In a previous issue of Africa Update we
examined some of the methodologies associated with the study of Africa.
It was argued that the eurocentric agenda dominates discourse, and that
strategies of deception coexist with well-meaning interpretations.
To some extent this issue expands on the
previous discussion, but we also go beyond it to examine some of the
institutional structures which prevail in three regions of the world,
namely, the former Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and Africa itself.
Dr Vladimir Shubin, the Deputy Director
of the Institute for African Studies in the Russian Academy of Sciences,
Moscow, points out in his contribution that Northeast Africa was the
initial focus of Russian Africanists but this interest has expanded
to include the entire continent in terms of a wide range of social and
economic issues, including gender relations, the economic crisis in
the era of IMF/ World Bank Structural Adjustment and the role of Africa
in the world civiliization process.
The state of African Studies in the former
Soviet Union differs in many respects from that of the United Kingdom,where,
according to Tayo Oke, academic study is 'frozen in an imperial time
capsule'. Dr Oke, who teaches at the London-Guildhall University, points
out that the study of Africa takes place in institutions which seem
to be fascinated by the 'primitive' and the 'tribal'- a mindset which
hampers the development of genuinely objective analysis. Oke offers
a penetrating insight into some of the irrationalities and misconceptions
associated with African Studies in the United Kingdom, such as the illogical
exclusion of certain regions.
The Akodi Afrika Center was begun in 1982
at Iffe-Ijumu, Ilorin, Nigeria by Ade Obayemi, the former Director of
the National Commission for Museums and Monuments.Unlike other centers
of African Studies in Africa, Akodi Afrika is the product of an individual
initiative. It aims at complimenting the federal universities. Dr Olayemi
Akinwumi informs us of the achievements of the Center since its inception
and the role it has played in the context of African Studies.
We thank the contributors to this issue
of Africa Update for responding to our requests and providing valuable
insights into the subject. It would be interesting to see the extent
to which the American model differs from the British and the extent
to which the former Soviet Union differs from them both, in terms of
attitudes and orientation.We intend to pursue these issues in the future.
Return to Table of Contents
by Dr. Vladimir Shubin,
Deputy Director, Institute for African Studies
Russian Academy of Sciences,
The history of African Studies in Russia goes back
to the 19th century. Traditionally two fields were most developed -
Egyptology and Ethiopian Studies. Several Russian explorers travelled
to East Africa and the Horn of Africa at the end of that century. After
the 1917 revolution more attention was paid to the anticolonial struggle
of the African peoples and the workers' movement. The first centers
of African Studies were created in the early 1930s in Moscow as an African
cabinet in the short-lived Scientific Research Association of Study
of National and Colonial Problems and the African Section of the so
called Communist University of the Toiling Peoples of the East.
In 1945 the Department of African Languages was founded
at the Leningrad (St Petersburg) State University, followed by the African
Section in the Institute of Ethnography and the African Department in
the Institute for Oriental Studies. The process of rapid develop ment
of African Studies in the then USSR in the 1950s when the African continent
was coming to the forefront of international politics culminated in
the creation of the Institute for African Studies (a more exact translation
of its name from Russian would be the Africa Institute) in 1959 within
the system of the USSR/Russian Academy of Sciences.
In spite of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the hard
times that followed it, the IAS, headed by Prof. Alexei Vassiliev remains
appar ently the biggest center of African Studies in the world with
the staff of over 180 including about 130 researchers, most of whom
have Ph D degrees. Besides it, African research is conducted at the
African Studies Center of the Institute of Universal History, Institute
for Oriental Studies (mostly on Northern Africa), Institute of World
Economy and International Relations, Institute of World Literature,
Institute of Linguistics, Institute of State and Law (all in Moscow)
as well as the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (in St Petersburg).
The peculiarity of the Soviet/Russian system is that all
these institutions and most others are attached to the Academy of Sciences.
As to the training of Africanists at the graduate level it is conducted
at several universities, such as the Institute of Asian and African
Countries of the Moscow State University; Peoples Friendship University
of Russia, Moscow; State Institute of International Relations; and Saint
Petersburg State University. The course in African and Asian History
is taught in all other Russian Universities and Pedagogical Institutes.
