When we think of the Nile Valley we think of the timelessness of civilization and Egypt’s architectural stone monuments on the West Bank of the Nile River. These monuments represent the cities of the dead; but little do we know about the metropolis areas of the living along the East Bank of the Nile. Click on black tool bar (first) and pictures (second) for more information in this section. This page is very, very, very long, so use the black tool bars to get to different parts of this one page. The pictures and green tool bar will take you to different pages. Click on the small yellow back buttons to return to the previous tool bar and click “Top” link if you wish to return to the top of this page. We are starting to add definitions to words used in the text. When ever you see them it is ok to click on the link in the text. A window will pop up defining the word. When finished you close the window.
Welcome to African Studies Art Page. This page is a survey of African art. People interested in using material for art appreciation and art history may find it very useful. African art collectors and art dealers can find it useful as a starting point for information needed in their business. We try to supply material that can be used in a variety of grade levels, though most of the curriculum and pedagogy in the education area is for college and universities. Feel free to use the feed back form on this page. Some materials used to supplement what you find may be in another location. You may need help in finding those materials.
You navigate this page by using the black tool bars and the yellow back page buttons. There will be text introductions over each link explaining what you should find in each location.
Many of you are having problems finding what you are looking for. We can tell by what you type into search engines and the number of seconds you spend searching this page for what you want. This page is an art survey and is divided into geographical regions, because people living in a given geographical areas tend to share the same artistic traits and principles. The question is what geographical region is the art you are looking for? All of the geographic regions appear on the black tool bar above. On the black tool bar below we have placed the names of popular art groups that people look for, but they may not be listed by the terms you typed in the search engines. If you look at the dark blue title page (strip) at the very top of your web browser you may see terms you used to get to this page. We look for short phrases that come closes to matching what we have on a given page, but the words in that discipline may change once you get to this page. We then change from the casual terminology to terms used in this discipline. These pages will be used by students taking African Art classes and we want to get them in the habit of using the correct names for subjects pertaining to the discipline.
Traditional African Art is an ethnocentric point of view. In Traditional African Art, African culture is the driving force behind art; technology, economics, spiritually, design and African people. We are concerned with art that is capable of adsorbing outside influences with little notice, rather than the influences from outside absorbing it.
Traditional African Art was interrupted by the dawn of Western Civilization. Western Civilization began in Africa. Portuguese explores were searching for African slaves, gold and a rout to India and China. In the course of their journey they discovered ivory along the “Guinea Coast” and “Slave River in the Bite of Benin”.
Most definitions try to deal with what the outsider thinks African Art should be or shouldn’t look like. I am here to share how we think. I don’t give dam about your retina. As far as I am concerned what one sees is in the eyes of the beholder.
The job of an artists as some Africans see it is to steal ideas from all directions then incorporate those ideas into an African art work with out its source of information being revealed. A person carving from a Western art form “lumber” must first see and respect lumber for what it is; a “Western Art Form”. Then one works on diverting a viewer’s attention away from the fact that lumber is being used to make African Art. This task becomes a piece of cake through eyes of a conscious African mind. But when we are not conscious our final art becomes a blend of the two worlds; African and Western art.
I have given you as simple idea illustrated with one example. From that one idea no two people will see with the same retina. Everyone’s interpretation of what was just illustrated will be different. That is why I have chosen to illustrate that African art is more about consciousness and less about the retina. It is the African mind and consciousness that influences what you see and not our retina.
We will still make use of your retina; to guide and share with you a different way of seeing an African image; no two people will see the same image, but hopefully each and every person will see a different image from the one they saw before entering this lesson.
The journey and origins of Western Civilization begin with ivory. Among the ivory cargo imported were tusks decorated with carved images. These images gave a young venture capitalist and banker named Bartolomeo Marchionni a splendid idea when importing slaves. Why not request skilled ivory craftsmen from African traders and kings to be included with the rest of the human livestock? Between 1480 and 1495 the first examples of Western Art were produced in one of Marchionni’s human sweatshops.
It is at this point that we separate the art produced based on African art principals from the art produced through Western principles. We are interested in the African dominance in art principles rather than the homogeneity of African Art and Western Art. Our interest is in African art produced by African people and we discriminate not on the basis of when or where African Art was produced, but on who, how and why it was produced.
The majority of Western and Central African art in our database and private collections come from works produced during 18th Century to the present day. African art continued to develop and change after the first Europeans arrived. It is only through a faithful few traditional African governmental groups, small kingdoms and African art collectors that we have any since of what African art is supposed to be like today. The small art items of Egypt were put in hiding places too numerous and well hidden to find. Most of the monuments along the Nile Valley were too cumbersome to steal or take anywhere and besides sandstone was not a valued commodity in the Western World.
In Egypt art iconography and Egyptian written characters are one in the same. In West and Central Africa all the art forms carry a written iconography, but there are no dates or history recorded in the art, only its identification and use. Egypt wrote a record of its own history; West and Central Africa have no written record therefore there is no Western or Central African art History as of now. …. To be continued ….
In conclusion I hope this brief presentation may be of some help concerning your use of this art introduction page. At a later date we will supply similar introductions or other lessons or pages as well. I hope this will help you with your better understanding of this page and that you will be able to achieve goals you set out to accomplish.
My middle path, since of mission and self identity began with the Talladega Renaissance at Talladega College in Talladega Alabama. My family spent 7 years in that community until I was 10. When the family left Talladega to come to California I did not leave Talladega. I took it with me. My father Claude Clark was the major force, key and catalyst of the Renaissance. In the art department it was a one man show. He taught clay processing, ceramics, methods and materials in making oil paints; preparing canvases; printmaking, drawing, painting, and art history and art education. Some of the materials for glaze calculation were provided with the help of the College chemistry department. They got iron oxide from rusty cans and copper sulfate from corroded copper to produced glaze frits. I asked my father where did he order the frit and he had never heard that word before. He only used the term “gaze base”. My father and I had enough skills to set up art departments anywhere in the world. Talladega College is where I received my start as an artist and Talladega is were I learning my first nation building skills.
People who decide the course, or change in history for some strange reason are not always the ones trained or best qualified for that discipline. The movers and shakers are quite often people trained in other endeavors who become extremely dissatisfied, disgusted; sick and tired with things the way they are and wish to make a difference. Quite often the shakers may be people that sit and wait, thinking someone else will come along and make corrections. Guess what, the corrections are never going to happen, so there is only one thing left to do quit you’re complaining; get up and do it yourself.
There were 3 college students that were the key to my early success, Robert Cole, Alice Moore (Westbrook) and John Nash were my fathers’ first art majors. All three students focused on African sculpture and African art the whole time they were at Talladega College. Cole and Moore were from Chicago, Illinois. Nash was from Talladega.
These three pictures may not look like much to most viewers but to a country boy like me it was like a pot of gold. I linked everything these students were doing with my father’s capabilities. He was gaining size every year until by the time we left Talladega father was a colossal. Oddly enough I was critical about everything I saw my father and his students do. By age seven I was able to form my own opinions about art. I criticized everything I saw related to African art. I had decided nothing my father and his students were doing was African art and that when I got big I was going to prove that I was right by showing how to do African art the right way. Now I had a mission. Father’s students were coping pictures from magazines and plaster copies of African sculpture and using the wrong materials to do the work. They did everything in ceramics. In these pictures you will see no items made of metal or wood. These students did have a since of ceramics when they applied design to items of everyday use, but the items they produced did not look very African. The student at Talladega had very few resources to work from. Egypt was the only source in Africa with many art books written in English. In the early and mid nineteen fifties English written books in the United States and magazines articles containing information about West and Central African art could be counted on one hand.
It is only now that I have a greater appreciation for the pioneering work that students did at Talladega that made it possible for me to do the work I do today. Without them I am sure my art would look very different and I would have been late in beginning my art carrier. There achievements would not only have a profound effect on my studio work but a lasting effect in my academic skills as well.
Green Ware (Jr. High School)
Ceramics (Jr. High School)
Grandma's Hands at Work 1954
I began clay modeling in summer 1959 while in junior high school. I was 14 yrs. old. The Talladega Renaissance would reach its peak by the time I was 18 yrs. of age. After 1963 that Chapter in my middle path would be closed for ever never to open again. I would move on to more advanced spinoffs of the Talladega Renaissance.
Four years had passed since the family moved from Talladega to come to Sacramento and then to Oakland California. As I mentioned earlier I was still in Talladega because I had some unfinished business to take care of. I had vowed before we moved to California that my father and those student were not making African Art, but that one day when I got older I would not only correct what they had attempted to do but do it better and I did. I had my chance in 1959 and the curtains closed on that chapter after high school graduation in 1963.
I became interested in indigenous art of Oceanic at age 12. I did not like what was being taught in public school because African culture heritage was not included in the education curriculum and learning about Europeans was very boring. My father attended Sacramento State College, Sacramento California. He was taking college courses in geography, paleontology and art anthropology. Art was my father’s major and anthropology became his minor. I took a deep interest in my father’s college minor courses. Each evening after I finished my school work I spent time reading my father’s text books.
When I started this project I had intended to write about traditional African art of west and central Africa exclusively. Fortunately I began approaching the problem geographically. I got my cue from Dr. William Russel Bascom’s book titled “African Art in Cultural Perspective, An Introduction”. I knew Bascom from the time I was 14. We never talked but we often saw each other when I came in and out of the anthropology museum at U.C. Berkeley. I always had a note pad and I was drawing and taking notes about Native American artifacts displayed in the museum. In 1962 Bascom exhibited images from the museum collection of traditional African art at the Oakland Museum House located on the corner of Fourteenth Street and Oak Street. I said “museum house” and that is exactly what it was back in the day. It was the museum's first show of African Art in Oakland California. I would go there to watch films on African art. In 1962 I had ceramic sculpture on exhibit at that first show. I was age 16 then. Both Bascom and his wife who was also an Anthropologist came to see an additional display of my work one evening at the Oakland Museum. I was getting some attention, because I had become quite an enigma. He had a chance figure out who I was and gain some hint of my mission. In his book he made acknowledgement of Dr. Anthony Okion Ojigbo a political science major from Nigeria. I knew Ojigbo and his wife very well. We used to engage in lengthy discussions about African art and culture.
I began writing African art essays in 1969 and started African woodcarving in 1973. My father published an art teacher’s guide in 1970. I wrote and illustrated the Traditional African Art section. My first dot com website was launched in 1997 and I began writing cyber essays in 1999. The first one was titled “Coin Conspiracy” but it did not acquired that title about 2002.
There are four animals depicted above on the right hand side. The first one is an insect, represented in the form of a butterfly. The butterfly serves as a footrest for person using the commemorative stool on the left. The animal on the bottom left of the same picture represents a fish. It is just a generic form of fish; no particular type of fish. The fish is used as a tray. An arachnid is next in the form of a spider. This spider is a work stool. The last item is a reptile and it is represented as a turtle. The turtle is a box. I have plans to do amphibian, mammal and a bird next.
