Great Britain had in Africa – and for the longest period of time too, well over 150 years : 1787 to 1961 – whereas you the people of Nigeria were only put together by Lord Lugard as recently as 1914 ) So we started our first history lesson with William the Conqueror @1066, covered most of European history up to the first world war and the third paper in history A levels was“ The British Empire Under Queen Victoria” which made us familiar with the colonial histories of India, Canada, Australia, Africa during that period – and hopefully when Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria becomes Queen Victoria she will not be confused with the earlier Queen Victoria on whose empire the sun never set.
And whilst we were busy learning the history of mostly England and Scotland – just as assuredly the good school boys and girls in colonial Senegal started their school day reciting as fact, “ Our ancestors were Gauls”
That kind of education has a never-ending effect : You should have heard V. S: Naipaul being interviewed on the BBC during the Falkland Islands war. As true to Britain as I was, he said that the Argentinians had lost all contact with reality. How were they to know that the UK would send an Armada on them to secure the one thousand eight hundred British subjects on the Falkland Islands, thousands of miles away?
The history of the Falkland War provides enough material for another parable of the lost sheep.
Sure, some thirty five years ago after Walter Rodney and his seminal “How Europe underdeveloped Africa”, next in line of succession to be zapped through was Cheikh Anta Diop’s “The African origin of Civilisation. Myth or Reality?”It had taken the continent, the Diaspora , indeed the world by storm and soon enough became one of the main sources of buttressing the much vaunted claim that “It all began in Africa”; verily with the publication of Cheikh Anta Diop’s book a new phrase was born: “Africa the Mother of all Civilisation!” As you can well imagine these claims were very welcome in the Afro media and in Afro circles and kicked off the glorification of Africa as the birthplace of mankind, of civilisation, mathematics, philosophy and all science. Those who even before a first read were already convinced as if by divine intuition, whilst reading Cheikh Anta were intoxicated by the Cheikh’s erudition and after reading him were equipped to shout down anyone in the KKK.
Cheikh Anta was able to give a reasonable systematic thesis that it all began in Africa – all that much exalted Egyptian civilisation and this thesis provided plenty of emotional fuel and became a main source of Chauvinistic claims long before Martin Bernal’s Black Athena (The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985, Volume 1) and the devastating rebuttals of many of the claims posed in Black Athena by Mary R. Lefkowitz in her (Ed) collection of articles Black Athena Revisited and even more directly as indicated by the title her conclusively Not Out Of Africa
The battle is still raging.
Even before Martin Bernal’s “Black Athena” slogans such as “ The Greeks stole or learned all their stuff at Axum” had gained currency and such slogans were being proselytised by people like Dr Yosef Ben Jochannan (Uncle Ben) on the lecture circuit – and he actually says in one of his lectures that’s why Socrates took the way out by hemlock – “for teaching a foreign philosophy” To the same school of Afro-centric thinking and academic endeavour belonged popular scholars of that genre, such as Ivan Van Sertima, John Henrik Clarke and people like Chancellor Williams and his, “The Destruction of Black Civilization”. There’s a statement in the latter , that the Black man arrived in North America in the same way that he arrived in the Hijaz, through slavery. I’m sure that that and the idea of The Arabs as Master Slavers can be easily disputed or waved away by e.g. some Islamocentric Muslims of Louis Farrakhan’s Brotherhood known as the Nation of Islam
Now, I didn’t pursue any of those aforementioned guys, they were more or less imposed on me by enthusiasts such as Alhaj my barber in the later eighties and some of the people of the Bob Marley Organisation “ The Twelve Tribes of Israel”with whom I occasionally studied the Bible…in those days and The Autobiography of the Emperor Haile Selassie I in two volumes, translated by Edward Ullendorff was compulsory reading. Equally interesting (check the superb oratory of the Ethiopian priests in Kebra Nagast – originally first published in Jamaica…
Yesterday (29th December) I phoned my friend Koro Sallah and to my polite question how’re you doing? he replied, “ We’re celebrating – celebrating the birthday of the great Glorious Warrior & Intellectual Ancestor Cheikh Anta Diop !” – he and some other friends including an old friend Papa Jeng who I haven’t seen for a while and who like me was also partly educated in Ghana ( although I didn’t know him there, but I knew Musa Bala Gaye) who, like Papa Jeng happens to be as Wollof as Cheikh Anta himself….
