- Editorial: Comparative Gender Relations
by Dr. Gloria Emeagwali, Chief Editor
- Adesina Yusuf Raji, History Department, University
of Ilorin, Nigeria: Women in Pre-colonial Yorubaland,
- Dr. Obioma Nnaemeka, Associate Professor of French
and Women's Studies, Indiana University, Indianapolis: Beyond
the Controversies - Igbo Perspectives on Knowledge, Speech and Power
- Dr. Haines Brown, Professor Emeritus, Central Connecticut
State University: Africa and the Net
- Pounthioun Diallo, Montreal University, Quebec: Studying
Africa - The Works of Cheikh Anta Diop
Editorial: Comparative Gender Relations
By Dr. Gloria Emeagwali
Chief Editor of Africa Update
In this issue of Africa Update, Adesina Yusuf Raji
provides useful insights into aspects of pre-colonial Nigerian history,
with some emphasis on specialization and gendered division of labor.
There is also a commentary by the well-known Nigerian critic, Dr. Obioma
Nnaemeka of Indiana University, on some preoccupations of the Western
world in the last few months, including "l'affaire Clinton/Lewinsky."
She focuses on the interplay between power and indiscretion and concludes
philosophically that the current episode involving President Clinton
and his accusers has as much to do with ethics and behavior as with
the relationship between power and knowledge in Western society. Included
also are excerpts from Paul Ejima's review of Nigerian responses to
recent White House events.
In previous issues of Africa Update we focused
on methodology and the Eurocentric biases in African studies in a few
countries, including UK and Russia. In this issue is another aspect
of African studies, a brief evaluation by Pounthioun Diallo of Montreal
university of Cheikh Anta Diop's study of Africa. Professor Natalie
Sandomirsky of the Department of Foreign Languages, Southern Connecticut
State University, translated his contribution from French.
In the previous issue of Africa Update (vol. V,
no.1) Oleyemi Akinwumi focused on Akodi Afrika, a Center of African
Studies in Central Nigeria. We regret to report that the founder of
this institution, Professor Ade Obayemi, passed away recently. Professor
Ade Obayemi had a distinguished career and taught archeology before
his appointment as Director General of Museums and Monuments at the
federal level. Professor Ade Obayemi taught at Ahmadu Bello University,
Zaria for several years before joining the University of Ilorin, where
he served as Department Chair and also Dean of Arts. Incidentally, Obayemi
was a keen admirer and friend of Cheikh Anta Diop and discussed the
possibilities of having a conference in his honor at Akodi Afrika. The
late Professor Ade Obayemi gave the Keynote Address at the 2nd Annual
Conference of African Studies, here at Central Connecticut State University
in November 1995. May his soul rest in peace.
Note that the previous issue of Africa Update should
have been classified as Vol. V, no. 1. We apologize for the error that
affected the first batch of printed copies. Finally, we extend our thanks
to all those who kindly contributed to the present issue.
Return to Table of Contents
in Pre-colonial Yorubaland, West Africa
By Adesina Yusuf Raji, History Department,
University of Ilorin, Nigeria
Yoruba women since ancient times have been
central to Nigerian society, and their role during that period actually
cut across politics, culture and economy. For instance, in several Yoruba
towns there were women officials headed by the Iyalode1.They
participated in the decision making process and settled disputes in
their wards and compounds. Thus, women assisted in the maintenance of
law and order, peace and harmony, in traditional Yoruba society. A few
women officials even constituted part of the membership of secret societies
mainly responsible for executive and judicial functions in several Yoruba
settlements, especially among the Ijebu.2 In Ondo, the Lobun
assisted in the appointment of a new Osemawe, settled quarrels among
the male chiefs and officiated in the opening of new markets.3
The Obas wives (Aya, Oba, or Olori) were also influential in state
affairs and there were occasions when women were employed to monitor
and influence foreign policy decisions in some Yoruba States.4
We should note that the participation
of Yoruba women in the politics of the society through the womens
council called the Obirin Ilu headed by the Iyalode necessitated the
acquisition of wealth which in the traditional Yoruba setting could
only be obtained through agriculture and trading.5 Wealth
was perhaps a necessary pre-condition for one to win recognition in
the traditional Yoruba society and with which a woman could gain status
and prestige and thus be made a member of the womens council.