I taught myself clay modeling in junior high school and I stopped clay modeling when I graduated from high school in 1963. I began carving wood in 1973. I used traditional African woodcarving tools. I was also an African art importer by 1974. I did all importing arrangements through correspondence without seeing any of the suppliers I was buying from. My father and I corresponded with suppliers in Ghana and Nigeria. Our suppliers were referrals from people we knew. I made all purchases and paid shipping. My father and I did not see any of the export suppliers until the summer of 1976. The stool titled "Ralph" appeared in a college art museum exhibit exactly three years after I began teaching my self to carve. The hollow head urn inside was carved there and does not come out. Above are 6 wood sculptures of mine. The carving tool blades were made in Ghana, others not shown were made in Nigeria. I made all of the handles myself. The axe shown is used for carving wood only.
This is a wooden turtle box
Carving tool case and carving tools.
In 1967 Dr. Bascom organized an in-depth, extensive exhibition of traditional west and central African art at the anthropology museum at U.C. Berkeley. I spent several months taking notes and recording that exhibit on color slide film. Occasionally I had a chance to hear him give a guided tour while I was at work. The next year I photographed the Paul Tishman African Art Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art In Los Angeles California.
Bascom had confiscated a large number of Ife bronzes from a compound in back of the Oni’s palace in Ile Ife. The Oni was very upset about that. So Bascom gave bronzes back, after making plaster copies of the originals.
Bascom had many publications about African folklore because that was his area of interest. Art was just a side line and not his main focus.
When I became a graduate student at the University of California Berkeley in 1968, with the help of my father I was able to gain access to artifacts in the museum archives anytime I needed to. In 1976 I barrowed artifacts from the museum collection to exhibit at an art exhibit of African and African American art at San Jose State University where I was teaching African American Art History. I was curator of the exhibit.
During the late 1970’s my mother a teacher in African religion and philosophy, became interested Egyptian Civilization and suggested I go hear Dr. Ben Jochannan a Jamaican immigrant from Harlem New York. He grew up in Harlem under the influence of Marcus Garvey. I came to know him fairly well. Dr. Ben dressed like Garvey and he talked like Garvey. During the early 1980’s and mid 1980’s I heard in person several other scholars Dr. John Henrik Clarke, John George, Ivan Van Sertima and Theophile Obinga.
My father and I used George Peter Murdock’s book titled, “Africa its Peoples and Their Culture History” as a reference for organizing the art producing people in west and central Africa. The words “cultural history” is important concerning west and central Africa, because that may be all we can get historically. There is almost no history about the art. Most of the work is in wood and did not last long on the African continent. Metal and clay objects are much older, but not much is known about the work yet and there was no writing from that period of time. There are few exceptions. The Benin bronzes and chronology to go with the sculpture is still intact.
What were Africans doing before there were civilizations and who were these Africans? There were many Hominids types living in Africa. This is Homo rudolfensis. Homo sapiens, sapiens is just one of the many branches of human genotypes. Homo rudofensis looks much like our map of Africa does today. As you can see Nigeria and Cameroons are clearly defined. The great lake region on the eastern side of Africa is in place even though the Nile is not present. What is to become the Congo River is only a lake inside the Congo basin. As you can see things are beginning to shape up. For more information see BBC News.
Egyptian Architecture is stark, plain and massive, emphasizing the use of lines and polygon geometric forms.
This is a photograph of Step Pyramid at Saqqara from the 3rd Dynasty (2778-2723) B.C. Egypt (Kemet) is not a Mediterranean Civilization. The 3rd Dynasty is possibly earlier than Chinese Civilization. For the rest of the comparisons on this page you don’t need to include 1st and 2nd Dynasties because the 3rd is old enough.
Third was more sophisticated than anything on the planet during its time and if there were other civilization outside Africa earlier than the 3rd Dynasty, then 3rd Dynasty has Nubian and Punt to back it up.
Egyptians used a form of pictograph characters for writing. They learned how to write by using pictures from the Nubians. In Egyptian art all iconography was the same. You can see the same iconography used in writing, carved relief sculpture, free standing sculpture, furniture, architecture, painting, pottery and jewelry. Mixed in with the pictures were picture symbols that represented consonants. Egyptians did not depict vowel sounds. You had to guess what the vowel sounds were if you did not already speak the language.
The Egyptians were the first land surveyors. They produced an accurate means of measuring land in order to determine boundaries. A form of geometry was developed for this purpose. The invention occurred out of necessity. Famers would get into fist fight after the floods over who was stealing each others lands. This new invention helped control a number of social problems plus opened new avenues in landscaping and architecture. “Thus necessity is the mother of invention”.
Before the invention of the plow in Egypt, Africans used a hoe and they organized their plots in a series of grids. Egyptians continued to cultivate farmland inside rectangular grids. The squares and rectangles were much larger than the grids of people using the hoe in the south. The plow was a much large farm tool so it needed a larger grid. CLC
Africa is the cradle of Hominids. Africa is the birth place of Homo sapiens. Human Civilization began in Africa. The earliest forms of agriculture began along the Nile. Cattle razing began in the Near East along the Fertile Crescent and quickly spread to North Africa. Iron smelting was started in the Sudan. The first cities and metropolitan centers began in Africa. Egypt is the birth place of the worlds first metropolis. Egyptians learned the arts of stone cutting and pyramid construction from the Nubians. The ancient Egyptians learned writing, math and sciences from the Nubians, Kingdom of Kush and Punt. During the 18th Dynasty between (c. 1385 B.C. - c. 1350 B.C.) the pharaoh Amenhotep IV (Akenaten) created heresy by proclaiming there was one god "Aten", thus making Egypt the birth place of monotheism. Egypt helped spread the blessings and evils of civilization to the rest of the world outside of Africa. The basic concepts and principles of civilization began in Africa. Egypt was one of the last in a long line of Nile Valley Civilizations and Egypt was the world's first monumental civilization.
Nubian Architecture is decorative and linear emphasizing curves and rounded geometric forms. The example shown here is a product of Kush Civilization. It is "Kiosk" located at Naqa, Sudan sixth cataract, south of Meroe. The temple in the back ground to the left characterizes Egyptian architecture in its use of polygons.
Another View of Kiosk
Kiosk and the Temple of Amun were built during the Christian era, so there are Egyptian and Roman characteristics present as well, but the characteristics I described should reflect both old and new Nubian as well. The earliest columns were probably cubical rather than cylinder columns. The Egyptian buildings at Abydos reflect earlier cubical column types.
Temple of Amun, Naqa, Sudan (15 AD - 40 AD)
Nubians developed the column which aloud architects to build structures with wide open interiors. Egypt could use this Nubian structure to develop larger monuments. Nubians produced the first pyramids, but they could not build big pyramids because they kept falling down. I think I have seen an early version of the Sphinx produced by Nubians, nothing near the scale produced by Egyptians in Giza. The great Sphinx in Giza was not produce during the fourth dynasty. That information is incorrect. There were no Great Pyramids in Giza then. The Great Sphinx was the largest architectural sculpture in that area for a long time, by itself. I saw a few very large pyramids near Giza that never made it because they kept falling down. Egyptians built their first great pyramid monument by constructing it in five layers like a layered cake.
Anything that comes earlier than Egypt would be old and ancient as far as I am concerned. Egypt would be a great introduction for anyone studying both early and current civilizations, because most of the frills, institutions, bureaucracies, politics, social issues, and problems of the day, corruptions and plagues of society were already in place by then. After the rise and fall of Egypt there is very little new under the sun. Studying Egypt is like viewing your own reflection in the past before it happened and studying Nubian Civilization is learning about how it got like that in the first place.
It was the ancient Egyptians that told us to “Know thy self” and they probably heard the Nubians say it first. They should know. Instead of beating our selves on the chest like some chimpanzee or guerilla we need to get down to business.
Nubian Civilization, Kingdom of Kush and Meroe are all Nubian Civilizations. Nubian Civilization had many off shoot cultures, kingdoms and civilizations. Egypt was once a Nubian settlement which later grew into a civilization after which it became the most famous civilization in the world and still is to this day. Egyptians developed their own language and political autonomy; then separated them-selves from Nubian Civilization. The ancient Kingdom of Kush was created by Nubians and run by Nubians. After receiving its own anatomy, Egypt would then inspire other people to become civilized through out the known world and several of those civilizations would come back to haunt both Egypt and Nubian people.
Civilization meant many different things to different cultures and different people. The culture those people had before becoming civilized would play a major role in their development. People did not get rid of old beliefs and practice after becoming civilized. Civilization reinforced those beliefs and provided an adversary with a weapon to wreak havoc and misery on you later. If you give a mad dog a decent meal and place to stay with out curing its disease you would have probably been better off had you left that dog the way he was, because its ill fate might come back to haunt you; therefore let a sleeping dog lie.
There was another reason for the Nile Valley collapse and collapse of African Civilizations as a whole. African Civilizations never developed their masses of people. Therefore the people didn’t have tools need to support their governments when ever there was trouble. African leaders still don’t develop the masses. Julius Nyerere is one of the few that knew what was needed to sustain a country, but his programs never got the support needed from the wealthy and middle classes.
Too much emphasis has been placed on the Nile River and not enough studies about people living away from the Nile. There was the African horn. There was much activity taking place in that area. People were living there. What were they doing there and who were they?
The Land of Punt; what is that? Punt was created separate from Nubian Civilization. We think it is older than Nubian. African American historians often called "The Land of Punt" Ethiopian Civilization, but there is vey little evidence to show that Punt began in Ethiopia. It began in the low lands close to water in a place known as Eritrea and Somalia. Ethiopia is in the rugged highlands away from great bodies of water. The Land of Punt that the Egyptians referred to was located in the African Horn along the cost line of the Red Sea South Eastern Sudan, Eritrea, and Somalia, Djibouti in Africa and South Western Arabian Coast and Yemen in the Near East. The Egyptians referred to Punt as the land of Amen (Egypt’s supreme deity), suggesting that the Nubian and Egyptian Sun deity lived there. All Egyptian and Nubian gods had there place of origin. Perhaps Land of Punt is older than Nubian Civilization and is one of the founders Nubian Civilization. Punt later went on to become the founders of Axum and the Ethiopian Empire both located in the Ethiopian highlands to the south.
Abukar Ali, a former newsman and accomplished translator, believes that the majority of Nubian gods came from Punt. Here is his studied titled “THE LAND OF THE GODS”.
There is another irony concerning The Land of Punt. Some of the world’s leading scientists, zoologists, geologists, anthropologists, and paleontologists live in Punt. Their ancestors started civilization and now people of Punt are trying to find out who we are and where we came from. They most important fined so far was a Hominid named “Ardi” that was a close link between modern chimpanzees and modern Hominids. Scientists co-leaders Berhane Astaw; Giday Wolder, Yohanes Haile-Selassie and and other Ethiopian scientists are working with European and American scientists along the Somalia Ethiopian boarder just inside the land of Punt. The specimens found there are tested in over 36 science laboratories around the world.
The bronze head you see before you is not bronze at all. This sculpture is made of brass, a combination alloyed made of copper and zinc and possibly a small amount of lead. If information from the British Museum is correct the alloyed was not a local alloyed. It was produced from brass rods transported across the Sahara desert by camel caravans(see research material at British Museum,London). The brass rods came in such small amounts that the brass casters in Ile Ife had to learn how to use the metal very sparingly. This head is light in weight and reveals a small shortage of metal along the lower right side, bottom of the neck. There are no gates or vent attachments detected making this example almost a perfect cast.