Naturally, the staff of the aforementioned training establishments are
also involved in Research.
Thus, although a concentration of African Studies in the
capital - - is another distinct feature, there are African scholars
in St Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Saratov, Tyumen and several other
Russian cities. African Studies in post-Soviet Russia are conducted
under rather deteriorated conditions. As other fields of humanities
and sciences, in general they suffered from several budget cuts during
last six years of the IMF-inspired "reforms." The funding
from the state budget to the Academy institutes is a meagre 15 % of
the 1990 allocation. If in general the standard of life dropped by 50%,
it dropped four or five times for academics. The allocations for international
travel and field studies are extremely limited. Nevertheless Russian
academics continue their activities and even expand in some fields.
In the recent years their work has concentrated mostly in the following
General theoretical studies, such as the study of crisis
in civilisation; socio-cultural inver sion in the politically fragmented
polities of tropical Africa, the Arabian region and Russia; and political
mythologies. These studies are in the Center for Civilisation Studies
headed by Dr. Igor Sledzewski, attached to the IAS. Prof. Rosa Ismagilova
recently edited "African Cultures in the World Civilisation Process,"
a book of an interdisciplinary nature, involving history, ethnography,
art, philology and linguistics.
In the field of economics research has concentrated on
the causes, factors and effects of the slowing down of Africa's economy
in the 1980s and first half of the 1990s; critical review of the SAPs;
evaluation of the role of the state; specific resources of African countries
and the potential for their entering the global market and the outflow
of both capital and resources. The names of such prominent economists
as Dr. Mark Golansky, Prof. Leonid Fituni, and Alexander Neklessa should
be mentioned. Social and political studies have concen trated on the
social structure and political thought in African states, as well as
the problems of democratization, which does not reduce to the introduction
of a multi-party system.
In the field of history, special attention has been paid
in recent years to the participation of Africans in World War Two. A
great interest is drawn to research on the history of the Cold War in
Southern Africa, headed by Prof. Vassily Solodovnikov, former Soviet
Ambassador to Zambia. In cooperation with the military histori ans,
a group of academics headed by Dr. Vladimir Shubin has launched a project
on the history of the Soviet military and political co-operation with
African countries from the mid- 1950s to the early 1990s.
Area studies have been carried out mostly within the framework
of preparation of the refer ence books on African countries and by highlighting
of the most important problems of individual African states, such as
Algeria and South Africa. Research on the role and place of the Islamic
factor in the socio- political life in Africa continues.
In the field of international relations in Africa, regional
conflicts and the possible role of Russia in strengthening Africa's
security is another major direction of research. An analysis of the
present situation proves that the transition from a "bipol ar"
to "multipolar" world had not strengthened security and stability,
particularly in Africa.
A new direction is the area of gender stud ies, particularly
the challenges of adaptation of Russian women in African families.
Last but not the least is the study of the specific features
of African and Russian devel opment as they define the prospects for
a restoration and further development of Russian-African cooperation.
Unfortunately, in spite of declarations by the Rus sian leaders, the
stagnation in those relations are not yet over, and both sides suffer
losses for this reason. The scope of African Studies in Russia can be
illustrated by some titles of books published in 1996-1997:
- Africa and World War Two , edited by Yu. Zotova.
- Benin on the Eve of the First Contacts with Europeans
, by D. Bondarenko.
- Crisis in the Great Lakes Area: Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire
, by P. Kukushkin and D. Polikanov.
- Evolution of Political Systems in Some African Countries:
Islamism, Opposition and Tra dition, by V. Komar.
- New Trends in the World Economy and the Destiny of
Less Developed Countries, by M. Golansky.
- Space and Time in Archaic Traditional Cultures, edited
by I. Sledzewski and D. Bond arenko.
- Tropical Africa: from Authoritarism to Political Pluralism,
edited by V. Lopatov.