Yoruba women in
pre-colonial economy: occupational guilds and womens role in agriculture
For various occupations in
which most Yoruba women were involved, there were guilds. Such guilds
known as Egbe had always engaged in proper coordination of womens
economic activities. The two notable womens guilds in pre-colonial
Yorubaland were Egbe Alajapa, which traded in inanimate objects, especially
food items, fruits and medicinal herbs, and Egbe Alarobo, which traded
in animate objects like fowls, sheep, goats, etc. Apart from these,
there were other specialized guilds of women traders usually named after
their profession. Such include Egbe Alata (guild of pepper traders),
Egbe Alaso(guild of cloth traders), Egbe Elepe (guild of oil traders),
and several others. Occupational guilds like Egbe Alagbede (guild of
blacksmiths), Egbe Onisona (guild of carvers),etc., were dominated by
men while both men and women belonged to the Egbe Agbe (guild of farmers).
Another arm of the farmers guild was the Onidaruke, an organization
comprised of only women, which was responsible for collecting food crops
from other farmers and distributing such to both local and long-distance
traders.6 Each guild was headed by a chairperson (Ologi),
the deputies (Otun and Osi), and other officials; every guild had affiliation
with similar guilds in other estates or kingdoms.7 Members
of each guild also organized the Esusu a periodic or fixed contribution
by which they could increase their capital and facilitate their trade.8
From all indications, agriculture
was central to all womens occupational guilds in pre-colonial
Yorubaland. In fact, all the guilds depended on the farmers products
for their survival, and thus the guilds were all directly or indirectly
connected to agriculture. As we should note, Yoruba women in the pre-colonial
period took active part in agriculture as many of them owned farms,
grew varieties of crops, and even belonged to the farmers guild in their
The farmers guild,
of which several Yoruba women were members, held its meetings every
nine or twenty-one days in connection with traditional market cycles.
The guild offered advice on methods of cultivation, how to improve the
yields of agricultural produce, maintenance and harvesting, processing,
and the storage and sale of products. Through the Esusu system, members
of the farmers guild, like other guilds in Yorubaland, helped
themselves with loans which greatly enhanced their economic status in
the traditional society.9 The members also assisted one another
especially during periods of drought or bad harvest.
It should be stressed from
the onset that the Yoruba women unlike the women among the Akan of Ghana
or the Ijaw and Igbo of eastern Nigeria, were less involved in the rigorous
aspects of farming especially curing, hoeing and weeding. While farming
was by far the most important occupation of women among the Ijaw, the
Yoruba women only took part at times in planting, and in most cases
in the last stages of farm work especially harvesting, processing for
final consumption and storage. Women and children were also involved
in carrying farm produce on their heads when market centers were close
to the farms or when the produce involved was perishable, e.g., banana,
oranges, pepper, tomatoes, and vegetables. But in most cases, the Yoruba
women usually carried their farm produce to towns and villages after
harvest. The important equipment used for harvesting included sticks,
hoes, cutlasses, knives, and axes. Both men and women with children
participated in harvesting. There were occasions when some products
from the farms could not be sold immediately; there were farm products
that had to be preserved. The Yoruba women always kept such products
inside calabashes, nets and baskets, while products like pepper of different
types could be wrapped in clothes or leaves, and yams tied together
with ropes and kept in bans. There were items that were fried, smoked
or tied in the kitchens where they could be heated.10
Several agricultural products,
usually reaped from the farms of both men and women in pre- colonial
Yoruba society, were always sold at the various daily town and city
markets or at the periodic markets. The periodic markets were held at
fixed intervals of four days, eight days, or sixteen days, usually called,
probably due to Yoruba system of counting, Oja Orun (5-day market),
Oja Isan (9-day market), and Oja Itadogun (17-day market).11
Some of these important markets were in Ijana, Osogbo, Abomey-Calavi,
Oyo Ile, Ajase (Porto Novo), Ba (east of Dahomey), Ilaro, Saki, Kisi,
Wawa, Badagry, Apomu, Ikoyi, etc.12
These important trade centers/routes
in the Yoruba country had become prominent by the beginning of the 18th
century, and they were linked to the international routes of the Sahara
and the Coast to facilitate commerce in the pre-colonial Nigeria region.
