Book Commentary – PRECOLONIAL BLACK AFRICA

PreColonial Africa

Just finished reading the classic “PRECOLONIAL BLACK AFRICA” by the Master Teacher Cheikh Anta Diop. A reading that has been translated from French to English; so the writing can be challenging for those most comfortable with American-English grammatical semantics. However, the content is highly desired for inner-standing the cultures and movements of AfRaKans before the major invasions of religion and land grabbers. I will sometimes call these precolonized AfRaKans… “the traditionals.”

Although the book confirms many known situations that still exist in tribal societies today. The focus of this blog posting is to mention terms, activities and situations new and awaking for me. I also will Not get into many of the book’s war stories. I’ve already blogged about the first chapter of the bookblogged about the first chapter of the book. Now I want to give a brief summary of my highlighted comments about the rest of the book:

Sankofa List:

  1. The Land is Free
  2. Unified Communities are Powerful
  3. Maternal-linealism
  4. Servant Leaders
  5. Arabo-Africans
  6. Protective Foreign Trade
  7. Religion Replaces Spirituality
  8. Open Door to Slavery
  9. Capitalism Preferred
  10. Cultural Destruction

Part1: Be-fore Colonization

#free-the-land

As I’ve felt in meditation while connected to nature; I draw from my readings that precolonial AfRaKans be-lived that no one owned the land. Instead; it seems their cultural activity centered around respect for Mother Nature. My readings insist traditional AfRaKans “used” the land. And that private ownership of areas of space was not a consideration. Rather, seasonal rental agreements were provided to those who demonstrated the skill to make good use of the lands. But as the invasions advanced; there seemed to be much confusion on how to protect something that wasn’t meant to be taken by anyone. So the per-colonial AfRaKans were caught-up in a concept of trying to defend the land with no sense of why/how the invaders could take private ownership of something that didn’t belong to them… or anyone else.

#powerful-AfRaKans

The largest and oldest empires of AfRaKa are listed in the book as the Sudan, Ghana, Mali and Songhai. And from these states the author suggest most other precolonial civilizations formed on the continent. Maps and other documentation provides evidence that before colonization, major migrations of precolonial AfRaKans started as the result of European invasions. One group of Sudanese immigrates moved to the west and called themselves the Kare-Kare… in honor of the Upper Kemet deities Ka and Re. The Yoruba that migrated to parts of what is now Nigeria can be associated with the ancient Sudanese by evidence of their cultural worship that is also very closely aligned with that of Upper Kemet Goddess and Gods. Modern day Wolof clans honor the ostrich symbolically the same as Upper Kemet’s BA spirituality. Other migration paths were marked by monoliths describing a Sky Earth agrarian culture most similar to that of Upper Kemet.

migrationMap

Meroe, the ancient capital city of the Sudanese empire, has been considered to be one of the earliest civilizations on Earth. The vast lands of Meroe are said to have been so sophisticated; the citizens made readily use of astronomical observatories; drawings of mechanical instruments; and mathematical equations written in stone. The book suggests eighty-four (84) pyramids stand today around the city that was once Meroe. In many literary circles, the Sudan is considered the lands of ancient Upper Kemet… sometimes also called Nubia.

#inter-tribal-unity

The author mentions that precolonial AfRaKans may have been the first to participate in inter-tribal unification to create powerful cities. Supposedly, their alliances and associations were unlike anything found anywhere else in the world at that time. And with the establishment of these powerful cities came about the chosen responsibility to provide for all its citizens. The book suggests one of the empire’s primary roles was to nurturing all its children.

#maternal-linealism

The book describes how before the invasions of Islam, maternal-linealism was the practicing guideline for leadership and inheritance. Maternal-linealism depicted the future ruler always come from the present ruler’s sister’s daughter or son (niece or nephew). This was very important for at least three reasons:

  1. only the woman carries the true bloodline of a tribe; and therefore the ruling bloodline is secured in the ruler’s sister (you might want to study your chromosome and DNA truths to inner-stand this concept).
  2. rulers were more capable and encouraged to inter-marrying to keep their communities fortified; and even if the sister by chance inter-married; the bloodline of her children would always still be stronger.
  3. nieces and nephews make better servants of the people than princesses and princes.

And maternal-linealism was Not only practiced by the royals. Common people used the same system for inheritance determinations. To the point that traditional AfRaKan children many times carried the names of their aunt and uncles instead of their parents. The mother’s-sister’s name was considered sacred. I’ve always read how important aunts and uncles were to a village of AfRaKan children. Maternal-linealism makes more sense to me now.