The state and prospects of African Studies in Russia were
reviewed at the 7th All-Russia con ference which was held in Moscow
from 1 to 3 October 1997 under the title "Africa in a Chang ing
World." It attracted about 200 participants from 56 research a
nd education centers of Russia as well as from 36 foreign countries
(including African students in Russia). 185 papers on eco nomics, socio-political
and ideological problems, history, ethnic and socio-cultural problems,
inter national relations, area st udies, literature studies and linguistics
Apart from its academic importance the conference facilitated
contacts between the Rus sian and foreign researchers. Unfortunately,
they are hampered by the fact that most of the publica tions are in
Russian. To cope with the situation the IAS has pub lished the detailed
abstracts of all the papers submitted to the conference in English
and is planning to publish the conference summary of proceedings in
Russian and English. (They can be ordered from dir@ina fr.msk.su). Besides
the IAS has in mind to start publishing a bi-monthly bulle tin in English.
Return to Table of Contents
by Dr. Tayo Oke,
Department of Politics and Modern
History London-Guildhall University,
African Studies, or rather the study of Africa,
in the UK, has its roots in historical necessities. It started with
the desire of British and European explorers (and missionaries) to document
their experiences of 'the new world' and 'the dark continent' for the
benefit of their compatriots in need of such information. Sec ondly,
the partition of Africa formalized at the Berlin Conference of 1884-5
heightened the necessity to 'know' Africa; the bedrock of Europe's mineral
and raw materials. This situati on was accentuated in the last quarter
of the 18th century in Britain by the Indus trial Revolution. Thereafter,
World War II, decolonization, the Cold War, and debt rescheduling have
all combined to force extensive (albeit) spas modic scholarship in Afri
can affairs at various British institutions.
This paper argues that while the interest in 'knowing'
about Africa is long and well established in Britain, it has not been
matched by an equal interest in studying the continent for what it is
worth. Aside from the few benefits generated by liberal ent husiasms
to 'know' about Africa, the African continent remains one of the least
studied or understood parts of the globe(Hodder-Williams, 1986: 593-604).
Moreover, extensive academic study of Africa in the UK is bestraddled
by an official mindset frozen i n an imperial time capsule. This has
effectively turned specialists in African affairs or 'Africanists' in
institutions of higher learning into academic refugees constantly making
special pleas for acceptance, and living off permission to stay on compassi
onate grounds rather than on well founded rights to remain. We shall
thus expound on this argument by examining the preamble, institutions,
subject areas, and then conclude by looking at issues beyond 'African
Early interest in the study of Africa in the UK revolved
around many voyages of 'discovery' con ducted by Europeans on the shores
of Africa around the 16th and 17th centuries. Records of these voyages
first aroused the interest of anthropologists, archae ologists, geographers
and artists eager to build on their parochial interests. However, with
the formalization of the partition of Africa at the Berlin Conference,
Britain assumed responsibility for a large part of Africa, nota bly
in parts of eastern, we stern, and southern Africa. Thereafter Africa
was brought into Europe's intellec tual concern as part of the revolutionary
project of enlarging Europe's 'circle of knowledge' (Willison, 1986:
2). From the 19th to 20th centuries, general studies of Afric a's history
and social anthropology acquired a new significance in the UK, given
the need for colonial administrators going into Africa to be bet ter
informed about the territories under their jurisdiction.
It was this administrative need which vicari ously created
the intellectual milieu for the study of Africa as part of multi-disciplinary
subjects in British universities in the mid 20th century. However, the
interest in the study of Africa remained an i ntellectual pastime for
those curious enough to bother about it until the end of World War 11.
The end of the war coincided with the steady increase in the number
of African citizens (or subjects as they then were) edu cated in Britain.
Their presence was used by African specialists in Britain to buttress
their argument for resources in support of the study of Africa in British
institutions, coupled with the fact that the war had severely decimated
the manufacturing capacity of the British economy, making a deeper link
with the colo nial territories more economically worthwhile for the
It was for these and other reasons that after the war,
the government set up the Interdepartmental Commission of Enquiry on
Oriental, Slavonic, East European and African Studies headed by Lord
Scar borough. His report published in 1947 basically acknowl edged the
necessity to incorporate studies of countries outside Western Europe
in British institu tions to underline their importance to Britain. It
was also the time when world interest in Africa's natural resources
assumed a greater significance than be fore. Therefore it made sense
to make better use of, and so to know more about, the human and material
resources which Britain then possessed in an overseas empire (Fage,
1989: 398). African Studies in Britain thus moved from the near exotic
to the inte llectually fash ionable. This, nevertheless, helped lay
the foundations for the establishment of specialist studies of Africa
in some of Britain's most important institutions.