Apart from the fact that
Yoruba women were directly involved in the production of food crops,
they were wholly involved in the processing of such crops into finished
goods and their sale. Thus, Yoruba women processed raw farm produce
to their final form, whether it be chips, flour, liquid or paste.13
Most Yoruba women labored as weavers, traders or dyers, had their farmlands,
and either cultivated on their own land or their husbands family
lands, to grow a variety of crops, especially grains, yams, and vegetables.
Clapperton in 1826 noticed the existence of "fine and large plantations
of corn, yams, and vegetables" from Badagry to Oyo Ile.14
It is most probable that some of these well-cultivated plantations
were owned by Yoruba women.
As we have noted, the women
directly sold their agricultural products of yams, beans, vegetables,
cotton and fruits, or they turned them into manufactured articles before
being sold. For instance, epo (palm oil), ikete (palm
oil butter), and adin eyan (palm kernel oil) were manufactured
from oil palm fruits.15 Ori (shea nut butter) was
manufactured from shea nuts; iru from locust beans, ororo
(vegetable oil) from melons, elubo (flour) from both yams and
plantains, while eko and oti sekete (maize beer) were
both manufactured from maize.16
We should also note that
apart from the food crops and vegetables, the women, like their male
counterparts, grew cotton, silk cotton trees, shea-nut trees, locust
bean trees, oil palm and kola nut trees. The process of harvesting and
selling of the produce from such trees was also largely undertaken by
women with children in pre-colonial Yorubaland.
There were also products
that women and men harvested together. Such products included coconut,
kolanuts and palm produce all of which required climbing to harvest
their fruits. Women also stored farm products so as to preserve them
till they were needed to be sold, consumed or planted.17
In the same vein, there were Yoruba women who kept gardens, located
very close to their homesteads where vegetables, pepper and fruits and
other products were grown.
With regard to large-scale
farming in pre- colonial Yorubaland, women were also of relevance. Some
of A. Hinderers letters clearly show that both men and women were
much involved in farming in 19th century Ibadan. According to the letters,
the principal occupation of the Ibadan people was farming in which
everyone is engaged. . .18 In fact, during the mid-19th
century when some missionaries wanted to build a new church in Ibadan
they could not procure labor "either for love or money-all because
everybody is wanted in the farms."19 Most of the area
outside the Ibadan city walls was described as heavily cultivated always,
even at the height of the nineteenth-century wars.20 Practically
everybody in Ibadan had a farm, male and female. This situation also
obtained in other Yoruba states in the pre- colonial period - a development
that made women rival their male counterparts in agriculture. In most
cases, crops like yams, maize, cotton, beans and cassava were grown
for home consumption and also exports. These women were also prominent
at farmers guild meetings held at regular intervals. Such efforts
in farming no doubt contributed enormously towards making Ibadan an
exporter of food to the Ijebu and Lagos during the 19th century. The
level of food production was so high that even during Ibadans
greatest wars, the town did not suffer from lack of food. In fact, officials
of the Lagos government in 1886 were surprised to see large plantations
growing outside Ibadan in spite of nine years of war in which most of
the people had been engaged.21
In north central Yorubaland,
several Igbomina women, especially in the districts of Illa, Ajase and
Omu-Isanlu were also fully involved in agriculture as they took active
part in the operations of farmers guilds in the pre-colonial period.
Animal husbandry was another
sector of agriculture that was mainly dominated by women. No doubt,
the Yoruba women were the main keepers of livestock. Unlike Fulani society
where men were herders, women among the Yoruba reared domestic animals
such as ducks, pigs, cattle, sheep, cats, and goats, all kept to provide
meat for consumption or used as sacrifices; dogs used mainly by men
for hunting and horses as means of transport or in war fare.22
The women had a shed attached to each compound to house at night these
domestic animals which always thronged the courtyards by day. According
Every woman, whatever her
trade may be, is expected to keep a few chickens and a goat or two from
which she desires small income for house keeping and general pin
money. The rearing of poultry then must be reckoned
among female occupations.23
Thus, all Yoruba women were
involved in keeping domestic animals and poultry, which could have been
a source of income for them in the pre- colonial period. It is also
probable that through such role they could have contributed enormously
to the improvement of the dietary pattern in the region.
The unique role of women
in agriculture in pre-colonial Yorubaland perhaps informed Clarke during
his visit to remark that:
The males are the only class
on whom the duty of soil cultivation devolves though the females very
frequently aid in planting. . ."24
Clarke also remarked that
among the Yoruba in the pre-colonial period the farmers - men, women,
and children were always delighted with the idea of going to farm. These
are clear indications that women through the farmers guilds were
important in agriculture, and together with men, provided the basic
agricultural (food) needs of the society.25
Women in Yorubaland constituted
a productive unit of the society. This role in society seemed to cut
across all aspects of life- social, political, cultural, economic, etc.