The head you see was produced before the Italian Renaissance and it is older than Western Civilization. This brass cast was produced between the tenth and twelfth century A.D. which makes this sculpture 800 years or more old, almost a thousand years, which would be slightly less than half the age of European Civilization. This sculpture was the end results of two very different civilizations meshing together and coming up with an ingenious plan. The Oyo-s’ were from Egypt. They were driven to that area as a result of Islamic expansion and the Arab slave trade. They probably came in several waves, the first group Oyo-s may have been Coptic Christians, followed later by a wave of Muslims. The Nupe and other indigenous people had been in this region for thousands of years. These two very different set of experiences would come up with a plan that would revolutionize the global art world concerning human images. It would not be until the 19th century, 700 years later that artists in Europe would come up with the same theory from a different perspective.
The Oyo-s’ were not a large group of people. They were very small in terms of numbers. They established themselves by leveraging the power of the indigenous priesthood of Ile Ife. The priesthood in Ife was recognized and respected by many communities in what was to become known as Yoruba Land. Oduduwa probably did not come directly from the Nile. Oyo migration probably was a gradual movement that took several generations to accomplish. Oduduwa sometimes referred to as Olofin Adimula (by one account) may have migrated from a community inside Yoruba Land. One theory has it that the Oyo-s’ originated in Ekiti and Okun sub-communities in northeastern Yoruba Land. That would only have been a temporary settlement long enough obtain familiarity with language, religion and customs of the region. The Oyo-s next move to the city of Old Oyo was probably where Oduduwa inters the picture. This move placed the Oyo-s close enough to observe the political infrastructure in Ife thus providing Oyo-s with enough knowledge concerning how to gain leveraging power to use Ile Ife as a “Trojan Horse” to conquer the rest of the region.
There were not a dozen brass heads cast, two or three dozen brasses cast made. We do not know how many cast were made and how they were distributed. This example probably represents an Oni of Ile Ife, but the Alaafin of Oyo had portraits made too. The Oyo are the ones that implemented and controlled the brass portrait casting process. They tried to keep knowledge of this type of casting within the confines of Ile Ife. The Alaafin shared knowledge of brass portrait cast only with his older brother in Edo City (the city of Benin). The Oyo-s presented brass gifts to other parts of Yoruba Land but they would not tell or reveal the secrets of the process. There were large full brass figures made. Only one is known to exist from the Nupe village of Tada. It is believed that the Nupe people may have been the architects of Nok Civilization that dominated the region before the Oyo-s came. Several settlements in Yoruba Land learned how to produce human life like portraits in terracotta but only Ife produced the brass ones.
There is much confusion concerning how Ife brass sculptures relate to Greek sculpture. How does Ife portrait sculpture compare with Greek portrait sculpture, what are the similarities? The answer to that question is very simple, “they don’t”. Let me clear this up for you so that there won’t be any further confusion regarding this matter. First we need to go back to Athenian Greece and Ancient Kemet where all this mess started in the first place. The Western mind appears to be pervasive throughout the planet earth. However there are at least two civilizations (China and Far Eastern Civilizations) and a variety of cultures in Africa and elsewhere that might see this scenario much quicker than people schooled only in European and/or Western Civilization thinking. In Western thought people are taught to see human likeness only from Greco-Roman perspective and if the style of human portraiture doesn’t meet those requirements, they fail to conceive the possibility that there may be other options. European and Western scientist both have that same problem. The Egyptians were a very spiritual people. They could not conceive or envision a secular world. That concept would have no meaning to them. The same is true with the rest of Africa. The Athenians on the other hand were atheist. They were the first people to introduce a secular society to the civilized world. They believed that their gods were human like and lived on mount Olympus. They also believed that “Man was the measure of all things”. If there were problems to be solved Athenians did not leave any of the solutions to be corrected by nature. Athenians attempted to correct it themselves or study the problem long enough so that it could be corrected by humans at a later date. The later date evolved when Eugenics Society and scientist demonstrated the capability to manipulate biologic engineering of perfect genes and chromosomes in order to produce a more desirable species of human kind. Back then all the Athenians could do was produce art. They would have to wait another 2,000 years in order to accomplish there real objective.
Egyptians on the other hand believed that there were two creative worlds; one consisting of nature and the other realm of art or human creativity and that both of these worlds were governed by the sun and other universal forces. They believed on one hand that nature knew best how to do it was doing and that humans should be concerned with creating a “cultural universe” of their own which would be entirely different from nature, but supportive of natural world. They did not wish to show any disrespect for nature by coping the creators work. Egyptians would continue to produce culture while creation continued producing nature and the two would some how work together. Where the two civilizations Greece and Kemet were quite similar is that neither Greece nor Kemet believed in harmonizing with nature or at least they never showed it in practice. Egyptians had since of insecurity and inferiority complex concerning nature. They were not able to initiate longevity and doctors were not able to control diseases that deformed and claimed human lives so Kemet tried to compensate for this. Civilization gave Egyptians a false since of being able to concur something, possibly by performing all these unusual cultural tasks the gods might do them a favor. The god kings and enormous monuments were testament of that desire to control and the Athenians were quick to pick up on that inconsistency and carry it to the next level by declaring that “Man was the measure of all things”. The art of both Kemet and Athens reveal the need to control their lives.
Athenian field of medicine was not advanced enough to make physical changes in the human species so they accomplished what they wanted to see in human development through their art. Their idea was to produce a perfect human image. Nature was messing up and surely Athenians could do better than that. Their portraits in bronze and stone looked like real people but any signs of skin wrinkles or aging were missing. This approach to human portraiture was given the term “Realism”. The Greeks interestingly enough began with the same approach for modeling a human figure that the Egyptians were using. It helped them with completing there task of producing “Realism”, but they did not realize that there was a better way of trying to accomplish what they were after. Students in Western art are still taught to achieve human likeness by using the same archaic approach to constructing human images. The Greeks never understood why Egyptian artists were using polygons in the first place.
Egyptians put straight and six sides on nearly everything they built. Their world consisted of polygons. By using this construction procedure and maintaining polygon principles in their finished product no one could ever accuse Egyptians of coping nature, because Egyptians did not see any of these principles used in nature.
Egyptians applied straight lines and six sides to nearly everything they built. Their world consisted of polygons. By using this construction procedure and maintaining polygon principles in their finished product no one could ever accuse Egyptians of coping nature, because the human culture principles they used did not appear to be the same principles being used in nature. The Athenians saw Egyptian art as being “Stylized” because Egyptians did not know how to make human portraiture look “Real”.
We will now view sculpture procedures in Ife using Nok sculptures as reference. We must keep in mind that human principles are important in the making of art rather than natures principles used in creation, because humans must not interfere with nature’s work.
Nok people used the cone, sphere and cylinder for producing sculpture. Nok people were very peculiar. They would take any one of the three forms and construct a whole human head. The Nok produced a variety of cylinder heads, cone heads and sphere heads. This peculiar relationship to the human form must have appeared extremely bazaar and strange to the Oyo-s who were used to the Egyptian polygon approach. What was nice about Nok was you could never forget that you saw these three forms being used to compose sculpture, because the Nok people made an issue of their use by repeating the process so many times.
This is a brass or bronze casting done by Ibo metal casters during the tenth century AD. Copper alloyed casting was being done in both Yoruba Land and Igbo Land around the same time. What is remarkable about some of the Igbo-Ukwu bronzes is the complexity of the cast art. The cast you see here has two distinct parts that are attached in some places. A vase sits inside a lace like outer structure. The two sculptures probably were produced from one mold, one single cast rather than two separate casts.
The Igbo are a recent group of people in South Eastern Nigeria. The ruling class brought with them influences from out side the same as the Yoruba in South Western Nigeria (see “Ife” Black Tool Bar link).
These two images depict two very different views of Portuguese done by two Edo artists. The bronze image is an Edo concept of what a Portuguese Soldier look like to an Edo (Bini) craftsman. The image of the Portuguese Soldier is viewed from an African world, not a hybrid world. Western Civilization is a Hybrid Civilization it grew out of Europe’s association with it’s over seas colonies. This image of a Portuguese Soldier is not Western Art. It is African art even though a European is subject in the sculpture. The ivory sculpture is not European Art though it reflects many of its values and at the same time it is only partly African. Therefore the ivory sculpture is a hybrid mixture of two worlds and must be considered Western Art.
The following passages are a European or Western Description of the Ivory sculpture on the right.
Saltcellar: Portuguese Figures, 15th–16th century Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin Ivory
ON VIEW: GALLERY 352 Last Updated July 27, 2012         H. (a & b) 7 1/2 in. (19.1 cm) Louis V. Bell and Rogers Funds, 1972 (1972.63a,b)
"This saltcellar created by a Benin ivory carver reflects a local interest and emphasis on extensive detailing of dress and regalia found in other forms of Benin court art. Articulated in exacting detail, four Portuguese male figures, two richly adorned men and their attendants, are depicted around the perimeter of the receptacle. The higher status figures are depicted frontally, facing outward. The attendants are in profile, more crudely rendered, and in motion.
This saltcellar created by a Benin ivory carver reflects a local interest and emphasis on extensive detailing of dress and regalia found in other forms of Benin court art. Articulated in exacting detail, four Portuguese male figures, two richly adorned men and their attendants are depicted around the perimeter of the receptacle. The higher status figures are depicted frontally, facing outward. The attendants are in profile, more crudely rendered, and in motion.
The two wealthier men are laden with the trappings of their status. This includes the patterned high-crowned hat with a feather decorating its brim, the knee britches, a buttoned doublet with flaring shoulders and sleeves and bodice, keys, crosses, swords, and spears. Two-dimensional fabric patterns are translated into low relief, endowing the work's surface with an intricately arranged series of textures. This baroque layering of forms nearly disguises the structure of the object.
The people of Benin City Nigeria call themselves Edo people and the name of their royal city is Edo as well. The Portuguese are the ones that used the terms Bini and Benin, which points out another characteristic of Western Civilization. Imperialist were always naming things after themselves or giving names that pointed out characteristics that interested them. These same terms were then passed on to the indigenous people that lived there for thousands of years. This process can be referred to as “mental colonization”. Colonization is not a country; colonization is a process. It begins mentally and spiritual first, before becoming physical. Once the mental paralysis process begins death and rigor mortis can complete the process.
The Edo royal family has biological links with the Yoruba-s in Old Oyo City. The art of Ife City bronze casting was introduced into Edo City by the Oyo-s during the 14th Century.
Western Civilization was the first global civilization of mankind on the planet. It was the first global system created by an animal tetrapod, mammal, and primate hominid to affect an entire planet climate change. Something no other species of animal on this planet has been able to do. Earlier civilizations like the Mayans and Angkor Wat of Khmer Civilization created small local climate changes compared to the one in progress due to greenhouse gasses being produced by Western Civilization. Western Civilization sprung its roots off the West Coast of Africa in the mid-late 1480’s and continued to develop in the New World after 1492.
