NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 113

The organization of African time was even more severely truncated. In Berlin-style colonial schools, Africans were not taught in any detail the pre-colonial history of this continent. The pretext was that such a history did not exist to be taught. As for the period of antiquity, that span between five thousand and two thousand years ago, when Africa produced its most systematically structured political, social, cultural and intellectual achievements, the ignorance of African intellectuals educated under the Berlin regime was practically total — quite deliberately and functionally so. For such a program of miseducation to succeed, the real history of the African continent for more than three-fifths of its recorded history had to be fenced off and declared intellectually off-limits to prospective African intellectuals. More than three-quarters of the remaining two millennia were then presented as a period of vague, confused, essentially unknowable movements, leaving the most recent five hundred years, the period of the second wave of European invasions beginning in the fifteenth century, as the only period in which African history could seriously be studied. That period, serendipitously, coincided with the occupation and dismemberment of Africa under European control. In effect, the study of African history under the Berlin system was the study of the extension of European power into Africa. Scholars who take the trouble to study actual historical documents find out easily enough that it was only in the 7th century that Arab invaders took over North Africa. Oral traditions from Axum to Darfur and Senegal tell us that in the centuries following European and Arab invasions of ancient Egypt, African populations seeking safety migrated down the Nile valley through Sudan and farther, into south, central, east and west Africa. The news today confirms the tale of history: that as Arab power presses southward in Sudan, Africans there migrate through Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Mali, to other areas in West Africa. Any researcher can check these realities on the ground. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE The Berlin conference, by giving any European state with a sufficiently powerful army a license to snip off portions of Africa for its own use, made the fragmentation of Africa the requisite configuration of the success of European rule. For this rule to be extended into the future, the reality of African fragmentation had to be imprinted on African minds as the actual, de facto, and eventually natural, de jure, condition of life in Africa. If this design succeeded, at the end of one or two generations of European rule and education, groups of African intellectuals would grow up in the administratively separated territories thinking of themselves as Kenyans, Ugandans, Malians, Gambians, Rwandans and so forth. At the top of the elite social structure, individuals would no longer be able to conceive of African space as continuous. Instead, their mental geography would consist, if they were in Angola, of a space called Angola, imagined as separate from other territories in its African environment, but directly linked with Portugal, in such a way that the first, natural impulse of such an individual, when he or she wished to travel, would be to think of going to Lisbon, not to any place in Africa. Ghanaian, Nigerian, Kenyan and Zimbabwean intellectuals were similarly tied, in their mental geography, to Britain, like Ivorian, Guinean, Congolese and Centrafrican intellectuals to France. So much for o