They took active part in the social uplifting of the society and training
of children; they functioned in religious and cultural roles; and they
also played significant role in politics, complementing the efforts
of their male counterparts in the art of governance. The council of
women chiefs headed by the Iyalode constituted the axis around which
womens role in politics in pre-colonial Yorubaland revolved. Perhaps,
it was in the economy through the farmers guild and other related
guilds that womens impact was most felt in pre-colonial Yorubaland.
Notes and References
1 See Johnson,
S., History of the Yorubas (Lagos, C.M.S. Bookshops, 1921, Repr.
2 For details
of the place of Yoruba women in secret societies, especially in Ijebu,
see Ayantuga, 0. 0., "Jebu and its Neighbors: 1851-1914,"
(Ph.D. Thesis, London, 1965)
3 See Falola,
T., The Political Economy of a Pre- Colonial State (UIP, 1984).
4The case of Moremi
who revealed the secret of Igbo power to Ife is a good example. For
details, see Johnson, S. History of the Yorubas.
5 For details
of this, see B. Awe, "The lyalode in the Traditional Yoruba Political
System" in A. Schlegel (ed) Sexual Stratification, (New
York, 1977), pp. 144-160.
6 The Onidanike
was a particularly prominent guild in the Old Oyo Empire.
7 Such affiliation
probably led to the establishment of general trade organization known
as the Parakoyi in places like Egba and Ife.
8 W. Bascom, "The
Esusu: The Credit System of the Yoruba," in Journal of the Royal
Anthropological Institute, Vol. 92, No. 1 (1952), pp. 63-69.
9 Only regular
members of the guild were offered such assistance. It was also on rotational
basis and no one took beyond his/her contribution.
10 T. Falola,
11 See Akinjogbin,
I. A., "The Economic Foundations of the Oyo Empire," in Akinjogbin,
I. A. and Osoba, S. 0., eds, Topics on Nigerian Economic and Social
History (Unife Press Ltd., 1981), pp. 40-41.
12 See ibid.,
13 T. Falola,
14 See Clapperton,
H., Journal of a Second Expedition into the Interior of Africa
(London, 1829), p.7.
15 I. A. Akinjogbin,
"The Economic Foundations of the Oyo Empires," p. 51.
16 See M. Jean
Hay and Sharon Stichter, African Women South of the Sahara (Longman,
17 See Falola,
18 A. Hinderer,
Seventeen Years in the Yoruba Country (London, 1872), pp. 59-62.
19 C.M.S. CA2/049,
"Hinderers Annual Letter for 1858," quoted in Akintoye,
S. A., "The Economic Foundations of Ibadans Power in the
19th Century," In Akinjogbin and Osaba (eds.) , Topics on Nigerian
Economic and Social History.
20 CD 4957, London,
1887, "Report of the Special Commissioners of he Lagos Government
to the Interior States in 1886" quoted in Ibid.
22 For details
see Beier, U., "The Yoruba attitude to dogs," Odu, No. 7,
(1959). Horses were important in warfare in Yorubaland, especially in
Old Oyo. For details, see Law, R. C. C., "A West African Cavalry
State: The Kingdom of Oyo," Journal of African History,
Vol. XVI, No. 1, (1975) S. Johnson, History of the Yorubas, p.125.
23 W. H. Clarke,
Travels and Explorations in Yorubaland 1854-1858, edited and
with an introduction by J. A. Atanda (Ibandan University Press, 1972),
24 See ibid,
25 See C. Coquery-Vidrovitch,
African Women (Westview Press, 1997).
Return to Table of Contents
Sex Scandal Engineers Hot Debate In Nigeria
by Paul Ejime,
with permission from Nando Times, 1 Feb 1998
(PANA) The competition for readership has become as fierce and diverse
as the menu the tabloids offer.
The irresistible story of
what a commentator dubbed "Loose Presidential Zippers," has
elicited in the Nigerian newspapers such headlines as "Presidential
Freedom and Extra-Marital Sex," "The Trial of President Clinton,"
"A Whiff of Sex," "and Clinton and the Monicagate Scandal
," a cynical reference to the Watergate scandal that brought down
late President Richard Nixon.