Cheikh Anta Diop has had a tremendous impact on African consciousness, African self-awareness, on Africanists, political awareness in Africa & the Diaspora, – inevitably on the jazz scene as well: here’s Pharoah Sanders and Our roots began in Africa and over the years I have noticed the difference in this awareness this certainty that cannot be ruffled in one like me when any old Whitey comes up and hopes to throw me off balance with some trash talk about how mighty the Whitey is and I should bow down – although I could light his cigarette if he asks me to do so politely. Indeed Cheikh Anta has to take some of the credit – for gone are the days of “ The Dark continent” and gone are the days of describing Africans as a people without a history, but we ought not forget some of the negative attitude of some Islamists who still regard all the civilisations that preceded the birth of Islam’s prophet as mere Jahiliyya
You are puzzled by how little influence Cheikh Anta Diop seems to have had in the English speaking world and of course he continues to be better known in Francophone Africa and Diaspora. Of course it’s because he wrote in French and about an area that has little to do with British history and as to his methods which are still in dispute I intuit that once again it is the rigidity or simplicity of the logical positive approach, in contrast with the flowery kinds of French / continental philosophy. we are treated to by the French speaking world – which does not mean to say that Cheikh Anta Diop did not have an extremely tough time in getting his thesis approved as PH.D. material – it is now popularly believed that the reluctance in acknowledging his contribution to original knowledge was due to Euro-centric racism
These words are from the introduction of Shaykh Abdalqdir al-Murabit’s “For the Coming Man” :
“…Behind this deadlocked situation which leaves people frustrated and afraid lies a whole series of interlocking policies and doctrines which have been sold wholesale to the masses over the last fifty years, first by the press, cinema and radio and later by television. At a deeper level the University system, a much more integrated structure than people realise , has sold scholars a common view of world history to which it became necessary to adhere in order to receive those necessary academic accolades on which acceptance and success depended. So narrow and strict are the parameters of this agreed doctrine that on one occasion a student of a distinguished French University submitted a doctoral thesis which contradicted the new world view and found that his examiners accepted the validity of his thesis, and thus, by implication , his scientific methodology had demonstrated his case, only to be stunned by the decision of the French government to revoke his degree, something unheard of in a thousand years of French intellectual history.
Freedom of speech is one of the vaunted principles of this democracy , and while we must place everything in question if we are to find a way out of our dilemma , including that of freedom, we also must ask in the name of scientific enquiry and thus in the name of reason and philosophical tradition on which our civilisation is based, if indeed any meaningful openness of dialogue exists in a technological society if the press, publishing houses, television and radio are rapidly controlled by a personnel all ruthlessly committed to the upholding of a set of dialectics explaining both the events of this century and the value system of our society . If we examine the matte r even more deeply and discover that the very core of the human project as understood by our civilisation and its history, the philosophical discourse has itself been severed, and in its place a deliberate set of pseudo-sciences which stand in for critical thought , assuring that those who desire to think will not challenge the moral foundations of the society but simply while away their time in meaningless debates, about linguistics, literary textual post-mortems,, and hermeneutics , then we will never have the means nor the arena to voice a dissident view. Dissidence itself has been cornered for a very particular political dialogue which is of no importance whatsoever to the vast masses of the human race and therefore is itself a mockery of what we must be dissident about.”
In addition to what Mwalimu Bangura has to say, it should be interesting to hear what History Professor Toyin Falola has to say about Cheikh Anta Diop’s effect on Africa and the African Diaspora and what and Professor Kenneth Harrow who is much closer to Senegal than most of us, has to say on Chiekh Anta Diop’s impact on Africa’s Francophone Literature , on Africa’s indigenous mother tongue literary expression and his impact on African cinema…
A great teacher is often known by the quality of his disciples.
How has his work impacted on scholars like Kwame Anthony Appiah?
I’m sure that the University named after him, the Chiekh Anta Diop University is extending the Cheikh Anta Diop effulgence and will continue to contribute to and transmit original knowledge
C’mon! There are some serious folk out there!
until the Messiah appears,
nothing’s ever lost in space
a giant step in cyberspace talk &
the mythological &
moon walk @
|USA Africa Dialogue Series with Cheikh Anta Diop|
will continue & hopefully
so will progress in Africa
as a part of the universe….