The two pictures of Western Architecture shown above depicted how architecture looked in the beginning of Western Civilization in Mexico City before the industrial revolution in 1750 and the second picture shows buildings in Kuala-Lumpur-Malaysia, built after the industrial revolution and at the beginning of High-Tech Information Age Revolution by year 2,000. Western Civilization is in the embryo stages of an advanced civilization. If an infrastructure of the West remains after global climate perhaps the rebuilders will have more intelligent solutions to problems they face because humans certainly didn’t learn anything from the smaller climate changes.
The Mayan ruins of Palenque and the Temple of the Sun in Chiapas, Mexico. Photograph: Rex features
Mayan city of Tulum ruins, Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. Credit: Michelle Werts
The West is doing exactly the same thing plus they have figured out how to turn this whole planet into a hothouse resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and they don’t care to do anything to stop or slow the process.
There is a bit of irony to the Mayan story. All corn that you have seen was domesticated. It was a mutual effort between the gods and women of Mexicana that made it that way. Corn was Mesoamericans gift to humanity and the world. The indigenous peoples of North and Central America practiced some of the best farming techniques in the Western Hemisphere. Corn was bred from something that looked like a tall blade of grass with an ear the size of a human thumb. Geniuses saw something in the wild grass and made something special from the plant. Farmers bred many species of the same plants keeping the ones they didn’t use alive in case disease ruined the ones they ate. If disease plagued the farm lands the farmers could crossbreed plants that had better immune systems with the infected plants, thus saving their domesticated plants from extinction.
Incas did the same thing with potatoes in the South America. Not only did Incas have many types of potatoes to breed in case of a disease epidemic, they made a food product from the potato that lasted more than six months, so that they would have enough time to correct the problem if diseases ruined their cops. But in Europe they took only the potato they wanted to eat so that when the potato crops went bad people starved to death because Europeans did not have a method for generating disease resistant potatoes.
This next example can be seen from outer space. It is an artificial island extending out into the southern end of the Persian Gulf from a country known as Dubai. It is just one of many water front developments going on in that country today. A new Dutch dredging technology is being used to create these massive man made islands. Fifteen present to 25 percent of the world building construction cranes are in use at Dubai. Many Western countries have dotted their city skylines with artificial forest skyscrapers made of concrete and glass. Dubai is in the process of extending Jacob’s later into the stratosphere. It would seem to make more since to go rocket science and build a space program. However there is one slight problem with that. The Israelis would see it as nuclear enrichment Program designed to produce nuclear weapons and use that as an excuse to turn Dubai into a parking lot.
This is Dubai’s hors d'oeuvre or appetizer; the entrée is yet to be served. Dubai’s coastline has to be the most expensive art real estate project under way on planet earth ever. It gives a clear message to the universe concerning intelligent life or the lack of it here on earth. There are several more works of this type, but this art piece has the best esthetics, balance, color, elegance, composition and simplicity. It it is due to rival the Great Wall of China, Great Pyramids of Giza, Angkor Wat of Khmer, Taj Mahal of India and Mayan Lost City in Yucatan Mexico. The only problem is it may not last nearly as long as the other monuments due to rising Ocean levels which mean sea levels will eventually raise with the oceans levels.
There is a strange irony or twist to the Dubai story. The Persian Gulf is owned by Europe and the United States. They alone determine what goes in the gulf and what comes out of the gulf. The Persian Gulf, a large body of water, is a colony owned by Europe and the United States. The sovereign countries bordering the Persian Gulf have no say about what goes on there. So the question is who gave Dubai permission to build those islands on someone else’s private property and who or what is Dubai?
Islamic fundamentalist are bent on trying get rid of Western dominance in the Islamic world yet you have a few Arab entrepreneurs going the opposite direction.
Europe sparked and administered Western civilization for less than 600 years alone until 1960. Then Europe began using one of its former colonies to help police the world. Western Civilization was not founded on cultural sharing; it was predicated in cultural dominance and cultural theft of foreign lands and resources. In 1960 Europe had to pass the lion’s share to one of Britain’s former colonies to help them police and bully the world. Europe still maintained controlled while the United States became the target of being an imperialist in the foreground and Europe found time to update its military arsenals in the background. The sun was beginning to set on the British Empire and other European countries as well, that was why the United States of America was called to help them out (as their flunky).
Europeans first had prototypes of their own buildings in Europe constructed in their colonies. The Spanish ones in Mexico City had a strange irony to them. The early government buildings and churches were built from recycled stones taken from the Aztec pyramided complex in Mexico City. The Spanish humiliated the Aztecs by forcing them to work as slaves, removing one block at a time from Aztec structures and reshaping each block to fit into a Western Colonial style building. The degradation of a people did not stop there. From that point on things began to get real nasty. Next the Conquistadors (Spanish Conquerors) had men of the indigenous people bring their own daughters for Conquistadors to choose from to fill their stables. If the men of households did not comply with the Spanish wishes their families starved to death, because the Spanish made impossible to obtain food unless you had money. The men of the indigenous used their women as trade in order to obtain access to jobs in the silver mines to feed their families. The Conquistadors raped the women in their stables in order to produce a cast known Mestizos. The children resulting from the Spanish male studs and women livestock only spoke Spanish and they were taught to believe that their mother’s people were ignorant.
The aftermaths of colonialism produced culture were Mexican Native American and Mestizo men sought light skin women with thick eyebrows and hair on their legs as suitable material for marriage. By the year 2000 Mestizos had almost succeeded whipping out indigenous languages in Mexico. Colleges and Universities began hiring Mexican Native Americans to teach indigenous languages. They then began teaching children at grade school level to speak a well. The indigenous Mexicans manage to do all of these things mentioned on their own without further intervention from the Spanish.
The aftermaths of colonialism produced culture were Mexican Native American and Mestizo men sought light skin women with thick eyebrows and hair on their legs as suitable material for marriage. By the year 2000 Mestizos had almost succeeded whipping out indigenous languages in Mexico. Colleges and Universities began hiring Mexican Native Americans to teach indigenous languages. They then began teaching children at grade school level to speak a well. The indigenous Mexicans manage to do all of these things mentioned on their own without further intervention from the Spanish.
Greece and Rome have been credited with starting “Western Civilization”; that is false. The Greeks and Romans never used that term “Western Civilization”. They never knew anything about Western Civilization, because it simply didn’t exist. Rome concurred much of Europe, which was cultural dominance within the “same cultural complex”. European Civilization grew out of Roman Civilization the same as Roman Civilization grew out of Greek Civilization. Greece and Rome concurred Egypt, Kush and parts of North Africa, but so did Persia, Syria and finally the Arabs, so there was no Western Civilization until after European dominance. In fact Arabs have made a more lasting impression on that part of Africa than either Greece or Rome. The Moors stayed in Europe for 400 years. There was noticeable change in the culture after they the Moors left, but no one has suggested that the Spanish and Portuguese are Moorish instead of European. People from a place, today known as Turkey invaded the Eastern part of Europe and stayed until they were pushed out of Europe in the 15th Century. Those countries maintained their culture.
The industrial revolution was the first large scale contribution to Western Civilization. The industrial revolution started in England 1750. England had to rely on its colonies to make industrialization affordable and practical.
I haven’t found a suitable definition for Western Civilization provided by Europe or the West and I don’t expect to find one anytime soon. European Civilization is somewhat easier to date. We will use the Gregorian calendar for Europe. Europeans are in a habit of using the terms Western and Europe loosely, as though they are one in the same terms. As far as we are concerned “European Civilization” and “Western Civilization” are separate terms. As they would have it Europe and the West are like the chicken and the egg. We don’t know which one came first? I don’t think so. Europe would say that Western Civilization started in the “West”, so Africa is South West and that makes Europe “North West”. Yes Western Civilization started in the West. Name me one civilization in history that started and managed two civilizations by themselves at one time strictly for their private use and I will show you a civilization that failed - NUBIAN. Come on let’s get real Civilization is not something you wake up to the next morning and say “I think we need another civilization; let’s go out and start building another civilization.” Europe had a French revolution plus two world wars because they did not know how to manage two civilizations. Like one would be enough; so what they need a second one for? They must have had a reason. Europe needed to share the responsibilities of a second civilization with someone else, which they were finally forced to do.
Even the Nubians realized they could not manage more than one civilization by themselves. When one died out they started another Civilization. Egypt told them to get away from them and take their hands off, because they could run their own civilization. Then centuries later here comes Nubian again with Kush and after that they built Meroe. On top of that Nubian went back to take Egypt away from Rome and spent 200 years trying to save Egypt. “Nubians, they be doing too much and finally ended up losing it all.”
Europe started Western Civilization somewhere somehow, but they only need one civilization for themselves. They didn’t need two. One is hard to manage. What would they need a second one for?
Another strategy Europe uses is to say that Western Civilization and European Civilization are one in the same. You don’t need two names for the same term.
Western Civilization is less than six hundred years old (600 yrs.) and it is the first global civilization that includes all mankind. The civilization responsible for creating Western Civilization is European Civilization. European Civilization is over 2,000 yrs. old. Europe used its colonies to create Western Civilization and in doing so Europe became apart of Western Civilization as well. Europe and Western Civilizations are the first two civilizations with different languages and cultures that use the same system of measurement, numbering and writing systems; same calendars and adopted same international law. Western Civilization is Global and European Civilization is continental. European Civilization encompasses all of the European continent and parts of northern Asia which includes Russia.
By contrast Chinese Civilization is over 6,000 yrs. old and is located in one country and has one language, one political system, one economic system, education system and many cultures. China is last of an old school civilization. It tried to organize a South and Far Eastern Civilization as one unite, one umbrella, but there wer no set of demographics or guide lines which they all adhered to. All the people in the Far East had similar cultures, but there was not enough cohesiveness to bring all the countries together. Far Easter Civilization has been subdued because it was overshadowed, dominated and infiltrated by Western Civilization.
There is a third civilization on the rise which is spearheaded by Islamic fundamentalism started not by Arabs but by a Persian Islamic Scholar and cleric Imam Khomeini. He distributed pamphlets far and wide from his refuge in Paris from 1953 until the revolution started November 4, 1979. Iran became the first successful fundamentalist government in the Near East. Islamic Fundamentalist occupies regions as far away as West and East Africa to Indonesia and Philippians in the Far East. One of their goals has been to remove Western Civilization influence from the Islamic world.
Why is Africa so important when studying Western Art? Western Civilization and Western Art began in Africa. Art began in Africa. As you have probably already noticed Africa was first in many things. The first and only Hominids were African. Homo sapiens are Africans, agriculture, iron smelting and civilization began in Africa. All of these developments helped in some way to shape the paths human cultural development would take elsewhere. We will also need to know the difference between the sharing and appreciation of culture, rape culture or culture castration and Western Art. We will cover each of these areas in this topic.
