Why is it easy to believe that Africa is a land of primitives, rather than the cradle of civilization with a rich history.
Media has played a big role in perpetuating African myths, making it easy to believe that Africa is a continent with savages, unlearned peoples, and utter destitution. Watching National Geographic, one sees half naked people hunting and gathering and participating in traditional rituals, but rarely does one see Great Pyramids that are part of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient world, or the coral of Cairo. However, Africa is much more than the images of famine and war we often see in the international media. As Basil Davidson portrays in his documentary Africa: A Voyage of Discovery with Basil Davidson (1984), Africa has a very rich diversity in culture, traditions, languages, history, and ideas. However years of colonization destroyed any hope of Africa building their societies fully, and their history was rewritten to fit the European narrative. That hope is being gained day by day as people partake in the making of their history, as it is evidenced in the film Courting Justice. It is proof that change can happen but it will take a mobilization of the people. Therefore, Africans needs to find meaning and pride in its history if there is to be any hope in rebuilding their societies after the depredation of colonialism. There is still room for growth for Africa, as Courting Justice portrays, and irregardless of the past, Africans have a chance to remake their history drawing from their past experiences.
The names of Zulu, Mapungubwe, Nok, Carthage, Congo/Kongo and Karne-Bornu mean nothing to a lot of people. These cities and Kingdoms have been forgotten by history writers; and if these cities were mentioned in the history books, they were never given the credit to which they are due. Black history in general has been written and re-written favoring a metanarrative that is acceptable to Europeans. For example, years have been spent on trying to disprove the existence of blacks in Ancient Egypt while at the same time attributing the Ancient Nubian and southern kingdoms to the influence of foreigners. However, in his documentary (1984), Davidson portrays the extensive influence that black Africans had in Ancient Egypt and the eventual convergence of blacks and the indigenous people.
Africa is a land of a people with a history that is rich, colorful, and much more advanced that it is credited for. The European narrative that was imposed on Africa is that of a people who were primitive, uncivilized, and poor; portraying the Europeans as their saviors. The truth however contradicts this view. Pre-colonial Africa boasted of thriving cultures with scholarly centers, trading cities and knights who ruled vast wealthy empires (Davidson, 1966 pg. 14). Europeans were fascinated by stories they heard from traders since the 5th century and the Portuguese traders confirmed these stories for the Europeans. The kingdoms of Mali, Karne-Bornu, Songhai, and Ghana were major trading centers. Timbuktu, situated in the middle of the Kingdom of Mali, was a sophisticated metropolis that harbored intellectuals, impressive architecture, and trading centers that catered to the locals and foreigners alike (Davidson, 1966; pg. 24). In South Africa, the Ndebele and the Zulu were resilient and built impressive kingdoms. In Ethiopia, we trace the earliest Christian History with stories of the nine monks, and the lasting impressions that King Lalibela left with his ten churches in Roha (Davidson, 1966). Moreover, the Trans-Saharan route not only enabled trading caravans to go inland, but also made it easier for European traders to have access to goods not readily available at the coastal ports.
This off course is not the popular history that is being taught in schools. Sadly, even some of the institutions in Africa prefer to teach a history that does not fully give homage to the strong background that Africans come from. This is why Africa is a land divided between two histories. There is one history that had existed before the arrival of the European and was buried. It has been termed as “pre-colonial” history. The other history is what has been written by outsiders and is generally accepted as the history of Africa.
However things are going to Change. They MUST change.
There are efforts of revitalizing Africa. There is a movement of African youth who are rising as social and economic entrepreneurs. Artists like the late Lucky Dube, Angelique Kidjo, Yossour N’dour, Salif Keita, K’naan, Corneille, just to mention a few, are raising awareness not only to what is going on in Africa, but also paying homage to the beauty and history of Africa. There are other groups that are rallying young adults all over the world, especially in the United States and parts of Europe. Most notably the Harambe Endeavor Alliance is the most progressive for the people by the people initiative that is optimistic in bringing together African youth and their talents to benefit the continent of Africa. There are pockets of emerging young Africans, meeting and starting to initiate point of actions to tackle the problems faced in Africa. It is obvious that western institutions have no interest in having Africans as their equals economically or politically. Therefore, Africans will have to fight for that right.
History shows that Africans are capable of development. It is in this history that Africans should find solace and courage. Basil Davidson is optimistic for Africa’s potential to change. According to him, Africans will keep moving and will establish itself again as a force to be reckoned with. It can only be hoped that he is right in his assessment. While the change might be slow, Africa is showing signs that it might emerge from the oppression of colonization and neo-colonization. There are also a group of promising-emerging leaders. The era of Moi, Mugabe, Mobutu Nguema etc, is ending. Instead, we see leaders such as John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia among other emerging leaders who are leaders who have learned that one man cannot rule a country. The Bandung Conference failed in its attempts to equalize the unfavorable terms on trade. Samir Amin has often made a depression assumption in the many of his writings displaying the depressive nature of any efforts made by African states to form lasting relationships with Asian or Latin countries. Africa will have to stand-alone and fight to rid itself of its problems. This is a monumental task and will not be easily achievable. However, it is not an impossible endeavor.
 An New Hampshire based organization that was founded by two graduate students.