216074661 Why is pre-colonial African history relevant today Introduction Africa is the continent which is central to human history. It is a continent where our species, where some of the greatest ancient civilization throve and also where dynamics, complex and innovative cultures confronted a variety of social, political and environmental challenges. Many African states and societies were materially wealthier than their European counterparts until the 1700s, and Africa has always been connected however tenuously at times to the wider world. Yet in the popular, Eurocentric historical imagination in the U.
S. and Europe, there is sparse knowledge of Africas own history, and it was rarely even considered a subject for historical study until the 1950s. Africa was the continent characterized by a large degree of pluralism and flexibility before it was colonized. Precolonial Africa societies were of highly varied nature. They could be either stateless, state run or kingdoms, but most were founded on the principles of communalism in that they were self-governing, autonomous entities, and in that all members took part, directly or indirectly, in the daily running of the tribe. Land was held commonly and could not be bought or sold, although other things, such as cattle, were owned individually.
Government or the way of governance was not the same as now. For the law process and decision making method, chief or kings were highly responsible people to make such laws, decisions and policies, while in complicated matters community adults (village assembly) would be called forward to discuss and criticize what ought to be criticized in terms of majority agreement. The chief would listen silently to all queries during such meetings and every male adult was free to criticise him. The role of the chief during such meetings was to sum up what had been said and attempt to form some consensus among the diverse opinions. Hence the chief did not rule or dictate but led by consensus.
Many tribes, especially those that were stateless, had no central authority and no class system, and many of those that did could depose a chief that was thought to have abused his power. In precolonial Africa, like other continents there were conflicts or tensions, there were troubles facing Africa but African people would manage them. Before Europeans arrived in Africa, Africa was divided into two pre-colonial states, namely, centralised states (chiefly states) and decentralised states (Segmentary/stateless states). This essay tries to explain why pre-colonial African history is relevant today. It will commence with discussion of precolonial African history period discussion and its characteristics. Along the discussion of pre-colonial African history, Pondo pre-colonial history will be discussed as an example of pre-colonial African history.
Relevance of pre-colonial African history will be discussed too as the part of this essays content. Basically this essay will examine African history before Europeans arrived in Africa and found upon themselves to bring us commerce and civilization, however African have their own commerce, science, art and other measures of civilization long before the arrival of the colonizers, by giving this examination of precolonial Africa, intention is to try by all means to give importance/usefulness of pre-colonial African history in our modern time. Pre-colonial African History In order to go deeper with discussion we have to know first about the word/concept pre-colonial.
We should know what we are talking about, or what are we referring to when we are talking about precolonial African history. By the concept precolonial we are referring to the period before colonialism took place, currently were are referring period of native beings existence before any of their condition, life, situation or whatever concerns their way of living was changed. We just refer to the original life of native people in a particular place. For example in Africa, we are talking about the history of African people, the way of living by African people and basically about how was African life before arrival of Europeans. So by precolonial African history we examine the life of Africa before arrival of Europeans or Western countries. People in pre-colonial Africa were engaged in hunting and gathering, agriculture, mining and simple manufacturing.
They were innovative and good at adapting. Their production systems had to be flexible to deal with the existing conditions. Precolonial Africans could make an impression on nature. As a Malawian proverb says It is people who make the world the bush has wounds and scars. They were not, however, able to transform nature on a large scale, since economic development was not far advanced in the pre-colonial period. In the pre-colonial African history, societies were not static or unchanging they went through various transformations that were influenced by the nature of the environment, climate and soil fertility. At the tie of colonialization, most pre-colonial African societies were in the communal mode of production but in the transition to the feudal mode of production. Some slave mode production was not well developed because most of the Africa societies transformed from communal mode directly to the feudal mode of production.
Here are characteristics of precolonial African societies. Basic unit of production was the family. And according to this fact, it means there was a limited or no division of labour. Hindrance to the development of science and technology, consequently agricultural productions was always low in pre-colonial Africa. The level of productive forces was very low because the tools used were made of stones. The use of primitive tools led to low level of production which in turn contributed to the absence of surplus.