If Western Art had first taken root someplace else we could probably show a few African Western Art pieces and dismiss the subject concerning "Roots of Western Civilization in Africa", but we could not do that since both Western Art and Western Civilization began in Africa. Another reason why we could not dismiss the beginnings of Western Art in Africa was because the first examples of Western Art were some of the finest early examples of Western Art anywhere. Since Western Art produced in African and Europe were some of worlds best artworks this makes it imperative that we begin the history of Western Art by starting with Western Art produced in Africa and Europe.
Western Civilization is hybrid, but European Civilization is hybrid as well. There is no French Civilization, no English Civilization, no German Civilization, no Russian Civilization, no Spanish or Portuguese Civilization only European Civilization. None of these people have an alphabet or numbering system of their own that serve any function. The alphabet Europeans uses is Roman and the numbering characters used are Western Arabic. It consists of nine characters and the zero which were invented in India. Babylonians and Mayans also invented the zero, but the numbering system Europeans use is Indian. Europeans use Pope Gregory’s (XIII) calendar and the French invented the metric system of measurement (now called the International System of Units). Around 127 AD Hipparchus of Niceae working in Alexander Egypt proposed the 24 hour system. Christianity and the New Testament came from Egypt and the Near East and a seven day week is in the Book of Genesis. Each country in Europe has its own philosophy, but all countries in Europe embrace Greek Philosophy. The same principles used in uniting Europe are also the same principles used in the process of creating Western Civilization.
That way of thinking in 1492 is exactly the same thinking many Europeans have today in the 21st century. It is rather unfortunately their philosophy teaches them to think in a redounded manner. They are quick to classify many people of color as “child like sapiens”. In their way of thinking, the “child like hominid” never matures beyond a sub sapiens” level of thinking after reaching adulthood and therefore must always remain a child. Many Europeans feel ill at ease around people of non European origin and try to get center of attention. They are often not reciprocal and act as though the world does or should revolve around themselves.
Marco Polo and his brothers were the first Europeans in recorded history to travel past Mongolia into China. Mongolians and Europeans were already familiar with one another’s cultures even before Polo’s expedition. Two European expeditions before his made it only as far as Mongolia. The Great Khan, Mangu’s brother Kublai Khan had established himself in China by 1264 founding the Yuan Dynasty which lasted until 1368, when the Chinese took China back from the Mongols. Marco Polo’s timing was perfect. He arrived two years after Kublai had become Emperor in 1266. The two barbarians got along fine. Europeans had much that the Mongols wanted to know about since the Europeans were a little more advanced than they were. The Chinese were not interested and were not impressed, but Europeans would not know this until they returned a couple centuries later, after China had reclaimed it's country. Marco Polo went to China a second time. It was on either the first or second voyage Marco Polo would see two things that would change and reshape the course of history and European expansion. He saw gun powder shoot colored scarves into the sky and rockets that carried a payload into the night sky and exploded. The Chinese later used gun powder to fire flame throwers and spears to run the Mongols out of China. Polo’s focus was on the tube of gun powder that sent scarves flying in to air. The formula for gun powder would not have been given to Marco Polo had it not been for Kublai fore the Chinese probably never would have given Marco the formula and Roger Bacon may not have been able to make the invention of the musket possible because someone else would have had to do that later.
A number of things from Europe were introduced into China by Marco Polo, but the Mongols told Marco Polo what they wanted. Many things from China were introduced to Europe. There was a sharing of cultures. Mongol China was not being westernized and Europe was not being easternized. Europe would find out later that China was not interested in shareing culture. China only wanted gold.
Another thing Imperialist did was perform “Cultural Castration”. The first results of this can be seen in the African slave trade and events that took place in the Americas. In Mexico City Aztecs were made to take their pyramid down block by block and build churches and government buildings using those same blocks. The pyramid is still there. It has taken on new shapes in a completely different form; the pyramid has been westernized. Next adult male working in Mexico City needed a permit to work there; their ticket was a woman. The Conquistadors picked what ever they wanted and the woman’s offspring’s were only aloud to speak Spanish. All of these changes and acts of aggression have a profound affect on the art, lives and culture of the people living there. Ladies and gentlemen - Welcome to Western Civilization.
In Sierra Leon Guinea Africa as it was known then, the principle of soft slavery was introduced by the Portuguese. This principle aloud Europeans the use the West African coast settlements to promote their campaign of recruiting human cargo to the New World, plus establishing slave economies through out West and Central Africa. The cowrie shell was the closest thing to a universal currency used by people living in West and Central Africa. This shell was transported from East Africa to West Africa through trade. During the 16th century Dutch helped Europeans gain control of the African Economy by transporting cowries by the ship loads from the Indian Ocean and dumping them in West Africa, thus getting rid of any universal currencies, enabling European Imperialist to introduce their own currency. Europeans no longer had to barter goods for what they wanted. They could use Dutch and Venetian beads followed by the coin, thus the first Western economies began in Africa.
This ivory saltcellar was produced for Portuguese clientele in 15th Century AD on Sherbro Island, off the Coast of Sierra Leon. Ivory artwork produced on this island mark the “Beginnings of Western Art”. This was during the height of the Italian Renaissance in Europe. Western Civilization was just getting started in European colonies. This is one of the finest examples of Western art works produced during that period of time. Ivory carvings produced by Sherbro and Edo craftsmen rival any ivory carvings produce in Europe and Asia during that time or hence. Africans produced some of the best.
This Sherbro Island Lidded Saltcellar was donated as a gift to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, New York in 1991, by Paul and Ruth W. Tishman. The sculpture was carved between the 15th and 16th Century. It measures 11 3/4 in. (29.8 cm) in height. Wild elephants still lived on Sherbro Island the time this sculpture was carved. The quote listed below was taken from a blog and may not be an original statement of its author. The quote may be that of an art curator or art historian. I have attributed it to the author of the blog since that is where I obtained the quote.
Afro-Portuguese Ivories, by Latrice logika Gedink Posted August 14, 2012 in Hot Topics.
ON VIEW: GALLERY 352 Last Updated July 27, 2012
“This saltcellar is both an extraordinary example of skilled workmanship and an artifact that epitomizes a singularly important convergence of cultures. In the second half of the fifteenth century, Portuguese explorers and traders were impressed by the considerable talent of ivory carvers they encountered along the coast of West Africa. As a result, they were inspired to commission works of this kind for their patrons, which ingeniously combine both European aesthetics and forms with those of Africa. During this period, salt and pepper were costly commodities and elaborate receptacles were appropriate for their storage in princely homes.
The top half of the piece includes four delicate rosettes and is crowned by what appears to be a distinctly European-looking rose. The spiraling interlocking forms may relate to a similarly entwined beaded style called gadrooning in early sixteenth-century Portuguese decorative arts.
The lower half includes imagery relating to indigenous African belief systems. The snakes may refer to spirits who are believed to bring immense riches to those who control them. It is possible that this is a reference to wealth gained through trade with the Portuguese. The four snakes appear to approach and almost touch noses with four growling dogs. According to regional traditions, dogs are considered spiritually astute animals able to see spirits and ghosts that are invisible to humans. This depiction of the dogs, with teeth bared, hair bristling, and ears laid back, may relate to that supernatural ability. However, the level of animation in this scene could also derive from chivalric hunting scenes in European woodcuts, which were furnished to local African artists by their European patrons.
From these photographs we are able to notice two important contributions that Portuguese made concerning European Imperialism. First they began establishing Western Civilization through art and they made it possible to do this by demonstrating how to gain control of foreign lands. The Portuguese establish island post first and other European colonist that followed used exactly the same procedure. The islands served as fortress against European adversaries. Here are some of the names of island posts established in the Old and New World Macau-Taipa, Hong Kong, Jamestown Virginia, Manhattan, Loango Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lagos Nigeria, Santo Domingo and countless others.
Another interesting factor the Portuguese established was that the artisans and skilled craftsmen could be made to produce items for European taste and consumption that had never been seen before. The artifacts produce were more than adequate and suitable for European needs, but the designs reflected cultures that they were not familiar with, providing Europe with a fresh new look for change. European artisans began to implement designs and patterns of other cultures into their own lifestyles.
We will begin to see how Western Civilization takes root in Africa and the problems it presents for Africa people before it takes root anywhere else in the world. Sapi, Edo and Kongo are the earliest examples of people sharing in this process.
"...What was there about Sierra Leone and Benin during the early days of Portuguese trading that differed from the rest of West Africa? In 1480, the Portuguese King, John II, sold the right to trade slaves, spices, and elephant tusks from Guinea to Bartolomeo Marchionni, a wealthy Florentine banker and merchant in Lisbon, for forty thousand crusados.(4) Sierra Leone, situated on the Atlantic coast of Africa, was at that time included as part of Guinea. This license was extended in 1486 to include the Slave River in the Gulf of Benin and was further extended to 1495 in return for 6.3 million reis(5) for each year that Marchionni held the contract.(ii) King John II followed by his nephew Manuel, maintained control of the trade between Guinea and the Gulf of Benin, where they had located a steady supply of gold at Elmina. The Portuguese were mainly interested in gold, slave trading and in finding a sea route to India. Marchionni had established an extensive network of agents and clients that extended from Portugal to Spain to England, Flanders and Italy. His influential patrons included the Kings of Portugal and Spain and associates from Florence, like Lorenzo de Medici.(iii) He was the dominant trader in slaves from West Africa. Slaves he obtained from Benin were traded with the African gold merchants at Elmina for gold. Those he could not sell were taken to Madeira to work on the sugar plantations or to the slave house in Lisbon for sale in Europe".
The following is only my option, however I am convinced that it is a fact. I have dealt with it ever since I was a young boy from age 10. I began hanging out with Japanese children in school. At the time I lived in Sacramento California. The Japanese community had been out of prison for only 10 yrs. I know what I said; I said that they were in “prison”, because that is exactly where they were. Their property and personal possessions were taken away from them in 1942 and never returned. They were allowed to take only things that would fit in a suitcase. Many were American citizens and all Japanese living in the states of Washington, Oregon and California were denied due process of the law and transported to prison camps. Before incarceration Japanese parents were teaching their children to become American. They were not teaching their children the old ways of Japan, so prison for them served as a wakeup call.
We lived in Sacramento for three years and I went to Cherry Blossom Festival every single year and stayed all day. Cherry blossom time and the death of Emmett Louis Till were enough of a wakeup call for me. I knew that my time had come and I had better do something fast.
Western Civilization was created for one purpose only; to serve and protect the interest of European Civilization. Some former European colonies became international bullies to protect European interest, others became avid consumers and then there were street hookers and prostitutes proving their pimp masters with cheep labor, cash crops, minerals and natural resources.
This little brass fetish is an example of Western art produced for African use by the Kongo people after Portuguese tried unsuccessfully to make Christians out of them. The images the Portuguese brought with them did not look like this one. The image the Portuguese brought with them suffered from albinism and stringy hair. The Kongo people did not like that one, because they had their own concept of spirituality and what the image on the cross should looked like.
When we think of North Africa the first thing comes to mind are the Phoenician ships that sailed across the Atlantic to the New World (Americas). We are also reminded of Moorish architecture that left its mark on Southern Europe and continues to influence Western Civilization home interior and exterior architecture to this day. The Moors produced many of the furnishings used by interior designers and decorators.
