Why do we focus African history around ancient Egypt? Cheikh Anta Diop’s recommendations for restoring African historiography were clear. Egypt had to be the reference to every interpretation of the past and to the experiences of Africa. We follow these recommendations here. We will then explain why we put Cheikh Anta Diop’s advice into practice and work through its method.
We will answer the following questions: What is the ultimate goal of Cheikh Anta Diop’s intellectual movement?
diop 11 The ultimate goal of Cheikh Anta Diop was to create an African state that unites all black countries. After analyzing the world situation, he concluded that a federation of sub-Saharan countries was the only salvation on a violent planet. But to do this, it was obvious to him that this state had to be built around a people who were aware of its uniqueness and community of values. Otherwise, those groups of people who are in their “tribal identity” and see themselves as strangers and ready to wage war at any time will never be able to unite to build such a long-lived nation.
That is why his work dealt with the cultural unity of Africa in order to construct a new identity that encompasses all blacks and overcomes all ethnic divisions. And no civilization has served as the basis for this common past like the Egyptian civilization.
Did African history begin with Egypt?
No, African history didn’t start with Egypt. The starting point is Kibish, a place in southern Ethiopia. The fossils of the oldest modern man were found there. Kibish is therefore the source, the common starting point for all of humanity, not just for the black world. The intellectual starting point is Lebombo in Swaziland, because the oldest evidence of mathematics was found there. And then another proof of math was found in Ishango in the DR Congo. According to Ivan Van Sertima, the pre-desert-like Sahara was inhabited by a great civilization, which paved the way for the Egyptian-Sudanese civilization. The Sahara people left this region during their desertification and went into the valley of the Nile, where they met the people from the great lakes and southern Africa.
What does Egypt therefore represent?
The Sudanese royalty probably appeared when those people met each other, that science sprouted. It was those Sudanese who went down the Nile to populate Egypt. Egypt is therefore the sum, the result, the daughter of all pre-historic Black Africa’s experiences accumulated during some 190 000 years. But this heritage would literally explode in Egypt, where it took a supreme dimension.
The art of sailing on all the seas, those pyramids which conception is still hard for Europeans to understand, this empire which influence touched Russia, these sciences in which Greek savants picked up their knowledge, this religion on which Christianity and Islam built themselves, those ancestors who have civilized the world… Egypt was and still remains – until now – the absolute completion of the African experience. No matter how valuable were the other African civilizations, objectively none of them was as great as the Egyptian civilization. It represents the top of the Black experience, technologically, philosophically and politically.
The fact to refer systematically to this civilization means aspiring to reach the highest level of the African experience; it also means to use this civilization which explains the best the African culture.
Are all the Blacks from Egypt?
We must know that after the desertification of the Sahara, the tall Blacks have lived in groups around the valley of the Nile and in the region of the great Lakes. The rest of the continent was essentially inhabited by the Pygmies and the San (Bushmen). The oral tradition of numerous African people speaks of a migration from the Nile, then a conquest of the territories of the Pygmies. When we started to show interest for the African history, we thought that only a few people came from the valley of the Nile. Eventually we ended up asking the following question: who is not of Egyptian-Sudanese descent? Here is below a non-exhaustive list of people probably or certainly from the Nile valley, as we know currently:
- South Africa: Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Swazi
- Zimbabwe: Ndebele
- DR Congo: Kuba
- Kenya: Kikuyu
- Rwanda: Banyarwanda
- Somalia: Somali
- Gabon/Equatorial Guinea: Fang
- Chad: Pulaar
- Cameroun: Fang, Bassa, Bamileke, Bamoun, Pulaar, Haussa
- Nigeria: Yoruba, Haussa
- Niger: Haussa
- Benin: Fon, Yoruba, Haussa
- Togo: Ewe
- Ghana/Ivory Coast: Akan
- Burkina Faso: Pulaar
- Senegal: Wolof, Pulaar, Serere
We finally would like to remind that Ethiopia was a province of the ancient Sudan. The community of culture between the Oromo from Ethiopia and from Egypt may be the result of a contact instead of descendants. It would not be surprising to hear someday someone suggest that most part of Blacks is of Egyptian-Sudanese descent. For those who are not, they still have a community of culture with the valley of the Nile, for the culture and the spirituality between all the peoples of Blacks of Africa and Madagascar is fundamentally identical. Africa is culturally one and indivisible and the valley of the Nile is the basis of this unity.
To summarize, Egypt is:
- The completion of the African experience
- The origin of numerous African groups
- It also has the advantage to be a dead civilization, a dead people; whereas if we would refer to Kongo or to the Yoruba, lots of people would cry out for imperialism.
Egypt and Sudan are to Africa what Greece and Rome are to Europe, it is to say the basis of their classic humanities. So, these are the reasons why we systematically refer to Egypt – which cultural and language similarities with the rest of the continent are endless – to bring up the community state of mind which is essential for a political federation of Black Africa. Of course it is necessary to keep on adding value to the other African civilizations which are for a lot in a structural way and even technologically daughters of the Egyptian civilization.
We finish with a Cheikh Anta Diop’s sentence pronounced in 1984 in Niamey ‘you were hidden the truth about your own national (Egyptian) past, the greatest past we have ever known, that our people have lived and we must open up our local histories and reattach them to this (Egyptian) history’.
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