Q&A: Ancient Egypt in African history

A person posed the following question: Since most of our ancestry derives from West Africa, why does African history always focus on Ancient Egypt?
My response: I don’t think that African history only focuses on Egypt (Kemet), however the focus on Egypt among African Americans goes back to the 19th Century, wherein its grand legacy was seen as a means of redeeming the false notion that Africa was devoid of history and that Africans had never created a great civilization. If we were to survey the historiography of 19th and mid-20th Century African American intellectuals, we do see a significant focus on Egypt, but there were also a fair number of intellectuals writing about other, later civilizations; consider for instance Du Bois’s groundbreaking texts The Negro and Black Folks Then and Now, as well as Carter G. Woodson’s The African Background Outlined. All of these texts offer a fairly balanced treatment of Black history.

To be sure, there are critiques to be made of a “lop-sided” focus on Egypt, particularly if such a study does not alleviate our often impoverished knowledge of the rest of Africa. Many argue that as Diasporan Africans, we should be more acquainted with the history of West and Central Africa. I agree with this, but also add that it is important to understand African history as a continuum that spans from ancient Egypt and Nubia to the present day.

Language resources

Akan

Abibitumi: http://abibitumi.com

LearnAkan.com: https://www.learnakan.com/

Textbooks from the National African Language Resource Center: https://nalrc.indiana.edu/resources/books-media/lets-speak.html

Video Lessons: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-vyAPawT20CKpp9H-xjFlg?fbclid=IwAR079pHmTkHwrogp1k6rfyhwO46RpcAXel3vR7Se5YsK7lW_DgO396zfBgk

 

Fulani/Fula/Pulaar/Pular

Fulani-English/English-Fulani Dictionary and Phrasebook: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0781813840/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?smid=A1JKVWH22E85VP&psc=1

Pulaar-English Dictionary: https://www.amazon.com/Pulaar-English-English-Pulaar-Standard-Dictionary-Hippocrene/dp/0781804795/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1532305251&sr=8-1&keywords=pulaar

Textbooks from the National African Language Resource Center: https://nalrc.indiana.edu/resources/books-media/lets-speak.html

A free Fula textbook: https://www.livelingua.com/fsi/Fsi-FulaBasicCourse-StudentText.pdf

A free Pular textbook: http://www.ibamba.net/pular/manual.pdf

 

Hausa

Teach Yourself Hausa: http://www.teachyourselfhausa.com/

Textbooks from the National African Language Resource Center: https://nalrc.indiana.edu/resources/books-media/lets-speak.html

English-Hausa Dictionary: https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300047028/english-hausa-dictionary?fbclid=IwAR29l1Yo2Ph0kj9_wqI9PXsQ342GmEYzATLW9TaPlJCTpC6RUG1ygRS2Ir4

Hausa-English Dictionary: https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300122466/hausa-english-dictionary?fbclid=IwAR2TlgJZvIMoR8EfzRH6gQgXUsZBJkyYDq3yc0h9Ka5WSUdqc3bIUK5SuvE

Hippocrene Hausa-English Dictionary: https://books.google.com/books?id=sJZkAAAAMAAJ&dq&fbclid=IwAR2EL0RM1xkuq6TFLbZm-GHNgiErv_WYhPy1bbhxeWR9nueE1ddAk2zyXwU

 

Igbo

An Igbo phrasebook: https://wikitravel.org/en/Igbo_phrasebook?fbclid=IwAR0MHHBL3Vm2oPOk4OsVmb37swXj3Yi2gKCyjgKE8aRN6XLtTXXzUwnwUrQ

Textbooks from the National African Language Resource Center: https://nalrc.indiana.edu/resources/books-media/lets-speak.html

Various resources: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/igbo.htm?fbclid=IwAR36vUepU2488lBWsNHCDi6MU6PyGPvp_j2q_0kQyeD1p1k7VtETJKNy1Kw

 

Kiswahili

Abibitumi: http://abibitumi.com

The Swahili Institute of Chicago: http://swahiliinstitute.org/

A free textbook from Kansas University: http://www2.ku.edu/~kiswahili/pdfs/all.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2ptAPg3yhurmaJkN4L84kP_dcOQYUZ9DzRtxApcnIy4OMzvVcg2vXPJBI

Textbooks from the National African Language Resource Center: https://nalrc.indiana.edu/resources/books-media/lets-speak.html

Various resources: https://allnet.uiowa.edu/swahili-language-and-culture-resources?fbclid=IwAR2Me1ONaBvwCiIOScXVJvFzH5lVE3VXCXqZfnmgevee-8cQsVWaA_eayKs

 

mdw nTr (Medu Netcher)

Abibitumi: http://abibitumi.com

The Kemetic Institute of Chicago: http://www.ki-chicago.org/

Sebat Rkhty Amen’s school: http://www.meduneter.com/

Mfundishi Jhwtyms’s mdw nTr classes: http://www.mfundishijhutymsmdwntchr.com

Middle Egyptian by James Allen: https://www.cambridge.org/hk/academic/subjects/languages-linguistics/arabic-and-middle-eastern-language-and-linguistics/middle-egyptian-introduction-language-and-culture-hieroglyphs-3rd-edition?format=PB&isbn=9781107663282