Don’t get Southern Mediterranean Civilizations and Nile Valley Civilizations confused. The two civilizations are not in the same league. They originated on different playing fields. When the baskets of Fertile Crescent Goodies were brought into North Africa by foreigners Egyptian Civilization was already in place. Egyptian Civilization’s origins are Nile Valley not Mediterranean. When The Moors and Phoenicians swept across North Africa they came laden with Fertile Crescent Goodies. The Phoenicians came from the Eastern Mediterranean shores of the Near East and the Moors were straight out of Arabia. The Moors and Phoenicians were riding the backs of white horses when they came into North Africa. The early Egyptians did not have any horses. CLC
When the Phoenicians came in to North Africa where Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and Morocco are today, there were people living there. These people were basically from Europe and Africa. They had developed an African culture of their own. When the Phoenicians arrived they brought with them architecture and art from the Eastern Mediterranean. They were a mixture of Semitics, Caucasians and Africans consisting of Dravidian and Negroid people, physical types. The Dravidian and Negroid physical types are often referred to as Black People by some historians and many go as far as saying they are a “Black Race” of people. There are a large group of historians that classify Dravidians as Semitic people or Caucasian. We are concerned with art images and artifacts made by people living in Africa. That is a cultural issue. A person’s physical type should not be the first issue. In our study culture comes first.
Carthage architecture and sculpture resembles architecture and sculpture of the Near East, Greco-Roman and Etruscan cultures. Phoenician writing was an alphabet like the Greeks and Romans. It was strictly abstract character symbols and no pictures. African cultural characteristics are harder to find in Phoenician culture than the ones exhibited in Moorish art and architecture.
When we think of Sahara Desert we see an obstacle created from mountains made of sand. We see a place where animals and plants can not survive. Quite to the contrary human camel caravans constantly cross the Sahara. When they leave poop and pee in the sand scarabs are attracted to water, nutrients and bacteria left in the feces and urine. Desert lizards finding scarabs dine on the tasty little morsels. And other animals that crawl and fly feed off the lizards. There is enough animal and human traffic crossing the Sahara to make it worth while living there. How cool.
There is another secret about the Sahara Desert I think you should know. The sand mountains are not permanent. When the desert winds start blowing around there the sand mountains move somewhere else. How would you like to be caught in a sand storm when a mountain of sand is on the move? Tuareg caravans encounter them all the time.
West African is made up of Arid Steppe and Savannah Dry-Rainforest. The steppe region is located between the Sahara Desert in the north and Savannah Dry-Rainforest areas in the south. The Western Steppe receives less rain than the Savannah and Dry-Rainforest regions to the south. The Steppe consists of grass, brush and thicket accented by an occasional tree. This area of Africa has two seasons a year wet and dry seasons. Rain comes only during the six months of wet season. Western Steppe has many rivers and lakes that don't appear on world maps, because these bodies of water only exist when it rains. During the six months of dry season the temporary lakes and streams dry up. Droughts plague this rejoin as well. Occasionally a lake may last for several years; long enough to support large numbers of fish, boats and fishing communities; then it would eventually dry up and disappear. The Niger river and the Songhai people are the two constant bodies that remain in that area year after year. It has been said "If you want to kill a Songhai take him far away from the Niger". The same can probably be said about the Niger River as well. CLC
West Africa is known for having the most abstract sculpture of mankind and it is the Arid Steppe region where the most extreme abstractions can be found. There has been no such thing as non objective art in traditional African art. All images in traditional African culture represent something and there was no image which could not be identified. Woodcarving was often the work of a blacksmith. Woodcarvers used the same principles used in farming, iron work and woodcarving. Farmers strike the soil with a hoe. Iron smithies strike metal using a stone or iron hammer and strike the wood using a steel adze. Blacksmiths made iron sculpture and often did bronze casting as well. Blacksmiths were the smelters. Blacksmiths in this region did not have to do any farming. They made hoes, cutlasses for farmers and hunting gear for hunters during periods of farming and carved wooden masks and sculptures during off seasons. Their wives in most cases made pottery.
The woodcarvings reflect the blacksmiths metal work. Metalwork, scarcity of wood and Islam seem to be the three major influences on woodcarving in the region. Islam seems to have influenced African art disappearance more than it has the appearance of design or artwork. Geometric designs were being used in that part of Africa long before Islam came into the region. Telem woodcarvings and Dogon woodcarvings are good examples of testimonial concerning before and after the influence of Islam. The wood cavers in this area were influenced by metal smiths first. The carvings reflect first and foremost “Iron against Wood”. The two media are integrated in the woodcarving in such away that the wood is respected for being what it is wood rather than trying to be metal. The scarcity of wood plays an important but lesser role in the appearance of the art.
This is also the region where the Great West African civilizations were born, such as Ghana, Mali and Songhai along the Niger River. The cultures in this region of Africa reflect the same instability as ecosystems and geography do. The civilizations in this area went trough considerable expansion and contraction like the seasons, rivers and lakes. The expansion of Islamic religion and the Arab slave trade was the cause of much upheaval. Many people living in the arid steppe, such as the Bamana, Mossi, Songhai, Bobo and Dogon were near the area or were apart of the Three Famous Niger Civilizations. The older Akan speaking people and Baga people, living in the Western Savannah, were in the arid steppe region at the beginning and /or height of Niger Civilizations. They later moved south to the Dry Forest.
In the Arid Steppe grains suchas millet, maize and rice were grown. Farmers used a hoe cultivating the land inside a grid. Much of the wealth in this region was acquired through trade. Salt came from East Africa, gold and timber came from the south. CLC SAVANNAH
The Savannah and Dry-Rainforest lie between the Arid Steppe and the Atlantic Ocean. This region receives rain for six months each year and is dry without rain during the remaining six months. That is why we use the term “Dry-Rainforest”. The trees are essentially the same as the tropical rain forest but the climate demographic conditions under which this habitat flourishes is quite different from the tropical rain forest. The trees in this region have broad leaf evergreen leaves that form a canopy in the forest. These leaves remain on the tree the year round. In between the Savannah and the Dry-forest is a deciduous forest. The leave fall to the ground during the dry season then return to the tree branches during the wet season. This area has some grassland. Farmers in this region of Africa use hoes with long iron blades attached to a wooden handles. The principle behind the digging stick used by food gatherers before the invention of agriculture is the same. Farmers do not chop or swing at the soil. They bring the hoe straight down into the soil then lift it straight up. Woodcarving is done the same way. You don't chop the wood you strike it.
Each art area had artists specially trained in that craft. The divisions of craft labor for different trades were more clearly defined in the Savanna Dry Rain Forest than in the Arid Steppe region. In the past this region produced more art than any region outside the Nile Valley.
Traditional bronze casting, woodcarving and ivory carving from this region have no rivals anywhere else in the world. Ife and Edo (Benin) bronze casting during the 13th and 14th Centuries were unmatched concerning uniformity in thinness-thickness of the cast, possibly do more to the scarceness of metal resources rather than any esthetic considerations or concern recarding preservation of resources by the artists. In the two remaining art areas ivory and wood the story is much different. Ivory is limited by its size and shape and the artists respect that. They show a command for composition and reverence for material rarely seen in ivory carving elsewhere. Woodcarving is at the top of the chain of African art achievement. Composition and reverence for material go far beyond the period in which the work was created.
Late in the 19th Century as the European Camera began recording and printing chemical based pictures, European artists were concerned and worried about what to do next, since their art had been obsessed with perfecting natures work rather than creating new culture. Pablo Picasso and George Brock were studding the works of Paul Cézanne. The two artists noticed that Paul Cézanne’s art gave them a departure needed to create culture. Cézanne had noticed that everything in nature could be depicted using human made geometric shapes and forms, something that the Egyptian could have taught the Greeks thousands of years ago. Greeks probably thought Egyptians did not know how to make sculpture resembling humans look realistic or naturalistic, but they were wrong. They did not understand the nature of African cultures and African religions (an argument to be pursued in a separate chapter).
Meanwhile art critiques in Paris kept insisting that Picasso and Brock were painting these cubes. Brock and Picasso were busy studing Cézanne’s work. They did not know anything about "no little cubes". The two artists stumbled across Masks from Gabon in Central Africa and wooden statues from West Africa. They noticed that the art work made use of principles being used in Cézanne’s work, but there was a whole new “thang” going on there which was not about approximating nature at all, thus Cubism was born. Cubism is about painting and the term has nothing to do with African sculpture at all. African sculpture helped open European eyes to what art culture was supposed to be about. So Europe's discovery of Cubism and creation of Cubism is not an African creation or discovery at all. We never saw our sculpture as being cubistic until someone told us to see it that way.
Artists along the Guinea Coast were on to something unprecedented. They began using different iconography for different media and different art processes. A separate iconography was used in metal casting another iconography was used in Iron work. Separate iconographies were used in textile weaving another for stencil printed textile and still another iconography for relief printed textile. An evolution in that type of thinking process was still in effect when the first Europeans arrived. The iconography process that West Africans were using was wide spread. Artists as far away as Western Arid Steppe were using separate iconography for different media. As a result of Europeans trading for slaves and the decline of Traditional African art this evolution was never completed. CLC
Central Africa, Gabon and Congo Brazzavile have only one season a year; rainy season. This region of Africa has a tropical rain forest. The trees in this region have broad leaf evergreen leaves that form a canopy over the forest. The leaves remain on the tree the year round. It rains twelve months a year in this region, only stopping for a few hours, or few days at a time. This area also comprises Congo Kinshasa, and Equatorial Guinea. The Katanga Provence of Congo Kinshasa turns into a Southern Savannah. The Southern Savannah has two seasons wet and dry.
Rainforest of the Central Basin is the second largest rainforest in
the world. Much of the art from the Southern Savannah Region and
Equatorial Rainforest Region reflect the art influence from the
tropical rainforest. Both the Southern Savannah and Equatorial
Rainforest communities are in very close proximity with each
other. They trade in art artifacts as well as food and other commodities.
The cotton revolution and horizontal loom swept through West Africa and never touched this area of the continent. Raffia weaving has its own iconography. All of the other art forms in this region have integrated iconographies which show considerable influence stemming from raffia designs as well.
The Kuba people are the most influential people in the region as far as art is concerned. They first learned the arts of their neighbors, then began trading there art with other equatorial and savannah central basin people. If you click on the Kuba picture selection above you will see more of their work and learn agout Kuba history and their art.
Luba are the next largest art producers in the region. They are famous for their images which depict the female figure in wood. CLC
The Egyptians believed that the earth was round. Aristophanes of Byzantium learned this from his teachers while he was a student and working as chief librarian in Alexandria Egypt. With the help of Phoenician sailors Africans made their first voyage to the Americas around 300 AD. They found several earlier civilizations in existence. They had an influence on the art produced in the newly emerging Olmec Civilization. The pyramids that appear throughout out American Civilizations are combination of pyramids developed by Native Americans Pre-Olmec and influences from Egypt. CLC
Beginning in the fifteenth century Africans were brought to the New World as slaves to work primarily in agriculture. Most of the locations where Africans were sent lie between 35 degrees latitude above Tropic of Cancer and from Tropic of Cancer to Tropic of Capricorn in the south. CLC
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In this section we will see four different approaches to creating a new heritage and or taking an old heritage and advancing it forward into something different. In each case the artist has relied on using some basic principles from Africa that are thousands of years old.
