Sunday, 7 June 2009

Am I African?

While growing up in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Most of my view of the outside world was shaped by what I see on TV. It should be noted that back in the 80s the internet doesn't exist and we do not have quick access to books and magazines from other parts of the world like we do now. So one's world view is largely determined by what he sees on TV. Back then we used to watch a lot of hollywood movies on the state television. The most interesting thing is the type of Africa I see in the movies. The Africa they show us is a land of savages and heathens that can kill one another over a piece of candy. Judging by the type of environment I grew up in I was quite sure that I wasn't African and my country was not in Africa. At least that was what I thought as a kid, because I've never came across the type of Africans I see on TV either in my town or any other town I've visited. When my older siblings told me that we are Africans I didn't believe it and thought it was a joke. I only realized and accepted that after being taught so in school. The question that then came to my mind is that if we are the Africans then who are those savages I saw in the movies ? It was later in life that I realize that those were the imaginary Africans that the movie makers wish were a reality.
The fact remains that as a result of such movies a lot of Africans were made to believe that though we are now civilized, our fore-fathers were once savages and were only civilized after coming in contact with Europeans. In reality the reverse can be argued to be the truth. I come from a part of Nigeria that was once a great Empire with a known history of more than two thousand years and a written history of more than one thousand five hundred years; the Kanem-Borno empire. We had great architects, scholars and poets when Europe was in the dark ages. We fought our wars not with sticks and bones but with Muskets, Catapults, Swords, Spheres and Horses. We produced great mathematicians, physicists and doctors we had well laid out systems of diplomacy that successfully averted wars. Savages don't do that. We built great cities and had built up cavalries of hundreds of thousands of horses. To the west was the great Malian empire and later the Sokoto caliphate. To the south were also great kingdoms like the Benin kingdom. And contrary to what some historians will want us to believe we were dark skinned people with strong curly hair then as we are still now.
So when does the problem with Africa started?, the problem started with the stealing of Africans from Africa up till today with the stealing of African resources from Africa. The wars, hunger and diseases will continue in some of Africa as long as the west still manufactures guns and needs our gold, diamond, oil e.t.c.

Leaving the politics aside, one notices that African historians have celebrated our great emperors and warriors but have given little attention to our scholars; so I'm mentioning here one of the many African scholars that I believe need to be celebrated. Back in the 1700s he provided several formulas for constructing odd-order Magic squares which is invaluable in the world of statistics today. He hails from Katsina of present day Nigeria. His name is Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Fullani al-Kishnawi. More about him here

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