Acquisition of documents and archives on African affairs
were initially compiled in form of 'deposits' from the colonies by people
outside the academia i.e. soldiers, administrators, merchants, mis sionaries
etc. The African Society founded in 1900 was the first attempt towards
the institutionalization of the study of Africa in the UK. The society
later changed its name to the Royal African Society in 1935 and began
the process of broadening its membership from the list of merchants
and seamen, to include people with distinct academic interests. The
Scarbor ough report, however, gave impetus to the Hayter report which
recommended the setting up of a separate center for Oriental and African
Studies, now known as the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
in London, with well over 71,000 volumes covering a whole range of subjects
in humanities, languages and literature on Africa.
This major development was followed by the foundation
of the University of Birmingham's Center for West African Studies in
1963. These develop ments did much to assuage the misgivings of funding
authorities over the viability of the study of Africa as a specialist
discipline, and as Hopkins observes; "it also helped erode the
scepticism of those who thought that the subject did not exist and could
not be created, and by reassuring those who feared that its appeal might
prove so successful that future graduates would emerge with more knowledge
of other continents than of their own" (Hopkins, 1987: 93-101).
Today, both institutions offer multi-disciplinary programme of study
in African politics, geography, economics, literature, and anthropology,
and SOAS in particular offers single honor degrees in most of these
A number of centers for the study of Africa have subsequently
emerged, the most notable of which are to be found at Cambridge, Sussex,
Oxford, Warwick, Edingburgh, and Coventry. Most other UK universities
introduce optional units in what is loosely calle d 'Third World' studies
which embrace aspects of African affairs, and more commonly, 'political
and economic developments' in Africa. The British Library is a repository
of a huge collection of materials of interests in the map, music, manuscript
and news paper collec tion on Africa. It holds useful collections for
postgraduate students as well as general research materials on Africa.
The Standing Conference on Library Materials on Africa (SCOLMA) founded
in 1962, under the auspices of the British Library also publishes a
directory of libraries and special collections on Africa in the UK,
and its publications are open to libraries all over the world.
While it is correct to say that interest in African Studies
in British institutions has continued unabated for the best part of
four decades, the methodological approach adopted by many of these institutions
casts much doubt on their commitment to the st udy of Africa as a major
discipline. Faced with the pressure of budget cuts in their finances,
and the sheer herculean task of studying a continent of about 700 million
people spread across fifty three countries in seven regions of Africa,
the universiti es have tried to over come this by developing and concentrating
on 'specialist' subjects and particular areas of Africa, but it is a
move that could be interpreted as a retreat into otiose parochialism.
As a result, a great deal of the self-styled cente rs for 'African studies'
do no more than focus on a particular region, and in some cases, a few
countries with which they have long historical/academic connections.
Even a prominent institution such as the Center for West
African Studies in Birmingham, in both its undergraduate and graduate
programs, suffers from the ambivalence of wishing to develop a study
of Africa and a desire to concentrate on 'West Africa.'. T he center
has more than 30,000 volumes on Africa, and it has embarked upon a systematic
acquisition of Afri cana since 1963, but it is interesting to note that
despite this it continues to advertise itself as the center for 'West
African' Studies. In a si milar vein, the widely read 'West Africa'
magazine sees and rightly pro claims itself as a magazine which reports
on Africa, yet it continues to advertise itself as 'West Africa'.
The sentimental attachment to 'West Africa' can be understood
from the fact that the area consti tuted the center for European slavery.
It was the most important Anglo-French conquest in Africa, and ini tially
the British image of "the African" and of Af rican conditions
generally was concerned almost entirely with West Africa (Curtin, 1964:
1-31). Britain's inter est in Africa has obviously extended beyond West
Africa over the decades, but it is doubtful whether its perception has
caught up yet. Conseque ntly, the approach to the study of Africa in
British universities can be best understood not by considering the amount
of schools and centers dedicated to it, but by looking at the subjects
covered and in particular how they are covered.