Land was the commonest object of labour, its distribution was on values and traditions. In clan organization was distributed by the clan head on customary laws. Customary laws was the most considerable and followed law in those times, it guided the way individuals should behave, and what ought to be done. It served as the law of guidance to limit human brutal activities towards others too. There were some class societies in pre-colonial Africa. For example under slave mode of production there was four class of slave masters and slaves and in feudal mode of production was characterized by class of land lords/feudal lords and peasants. The major economic activities were agriculture and pastoralism.
Agriculture was mainly carried out by feudal societies and it was common in the interlacustrine region. Pastoralism was mainly practiced by societies that level in the rift valley region, e.g. Maasai of East Africa. Precolonial African societies were pre-capitalist because there are three modes of production, i.e. communal, slavery and feudal modes of production. The capitalist mode of production was introduced immediate in times of colonialism.
Just for a brief description of these modes of production, Communal mode of production was the earliest form mode of production in human history where evolution of society started, people were powerless before the environment and depended on whatever nature gave them for food such as insects, roots and tools involved were stones, arrows etc. examples of societies practiced communal mode of production includes, KhoiKhoi of South Africa, Fulani of West Africa and Maasai of East Africa. In communal mode of production, there was a collective ownership of major means of production, land owned by the whole society and there was no exploitation because of collective ownership. Slave mode of production, this was the first exploitative mode of production. Here a person became an absolute Property of another man.Slaves dominated by slave masters. It should be noted that many African societies transformed directly from primitive communalism to feudalism as a result slave mode was not well developed. It was highly practiced in Egypt, Slaves built pyramids.
And the last mode of production was feudal mode of production. This was the second exploitative mode of production based on private ownership of land. It was common in Africa since 14th to 19th century. Example of societies practiced feudalism includes Haya in Tanganyika and Zulu in South Africa.
Here in this mode of production there were two dominant classes, feudal lords and peasants. Land and cattle was directly property of feudal lord while peasants had to pay in order to use the land. Production in pre-colonial Africa as mainly for consumption and not for the market. Which means in pre-colonial Africa, people produced with intentions for survival and consumption with no intention to sell. Production for the market was also introduced during the time of colonialism, whereby Africans were producing raw materials for the export market. To answer whether African pre-colonial societies were developed or not, needs not only one part consideration but it needs someone to evaluate using several societies. Because it should be noted that the precolonial African societies were not at the same level of development.
As being mentioned earlier in introduction, like other continents there was a conflict among pre-colonial African societies. And in our African pre-colonial history you would see that those conflicts where some led to war and some did not, were not only pressured or motivated by greedy or arbitrary gains sometimes they assisted in bringing about unity by eliminating those who seems to be a threat in unity creation. And some of those wars assisted or played a major role in state creation e.
g. Imfecane. The Mfecane refers to the wars and disturbances caused by Shaka and the rise of the Zulu state in South Africa. The Mfecane is also referred to as the time of trouble or turbulence in South Africa. The Mfecane played a huge role in political transformation, military advancement, emergency of strong leadership and migrations. In political transformation Mfecane led to political transformation in Southern Africa, the former age group communities were transformed into strong centralized states. The Mfecane also forced people to form strong armies to protect themselves from Shaka these armies were later used for conquest and expansion hence forming states. Zulu is a good example of a state formed due to the Mfecane.
While in military advancement The Mfecane contributed to the introduction of new military weapons such as the short stabbing spears and the cow horn style. These weapons were used for conquest and expansion thus forming states. And also advancement of military assisted blacks in the Battle of Blood River 1838.
