From Piankhy to Obama: President Barack Obama Is Not the First Self-Identified African to Run the World's Most Powerful State. One of the Last Was the Nubian Pharaoh Piankhy. Welcome to Onyekachi Wambu's New Column

Article excerpt

I begin this column in the exciting era of President Barack Obama. My concerns moving forward are how to achieve peace, social justice and prosperity--the issues that confronted the first humans as consciousness dawned. I will first draw on Africa's past to reflect on contemporary challenges. Why?

Since Africa contains the oldest recorded human remains, the earliest meditations on these issues must have taken place on our continent. Africa must also have produced the earliest prototypes of social institutions such as the family, the clan, the earliest political systems, states, expressions of human creativity and technology.

Furthermore, the Ancient Egyptians--Africa's earliest civilisation--believed that life was an eternal struggle to recapture the cosmic harmony (Maat) of the First Occasion, when chaos was kept at bay. For them, each morning when the Sun (Re) rose it was the First World again--and battle between renewal and the suppression of chaos. Hence there is never anything new under the Sun.

For that reason, as President Obama begins work, it is important to recognise that this is not the first time a self-identified African is running the world's most powerful state. One of the last was the Nubian Pharaoh Piankhy (aka Piye) in 734 BCE, over 2600 years ago. Piankhy moved up from his headquarters in Napata to bring order to a warring and divided Egypt. And to restore the gods, particularly Amun, to their sacred seats in Thebes and Memphis, as in the First Occasion.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Piankhy's coming had been foretold a full 2,000 years before, in the "Prophecies of Neferti" (2600 BCE), written by the court sage Neferti. A vivid sense of the chaos that Neferti describes is caught in this section translated by Miriam Lichtheim in her Ancient Egyptian Literature (Vol. 1):

  Every mouth is full of 'how I wish'
  All happiness has vanished
  The land is ruined, its fate decreed
  Deprived of produce, lacking in crops
  What is made has been unmade. ...

Neferti continues wearily in similar vain, describing a blasted landscape and wretched people until finally in the last paragraph he announces the arrival of the redeemer:

  Then a King will come from the South
  Ameny, the justified by name
  Son of a woman of Ta-Seti, child of Upper Egypt . …