The phrase 'African Studies' is a misnomer to many people,
considering that what is generally cov ered under this rubric are mainly
humanities and social sciences. Natural and physical sciences are excluded
because science has no nationality. The experi ences of Africans in
the diaspora are also excluded for no other conceivable reason than
geography. There is also a tendency by some to separate 'Arab Africa'
from 'Black Africa', with the former being included in the curriculum
under Middle Eastern/Arabi an studies. So, talk of African studies in
the UK is in some respects, an imperial fob which still permeates the
teachings in the subject areas.
For instance, up until and well after WW11, African history
was not a taught course in any British university. However, the Cold
War, and the need to train expatriate teachers in African universities
helped sustain the efforts of a handful of British ac ademics struggling
to have African history established as a separate course of study at
university level. The offi cial interest in simply wanting to 'know'
about African history constantly jarred with the academic desire to
study it. This was amply demo nstrated in a frank con versation between
Roland Oliver, Britain's first Professor of African history, and Dame
Lillian Penson, a leading member of the old Inter-Universities Council
for Higher Education in the Colonies, who opined, "young man, now
that D r. Nkrumah is not in the room with us for once, let me tell you.
. .while African his tory might be all right for the Africans, it was
not all right for the British (Oliver, 1995: 26). While icy offi cial
attitude towards the teaching of African history h as thawed considerably
since the 1960s, the neo- imperialist undercurrent in the teaching of
the subjects still remains a problem to grapple with.
It is thus within this context that the methodological
approach to the study of 'African history', 'African politics', 'African
literature' etc, constitutes an intellectual abstraction which appeals
to too many needs and satisfying none of them adequatel y. This approach
is pervasive in British institutions generally, and in the universities
in particular. The pretension to exclusiveness that the approach embodies
is at best misleading. Moreover, it does not make sense to insist on
separating 'Black' fr om 'Arab' Africa while at the same time designating
courses in 'AfricanStudies', which in any case excludes the Africans
in the diaspora. This creates double dilemma for the student, for on
the one hand, it hampers the study of the differ ent constituent parts
of the African intellectual landscape, and on the other hand, it creates
a belief in a historical identity which discourages detailed investi
gation and analysis of the peculiarities of differing African societies
(Ingham, 1995: 127).
It is partly these anomalies that UNESCO's General History
of Africa (published in 1992), set out to put right with some success.
The collection as a whole sheds light both on the historical unity of
Africa and also its relations with other continents, p articularly the
Americas and the Caribbean (M'Bow, 1992: pref ace). Despite this, however,
there is still a strong indication in British universities that the
battle against the older imperial history approach is far from being
won, and it is hard to disc over any light or indeed any end to this
particular tunnel (Rathbone, 1986: 29).
The same trend can be seen in the study of African art.
Here, comparative study of African art history and its interrelationship
with European and world civilization is overshadowed by incessant fas
cination with 'the primitive' and 'the tribal', thereby hampering the
development of an objective theoretical approach to the subject. What
we seem to have is the presentation of a certain stylistic, formal criteria
thought to be definitive of an ethnic group and pre sented as paradigmatic
(Hallen, 1997: 1-1 1). If anything, this approach represents societies
that are static and unchanging, which very few people accept today (Hassan,
1995: 30-33). The universities in the UK feed off the overwhelming desire
to fill the muse ums with African "artifacts," "indig
enous" or "traditional" art work believed to be more
"authentic" than contemporary African art, which is seen as
a pale imitation of that of their Western counterparts. The mutual reinforcement
of neo-primitivism in museums and in the classroom is also re flected
in the field of economics with its emphasis on lateral "development."