Emergency of strong leadership, the Mfecane contributed to the rise of strong leadership this was needed for protection from the Mfecane. Strong leadership had a big role to play in state formation because the leaders united the people to form states. Migrations, The societies through which they passed were forced to form strong states to protect themselves from the Mfecane. The movement of the Ngoni from South Africa was not a peaceful process it involves wars that necessitated unity among the people. Pre-colonial Pondo (Mpondo) history as an example for pre-colonial African history. During the times of pre-colonial period, in 1880 to 1893, the Pondo people who are also called Amampondo, gathered together and formed a group or a part of Xhosa ethnic group but was different in terms of culture and customs. They were well knownfor their dominant tribal ties and unity that originated from deep roots in their past. The Mpondos are not different to other Nguni people who occupied the whole of the east of South Africa.
Linguistically and socially, the Mpondo fall somewhere close to the Xhosa, Thembu, Bomvana, and Mpondomise toward the South-West, later named the Cape-Nguni, and the numerous little units in pre-Mfecane Natal. They all share principal highlights of social association and material culture which distinguish them from other African societies in Southern Africa. They consist of various sub chiefdoms, each under their own acquired/inherited leaders, subordinated in alterable degrees to an royal family with which most claim a direct genealogical connection. The Mpondo individuals kept a livestock which upheld their financial freedom.
Land and domesticated animals were the fundamental sources of the Pondos economy. In Pondoland, the Royal families were very rich when compared to other Mpondo. They owned land, cattle, goats, sheep, farming tools and ploughs.
Mpondo people produced maize, which was their staple food. Pondos provided food and shelter for themselves by breeding cattle, growing grain and pumpkin, hunting, and making huts, clothing, household utensils, and weapons from material at hand. They were united, mindful of their ethnicity, and proud of their background. The control and administration of Pondo affairs fell under their Paramount Chiefs. Mpondo Paramounts and Chiefs enjoyed more power over their local people than other Chiefs and Paramounts in other areas of the Transkei. This was because Pondoland had rejected the council system, which had reduced the role of hereditary Paramount Chiefs (the colonial term for African kings) in land allocation and others. Grass played a significant role as it was used for thatching and animal grazing.
The root of Mpondo economic independence was their wealth in cattle. Cattle were very important to the Pondo people, as they were used for religious ceremonies and to purchase commodities they needed. Most importantly, the Pondo were self-governing as far as their socio-economic system was concerned. Land brought a sense of self-respect, confidence and dignity, and the importance of land ownership was also a unifying factor. Before Europeans arrived in Pondoland, there was peace, our forefathers were living in peace and harmony amongst the kings, chiefs, headmen and the community as whole.
There was a concept of Ubuntu, people used to share what they had, whether meals, wealth and social problems. They lived under the concept of I am because you are. But after the arrival of Europeans in Pondoland that is where conflicts started. People were given permission to build houses wherever they wished as long as they do not interfere with grazing land. There were no land restrictions as far as grazing and ploughing of land was concerned. Our forefathers used to live in their land of birth freely under supervision of the king but controlled by community. Which means after colonialism our unity (Pondo people) were destroyed and colonialism brought conflicts into our society.
The status played a huge role in Pondoland, farther was the most respected person in the family and he was regarded as the head of the family. In terms of religion we would not deny that before missionaries or western civilization came to Africa, Africans believed in God, but who was different from the western God. Africans conceived of God as a Supreme Being, the Creator of the World, uQamatha (Xhosa), uMvelinqangi (Zulu) and Modimo (Sotho).
The Pondos took into consideration the importance of their ancestors as mediators between themselves and the Supreme Being (God). Pondo took their religion and politics very seriously their belief in ancestors was of great importance because it was associated with the kinship system, and traditionally the king was chosen from the family or clan. Politics in Pondoland, the king (inkosi) was the father figure of the whole society and was regarded as the role model of the clan, asInkosi nguTata Wesizwe. He was respected by community members and his authority law and orders were respected too despite his age. In Pondoland the king is not elected but born, it is the first son, from first wife who is the heir of his fathers throne. After and during colonialism things changed as the land now became property of the crown, there were inclusive rights by magistrates on how and where to cultivate. The mining industry then turned Pondo men into migrant labourers and demarcation was imposed immediately.
