Africans are no different to anyone else
Stabroek News
April 20, 2002

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Dear Editor,

I wish to make references to the letter captioned "The African must face his predicament squarely without fake history or myths". I was fortunate to work for three years with Dr Denis Williams (founder of the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology). In training as a Scientific Illustrator, Dr Williams became my mentor, you see as an African descendant I always had a void in respect to the historical chronicles of the Afro-Americans before slavery, fortunately for me Dr Williams lived and taught at the university of Ibaden in Nigeria and wrote an incredible book called "Icon and Image", then he moved to the Sudan where he lived for many years. Thus from 1981 to 1984 when I left the Museum he opened my awareness to the civilization of the Nile, and an in depth perception of the history of Africa and Africans. Through Denis I also met Dr Nicholson, an Egyptologist who dedicated his home to the present museum of African Art.

In the Myths of Africa lie the most sacred memories of the history and origins of African Tribes and Civilizations. Egypt lasted as a civilization for four thousand years. Even the most bigoted of European Egyptologists conclude that the first dynasty of that civilization was founded by Narmer or Menes whose statue still exists and is unmistakenly African. You mentioned the mixed blood of the Egyptians, of course there were invaders, migrations and occupations, but when they came Egypt or should I say Kemet had already made itself. Mr Accabre Atta (this name incidentally is a combination of two prominent persons involved in the 1763 Revolution, I am cautious of Pseudonyms) mentioned that many of the mummies of the ruling class of Egypt were not African. No one would argue with that, because from the day Egypt was conquered by the Persians then Greeks in 323 BC. a foreign element assumed dominance.

Cheikh Anta Diop one of the first Africans trained as an Egyptologist and a Senegalese addressed the question of Egypt's original populace and founders in his book "The African Origin of Civilization Myth or Reality" 1st edition 1974, using his knowledge of the peoples known to him, comparing languages, cultural traits etc.

Dr Denis Williams visited the ruins of the Ancient Kushite civilization, he saw the statues of the Biblical Black African King Taharka among others. I must add that the Egyptians of lower/upper Egypt trace their origins through their legends from the Sudan. There is a mountain called Geliel Barkel in the Sudan that was called the sacred mountain of Amon-RA. Beneath this mountain was situated Napata, the capital of Kush. It is also recorded that the priests of Thebes when invaders came to Egypt retreated to Kush, it was also a kushite king, who freed upper Egypt from the Assyrians, Tanuatamun (see Egypt of the Pharaohs by Sir Allan Gardiner). Mr Atta's arguments against Egypt's African origin are dismissed by most of the initial Egyptologists who were brave enough to state the facts against the bigoted dictates of the day, see Wallis Budge, Adolf Erman, Historian George G. Jackson's introduction to African Civilizations among others, but make Chieikh Anta Diop's "Civilization and barbarism" and George G M James's book "Stolen Civilizations" essential reading to widen your knowledge of the Nile civilizations from the perspectives of Egyptologists and Anthropologists both black and white who have studied the peoples of that cultural block which includes Nubia (Read the remarks compiled by Basil Davidson on the findings of Anthropologists at Abu Simbel in Nubia during the UNESCO sponsored removal of the temples of Rameses in 1964).

Mr Atta's statement that Pharaoh Egypt was void of humour, oppressive and restrictive is irresponsible and based on his own imagination. In the publication "Ancient Egypt" by Lionel Casson (Time Life Books) on pgs. 144/145 is an Egyptian cartoon, there are also numerous frescoes in many museum publications that attest to musicians, dancers and entertainment. The suppressive nature he describes is an analogy of an age, read your Old Testament and the findings of the studies of the antiquities and one finds that no ancient civilization was without its dictators, conquerors, slavery and genocide of people and cultures. These tendencies are still very alive today in human culture. The African man in Guyana and the Diaspora was brought here in slavery and a colonial academia constructed a false world historic view, still visible in most of the children's historical books that we import. Thus, to dismiss Africans looking at their history, placing blame where it is due as petulant is insulting and erroneous, because there are dozens of efforts by different peoples across the planet with contentions of the same kind.

