LAST week’s instalment appears to have caused some glee in one or two cases. A reader calling himself/herself ‘Pinkk (sic) Nguruve’ enjoyed a chuckle over a lexical lapse in my copy. What happened is not unusual if one understands the concept of homophones. Homophones are words of diverse meaning, different spelling but identical pronunciation.
This is the case with ‘temper’ and ‘tamper’, the pair that occasioned the jibe. Other examples that readily come to mind include ‘steel’ and ‘steal’, ‘heal’ and ‘heel’ and so on. In all cases the phonological realisations of each pair of words is identical. If my article had been an oral presentation Pinkk Nguruve’s taunt would not have been possible.
Now that we have dispensed with matters lexical and phonological we can get back to weightier matters. I propose to stay with propaganda a while longer and to widen its application to actual and deliberate falsification of history. This includes the ignoring of achievements by peoples discriminated against on grounds of race.
For that reason, demythologization is now an imperative. Demythologization has to do with stripping events of exaggerations, fabrications and falsehoods so that the sheer truth stands out. It is the opposite of mythologization, something which has tended to be done for the benefit of imperialist nations.
A casual perusal of history will show how white people are enslaved by the bug of appropriation and how they tend to attribute to themselves all great things done by human beings. Conversely, they suppress anything that shows them in bad light or promotes people other than themselves.
There is a whole catalogue of black-person feats out there, feats that are deliberately ignored or trivialized. This process involves bourgeois romanticism as is depicted in such literary works as Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ in which the white man is configured as some form of deity whom poor black men marvel and even worship.
In a recent report in a publication called ‘The Conversation’, Melissa Tandiwe Myambo examined the phenomenon of white men’s privilege in emerging economies and made reference to the situation in India and in South Africa. Myambo discusses the contradictory experiences of a white Dutch man and a black Congolese man in India. According to the Dutchman, all he had to do was turn up for meetings and business opportunities came his way in near deluges.
This reminds me of a curious case in Zimbabwe where a relative of a friend who was a sign writer employed a white man in order to earn higher fees for his work. When a new contract was being negotiated, the white employee went to the meeting dressed for the occasion and played the role of the employer while my friend’s relative who was actually the employer dressed in workman’s clothes and pretended to be taking orders from his employee. Invariably they secured attractive fees for the job than would have been the case if the actual employer had been by himself.
Myambo writes, “In both South Africa and particularly in India, white men from the West benefit from positive stereotypes.” This is borne out by the words of the Dutchman in India who was part of her sample. According to him, “If you bring a Western guy… then they really feel important, so if I come in there I almost feel like a god. Honestly, every meeting where I have been, they give me business afterwards… I always see that the business is increasing…not because I’m so good, but because I’m a Western guy.” Read ‘white man’ for ‘Western guy’.
The experience of the white Dutchman in India becomes even more glaring when seen against that of a Congolese man resident in India for twenty years but with hardly any prospects. The man was evicted from his rented accommodation and also lost his job. Finding employment was, for him, an uphill task. Alternative accommodation was even harder to find given that many Indian landlords were reluctant to offer accommodation to Africans who reported being ’vulnerable to sudden evictions and being harassed for rent money even when it’s not due’. Discrimination in India is known to be rampant against even fellow Indians who are of a darker hue than their lighter-skinned compatriots.
This inclination to belittle Africans has many examples in the history of the world. A ready example of the deafening silence of modern medicine with regard to Imhotep will suffice to illustrate our point. J. A. Rogers in his book, ‘100 Amazing Facts About The Negro: With Complete Proof’ states that Imhotep of Ancient Egypt was the real father of medicine. Rogers writes that Greece and Rome owed their knowledge of medicine to Imhotep and in recognition of this reality, the Romans worshipped him as the Prince of Peace, whose form was that of a black man. Hippocrates who is credited with being the father of medicine lived some 2,000 years after Imhotep.
Not surprisingly, European monarchs often had black physicians to attend to their health needs. These include Charles VII King of France whose doctor was Aben Ali, an African. And whereas South African heart surgeon, Chris Barnard, gets all the credit for being the first person to successfully conduct a heart transplant, it was, in fact, Dr. Daniel Williams, a black surgeon from Chicago who was the first to do successful surgery on the human heart. We hardly ever hear about the exploits of the likes of Dr. Williams because to do that would be to go against the sentiments of racists in Western societies. The reluctance to give credit where it is due when that means acknowledging black expertise and achievement has been with us for centuries.
Christopher Columbus recorded in his journals the fact that Africans from Guinea had been to the Americas long before any of his voyages. Yet so-called third world pupils grow up being told that Christopher Columbus discovered America. Such pupils will defend the lie with their lives if need be. That is the power of propaganda.
In perpetuating the suppression of African achievements, Amerigo Vespucci, a citizen of the Italian City of Florence had the Americas named after him as if the indigenous people there had no name for their continent. The explanation given is that he was the first person to recognize North and South America as distinct continents that were previously unknown to Europeans, Asians and Africans.
It is amazing that the assumption was made that Africans had no knowledge of the Americas as distinct masses of land when evidence on the ground suggests the opposite. Vespucci’s so-called discovery while sailing in the proximity of the southern tip of the Americas in 1501 is at best a misrepresentation and at worst a fabrication. Columbus made entries in his journals that showed that Africans had preceded him to the Americas.
As asserted in last week’s installment, Homo sapiens spread from East Africa to other parts of the world. This together with the fact that in Spain, for example, the Moors were the rulers for 700 years, means that no one should be surprised to know that a Negro race known as the Grimaldi lived in Europe as late as 12 000 years ago. According to J. A. Rogers, abundant ‘traces of their culture have been unearthed in Southern and Central Europe’. This fact and other considerations show that it is only natural for Negroes to have long been resident in America thousands of years before Columbus.
Numerous ancient carvings of Negroes from Central America show that the indigenes there revered black people as gods. Available evidence shows that Negro races were to be found all over the world including in India and China. A Dr. Joseph Rock of the United States Department of Agriculture is credited with discovering a Negro race in China in 1923. This race, known as the Nakhis numbered about 200 000 at the time. These things show just an inkling of the ways in which black people impacted the world.
In modern times, there are many examples of such feats. The fact that most people do not know these things suggests a deliberate cover-up. How many people, for example, are aware that the things we take for granted on the internet were made possible by Nigerian scientist Dr. Phillip Emeagwali who in 1989 used 65,000 processors to invent the world's fastest computer, capable of computations of 3.1 billion calculations per second?
Which way to go then Beloved Africa? We must sing our own praises, appreciate and reward our talents and inventions. The African Union must consider setting up what would be the equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize and recognize our people in retrospect for the things they have done, the enumeration of which would require a separate article. Whatever Africa does, the demythologization of imperialist narratives can no longer be shelved. Africans must seize the initiative, assert themselves and stop the hat-in-hand and bended-knee routine.