“Africa has no history and did not contribute to anything that mankind enjoyed.” – George Wilhelm Friedrich Engel.
The idea that the non-Western world was somehow inferior to the West can be found on both sides of the political spectrum.
On the left, it ranges from the well-meaning – but obviously steeped in ignorance – theories on why Africa was less advanced than Europe (but still objecting to the unequal treatment of non-Western people), to the more subtle postulations admiring the mystical way that non-Western peoples were in harmony with their environments.
Similarly; on the right, it ranges from the explicit commentator telling an advocate of decolonisation that they should go back to living in their mud huts, to the more subtle expression of concern that decolonisation somehow means the end of studies like science and engineering.
I would like to make it very clear that all four above claims and statements are just re-phrasings of the same idea – that the non-Western world was less advanced than the Western one.
The little-known reality is that this is just a dangerous ignorance. Decolonised education would teach us of the scholars of Timbuktu, who were well-aware of the spherical earth centuries long before Columbus was born. It would teach us that gravity was discovered by Brahmagupta and Aryabhata in 4th century India.
My decolonised Philosophy course would teach me of Ahmad Baba al Massufi, the greatest Ancient philosopher of Africa – and would note, perhaps, that even the Ancient Greeks were very well aware that philosophy in its current form began in Egypt.
I am not the only one who wants to learn of the wonders and complexity of Great Zimbabwe (which stretched all the way to China, and was by far the largest and most complicated trade system of the time); the rejection of whatever convenient shredded remnants of history the colonisers chose to plant on blood-filled earth can be heard in academia and in cries in the streets.
Mechanisation of labour, internal combustion, the first engines, working robots; all inventions of the non-Western world centuries before the West began using them.
I could go on; I could mention how our number system is Sumerian, how Geometry and practically all the principles of modern architecture come from Egypt. But the simple fact of the matter is that decolonisation is about so much more than facts that have been hidden from us.
There is a vision of the future that has been set down for us by the likes of Thomas Sankara and Patrice Lumumba. Sankara showed us the way for African self-reliance and African dignity; he showed us that an Africa without neo-slavery is possible and showed us its prosperous future.
Lumumba laid down the basis for a free Africa that, had he not been killed by the agents of the West, would have seen Africa becoming the dominant force in the world.
I think what I find the most sad is the fact that the African intellectuals that I am every day rediscovering were, less than 30 years ago, standard knowledge among every cadre of the ANC.
These were the kinds of people who were studied; the kind of thought that was to dictate our future. It’s been 23 years since liberation, and these names now do not exist except in the mind of the most educated in our country.
The ideas that our parents were arrested for, that children were massacred in the streets for, have been abandoned in favour of upholding a status quo that continues to cripple Africa. In the 70s and 80s, they used bullets to prevent visionaries from creating a powerful Africa that would be independent of them.
Though the methods have changed, the goal remains the same.
Decolonisation is about far more than fixing a broken education system.
Decolonisation is creating a country that is worthy of everyone who gave the ultimate sacrifice for its future.
Decolonisation is about picking the broken African up from the ground, and giving him the dignity, motivation, and tools to create the future that Africa he was always meant to have. The mediocre path that South Africa has been following is, more than anything else, dangerous.
We can see it with the weakening Rand, the militarization of the police, the ever-increasing violence against women in the land where Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokodo (You strike a woman, you strike the rock) was once part of our collective conscientiousness.
There will be a day where we have gone too far down the path of “mediocrity” to ever go back, and Africa will be forever nothing more than a subjugated continent.
By that day, anything that we ever gained during years of struggle will truly have amounted to nothing, the bonds once created by a common cause will be broken, those who can will leave and the African beauty will be experienced every day only by those who have no choice.
Everyone who has even the smallest feelings of love for any part of Africa and its people must now hear the call to decolonise and to fix our society in every way we can.
Africa will not survive on its knees much longer; there is only one way forward – into the bright future which will no longer be hidden nor denied to us.
“Africa and the world are yet to recover from Sankara’s assassination. Just as we have yet to recover from the loss of Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Eduardo Mondlane, Amílcar Cabral, Steve Biko, Samora Machel, and most recently John Garang, to name only a few. While malevolent forces have not used the same methods to eliminate each of these great pan-Africanists, they have been guided by the same motive: to keep Africa in chains.”
— Antonio de Figueiredo