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KNOW AND WRITE YOUR OWN HISTORY

 

I like to make a correlation between underdevelopment and the lack of knowledge of one’s history. Before the Whiteman came to Africa, the people of Africa knew how to communicate using several dialects. However what they did not know or have was a common alphabet or a way to convey the events that they had experienced or witnessed in writing.

 

And therefore, most of African history –as told by African themselves—is mostly oral. And over the course of multiple generations, the integrity and accuracy of the accounts of the past have been greatly diminished. That’s why it will be a great deal of guess work to know exactly how Um Nyobe was killed in Cameroon. It’s difficult to tell with certainty what happened during the celebration of the first independence of Cameroon in 1960 and the events that transpired a few months after. Even though the events mentioned here are just of relatively recent past, when modern languages were in use in Africa, the African people have not really been akin to recording events and putting things in writing. While the history of a people can be transmitted from generation to generation through oral traditions or through mouth, this method of preserving a cultural heritage and history has the shortcoming of losing the integrity of the story being told.

 

When an event is only recorded orally, it’s undoubtedly more vulnerable to manipulation and distortion. At the time the Whiteman first arrived in Africa, the stories of Africa were only told by mouth, mainly because these people did not have a written form of language or an alphabet of their own. And if they had used symbols to communicate, the characters used must have been very restricted within a small tribe, and mostly incomprehensible to the any other tribe. This shortcoming accounts for the fact that most of African history of today was rewritten and recounted by the whiteman. So most of the African history as we know it today is inaccurate to say the least, distorted or unknown for the most part.

The stories and events of today’s generation will constitute the history of tomorrow’s generation. It lies within our responsibility of today to preserve the integrity of today’s events and tales to the future generation. The integrity of the tales of today is most likely to be preserved if they were written, more so than if they were just being told orally. So writing down events and stories –with accuracy—as you may have witnessed them today is truly your contribution to the tales of tomorrow’s history as it will be told to future generations. It’s truly your modest contribution to the enlightenment of the people of tomorrow.

Just as the African contemporary history as we know it today was mostly written by the West, the modern history of Africa risks to surfer the same fate if the African people of today do not take the responsibility of writing their own stories of today. There is empirical evidence that if you do not write your story of today –which is your history of tomorrow--, someone else will write or rewrite it for you. If and when this happens, your stories become his version of the story. Your tale becomes a modified or distorted version of his tale. Your script becomes a caricature of his script. Simply put, when your story is being told by someone else, your history becomes his story, which is a modified or translated or distorted version of your story. And you may find yourself in the continual and embarrassing situation to try to correct the tale or the script. It is very difficult for Africans today to tell their history with certainty. In fact there are so many versions of any given event of African history that it becomes a guess work of some sort or faith to reconcile any two versions. That’s why I am urging Africans today to take advantage of the modern technology today to record events in writing as they may have witnessed or understood it. And in the process, record your thoughts. Take the time if you can to investigate the most accurate version of a story and record it with honesty and without bias. The truthfulness of the story you tell translates into the accuracy of tomorrow’s history. Your thoughts and your stories can be  published in books, websites and stored in electronic medias such as CDs, DVDs or thumb drives. That way, your story will not be told by someone else. That way, your story will not become his version of the tale. That way, your history will not become his story.

Why all this really matters ? Well, I have argued that not knowing your history with some degree of certainty has a bearing into the way you imagine the future. It’s hard to picture a destination when you don’t have an image of your departure or a reference point of the past. The depth to which you are rooted into your existence today, the understanding of your personal identity, the assurance –within your own mind—that the future may hold for you are all inextricably linked to the knowledge of your past, the understanding –with some degree of certainty—of your identity of the past and the ethos of those who came before you.

--In this great future, you can’t forget your past—Bob Marley.

The ability to summon your strength and harness your talent to impact the future is greatly enhanced with knowledge of your past. Not knowing your past with some degree of certainty makes you less rooted in the presence and the future. Does it not ?

 

 

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