Contributing Author Dickson Igwe

Africa rising is first of two stories on an emerging global commercial powerhouse

For West Indians, AFRICA- the continent of origin of the majority black Caribbean population- is a synonym for, the Gold Coast, the River Nile, the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, and the Sahara Desert; but sadly, also, for despotism, war, poverty, and disease.

With Europe and the Mediterranean to the North, Africa is connected to the Middle East in the North East, and then with over 16 thousand miles of coast, almost completely surrounded by sea and ocean. Geography has determined, like everywhere else, the historic, social, and economic trajectory of that massive Continent.

Africa, which is predominantly Christian, Islamic, and animist, possesses a population believed to be over 1 billion, mainly Negroid, with a mix of Moor and Arab in the North; and made up of thousands of cultures, ethnicities, and tribes: a population that is increasing rapidly.

The ancient, extraordinary, and eternally rejuvenating River, the Nile, is a life giving natural wonder: a crucial body of water that was critical spark, lighting and then igniting the powerful illuminant that has lasted for thousands of years, called written history.

The River Nile is a central feature of Africa: a critical artery and body of water. From the earliest times, it has wound over 4000 miles from East Africa, across a varied geography and huge landmass, into the Mediterranean. A story of Ancient and modern Egypt; riverside habitation, commerce, and empire; giving and preserving life, while creating and recreating rich societies and cultures for over 6000 years, along its momentous course.

The Sahara Desert has also played a crucial role in Africa’s historic and social evolution. Covering most of North Africa, it is almost as large as the United States and has shaped African history in numerous ways. The Sahara is as harsh as it is majestic: a very hot and dry ocean of sand dividing the North from the Sub Saharan region of Africa, but with a varied climate, even freezing at night at certain times in the year. The Sahara has established varied cultures, peoples, and societies, as part of its evolution; it has shaped Africa, especially the North, determining the movement of peoples, the direction of trade, the character of nations, and even the outcome of war.

Africa is a story of the corrupt billionaire and murderous tyrant; Emperor Haile

Emperor Haile Salassie. Photo courtesy

Selassie, the embodiment of Rastafarianism; the clash of sword and shield at the Northern Nigerian Emir’s Hausa pageant and Durbar; the oil rich, and tumultuous Niger Delta; the multi millionaire Igbo entrepreneur, merchant, and trader, and his collection of classic automobiles; the wealthy and powerful Yoruba Chieftain at his inauguration as ‘Oba.’

But Africa is also an image of famine, starving children, and unimaginable squalor. A story of Rwanda, and the genocidal murder of hundreds of thousands of people; Biafra; and the continuous struggle for social and ethnic equality, and national identity, by millions of oppressed peoples from all corners of the Continent.

Africa is, the turbulent flow of the mighty Zambezi, majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, breathtaking Victoria Falls, and the endless Great Plains teeming with spectacular wildlife. It is the geography of the majestic plain and grassland, rolling on endlessly towards a magical horizon.

Thick jungles filled with the audible sounds of myriad animals, and ambling and swinging monkeys, chimpanzees, baboons, and gorillas; vultures waiting for the inevitable death; where dangerous safaris and wild game hunters beckon, and preening lions welcome the excited visitor; the land of trotting rhinos, spouting hippopotamuses, and ravenous hyenas; a powerful picture of tall graceful giraffes ambling majestically while herds of zebras flee the dreaded predator; swift moving and barefooted Zulu and Xhosa tribesmen; the story of a legendary Warrior Caucasian hero, Tarzan, his delectable Jane, and son Boy.

Africa is an evocative narrative:  a saga, a story, an illusion, so far removed from the norm of daily West Indian and American existence, as to be irrelevant to most.

The Nigerian doctor at Peebles, the Ghanaian teacher at the private primary school, the stunning East African wife of an English banker, the trader of souvenirs in St. John Antigua, the rare trip to the African Subcontinent on a church mission, or the African professional employed by various governments, organizations and agencies across the region: this is as far as the Caribbean resident ever gets to Mother Africa!

The white American is much more connected, and knows far more about his European origins, than the Black American, or West Indian, of his own African background. This is the result of a tragic history.

Consequently, Africa remains a silhouette, a confusing kaleidoscope, a thick fog in history, a mystery even; only understood through the prism of an anglicized historical perspective, and Hollywood type productions such as Tarzan, Casablanca, Tobruk, and Roots-the story of Kunta Kinte. Stories of a white hero nurtured by apes and swinging from tree to tree on robust vines through the thick African jungle, white war heroes, fawning Negroes, and virile warrior bushmen with long spears, near naked, enacting tribal war dances, ambling the grasslands of a dark and unknown land.

Consequently, the Black American, Colored Latino, and West Indian of African origin, have been robbed of a heritage that is actually very rich and extraordinary. A great history, a wonderful perspective, rich culture, and a colourful narrative of the past, going back hundreds and hundreds of years, composed of great warrior kings, complex empires, powerful merchants, and wonderful civilizations.

African glory and ancient razzmatazz has been overtaken by a newer narrative, supported by a much more efficient and effective recording machinery, controlled by the feudal European landowner, and later the industrial bourgeoisie, and the intellectual and scientist of the Post Enlightenment period, then the global intelligentsia of the present age.

The story of Africa is a subset of hundreds of years of European history, beginning with the onset of the panoramic thinking of Henry the navigator, the voyage of Vasco da Gama, and the following era of hundreds of years of exploitative white rule on the African Continent.

History has been very unkind to Africa: a legacy of a narrative of the past written by European conquerors and colonialists, and powerful empires that defined the stories of earlier times through their own eyes, and according to their own social and political interests, and commercial and economic perspectives.

Consequently, Africa in the eyes of the black West Indian, and black American adult, teen, and child; and their white brothers and sisters, is a sorry affair. Africa is a story of war, abject poverty, misery, colossal corruption, nepotism, racism, ethnic hatred, and social and economic degradation.

Nothing of the positive narrative of a people rich in history, culture, custom, and tradition has ever been highlighted in the international halls of history and academia that determine these matters, and write the annals.

For the centuries after discovery by the Portuguese and Dutch explorer; through, to the time of Dutch settlement, and British and French colonialism and imperialism; and then two devastating World wars and the Cold War aftermath; Africa has been a type of laughing stock of the rich world, a horrific image of darkness and misery, buttressing a schadenfreude, and a smug pleasure by the politically and economically dominant European, in Africa’s misfortunes.

A warning to their own peoples’ of how bad life can get, and how good they have it, after all!

To be continued