In the first example, there are literally no tools and images to work from. The mountain containing information was far in the distance and years to come. Fortunately the mountain came to the artist by way of correspondence and African art trafficking. The artists sees 4 carving demonstrations performed by a master woodcarver named Lamidi Fakeye; two hours each and without any lessons or help from the master he becomes an accomplished woodcarver on his own in 3 years. The artist starts his own collection of traditional African art brought in by traders and commission’s African blacksmiths to fashion steel blades for him to carve with; using correspondence. He completed his self training in woodcarving before ever setting foot in Africa. The artist had a beginning in his father’s interest to promote African art, but providing for the family came first and the same discipline of self support was passed on to the son. The son’s first work experience was to own his first business, a vegetable wagon at age eight, which he managed by himself.
This father and son did not make a living doing art. They had by design figured out how to continue doing artwork without being forced to sell. The son was a teacher like his father and he had an import business. This family made good investments and they had one other important asset; longevity.
The second example is about a fourth generation traditional African woodcarver. He wanted to make a living selling his work, but his training was interrupted by his father’s death. Fortunately there were relatives all around him carving sculptures and there were support systems near by to help him produce an international economic network of patronage. Blacksmiths that fashion steel tools, trees to carve from and carvings produced by master craftsmen provide a living museum environment for the young man. He was not alone.
In a third example, an African American woman received her training in Western ceramics and pursued an interest in African pottery. She supported herself as a teacher. In this case the mountain wouldn’t come to her, so she had to go to the mountain. She becomes a master potter before age 30 and takes on the responsibility of finding markets for pottery, developing a tourist business geared to art and culture appreciation. She had the responsibility to help train young girls to become potters in one of the villages in Ghana.
The last artist was born around the time his art form was invented. He has had a chance to be apart of the avant-garde in promoting his cultures’ new art heritage. He became a master pan maker; pan designer, master music teacher and an outstanding performing artist. He moved from his home in Trinidad to the continent and continued encouraged people to take an interest in the art while supporting himself and family as a journalist for a local newspaper, until he retired, then opened his own school for pan teaching.
Claude Lockhart Clark - African American Woodcarver
My area is art and I have tried to explore much of the material I have had at hand. I specialize in African culture and I try to do most of the things that I am telling you to do so that you get information first hand from someone that has already been there. I can do many of the things that I point out in my online web lectures. I produce images; I have seen over several thousand African images from the homeland. I was not satisfied with seeing them in books or behind museum glass I had to have hands on. I need to know what some of the basic principles were behind African art so that I could rely on something else besides drums, masks and dance to continue the work. The cultural patrons were not there anymore, so one had to develop different reasons for doing the work. Many of the areas of the past used for images were gone, but new areas can develop.
Mallet (C.L C.)
Chisels (C.L. C.)
The items that are shown above and below are not familiar to most people living in Western society and shouldn’t. People living in Western countries don’t know what these things are or how they are used, so they have no use for such items. I purposely left out walking sticks, masks and drums in the first three rows of this display. The stool on the left side that I included I made sure that it would leave you in a quandary as to what else it might be besides a stool (see Talladega Post Renaissance). Your traditional art should be as private as your spoken language, as private as using the toilet and as private your bed room at night. Your language and traditional art both should be private even when viewed or spoken in public. This makes it easy for you to distinguish it from other cultures. Positive identification should never be confusing, however your art should be as easy and comfortable to use and live with as your language is to speak. As an African, living in Africa or Diaspora, if that much cultural diversity bothers you, then you are not ready to take on the tasks that lie ahead. No one is going to praise you for what you are doing, so don’t look for admires. No one is going to hold your hand and guide you day by day though tasks that have to be done. You may find a hand full of people to work together and if you do, then consider yourself very, very, fortunate to have such company at hand.
When it comes to art my first rule is “I do not believe in a democracy; my art work is the results of a dictatorship”. I make a very clear distinction between what is Western and what is African. An African can be both African and Western at the same time. That is not a cultural contradiction, but I just happen to have a bias, because I do not believe in cultural sharing concerning art. I barrow, rip it off and steal ideas from other people and their artwork all the time, but I don’t want you to know about it. I encourage getting ideas from other cultures. It is the only way your artwork will grow, or else it will become sterile if you don’t. When you steal just make sure no one else know you stole it. Chew it up and swallow. Do not integrate culture; dilute culture, decode it, dismantle, or miscegenate. Having ethnocentric ideas in regards to creative arts is normal and perfectly healthy, so enjoy. Such ideas come into conflict when it comes to human rights, sharing earth resources and national sovereignty, so you will need cooperate and share in those areas.
I will let you in on one little secret. Do you see those two turtle boxes in the photographs above? I did not carve those boxes from tree timber. I carved them from lumber that I purchased at the lumber yard, but you are not supposed to know that. Always be conscious of everything in your environment and immediate surroundings. A small amount of paranoia and suspicion is very healthy when it comes to your personal welfare and your culture.
I do not carve wood or timber from trees that I do not know anything about. I leave other people’s trees alone. I was not born or raised in Africa so I leave trees from home and other tropical forest alone. Tropical trees are for the people that are born there or live there. If you are not born and raised in Africa, then those are not your trees unless you live there. Leave African trees alone. Those are not your trees. Anything that Africans make and I buy belongs to me, but the natural resources do not belong to me.
Adze & Mattocks (C.L. Clark)
Assortment (C.L. Clark)
The multitude of cultural and infrastructural damage recovery is too great for any one person or hand full to correct, but we must start somewhere. At the institute we are set up with core curriculum already in place. We are still working on essays about various ethnic people in Africa and various traditional African industries. We will need teachers that can apply our curriculum; essays and develop new curriculum for troubled areas in our communities. I will have to reach the multitude through various publishing devices. The World Wide Web is just one of the many publishing tools available, but it is a very important tool and it is free, just as Tim Berners-Lee and members of his W3C wanted it to be. Earth metropolis displays well on any screen shape or size. You do not have to scroll side ways to see the content of the pages on Earth Metropolis only scroll up and down and with the black tool bars in place each scroll is instantaneous. Scroll up and down on wireless telephone terminals, wireless book pad reader terminals, laptops and desktop computers. The Internet and World Wide Web are available to the world 24/07 and 360 days per year. It used to be you had to have a computer to receive information from the World Wide Web, but with the today’s technology and the Cloud Burst (see “Civil Communities”) both children and adults will` be able to use computer terminals in the form of remote wireless telephones and remote wireless book pad readers to receive instructional material from the World Wide Web. Students in middle schools and grade school will have book pad readers inside their cubbies and back packs along with books and other classroom materials. They will be able to tap into instructional materials websites at any place that has a Wi-Fi connection.
My Father & Fakeye (Fakeye in Ibadan)
Figures (Fakeye in California)
Mask (Fakeye in California)
I met Lamidi Fakeye in Pasadena California during the summer of 1972. He was carving a table from laminated lumber. My father was his sponsor in Oakland California during the fall of 1972 for about two weeks. Fakeye did 4 wood carving demonstrations while in Oakland. There would have been 5 but the first on was foiled because is carving tools were being held over by the airlines. Authorities thought his carving tools might have been weapons, so they wanted to have a closer look before returning them to Fakeye. The first demonstration missed being televised by Bellva Davis Moore. This is just one of the obstacles facing intercultural relations between older culture institutions and the Western World.
Fakeye did traditional wood carvings for a Western market. It was because of him that I would be able to see how traditional African woodcarvings were carved in the beginning stages 4 times. I also witnessed the dangers of carving sculpture for the Western World. They had a profound influence on what his artwork would look like and his apprentices suffered even more because of the changing from predominately Yoruba carving tools to mixture of Western and Yoruba carving tools and methods. Fayeye used the same tools but show fewer problems concerning the change. He was able to find an acceptable balance between the two cultures without sacrificing the integrity of the African Art form. We are left with a blend between Western Art and African Art that works very well.
Table Commission (Fakeye in California)
Carving Table (Fakeye in California)
The change took place when Fakeye started carving lumber. Nigeria logging industry began using power saws at mills to cut timber into lumber. African woodcarving begins in the timber industry not lumber. Lumber is the first wooden art form in Western art. People in Western civilization generally work from lumber to build and carve things. Westerners work from lumber because their carving tools are designed mainly for lumber and small pieces of timber. African carving tools can handle any size wood.
In Nigeria Fakeye would buy timber and then Westernized the timber by having woodworkers cut the timber into different sizes providing the first stages of work in all of his wood carvings. Fakeye would begin carving the second stage of his artwork not realizing that the first stage of work was completed at sawmills. Once the new style was established in lumber it remanded the same even when Fakeye went back to carving timbers.
Fakeye has been able to make significant inroads into the Western Art for indigenous art where very few have been able to succeed. We have witness a few artist in the Cameroons break into the Western art market. Other artists may begin to appear in the future.
Adewuyi Fakeye /Ila Orangun, Nigeria
New inroads into community and family art must open up as well. The Cameroon Grasslands has produced woodcarvers that have made woodcarvings and door panels for office buildings and traditional settings both in this century and the last century. Their work is timber oriented and reflects traditional work that is modern yet showing little influence of the outside world. The modern is on Cameroon terms. The woodcarvers there choose the wood they want to use for their products and outsiders don’t make those choices for them. They have made small inroads into Western interior design. Carved stools are fitted with glass table tops then used as coffee tables for office buildings in the United States. The taller stools are fitted with glass tops and used for table lamps. The prices on Cameroon stools need to be higher to keep pace with the trees they are cutting down. Those trees take a long time to grow. The old avenues that used to be funded by traditional communities in Africa are drying up. Door carving for home owners in Ghana has proved profitable. Other avenues need to open as well.
Winnie Owens as a Young Artist
Winnie Owens Hart/Mature Artist (Click on picture to visit Website)
If the mountain won’t come to you then you must go to the mountain. I do not consider my self a historian. I am only a chronologist. I can present you with a series of events that have happened during a course of time and develop a philosophical approach to acquiring and applying tools that may be of use. As a young man I saw other men and women come across my path that gave lectures and wrote books, but I never saw anyone doing anything that resulted in applying constructive use of information stemming from those speeches and books. I did witness my generation repeating the same cycle of giving speeches and writing books; at least that was better than nothing. My question was are the writers able to apply anything illustrated in their text; can we build anything? I think we can. Those books have helped me, but I am not willing to continue that same cycle.
PHILOSOPHY AND BELIEF SYSTEMS
Philosophy is a set of cognitive principles people choose to govern their lives by. Philosophy becomes their way of life. Philosophies are capable of govern people who don’t wish to be governed. A people’s philosophy has the capability to govern them and govern others as well. The ones being governed by a philosophy don’t even have to know what the philosophy is to follow it (read “Utopia, Race and Cast”). The think tanks know what it is and there are some in every human society on the planet. Many human societies don’t have a translatable word that corresponds to the term “philosophy”, but they all have guide lines for one. You just have to be able to recognize it when it is being presented.