#servant-rulers

The book suggests that roles and responsibilities of precolonial AfRaKan rulers was very different before the invasions. A ruler would be required to have a “vital life force” great enough to carry/protect their entire kingdom. Many precolonial rulers would be given a talisman in the form of a lion’s fang to concentrate their amount of life force. And when their level of vital life force diminished; the ruler was symbolically killed (or exiled from the kingdom) as to not weaken the community’s ontological forces with the superior universe. Many great precolonial empires of AfRaKa kept the Pharaohic traditions of Upper Kemet.

A statement is made in the book that precolonial AfRaKans be-lived a vacant throne created anarchy. But proper royal authority included a great responsibility to serve the people. And thus rulers led very “strictly regulated” lives. Royal traditional leadership practiced orthodox AfRaKan spirituality so they could perform all cultural rituals. Rulers of the people were trained to never raise their voices; and to control emotions that would impact their citizen’s sensibilities.

Examples are given in the book where it was common for queens and kings to raise the daughters and sons of other tribal communities to ensure comradery between the kingdoms. This comradery of princesses and princes many times prevent war; and provided for the sharing of ideas and innovation. And when the kingdoms were forced to fight the Asians; the princesses/princes would put themselves in harms way; taking up arms to lead the traditional AfRaKan armies.

#segregated-trade

The author claims the traditionals were not very much interested in travel and exploration because everything they wanted and needed was already provided for them on the continent. He suggests that mostly all innovation to travel long distances and over the high-seas was invented in Upper Kemet; the Sudan; and Nubia. And the technology was given to the Arabs and the Asians. To the point that most AfRaKans stayed home; and used Arabs and the Phonetician as trading contractors. As a result; all roads of travel across the continent were kept safe.

I already knew that before the colonial industrial atrocities began; gold was the major currency of trade for precolonial AfRaKans with foreign people. Gold was very plentiful for those of the Sudan, Ghana, Mali and Songhai empires. Any and all citizens could simply collect the precious metal from their rivers after the season of inundation. No mining needed. The author suggests very sought out items of precolonial AfRaKans included salt, copper and cowries from the Indian Ocean via Persia.

One interesting trade practice mentioned in the book describes how closed societies refused to physically interact with foreign traders. For these self imposed segregated traditionals, a unique trading method was necessary that included an honor system. With the system, the foreign trader would leave their goods in plain view, over nights for members of the closed AfRaKan community to evaluate. The traditionals would then leave amounts of gold near the foreign items as they deemed a fair trade. After the precolonial AfRaKan shoppers left; the foreign traders evaluated the gold left for acceptable trading terms. If the foreigner agreed to the trade; they took the gold and left the goods.

Part 2: Turning Points for Destruction

#religion-replaces-spirituality

Many Pan-AfRaKans today do Not speak of how important matriarchy and spirituality was to the precolonial AfRaKan. And even as most consider the beginning of colonization in AfRaKa to have been the coming of the barbaric Gallo-Romans; the author gives examples how AfRaKa was first colonized quietly and non-violently by organized religion. Arabs peaceably moved to the most northern parts of the continent when the great AfRaKan empires showed no interested in the Saharan desert land. The author calls the traditionals who integrated with the Arabs of the north; “Arabo-Africans.” Many of the Arabo-Africans were from Mali and are known today as the Moors.

Some of the precolonial AfRaKans considered organized religion evolutionary progression. And when many of the traditionals refused to conform to religious affiliations; they were often scorned, mistreated and considered dirty outcasts.

From what I take from the book; precolonial AfRaKans converted to Islam from Arabia for mostly two reasons;

  1. to align with the Arabs to fight the Europeans.
  2. to follow the leadership of their rulers who where intimidated to convert.

But the “Black Muslims” integrated some of their spirituality into their conversion by continuing to honor their ancestors and other sacrificial rituals. Arabo-Africans would still perform circumcisions on their children; and send them through rites of passage that taught the secrets of the universe. They would continue to cover themselves with dust or flour as an act of humility when in the audience of a royal or other high official.

Another major reason why precolonial AfRaKans may have more easily converted to Islam over Christianity was for the supposedly writings in the Koran that forbid Muslims taking/making slaves of other Muslims. Where all a slave had to do to become free was to convert to Islam.

But with the invasion of organized religion; queens were replaced by male only kings. And the kings were relieved of their spiritual duties. Instead, kings became administrative principals with reputations for being tyrants. While Muslim leadership took over the influence of the AfRaKan people. With Islamization, justice was dispensed by the laws of the Koran. When precolonial AfRaKans followed natural universal law practiced in their spirituality.

Even after AfRaKans began to realized they had given away their essence of lay Republicanism; they refused to return to tribalism. Instead, colonized AfRaKans adopted materialistic politics that included the practices of individualism and centralization.

