Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A rough week,missing reference points and The State of Africa

Another extended time away from blogging, partly work-related, partly because it seemed like this past week was meltdown time for a few people close to me- from one friend's blazing, hurtful rows with his siblings to the mysterious, tragic death of another friend's ex, it's been quite some week...... and it's tested my counselling and support skills to the max

At a conference last week, the compere was apparently a famous presenter of a television programme in the 70s, and so when she stepped on stage and welcomed us, saying what I can only assume were her trademark phrases, there was an "Ooohhh" sweeping through the audience as seemingly everyone but me was drawn on a raft of nostalgia back to the 70s. Then during one of the sessions, we were shown the photographs of four leaders and asked to identify what they had in common- I easily identified Margaret Thatcher, Mahatma Gandhi and Oprah Winfrey, but struggled with the fourth. I was later told by the English woman sitting next to me that it was Captain Kirk from Star Trek. I've never liked science fiction, or anything remotely like it and so had no interest at all in either Star Trek or Star Wars, which accounts for my ignorance. But then my neighbour didn't recognize Oprah either, so there.... But on a more serious note, the episode had me musing on the importance of cultural reference points, and how as an immigrant, you are sometimes adrift in that world.......

I'm reading The State of Africa by Martin Meredith at the moment. I had circled it for several months in the library with the wariness I reserve for books by Westerners professing to pontificate on Africa, but finally took it out last week. I must say so far, he hasn't said anything to make me fling the hefty tome down in disgust and I'm learning a lot about the immediate pre-independence history of other African countries. While I read a lot of Nigerian history books growing up, my wider African 20th century history is shamefully deficient, a gap I'm all too willing to fill. Granted that this is one man's perspective, but the first few chapters seem fairly balanced, although he appears to be making a case (not totally unconvincingly) that part of the problem with Africa today was to do with a sudden and unplanned rush to independence pushed by the post-Second World War agitation that swirled up in the fifties and sixties. And worsened by the vindictive response of some of the colonial powers, notably France in Guinea and Belgium in the Congo, to these agitations.....

Strangely enough, it seems to have been published in the United States as The Fate of Africa....

5 comments:

rasx() said...

It, of course, will be a very rare day indeed that an African fluent in one or more European language would take advice from a Black American seriously. Nevertheless, here is my attempt: never trust history books written by Europeans who are not explicitly conscious of the "past mistakes" of European historians.

Do you know who C.F. Volney is? I strongly suggest that you read Pre-Colonial Black Africa by Cheikh Anta Diop. He is our elder with "the appropriate" European credentials. It is better to begin with Diop and then toy with European writings later.

uknaija said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and for your advice, but perhaps the patronising tone of your first sentence answers your own question-how seriously would you take someone who already knows all about you and what you think and are likely to do?

I have read Diop and accounts of Volney's work, but I was referring to the immediate pre-independence period in Africa and not the ancient civilisations of Africa.

Peace and thank you for visiting

sokari said...

I understand completely the "wariness" so let us have your final thoughts when you have finished - see my recent post 7 books not to buy which included to on Africa (neither of which I have read - just some prejudices I have)

sokari said...

two! cannot believe my spelling gets worse every day.

rasx() said...

I have read your comment in response to my comment. I do not see patronizing. I see the information. I have no information about the time slice just before a "period" of African "pre-independence." I recognize my lack of appropriate context. It is unfortunate for me that I could not provide any friendly assistance.