Africa has a rich and intricate history, but it is relatively unknown. You often find that many of us know just a fraction of the continent's beautiful history. Therefore, we wanted to explore the question, Is African history a mystery?
Africa is known as the cradle of humankind. The oldest human remains have been traced back to East Africa. Over the centuries, ancient Africans achieved so many incredible things. From developing mathematical systems, creating calendars and charting the sun, exploring South America and Asia, developing tools, among many other things. Africa was also home to some of the most powerful kingdoms such as Ancient Egypt, Benin Kingdom, Kingdom of Aksum, Mali Empire, to name just a few.
The Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt are one of the seven wonders of the world from the ancient world. Image source: Canva
However, even with such a complex history, we are still unaware of Africa's history. Why is that? One of the reasons for this was the long-held belief that Africa was a "Dark Continent".
The Myth of Africa as The Dark Continent
Europeans did not have direct knowledge of Africa beyond its coast. During the enlightenment period, which took place in the late 17th and 18th centuries, Europeans developed a new method to draw out maps.
Since Europeans did not have much knowledge of the African continent, such as cities, mountains, lakes, they excluded the information from the maps. There began a notion of Africa being a dark continent. Additionally, European explorers also ventured off to explore Africa. Upon their return, they wrote books deeming Africa as a dark continent. It only strengthened the notion of Africa as a dark continent.
The Impact of Colonization on Africa's History
In the 19th century, there was a scramble for Africa among the Europeans.
During this time, Europeans argued that Africa had no history. Europeans argued that Africans had no written records, which meant that Africa had no history. The Europeans failed to realize that Africans had passed down their history orally.
Colonization harmed Africa's history because the continent's history is told from the arrival of the Europeans.
We often do not get the chance to hear about the great kingdoms, warriors, kings and queens, cultures, traditions, and so much more that existed before. When we learn about African history, it mostly starts from colonization. However, all hope is not lost. Over the years, there has been a movement of Africans and African scholars taking it upon themselves to write African history.
African History Written by Africans
UNESCO has a project known as the General History of Africa. It is Africa's history written by African Scholars. The project began in the 1960s during the decolonisation process in Africa. It consists of 350 scholars who have written seven volumes of African history from pre-colonial Africa.
There are also great books written on African heroes, cultures, and history. We at Our Ancestories have two books on the incredible queen Idia and Queen Njinga. We recently saw Netflix release a show based on Queen Amina of Nigeria (check out our post on the legendary queen Amina).
More Africans have taken it upon themselves to re-discover the pre-colonial history of Africa. It is an encouraging thing to witness, and we should encourage it more. Hopefully, with time the question, "Is African History a Mystery?" will be answered with a resounding, "No".