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Inventing Africa: History, Archaeology and Ideas by Robin Derricourt

By Robin Derricourt

Inventing Africa is a serious account of narratives that have selectively interpreted and misinterpreted the continent's deep earlier. Writers have created fascinating pictures of misplaced towns, tremendous prehistoric migrations and golden a while of earlier civilizations. Debates proceed at the African origins of humankind, the contributions of old Egypt to the realm and Africa's significance to worldwide heritage. pictures of "Africa," simplifying a posh and various continent, have existed from historical Mediterranean worlds, slave buying and selling countries and colonial powers to ultra-modern political elites, ecotourists and aid-givers. Robin Derricourt attracts on his history as writer and practitioner in archaeology and heritage to discover the boundaries and the hazards of simplifications, arguing -- as with Said's thought of "Orientalism" -- that bold principles can delude or oppress in addition to tell. protecting Africa opposed to a few of the grand narratives which have been imposed upon its peoples, Inventing Africa will spark new debates within the historical past of Africa and of archaeology.

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More significantly, Christian missionaries needed to maintain the twin images of primitive barbarism and Islamic aggression to attract support for their early endeavours to convert Christian souls in the African continent. European powers were drawn into creating African colonies by multiple factors, including domestic pressures and mercantile opportunities, not least as preventative measures to ensure rival European powers did not secure all the hinterland of important coastal regions. The image of ‘the Negro’s place in nature’, first created to complement the role of Africans as slaves, was transformed to present them as the beneficiaries of colonialism.

Mutwa (born in 1921) was an able creative writer whose published work was influential on white (especially Englishspeaking) South Africa and then on a wider world of readers who sought an authentic voice to confirm a mystic past and present of the African world increasingly beset by political change and conflict. After the democratisation of South Africa, Mutwa was taken up in cyberspace as a New Age seer. The literary style employed by Mutwa (and his editors) neither reflected a specifically ‘African English’ nor the imposing echoes of biblical English used for quoted speech by some earlier writers.

In grand and detailed accounts of people and places it echoes Homer and Virgil (both mentioned in the foreword to My People, My Africa). Using information from many sources, black and white, and filling in the gaps with a powerful imagination, the book served to create the image of a single southern African grand Bantu narrative. Distant places – Kilimanjaro, the Kalahari, the Amathole of the Eastern Cape – are woven into this narrative with different ethnic groups and individuals. Africa Is My Witness continued the story but had more of Mutwa’s comments on recent history and current events, including what was read by some as a critical support for apartheid.

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