To underscore the interest
generated by the scandal, the private Lagos Thisday newspaper.
. . raised the question of whether the Clinton sex scandal can happen
in Nigeria, in a front page banner, superimposed on the photograph of
the embattled president.
Of course not. It cannot
happen in Nigeria. A president cannot be held to ransom because of sex
escapades. The judiciary and legislature are all corrupt, was politician
Mark Odus reply to Thisday pollsters, who also delved into
history of similar experiences involving Nigerian celebrities.
But the extent Americans
have gone to disgrace their president is shameful, said Akinyele, who
noted that there is no celebrity without a mistress. Kings, emperors,
prime ministers, heads of state, great businessmen, great journalists,
he said, are entitled to this social diversion.
Neither does Professor Jadesola
Akande, the female vice-chancellor of the Lagos State University, see
anything alarming in the Clinton scandal.
I am sure that 90 percent
of men, whether American, African or Nigerian have extra-marital affairs,
However, she said the lesson
for us here in Nigeria is that our public officers should have a moral
standard to which we should ask questions.
The semi-official Daily Times
newspaper also had a two-page Saturday special on the "Celebrity
Problem In America," with a kicker, "Gold Diggers in Gods
Own Country," and a rider, "Will President Clinton Lose the
The papers four reporters,
including three women, argue in the joint report, that president Clinton
is being tried by the media over unsubstantiated reports about his alleged
relationship with Monica Lewinsky (a former White House intern), adding
that gossip, innuendo and hearsay are being passed off as facts.
While Amanze Obi, a Thisday
writer is worried at the implications for Africa and the Middle East,
of a possible Clinton dethronement by the sex scandal, Nigerian women
respondents have generally spoken in defence of the beleaguered American
Elizabeth Ogunmuyiwa, a civil
servant, does not see any truth in the sex allegation against Clinton,
"but even if it is true, I dont think I will like to stir
up dust," she said, adding that "such an act is common in
"It is like a natural
phenomenon, so why should I shout...?" she asked.
Return to Table of Contents
the Controversies: Igbo Perspectives on Knowledge, Speech and Power
by Dr. Obioma
Nnaemeka, Associate Professor of French and Womens Studies,
Indiana University, Indianapolis
For many of us watching from the sidelines through different
cultural lenses, the controversies surrounding the Clintons raise crucial
cultural and epistemological questions that go beyond the first family.
Our "uninvited" participation often brings us face to face
with the reality and appreciation of our origins.
Sometimes, in the self-generating "clintonian"
contoversies, other cultures and places (Africa, for example) are simultaneously
evoked and silenced. The controversy over Hilary Rodham Clintons
It Takes a Village, took root at the 1996 Republican convention,
when the Republican presidential candidate, Robert Dole, made his disparaging
remark about the books title: "It does not take a village
to raise a child; it takes a family."Such a critique can only emanate
from a limited knowledge or no knowledge of the environment that gave
birth to the proverb and the book which takes the African proverb for
its title. The idea of "it takes a village" permeates African
cultures although it speaks different languages across the continent.
In Igboland (Nigeria) where the proverb assumes great significance in
locating the child at the center of communal life (ofu onye adiro
azu nwa - one person does not raise a child) the idea of a "single
parent" is oxymoronic.
The notion of "single parenthood" is incongruous
in an environment where parents are not generally in short supply and
children enjoy the benefits of multiple and collective parenting. In
Igboland, Eastern Nigeria, a popular name for males is nwora
(child of the community) and a popular name for girls is adaora
(daughter of the community). Such names stress not only the importance
of the child as central to a particular nuclear family but also as central
to and valued by the entire community.
Such an expansive notion of family and family responsibility
does not advocate the abandonment of parental responsibility by biological
parents. Rather, it stresses that a combination of parental (biological)
and communal responsibility ensures the survival of the child.
Clintons book interrogates certain notions - stranger,
family, etc. - and argues for their more profound and expansive reading.
Shortly after the 1996 Republican Convention, the Democrats held their
convention in Chicago where Christopher Reeve gave a new and more humane
reading of the much touted "family values." According to Reeve,
"we are all family and each one has value." Reeves more
imaginative and appealing reading of family values, recasts and reaffirms
the title of Clintons book, It Takes a Village. Like Clinton,
Reeve sees the family as including but not limited to the nuclear family.