#open-door-slavery

Before major land-grabbing invasions of AfRaKa began; western Asians were already coming to AfRaKa for trade. During 990 AD, a group of Europeans called the “Berbers” lived within the Mali and Ghana empires in peace… ruled by AfRaKan queens and kings. Traditionals acquired slaves through markets and wars; as described in my first posting. Just as well, the Berbers began to take slaves… while living under AfRaKan political power. If only the leadership of those empires could fathom how leaving the door to slavery wide open would affect the continent…

On page 142 of the book is a VERY IMPORTANT statement on how much the European slave trade impacted AfRaKa:

It has been estimated that the slave trade swallowed up one hundred to three hundred million individuals, dead or shipped to America. So, had it not been for slavery, the total figure of Black population on the continent would probably have been four times what it now is: it would have been in the vicinity of four hundred million. Otherwise, the estimate is 100-300 Million ripped from the land. What a sad state of affairs for the purpose of capitalism.”

#post-colonial capitalism

After colonization… capitalism and European constructs against natural evolution grew in AfRaKa… of and by its people. Due to the horrors of slave marketing; theft of land; and raping of resources; many AfRaKans lost cooperative economics. Money as currency became preferred over a worker’s ability to barter her/his skills as direct trade for services and goods. Centralization of all resources became controlled by the colonist. Traditional workers lost their livelihoods; and had to survive as vagrants. With colonist-rules instituting harsh penal policies to further oppress the AfRaKan.

The author does Not suggest the precolonial AfRaKan should have never evolved from the traditional ways. But there probably would have been a more natural progression of economics for the AfRaKan if not for colonization. Although many AfRaKans today sincerely reject the traditional ways of tribalism. Many leaders today agree that fair labor and trade comes from professional associations where as in traditional times households kept a monopoly on a specialty that was both valuable and needed to its village. Little to no direct competition for a household would provide generational opportunity to thrive economically.

Before colonization, resources were plentiful in AfRaKa. And there was no need for the hording of land and assets as with capitalism. A more “natural economy” exists when AfRaKans produced and consumed only what they need. But capitalism incites the AfRaKan to do business for the pure purpose of profits. Capitalism is designed to create unnecessary busyness to create more wealth. For the AfRaKan, forms of excessiveness only brings social anxiety. The book is the only mention I’ve ever read describing Chaka, king of the Zulu, as a pawn for the English to infiltrate other South AfRaKan clans.

#intellectual-culture-destruction

The great Mali empire once hosted Timbuktu, the greatest institution of learning on Earth. The city was once filled with determined, curious minds lead by Master Educators who didn’t take pay. These teachers and trainers main focus was to ensure future generations of AfRaKans were trained to evolve the noble practices of traditional AfRaKa.

But after colonization, the city de-volved to a hybrid of people that “only concerned themselves with hatred, envy and discord.” It is suggest their interests in gossip, slander and covertness became the post-colonial path of the modern AfRaKan. The author describes how the Moroccan army of Spanish mercenaries looted gold and artifacts from the great institution; and ripped wood from the walls to use for boats. Destroying intellectual property was among the many atrocities committed to destroy the city of Timbuktu. Supposedly, in an effort to save some scholastic artifacts from Timbuktu; hundreds of documents of science “lay dormant” in dis-organized arrangements across the continent; and in European museums. The documents are evidence to the intellectual level of precolonial empires that no modern AfRaKans seems interested in.

Other innovation stolen after colonization include architecture and medical advancements. Precolonial AfRaKan structures built with rounded walls and entries are thought to have come from the Arabs. But the book emphasizes that traditional Sudanese style buildings were never square. Instead precolonial structures from precolonial Sudan were constructed oblong. At lot of medical science is attributed to the Greeks. But precolonial sciences of AfRaKa included successful cataract surgeries and cauterization of wounds.

The book is a total gem. I’m so fortunate to have read it. The author’s narrative was written with a very pro-masculine voice. But I could tell he had a sincere respect for the role of precolonial AfRaKan women.

I hope Pan-AfRaKan communities will greatly consider the points made in the book. The slavery of precolonial AfRaKa was so very different in how chattel slavery was conducted here in America. Private land ownership is just a crazy concept for excessive gains and selfish profits. The sooner we free the land; the sooner Mother Nature can help us and heal. And AfRaKans across the world would do themselves well to learn and inner-stand how early empires worked together to keep their power using maternal-linealism and servant-rulers. Foreign trade should never go as far as to completely destroy the natural progression of economics for an entire group of people. All those points can be used to make AfRaKa great again.

Asante Ashe.

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