African economics is treated as if its only pre occupation
is with 'underdevelopment' and its concomitant, 'development.' It is
as if the only crite rion for measuring these two human aspirations
are economics to the exclusion of other things. It is also an attitude
which proclaims a pre-ordained destination for 'development' when it
is clear that it implies different things to different peoples. The
new development theory was largely motivated by liberal desire to 'do
something' for the ex colonies, bu t since they were prime stakes in
the Cold War, theories of their devel opment have been contaminated
by it (Leys, 1996: 1-8). African 'development' is thus treated in the
university curricula as an expression of European economic imperatives,
and it is i n turn reflected in the attitude adopted by international
financial institutions towards African countries. The question then
is, in spite of all these pitfalls, can the study of Africa in the UK
be sustained beyond 'African Studies' in the post modernis t age?
Beyond "African Studies"
As the start of the new millennium comes closer, competition
as well as cooperation between states seems to be intensifying, especially
in the field of the economic sustainability and welfare of citizens.
Brit ain's economic interest is inextricably in terwoven with that of
By all accounts, Africa is no longer at the center of
British economic or strategic interests. The refocusing of attention
on Asia and Europe will in future mean a sharp reduction in research
grants for African studies in British universities. African st udies
is therefore likely to remain the fringe discipline that it always has
Finally, the bulk of teaching and research in African
affairs, though pioneered in Britain and Europe, is now being done on
the other side of the Atlantic, in the United States, which has seen
the number of African academics teaching Africa in American c olleges
go up in the last few years (Hyden, 1996: 1-17). The situation in the
UK is certainly not encouraging. The tiny island, shanty town image
of Africa pervasive in official circles, which tend to regard knowledge
of one African country as knowl edge of Africa as a whole is yet to
be overcome. From the above discussion, there ought to be doubt about
the validity of an African Studies programme that does not address itself
to the continent of Africa as a whole, including Africa in the diaspora,
yet, growing pressure on resources makes such a formula rather ambitious.
Consequently, it is difficult to see how an argument for
a programme of "Africana studies" which identifies land, history,
and culture as it relates to African diasporic phenomena (Conyers Jr,
1997: 1) can be sustained against official disinterest in the sub ject.
It is equally true that African studies as presently constituted in
the UK would need more than the determined efforts of a dwindling core
of Africanists battling against increasingly hostile odds.
- 1. Willison, R. "The Role of the British Library
and other UK libraries in Supporting African Studies." In I.
Sternberg and P. M. Larby, editors, African Studies. The British Library
- 2. Hodder-Williams, R. "African Studies: Back
to the Future." African Affairs, Vol. 85, no. 341 (Oct 1986),
- 3. Fage, J. D. "British African Studies Since
the Sec ond World War: A Personal Account." African Affairs,
Vol. 88, no. 352 (July 1989), pp. 397-413.
- 4. Hopkins, A. G. "From Hayter to Parker: African
Economic History at Birmingham University, 1964-
- -86." African Affairs, Vol. 86, no. 342 (Jan 1987),
- 5. Oliver, R. "African History: SOAS and Beyond."
In Kirk-Greene, A., editor. The Emergence of African History at British
Universities - An Autobiographical Approach (Oxford: Westview Publications,
- 6. Ingham, K. "Makerere and After." In A.
Kirk- Greene, editor. Ibid.
- 7. M'Bow, D. G. "Preface." In J. Ki-Zerbo,
editor. UNESCO General History of Africa I - Methodology and Africa
Prehistory (Heinemann, 1992).
- 8. Rathbone, J. A. R. "History and Politics."
In I. Sternberg and P. M. Larby, editors. Op cit.
- 9. Hallen, B. "African Meanings, Western Words."
African Studies Review, Vol. 40 , no. 1 (April 1997).
- 10. Hassan, S. "The Modernist Experience in African
Art." Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art. no. 2 (Spring/Summer
- 11. Leys, C. The Rise and Fall of Development Theory
(London: James Currey, 1996).
- 12. Curtin, P. D. The Image of Africa - British Ideas
and Action, 1780-1850 (University of Wisconsin Press, 1964).
- 13. Hyden, G. "African Studies in the Mid-1990s:
Between Afro-Pessimism and Amero-Skepticism." African Studies
Review, Vol. 39, no. 2 (Sept 1996).
- 14. Conyers, J. L., Jr., editor. African Studies: A
Dis ciplinary Quest for Both Theory and Method (McFarland and Co,
Inc. Publishers, 1997).
