Cherish African Culture and History

Article excerpt

Bennie Bunsee is correct in pointing to the ancient Egyptian civilisation as African, "We should all celebrate Africa's rich history and culture" (Cape Times letters, December 20).

He is also correct in calling for all Africans to cherish our history and culture, and chiding the minority population groups for not crediting Africa with a significant history or culture.

However, once again we have not had a public education programme around these major issues of race and origins which cause so much conflict among us.

In fact, the South African Committee for Higher Education 30 years ago, at the beginning of the 1980s, with John Samuel as CEO in Johannesburg, produced a course in African history beginning with ancient Egypt, covering the west African empires of Mali and Soghai, through east Africa to Great Zimbabwe and then to South Africa.

The course in Cape Town was facilitated by the late Dr Neville Alexander, and a group of about 30 of us met once a week to discuss it. Because there is contention, it is vitally necessary to bring these things into the public domain. For too long Africa has been thought of as "uncivilised" and "barbaric", when already in the 1960s Chiech Anta Diop had written of Egypt as an African civilisation.

But the two main points I wish to posit are, firstly, that civilisations are different to, not better than, each other. The African peoples are not one homogeneous entity.

There are innumerable cultures, all with their unique histories, which today have formed themselves into nation-states. …