The African man in the Diaspora was educated for dependency, with his childhood dominated by images that told him that he is a non-person. Even the tales of Aesop (a known Ethiopian moralist) have been presented in children's books up to this day as living in early nineteenth century England. My early reading consisted of Noddy and Big Ears and Mr and Mrs Golly Wog, and you talk of blame? The scientific historical findings of the Nile Civilizations are not represented in popular culture (Movies etc), look at the, current movie 'Mummy' and who plays Imhotep and then look at the pictures of Imhotep's statue. Much of the corrective historical work is current and executed by both black and white historians who are aware of their responsibility. No black historian will tell you that blacks are better than anybody else, but he tells his people that the people who say that blacks are inferior, are lying.

All research shows that the greatest of civilizations emerged from its trade of goods and ideas with other peoples, further, that no peoples are without contributions to the world pool. Augustus Ceasar traded with the Kaudake of Kush a cease of hostilities between their forces if the Kushites would establish the cult of the Goddess Isis in Rome. This cult spread to all Roman Provinces. The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was built on the ruins of a temple of Isis. Isis and Horus have returned to us as the Madonna and child, thus an African essence in Western Culture.

Slavery and Colonialism were real, slavery is over in the Diaspora but colonialism is a spectre that haunts the imagination of many who should know better, numerous examples can be given, the spectre is alive and defiant in the consciousness of many of the peoples in the past colonies in both Africa and Asia. Blame yourself said the Polish religious man on 60 minutes two weeks ago when it was discovered that it was Poles and not Germans who slaughtered the Jews of a certain town in Poland in the early stages of WWII. He was telling that to the Jewish people today, blame your self. Now Mr Atta why is the need to understand the phenomenon of slavery, to pierce the veil of falsified history which would lay bare the roots of racism and our own errors, so difficult for you to understand, realising that your actual knowledge of African histories from antiquity to the present is obviously limited. It is you who must recognise that the myths were what many Africans believed all the time.

I will conclude by listing some factors for you to ponder on (A) Africans are not represented in any visual presentations on the origins of man, yet Africa is the scientific cradle of mankind and natural selection created the other peoples from an original stock, this I did not invent. (B) That the contemporary biographies of Beethoven and Joseph Haydn addressed them as swarthy and blackamoor should be of interest, as no painting or drama ever presented them as their contemporaries defined them to be. (C) That Constantine de Volney's book "The ruin of empires" had to be altered in its English publications to exclude his definitions of the Sphinx as "typically Negro in all its features", shouldn't this be of concern to Afro students of History? In simple terms there is a racist mythology imposed on people of African descent, this has to be confronted in all honesty whether the subject is the African presence in African civilization like Egypt, Punt, Kush, Babylon and Carthage or in Islam, in India, the South Pacific or pre Colombian America (Olmec). The bottom line is Africans are no different from any one else, we fail, we have successes and we dream. A system in the past falsified positive things we should know about ourselves.

We're now trying to understand the relationships of slavery, of course you would not know that there were Africans who had slaves in this country? The African past is a missing link, even understanding our positions in Christianity is an interesting pursuit and it has nothing to do with creating myths, falsifying history, or blaming slavery for all our misfortunes, or ethnic groups.

A fiction writer Wrilbur Smith wrote a novel, which I read as a younger man, saying that the walls of Zimbabwe were built by tall blonde Phoenicians struggling against a primitive African savage horde led by a deformed chieftain. If I were not a student of African History I would not have ever known that the walls of Zimbabwe were built by Black Africans and that the Phoenicians were an African people of mixed heritage.

I would like to invite you on TV through this letter column, to open a debate on African Antiquities or General Antiquities. We may even have other persons interested as the Antiquities are not a prominent topic in our developing culture.

Yours faithfully,

Barrington Braithwaite