Both Clintons book and Christopher Reeves speech argue for
the care of the child in the context of a wider notion of family. As
Clinton aptly notes, "the horizon of the contemporary village extend
well beyond the townline."
According to Clinton "some lessons come from countries
which I have had the opportunity to visit.The sight of baby carriages
left unattended outside stores on the streets of Copenhagen said more
to me about the safety of Danish babies than any research study could,
and it made me long to know what the Danes and other cultures might
teach us. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "There is not one civilization,
from the oldest to the newest, from which we cannot learn. The babies
are not really "unattended" in an environment where the concept
of "it takes a village to raise a child" prevails. Passers-by
are not "strangers" who can do "strange" things
to the babies; they are part of the village that cares for and sustains
the babies. Coincidentally, a few months after the publication of Clintons
book, a Danish couple who were vacationing in New York City had their
baby taken away and briefly placed in foster care because they "abandoned"
the baby in his stroller in front of the restaurant where they were
Notions of "stranger"differ from place to place.
The African proverb "it takes a village" makes family members
of "strangers" (nwanne di na nba - brothers/sisters
abound in foreign lands).1
As the uproar over It Takes a Village peaked, the
Whitewater investigation gathered momentum as it careened and exploded
into "laffaire Clinton /Lewinsky." Again, some of us
on the sideline, looking through a different cultural prism saw beyond
the "sex scandal" and the "zipper problem" as we
came face to face with the reality and appreciation of our origins.
From a cultural (Igbo) perspective, the Clinton/Lewinsky
controversy raises two crucial issues for me: (1) the relationship between
power and speech, and (2) the need to revisit Western feminist illusions.
In Igboland (Nigeria), the word is sacred and its preservation
guarantees power. An Igbo proverb is pertinent and instructive in this
instance - "onu adiro ekwusi ife anya fulu"/the mouth
does not say everything the eye sees. In the circus that "laffaire
Clinton/Lewinsky" has turned into, not only has the mouth spoken
all that the eye saw, it has also spoken what the eye did not see! In
Igboland, when someone confides in me, my power over that person derives
from my ability to keep the secrets and not divulge them. In Igbo thinking,
there is a piece of the owner of secrets in the secret themselves (the
"physicality" of the word is apparent in another Igbo proverb
that censures those who are imprudent with their verbal expressions
-"odiro ata okwu eze"/(s)he does not chew his/her words.
To keep someones secrets is to have control over him/her (the
"owner"), to divulge the secrets is to liberate the owner.
Power drives from ones ability to keep and respect
the word, and not from divulging and desecrating it. From an Igbo perspective,
Linda Tripps power over Monica Lewinsky would lie in her ability
to keep the secrets Monica confided in her. In America (the West) the
reverse is the case - power lies in the revelation. It is not sufficient
to know and divulge; it is more powerful to be the "first"
to do so. The race amongst the media houses to be the "first"
to break the news is instructive. What is at issue here? Few moments
of fame (notoriety) and money, money, money (TV ratings, book deals,
talk show circuit, newspaper and television interviews, etc.).
I would add that the difference between Charles
infidelity and Clintons is the total lack of decency in dishing
out the details of Clintons indiscretion in the print and
electronic media. Diana admitted on national television that she had
an affair but managed to stay away from the details (a far cry from
appearances and statements by Jennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, etc.).
Camilla is not talking. As far as this matter goes, there is not much
attempt on this side of the Atlantic to "chew ones words."
Events such as the Clinton/Lewinsky saga shed new light
(for me, at least) on studies of the relationship between knowledge
and power in post-struc-
turalist Western scholarship (Michel Foucaults work,
for example). Knowledge is power, they assert, but the major idea that
subtends the assertion is that to be truly powerful, knowledge must
"show and tell" itself. This reminds me of an experience in
a dentists office three months ago. The dentist was explaining
to me the way root canal work is done and I listened quietly to his
explanation which I understood very well. A few minutes into his explanation,
he pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil from his drawer and said
to me "let me make a sketch of it so you would understand."
I did not take to his assumptions too well, and that was my first and
last visit to his office.
This classic case of a clash of cultural perspectives
on knowledge is revealing. Because I did not show and tell
that I knew, he assumed that I did not know (he did not even ask if
I understood or not) and proceeded to draw whatever he thought he was
explaining to me. From my cultural perspective, I assume that a silent
listener understands what I am saying and would speak up (ask questions)
if he/she did not understand and needed explanations and further elaboration.