Otchare, F. E. African Studies Thesaurus. Greenwood Press,
1992. Zell, Hans. Editor. The African Studies Companion - A Resource
Guide and Directory. Hans Zell Publishers, 1997.
Return to Table of Contents
Ancient Northeast Africa
Students of the African Studies Club, CCSU, paid a visit
to exhibits at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Brooklyn Museum,
New York, in the Fall of 1997. The two exhibits reflected aspects of
the material culture and lifestyle of two major African regions, Ancient
Nubia and Ancient Egypt. Students were taken on a guided tour of the
exhibit at the Boston Museum, which hosts some of Africa's most exquisite
archeological artifacts, including representations of Piankhi, Nubian
shawabtis (fi gurines) and a wide variety of pots, a few of
which pre-date the Egyptian finds.
The holdings of the Brooklyn Museum were quite extensive
with respect to Egypt and included artifacts from both pre-colonial
indigenous Egypt and Egypt of the era of Greco-Roman colonization.
A conference on the Matrices of Scientific Knowledge and
Practice in Colonial Africa will take place at St. Antony's College,
Oxford University, UK, on March 7, 1998. The conference will explore
the intersection between the history of science, African St udies and
Development Studies. The organizer, Ms. Helen Denham, anticipates a
lively and stimulating discourse on the subject.
Return to Table of Contents
by Dr. Olayemi Akinwumi,
Dept. of History, University of Ilorin, Nigeria
Akodi Afrika, a Cultural Center, Museum
and Institute was established in 1982 at Iffe-Ijumu by Professor Ade
Obayemi (1). The Cultural Center derives its name, "Akodi,"
from the Okun language (2) and means "a compound." Akodi Afrika
in t his sense means "an African Compound." Indeed, the structure
of the Center reflects this concept. The Center is an individual initiative,
and the first of its kind in Nigeria. It promotes Nigerian culture in
particuar and sponsor researches into all aspects of African studies.
This is according to the founder, who is also the Director of the Center.
The Center was established to compliment the effort of
the various Nigerian Universities and research Centers in promoting
African studies. Apart from this, the Center is meant to serve as a
general pool for all the researches carried out on the Central Nigerian
region. This is to assist researchers in getting information on all
the research that has been done on this area without necessarily travel
ling throughout the region. The Center is also meant to serve the col
laboration of Western trained scholars and local experts. This is to
promote better understanding of African studies and provide solutions
to some problems arising from interpretations of some documents.
The Cultural Center, which is based at Iffe- Ijumu, Kogi
State, is located mid-way between Kabba and Omuo, both along the Lokoja-Ile-Ife
motor road. The Center is about seventy-five per cent complete and indeed
has been opened for operation. The Center h as the following facilities:
a) The Obimiri Library and Archives. This section renders
library and documentation services. The library is well stocked with
books, articles, maga zines and under-graduate and post-graduate theses.
Most of the books are personal collections of the fo under(3) and donations
from his friends and former students. (4). The library remains the most
attractive section of the Center to both local and international researchers
who have visited it.
b) The Okun Museum and Exhibition Galleries: This section
ofers indoor/outdoor exhibitions with a focus on ocal history and culture.
Only one of the galleries is opened.
c) The Akodi Institute for Culture: This is the co-ordinating
unit for the Akodi-based Research and Training Programmes.
d) The Akodi Afrika Printing and Publications Unit: This
unit is responsible for the publication of the Center publications.
There are also the:
- Akodi Afrika Theatre and Bandstand;
- Conferences and Seminars Sections;
- Hostel accommodation for researchers;
- The Iye Yedo Quadrangle for modern Arts and Crafts
and the Akodi Social Center.
Since the establishment of the Center, it has pursued
its objectives by organising conferences, sponsoring researche and allowing
academic asso ciations in the country to use its facilities for conferences.
The first conference on African Studies organized by the Center was
from the 27th to 29th June, 1996. The conference had as its theme "Okun,
An African peope and their civilization." In spite of the socio-economic
problems in the coun try, the conference was well attended. Twenty-five
papers were presented on such sub-themes as the environment and its
conservation, local history, history of inter-group relations, institutions
(includ ing masquerades and various facets of traditional technology).