 

Wolof

Abibitumi: http://abibitumi.com

Textbooks from the National African Language Resource Center: https://nalrc.indiana.edu/resources/books-media/lets-speak.html

Various resources: https://allnet.uiowa.edu/wolof-language-and-culture-resources?fbclid=IwAR3G1fxjMwpfP4A091PtpkMpcjd5jEjh3-OkiVlULwtN2vcRKGg2VZnYJk4

Video lessons: https://www.youtube.com/user/Moustaphasarr?fbclid=IwAR3Sqq0N4VWvJCqA3mb_lSVCPWZTTbR7NNLbgviEjCqaFPkcl-P4zOAHlVA

 

Yorùbá

Abibitumi: http://abibitumi.com

A free textbook from the University of Texas at Austin: http://www.coerll.utexas.edu/yemi/index.php?fbclid=IwAR0aL7UAS3N3Mzh0viMJvY0s7xPjbAa37d3aQkyxWoMVgzieMzDuo51eyb8

A pronunciation guide: https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Yoruba/Pronunciation?fbclid=IwAR0KtmJvprYAMB0nTHrYLxAxP3pIxdjjCV4E4G4o_-oim1AmCSG5m7F9TUQ

Textbooks from the National African Language Resource Center: https://nalrc.indiana.edu/resources/books-media/lets-speak.html

Various resources: https://allnet.uiowa.edu/yoruba-language-and-culture-resources?fbclid=IwAR1QjAGBnV62aI2TrA9E_aF1yQsLdiVwTDS7HBvqbllPL3-QGP_2zgFjzOM

 

Ọṣun, Aset, and the divinity of motherhood in African thought

Years ago I read Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyèwùmí’s work on gender in Yorùbá society. I found her work exceedingly interesting.

I was struck by the indigenous conceptualization of Ọṣun (Oshun) as “Oore yeye”, the “generous mother”. I found this quite interesting given that Ọṣun also represents (among other things water and harmonious relations). This made me think about the Kemetic concept of nwn (nun), which is primordial water, as well as ast (Aset), and to a lesser degree mAat (Maat). While I don’t think that Ọṣun is the Yorùbá “equivalent” of these Kemetic concepts (the search for conceptual equivalencies across cultures betrays a number of problematic assumptions about cultural universalism, but more on that at another time), it is interesting that both societies represented these ideas in the form of women.

The critical role of women as the vessels of new life was not lost on the architects of these ancient civilizations. The reproductive and educational roles of women were not just physical or instructional, what we might term “instrumental functions”. In the Yorùbá imagination women were reflective of the conduit of life, the stream of human consciousness from time immemorial to the present, the maintenance of ethical and nurturing relations, and the deep feelings of love that sustain them. Thus the role of rivers, lakes, and streams in sustaining food production systems paralleled the roles of mothers as sustainers of humanity.

This echoes the role of Aset, who was not only the mother of Hr (Heru), but also represented the archetype of human motherhood. Again, this was not simply an instrumental or functional role, but was one that expressed the role of women as carriers of future possibility. In this case Aset carried Heru, who delivered the country from the rule of his uncle stX (Set). Heru represented the triumph of right or righteousness over might. Aset therefor represented the possibility of renewal, redemption from injustice, reclamation of truth, and the forward flow of human society. Again, these are similar concepts. Though they differ in critical ways, they reveal a great deal about the ontology of gender in at least two indigenous African civilizations.

Kujitiwala: An Afrikan Sovereignist interpretation of the Nguzo Saba

KUJITIWALA

An Afrikan Sovereignist interpretation of the Nguzo Saba

UMOJA (“unity”) 
The Pan-Afrikanist Vision of Afrikan people throughout the world joining forces to fight for Afrikan Sovereignty and to build an Afrikan World Order.

KUJICHAGULIA (“self-determination”)
Afrikan people defining ourselves and determining our own destiny as a Sovereign people.

UJIMA (“collective work and responsibility”)
Afrikan people working together, being responsible to and for each other, and accepting a common system of accountability.

UJAMAA (“familyhood”)
Creating economic cooperatives based on the concept of Afrikan familyhood, interdependence, interrelationship, and village and national unity.

NIA (“purpose”)
Afrikan people sharing common goals that determine our commitments and guide our choices and decisions. This gives purpose to our lives and to our work, and tells us why we were born Afrikan.

KUUMBA (“creativity”)
To think with Afrikan minds and to create from our Afrikan-center. When we practice this principle, we no longer imitate europeans. We find our own way.

IMANI (“faith”)
To believe in the Vision of Afrikan Sovereignty, and to have the passion and the wer (“will,” “heart”) to bring it into being.

Mama Marimba Ani

Lugha zetu

One day, when we get serious about our languages, we will discover that by getting the oppressors’ languages out of our mouths we will also be working to remove their worldview from our minds, and that our ancestral languages are a true path to Sankɔfa/Re-Africanization.