Then unity was broken apart with the division of Pondoland into seven districts where eastern Pondoland consisted of Lusikisiki, Flagstaff, Bizana and Ntabankulu while western Pondoland consisted of Libode, Ngqeleni and Port St Johns. Divisions led to chiefs lacking power to rule and control of those places but magistrates governed them and gave orders to chiefs. So now chiefs were no longer leading community based on the decisions from their hearts but were guided or ordered by magistrates. Annexation reinforced and hastened socio-political changes in Pondoland. It closed off any possibility of extension of chiefly power based on new sources of wealth. All homesteads faced new demands that made life impossible for the Pondos. Although Pondo people resisted imperialism, education, Christianity, technology and new governance was already introduced or introduced.
All these things mentioned above brought change in Pondo peoples community most especially unity was broken and conflicts was introduced. Why is all this pre-colonial history relevant today Africa has been the continent with ignored history or with no much history being written about it. Even written histories found is written by western people which means it is subjected to be portrayed in the way they like it to be. In many times African pre-colonial history is characterized by bias knowledge from western countries. There is a little truth that has been told about African pre-colonial history.
Throughout the ages history has been exploited in various societies for different purposes. In both ancient and modern times rulers and influential people are known to have used history as an instrument for strengthening and legitimising their positions in societies. In moments of national crisis and stress national leaders and rulers have tended to lose no time in resorting to the past grandeur and national achievements as a means of reactivating and imbuing their countrymen with courage and will to brave and overcome imminent national nt national catastrophies. In such moments the nationals of a country rightly rise to the occasion in defence of their motherland, proud of their countrys national heritage and determined to preserve the same intact for posterity. In such circumstances, therefore, it is to history, to the nations past greatness, unity, power, prestige, civilization and fame, that national leaders turn in order to rouse and mobilize public opinion and support for the national cause, the defence of the present as reinforced by the past and strengthened by a firm belief in the future.
To sustain and steer the nation successfully through the crisis. The past is, thereby, deliberately invoked to save the present and the future, which means pre-colonial history is relevant for this purpose. So now after all this information provided above, it is required to discuss why all this information relevant today or in our modern time. Firstly pre-colonial African history gives us clear view of our existence and our purpose in this world when we learn about our African past. All human beings owe their existence to the continent where their current distinguishing human characteristics were formed that Continent being Africa.
Pre-colonial African history assist African people today to learn and know their ancestors and the oral traditions and customs of their community or nation. And after they know all that they will be able to know where they come from, because there is a say in Xhosa which says umntu ongaziyo lapho aphuma khona ufana nomntu ongaziyo lapho aya khona which means one who does not know where they come from are the same as those who does not know where they are going to. Pre-colonial African history is a story of the African past happenings, events and transformations. It is a depiction of what happened in the years since the inception of human race. Therefore pre-colonial African history make us to understand the origin of our existence. It helps us understand who we are Where our ancestors came from What was the society and culture that they lived in What is that we have inherited from them What is it that we have to do to be like them It helps us understand everything about our past. According to pre-colonial Xhosa or Pondo people history, pre-colonial Pondo history is relevant today in teaching Pondo children to value the wisdom of the elders.
Which means in short it teaches respect for elders. Today our pre-colonial African is also relevant in preparing graduates to assume their duties and responsibilities of adult, through at low social level in accordance with their age and marital status. It also enables the young to abide to the culture of the society such as good moral and social conduct, loyalty and respect to all while it also produced a well-rounded personality who could fit well in society in all aspect of life. Pre-colonial African history is also relevant today because we need to know and understand the greatness that propelled us into the future.
Understanding ones importance and greatness can open up the eyes of those that only knew despair and degradation, which could put an end to the constant black on black killings. All the races that you see today Africans, Europeans, Indians and Chinese have all descended from a common African ancestor. However, races such as the Europeans and Asians have evolved different physical characteristics to that of Africans as a result of adapting to environments where their direct fore parents settled.