In Igboland, knowledge does not necessarily have to show and tell itself
in order to assert its presence and power (silence is not only golden,
it is powerful). The Igbo are very much aware of the relationship among
knowledge (secrets), silence, and power.
2. Feminist Illusions
An African institution that
has been clobbered in Western feminist discourses is polygamy. Often,
in one imperial gesture, Western feminists rebuke African men (polygamists)
for their male chauvinism and pity "helpless" African women
for "sharing" their men. The truth of the matter is that from
the pulpit (Swaggart, etc.) to the presidency (Kennedy, Clinton, etc.)
and the critical mass in between, there is enough "man sharing"
to go around. Donna Rice (of Monkey Business "fame"), Camilla
Parker-Bowles, Jennifer Flowers, and Monica Lewinsky are no momentary
flukes ("bimbo eruptions"); they are marks of a more permanent
and pervasive phenomenon that transcends ethnic, geographic, and cultural
boundaries. Beautiful, intelligent, loving wives are not antidote to
roving eyes! Clarence Thomas was let off the hook because none of the
senators at the Thomas/Hill hearing dared to cast the first stone.
It is interesting to note
that the same Western feminists who live the illusion of monogamy spring
forth in defense of errant spouses (standing by their men a la Tammy
Wynette) when they are caught. The rapidity with which the errant episodes
punctuate the illusion should lead one to ask questions that have more
to do with human nature (flaws and limitations) and less to do with
Africa and its "weird" customs. Ultimately, this raises questions
about ethics and human behavior. Shouldnt considerations of ethics
in its pure and abstract form relate to other considerations such as
the relationship between human inclinations and human expectations?
Should human inclinations be built into human expectations? The issue
of celibacy for catholic priests also comes to mind here. I have discussed
the issue of polygyny in feminist discourse more extensively in a paper
titled "Bringing African Women into the Classroom: Rethinking Pedagogy
and Epistemology," in Margaret Higgonet, ed. Border Work: Feminist
Engagements with Comparative Literature (Ithaca: Cornell University
Press, 1994), pp. 301-318.
From an Igbo perspective,
the central issue in all this is EXCESS (from Paula Jones, Jennifer
Flowers, and Linda Tripp to Bill Clinton).
1Toni Morrisons The Bluest Eye
begins with an interesting story (repeated three times in two pages)
that is both instructive and pertinent. it is the story of Jane and
her family. Jane lives in a beautiful green-and-white house with her
father, her mother, her brother, Dick and the family dog. The problem
is that well-dressed Jane wants to play but finds no one in the nuclear
family (the dog included) who wants to play with her. Jane got to play
only when an outsider chanced by and accepted to play with her.
Morrisons novel disrupts held notions about family
members and strangers by exposing the stranger within and the family
2For many of us, Clintons problem is
not "down there" but "up here." We are more concerned
about how his thinking has shifted radically in the last few years.
We are more worried about the negative impact of his metamorphosis on
millions of women and children who are the real victims of recent economic
and social policies.
3For an extensive discussion of polygyny in
feminist discourse, see Obioma Nnaemeka, "Bringing African Women
into the Classroom: Rethinking Pedagogy and Epistemology," in Margaret
Higonnet, ed. Borderwork: Feminist Engagements with Comparative Literature,
Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994, pp. 301-318.
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Africa and the
By Haines Brown, professor emeritus, C.C.S.U.
Africas progress toward universal Internet access
("connectivity") has been watched closely by those who hope
that it will bring economic and cultural development.
In May of 1996, the U.N.
Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) held a conference of economic planning
ministers and adopted the Africa Information Society Initiative (AISI).
The purpose of AISI was to incorporate an African information technology
and communications infrastructure within the national developmental
priorities of member states, rather than a Pan-African endeavor.
A year later in Addis Ababa
the ministers re- affirmed their commitment to the AISI. It was hoped
that by 2010 there would be universal integration extending to every
office, village and person. By the end of 1997 it was anticipated that
all but four countries would be connected, but, the growth of African
networks proved slower than other developing countries and has so far
resulted from private capital.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,
in June of last year there took place an African Networking Symposium
at INET 97. At the symposium Africa Onlines Vice-President,
Karanja Gakio, made several points:
"Africa is. .
