AFRICAN HISTORY AND IDENTITY
Africa's history and identity as the cradle of humanity and the first human civilisation suffers from denialism and deliberate forgetting. It is a great irony that the levels of denialism and ignorance are impervious to growing archaeological and other scientific evidence.
Africans must rise to the historical mission to tell Africa’s stories from the vantage of reclaiming their heritage to re-imagine and build futures fitting for descendants of our great ancestors.
The Pre-amble of the Afrik-Akili Declaration crafted by committed young and old African leaders in 2022, is an inspirational anchor to the stories we must tell ourselves and others about ourselves as Africans:
“The Afrik-Akili Declaration is a contribution of an African sense (Swahili: akili), of the African continent, its people, its ecological richness, and its place in the world. It is a pronouncement of a shared understanding of African-ness for the people of Africa and the world. It is an appreciative assertion of a self-defining affirmation of Africa, by Africa. It is at once a reverence for who we are and an amplification of the best of ourselves. As a corridor of comprehension, it is an invitation from the people of Africa to the people of the world for mutual recognition.”[i]
The stories of Africa as the quintessential “Stories from the Ashes” of colonial conquest, slavery and the betrayals of post-colonial governance on our beloved continent. Rising from the ashes is an act of self-affirmation, defiance of the destructive impact of fire, and the recognition of the cycle of life and timelessness of beingness.
I belong to a generation that rose from the ashes of colonial and apartheid dispossession and the humiliation of being defined as non-Europeans and non-Whites. We acknowledged that by acquiescing to that definition we had betrayed our Africanness. We had given permission to the conquerors to become the standard by which we were to be judged and to judge ourselves. Self-definition and affirmation of our identity as black and proud Africans was the first step in our self-liberation to set out humanity free to express itself fully. It is this self-liberation that ushered in the end of Apartheid on paper in 1994. But real freedom is yet to come.
The re-imagination of the UCT library beyond its colonial heritage remains one of the most important contributions I made to the institution during my tenure as Vice Chancellor. The revival of the precious manuscripts and other artefacts, destroyed by the tragic fire of 2022, is a critical act of undermining deliberate forgetting of Africa's rich heritage. Africa's full liberation is contingent on African people reclaiming their identity and history.
May this please the people …our ancestors and our children’s children.
Co-President Club of Rome & Former VC UCT