Thus, to understand world history, all people must venture back to where it all began, which is in Africa. Pre-colonial African history is still relevant today in many cases too, in identification of origin, in reminding people their identities, about who are they and where they come from. However, an understanding of African history is fundamental to a proper education in this country.
Even if most black Americans dont identify as Africans anymore, like most white Americans dont identify as European, any population of people should have a basic understanding of their history and where their ancestry lies. Black history is more than slavery. It is more than a struggle for basic rights. Black history is powerful. It is inspirational, unique and beautiful.
We should start treating African history as a social class just as important as European history our children deserve the chance we never had to learn the truth about their past. The submission is that a mastery of historical knowledge and experience would be an important asset in the hands of the new nations in the course of the identification and choice of their external allies, and the nature of aid that they can expect from them. More so, it would enable them to know or anticipate the consequences of maintaining such relations as well as the price they must be prepared to pay for severing them. The argument is that in international relations it is nonsensical to talk of aid without strings for all bilateral deals are motivated and governed by the need to safeguard and promote the interests of the respective countries. And while some of those interests are obvious to the naked eye, i.
e. the unsuspecting mind, others are more subtle, though they may very well be the most crucial from the standpoint of either or both parties. Pre-colonial African history fills in as a research facility that causes us explore different avenues regarding the past. The past fills in as proof in our journey to know why individuals act in a specific way. Accordingly, out modern or today leaders need to depend on pre-colonial African history sometimes to make true judgments in light of the happenings of events and related realities. By understanding the past conduct, one can investigate the present conduct without predisposition or bias.
Conclusion In pre-colonial history there were African ways of doing things, like politics of Africa were not the same as European ones. It is said that all people in the world are originating in Africa. That make us be proud as Africans to live in continent which is mother to all continents in the world. Africa was just a free and happy continent with unity motivated by the concept Ubuntu, but European arrival had contributed a lot to these tensions we have now in Africa. Africa is still most undermined continent in the world whereas it is the source of the rest of others for development and all people in the world have their roots in Africa. African failure to develop when compared with other continents of the world, have raised a huge concern in African philosophers and there are still discussions about this issue. It was also pointed out then that there was the need to underscore the extent to which pre-colonial traditional leadership was accountable to the people. The essence of that discussion was to find out whether pre-colonial African communities were really corruption-free, or whether they were the precursors of the inveterate corruption that has come to define leadership in the continent in the post-colonial era.
In other words, can we locate the source of todays widespread corruption in the past or was the past completely different from the present What actually was the influence of colonialism on the perception of corruption in the pre-colonial era Can Africans continue to romanticise the past, painting it in such a flowery innocence If not, what exactly can we define to be corruption then When we speak the mere and pure truth we can say that, European arrival to Africa have made difficulties. For example in the contemporary Africa, the basis and legitimacy of traditional leadership may not strictly be tradition, not only because the kings are now mostly being officially installed by modern government but also that the tradition relied upon has continued to change and accommodate newer development contrary to the understanding of what tradition ought to be. How traditional is a traditional ruler who does not believe in African Indigenous Religion, who instead professes and practises either Christianity or Islam Worse still, how traditional is a traditional ruler who has to depend on an interpreter to communicate with his subjects How would contemporary Africans classify a traditional ruler who personally collects rates from taxi drivers in the pretext of maintaining roads leading to his palace Do contemporary Africans refer to a traditional ruler as one who goes from one birthday party to another social party, or playing partisan politics So this essay was about pre-colonial African history with examples from precolonial Africa.
It was also about giving more and more details on how Africans were affected by European arrival, and lastly as now we are in modern time, it tries to make some points on why is precolonial African history relevant today. References Reyna, P. Stephen.
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Anta C. Diop, Precolonial Black Africa a comparative study of the political and social systems of Europe and Black Africa, from antiquity to the formation of modern states (Westport, Conn. L. Hill, 1987.) 50 Y, yu),[email protected])KU/RAi0CG 9xu5O_fsW Ou/o7.
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