.poised to start taking advantage of enhanced Internet services, including
increasing geographic and demographic coverage, and increasing the complexity
of services already available."
He defined "basic
connectivity" as access to a TCP/IP Network, PPP Dialup/Leased
Line capabilities, use of a personal computers connected by basic applications
such as E-mail, Usenet News and Fax.
The continental population
of Africa is 700 million. Only 0.1% (700K) are currently users of basic
Internet services. 550k of these live in southern Africa, 50K in north
Africa and 40K in the remainder of the continent. While e-mail is the
most common service, in many capitals full services are available.
of enhancing Internet services include a more efficient and wider distribution
of, and access to, information, which in turn leads to: more efficient
corporate performance thus enhancing the competitiveness of African
industries; . more efficient public services; a better informed population.
be made to increase geographical reach nationwide including greater
access to rural areas." This can be done by. . .national TCP/IP
backbones, . wireless services (such as BushNet in Uganda), and. direct
range of users can be dramatically increased bysuch Internet devices
as WebTV and public access kiosks and by human-to- Internet enhanced
services such as e.Shop in Nairobi." . New demographic
targets should include schools and universities, small businesses and
government and public sector organizations.
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The works of Cheikh Anta Diop
Diallo, Montreal University, Quebec
The works of the Senegalese
anthropologist Cheikh Anta Diop constitute an amazing whole. They are
becoming today, more than a decade after his death, a rallying point
for new generations of African intellectuals. Many Africans in the Americas
find in Diop incipient answers to certain existential questions.
His writings reveal a remarkable
unity. One may schematically group them into three major categories
A. An anthropological perspective
seen mainly in Nations Nègres et Culture (1954); Civilisations
et Barbarie (1981) et Anteriorité des Civilisations Nègres
B. A historical perspective
to be found most significantly in LAfrique Noire Précoloniale
(1960) and LUnité Culturelle de lAfrique Noire (1959).
Note also Nations Nègres et Culture (1954) and Anteriorité
des civilisations nègres (1967).
C. A political perspective
which constitutes the backbone of Les Fondements Culturels: Techiques
et Industriels dun État Federal dAfrique Noire (1960).
These three perspectives
in Diops works correspond to the two major positions he tookpositions
that still prompt readers to either revere him or hate him. His first
position is based on a single tenet. It is both anthropological and
historical in nature and can be summarized in several statements:
1. That mankind is divided
into three races
which have a common origin
2. That the first human was
Australopithecus, Homo erectus
3. That mutations occurred
4. That Egyptian civilization
Diops second position
is an outgrowth of his anthropological and historical research. He postulates
that if Africa wants to occupy a respected place among nations, it must
become politically unified. For this it must master science and technology,
which are not alien to it and are part of its heritage. Finally, Africa
must rely on its cultural unity, a tangible reality which can be proven
In 1954 the Sorbonne University
rejected his thesis on the origins of Egyptian civilization. He then
publicized his thesis in Nations Nègres et Culture. Senghor,
the President of Senegal after independence, was also hostile to him
and kept him out of the University of Dakar. Even today Diop is a victim
of ostracism by Africanist peers in the West. Numerous Africans, however,
particularly university students, view as suspect the attitude of Western
Africanists who fail to see the essentials of Diops contributions
and limit themselves to voicing methodological criticism. Some African
scholars have reexamined Diops theses and confirmed his conclusions
with respect to the links between Black-African languages and ancient
Egyptian as well as other theses of Diop. This has sufficed to make
Diop an ideal model for several African intellectuals.
Bonté, M. "Sur lAction
des Milieux." Bulletin de la Societé dAnthropologie de
Paris. V (1863) 437
Coquery-Vidovitch, C. "A
propos de La pensée de Cheikh Anta Diop dAlain Froment."
Cahiers dÉtudes Africaines. XXX,1 (1992).
See also the writings of
Théophile Obenga, including: Origine Commune de lEgyptien Ancien,
du Copte et des Langues Nègro- Africaines Modernes. Paris: LHarmattan,1993.
See the publications of the
Revue Ankh, rigorously overseen by Diops disciples.
Ela, Jean-Marc. Chiekh
Anta Diop, ou lHonneur de Penser. Paris: LHarmattan,
This article was translated
from the French by Professor Natalie Sandomirsky, Southern Connecticut
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