Recently, the Center organized a centenary conference
with the theme "A Century of Change and Continuity in the Central
Nigerian Region (1897-1997)." The conference had the following
sub-themes: (a) The present state of historical and cutural studies,
(b ) Boundaries (provinces, divisions etc), (c) People and their institutions,
(d) Inter- group relations since 1897, (e) The physical environment,
(f) Islam, Christianity and other belief systems. The conference, which
took place from 6th to 8th of January 1997, was well attended and the
objective of the conferenceÄto bring about a new level of consciousness
on the various devel opments that have taken place in the region, was
achieved (6). Indeed, local experts fully partici pated.
Similarly, the Center assisted the Nigerian Archaeological
Association to organize its 13th Annual Conference from 28th to 31st
August, 1995. The Center accommodated all the delegates and made available
all its facilities to ensure suc cessful hosting.
Scholars from both within and outside the country continue
to visit the Center and to express their delight and encouragement to
the founder for his effort and sacrifice to promote African studies
on his own. Some of the known Africanist scholars that have visited
the Center included Prof. Toyin Falola, Dr. Elisha Renne, all based
in the U.S.A., and Dr. Richard Kuba (Frankfurt Universitt, Germany).
Recently, some post-graduate students from Iowa in the U.S.A. were there
to make use of the facilities f or their research.
Like other research centers, including uni versities,
the Center has been handicapped by a lack of funds. The participants
at the first conference organized by the Center noted with regret that
government assistance, especially from local gov ernments, was not forthcoming.
The participants called on the government to encourage individual effort,
as demonstrated by Akodi Afrika, to pro mote African studies (7).
Notes and References
- Prof. Ade Obayemi was a Director-General of National
Museum, Lagos. He is presently on the staff of the Department of History,
University of Ilorin, Nigeria.
- Okun is a form of greetings among the North Eastern
Yoruba. This term is now used to describe them.
- Some of the books were gotten from his various trips
around and outside the country, especially in U.S.A. Some were theses
photocopied from dif ferent Nigerian Universities.
- Professor Gloria Emeagwali donated all her books acquired
in Nigeria and abroad to the Center when she left for the U.S.A. These
books have fur ther enriched the library.
- See the report issued by the Center after the conference.
The report includes the summary of all the papers presented at the
- See the conference proceedings issued by the Center.
- The participants in the conference formed themselves
into an Association of the friends of the Akodi to coordinate the
activities of the Center and to seek funds for some of the Center's
activities. The Association elected Prof. I. I. Ihimodu, the c urrent
Dean of the Faculty of Business and Social Sciences, University of
Ilorin, Nigeria, as the President.
Return to Table of Contents
by Haines Brown,
Professor Emeritus, Central Connecticut State University
There are many on-line resources for finding out
more about the Internet in Africa, but one that is particularly useful
is IFEX It includes
a search engine that can yield a large number of articles on your topic
of interest. I mention it because I visited the site in con junction
with an example of the ongoing contest in Africa between public and
private control of tele communications. In Zimbabwe, the issue is whether
the public Post and Telecommunications Corpora tion (PT C) or Zimbabwe's
Internet service providers (ISPs), significantly representing foreign
interests, will register new Internet sites.
We have reviewed before in this column some of the arguments
in support of public ownership and control, and so here is an example
of the kind of arguments put forward by the other side:
The PTC's charge for a bandwidth is among the highest
in the world, discouraging its purchase by for-profit ISPs. Bandwidth
is up to a hundred thou sand Zimbabwe Dollars (about US $13,000). The
PTC denies it aims to exclude anyone. The government will be inclined
to deny access for noneconomic reasons, such as pornography. The ISPs
want the market to determine what is communicated as exclusion for economic
reasons only. The PTC lacks the resources to include the top level ZW-TLD
domain within its responsibilities. Cited are 1995 World Bank figures
that show a high fault rate for Zimbabwe's telephone lines and slow
repairs to suggest the PTC can't handle the ZW.
Return to Table of Contents