Philosophy is legal culture. It reveals the guidelines people are using to govern their lives. It applies meaning and purpose to what they are doing.
"The importance of traditional African religion," Tshishiku Tshibangu writes (see Mazrui 1993, p. 505), "goes well beyond what the statistical affiliation figure of 20 percent of the total African population may suggest. For many Christians and Muslims," Tshibangu contends, "the basis of moral values still derives more from the old cosmology than from the new beliefs." He cites, as evidence, the continuing respect for ancestors, belief in the continuing involvement of ancestors in the life of their succes sors, belief in the forces of good and evil that "can be manipulated by direct access to the divinities through prayer and sacrifice, belief in the efficacy of charms and amulets to ward off evil," and, finally, "the vast area of African life which both I slam and Christianity have invaded but have not succeeded in completely displacing," the area of health and healing.
Plague (Claude L. Clark in California)
Mantis (Claude L. Clark in California)
Culture is principle of behavior that presents an idea of who we are and what we do. Culture is not something you see, feel, hear, taste or smell. Culture is something that has an affect on those senses through the media of touch, sound, sight and taste. We see art that carries with it an idea we associate with a given group of people, but we never see the culture; we only see a transmission or reflection of it.
Reestablishing culture direction and interest is no part time love; it is a fulltime business and obligation. In Western Civilization it is important to do well enough in your studies and work to get by, but do not over do it, just enough get where you need to be to cover your expenses for a very, very, very long time. Eat well and get plenty of rest, because your health may be one of the important factors as to whether you are going to make it or not. You have to begin purging things that are distractive and contradictory to your particular cultural interest; the fewer trappings and hang-ups the quicker you can make a transition.
Dove (Claude L. Clark in California)
Time (Claude L. Clark in California)
This section applies to those of us living in the homeland as well as those of us living in Diaspora. We have some issues to take care of. “Some of us have to go to a church boarding school and don’t have time to do heritage things during the summers, besides we have to study for the Cambridge exam so that we can be good British citizens in our respective countries or whatever”. Then there are those who say “They done stole everything and left us with nothing. We don’t have no cloths, no language, no culture and our minds are gone too. They took our comb so that our hair would look unkempt and when they gave it back we decided to straighten our hair. I am going to study how to be a ‘White artist’ because there is no money in something ‘Black’ or African. You know you have to be very practical if you want to live in this society”.
That is too bad; I am very sorry to hear that for fear restricts movement and prevent any growth, so you need to get over it real quick. If I seem malicious, mean and heartless, that is because what I am asking you to do is not what someone else made me do. These are disciplines I imposed on my self. Reclaiming and redemption is not for the weak; only the heartless and strong will suffice.
During the late 1960’s and early 70’s until 1972 I did “acid works”. I was making comments on the “cultural prison/poison” that African people fined themselves in throughout their lives. It was an important process in mental detoxification, but you don’t want to stay there. If you want to be where you think Lamidi Fakeye, or Harry Best is then you first have to figure out where “you is at” before you can move on to something else. Once you find out where “you is at” and how you got there in the first place then you need to get over it real quick.
Tradition is the cultural core. Tradition is the foundation and essence of a culture. What ever a tradition is, culture is the development and an expression as a result of it. Tradition is not always the earliest creation, but it serves to identify a people and their purpose in life. Tradition serves as a gateway, guideline and it distinguishes a people from every one else around them. Culture is constantly changing and tradition serves to stabilize it.
Tradition is the foundation and essence of a culture and it serves to stabilize it. Tradition helps people discriminate and maintain what they see as their heritage.
A culture must show an ability to absorb other cultures without losing its identity. It pays to seek out other cultures with paths similar to your own rather seek paths of total strangers. Europeans and Africans living in West and Central Africa have known each other as people and subordinates for over 500 years, almost 600, but their cultural paths are total strangers. The cultural acceptance has always been a one sided issue. There was never any two way street or acceptance between Europeans, West and Central African cultures. Because of that the two younger cultures have dominated the older one. You do not ever want to put your self in a position where your cultural identity is dominated by someone else’s. Put yourself in a dominate position and make every move a conscious decision rather than unconscious, because you want to be able hold yourself accountable for every action.
You may find cultural paths that are similar to yours; belonging to people you don’t even know. It is ok to borrow from their paths because you understand what it is you are borrowing even though you don’t speak the same language, or live in the same part of the world. As long as paths are similar they can be integrated easily without one losing its own integrity. If the two cultures are very different, pursue both separately and make the paths where the two intersect a very, very small one. Such sharp differences require a sharp vigil, for one can not afford to fall asleep during the borrowing process.
When ever African art is integrated with the West, it should be seen as African Art but separate from African tradition, because in most cases the two paths don’t integrate very well and their directions are so very, very different. It is important to come up with new ideas, but always keep a place for heritage. Heritage advances too but at a different pace and different direction. Always keep your heritages moving in a direction where it will be strongest. Never point it in the direction of weakness.
We need to make mention of people that made inroads into Western and European Civilization with African Art. Two scholars, two business men and two artists developed some basic principles that have become a part of Western and European culture. The scholars were Alain Leroy Locke and Albert C. Barnes. The two businessmen Albert C. Barnes and Merton D. Simpson and the two artists were Merton D. Simpson and Pablo Picasso. These individuals were able to develop an interest by either engaging a special interest group or appealing to bourgeois elite and they accomplished this goal without having any understanding of African culture or the people that produced the artwork. Obviously there are some limitations with this approach, but it is amazing that people are still engage in some of the practices these scholars, businessmen and artists theorized and initiated.
Three of the pioneers in promoting African art were from the United States. Two of the pioneers Locke and Simpson were of African descent and the other one, Barnes, was Caucasian American. The first two pioneers were interested in African art because of their historical past, biological similarities and ancestral origins. Barnes may have been influenced by the African American people he worked with at his Argyrols factory, in Marion, Pennsylvania, or by what Pablo Picasso was doing with African Sculpture in relations to his painting. Barnes was fascinated by African American music and culture.
Three of the scholars and businessmen chosen for this section grew up and received their early training in America, not Africa or Europe. All three of them showed a stronger kinship toward Europe rather than to Africa. Locke and the other two men chosen were all products of Western Civilization, not European Civilization or African. All three men visited Europe more than once, but my records fail to show that any of them ever set foot in Africa. What is important in this study is that we see how these individuals were able to explore more ways to make African art very useful in Europe and the West. What is remarkable is that they didn’t do anything to change the art itself; they were able to make these inroads with knowing very little about the art work, or culture and people that produced the work. As Barnes would probably say “the art work itself was capable of speaking for itself”. Locke saw it as “Ancestral Arts”. He saw a “bloodline” so to speak and he likened it to what happened in music and dance. Locke foresaw that possibly the same that took place in African American music and dance could probably occur in African American art as well. He was cautious concerning quote on quote “Modern Art”. He did not fully understand it, but he knew it had more to do with European Art and European America Art than it did with Africa or African American. Locke did not foresee that one day some African American or African Americans could internalize the essences of African culture to produce their own version of “Ancestral Arts”; nor did the other two men see it being possible either.
Merton Simpson was an American Western artist who was very much part of the Modern Art Scene. He benefited from Baroque and Picasso’s innovations in European art as well as advanced developments in American Western art. Simpson could see what Europeans were up against with having to move away from nature then come up with their own idea of art. African art had already revealed to outsiders new ideas; Picasso and Modigliani had taken notice of that so Simpson added Bebop and moved African art into another dimension farther “West” which was connected by a four way channel consisting of European art, European America art, Africa art and African American music.
We are not concerned with whether or not Europe or Americans understand the true meaning of African art. We want to know enough about their cultures and how African art is being used and viewed. In this way we will know what moves to make next based on their cultural input.
Pablo Picasso was the earliest person in this group of Europe and Western art African art philanthropist to draw worldwide attention to traditional African art, but that was not his intention as an artist. He was interested saving European art and at the same time maintaining a European integrity separate from Western art. Picasso was a Spaniard by parentage and birth but a French artist to the core. There was no art revolution in Spain, so for him French culture became supreme. He was in the forefront of artists seeking to depart from camera obscure. The camera was a great blessing during the Italian Renaissance but a curse to the impressionist. During Italian Renaissance the camera could not make a picture without the artist rendering it. During the age of impressionism the camera no longer needed an artist; for with the help of a chemist and technician it could take a picture by itself. Picasso and George Braque learned to compose human and animal forms using a cone, sphere and cylinder which they had read about in Paul Cézannes written artwork, but seen very little evidence of it being used in Cézannes artwork. What they did see were cubes being used to construct buildings in Cézannes paintings, which they intended to make full use of after 1907.
Imperialist never saw fit to purchase anything produced by an African for everyday use; but they sure knew how to exploit what we made to make their own products better. This is something we as Africans have not learned to do. Europeans created an additional civilization off of their colonies (Western Civilization) which they could use to improve and serve the needs of European Civilization. At the same time Europeans learned to reap the benefits of Non-Western Cultures present in those same Colonies. As I have mentioned earlier in our study of West and Central African Art, Cubism is about European painting not African sculpture or African art. African sculpture was used by Europeans help bring European Art out of a rut that it was in. Cubism is about Europe; not Africa.
Picasso and George Braque were the founders of cubism and it was Pablo Picasso who would determine the direction the movement would take. Cubism was made up of three types of formats; “facet”, “analytical” and “synthetic cubism.
The first example of Facet Cubism was produced in 1907. It could be best described as an experimental stage of cubism used to develop the next two stages of cubism. The experiment would consist of developing facets of certain key elements in cubist painting. The first painting was titled “Les Demoiselles d Avignon". In it Picasso utilizes both form and flat shapes with subdued and bright colors. The painting is split vertically in half with three very distinct different facets or elements appearing in the same painting. On the left-hand side the forms planes are all flat with the exception of an oceanic head and on the right hand side there is a mixture of three dimensional forms and flat ones. There is also an additional development taking place that would spark the movement and give birth to a new form of cubism known as “Analytical Cubism”. Several viewpoints were being depicted in the images of the painting and these viewpoints such as side, three-quarter and frontal view were more pronounce on two African Masks type faces on the right-hand side of the painting.
A third facet being used in this type of painting was monster, savagery, and barbarism; which Pablo Picasso had used in his earlier representational art. Women were depicted as a delicacy of delicious beast. Picasso sometimes used colors which reflected Spanish bullfights which he relished very much.
There is something more pronounced in “Les Demoiselles d Avignon" than the African and Oceanic heads and masks being used. There was a bitter rivalry going on in European art between Picasso and his worst nightmare Henri Matisse concerning who would take the lead in directing European and Western art into the 20th Century. Matisse was better know at the time. Both the German Expressionist and Blue Rider schools were on the brink of extreme abstractions, but only Matisse and Picasso had the information needed move European art the rest of the way into the 20th Century. l In 1907 Pablo Picasso literally rips off his old friend Henri Matisse. He used the same flat figure construction that Matisse had used, but where as Matisse used curved lines Picasso used straight lines. Both Picasso and Matisse produced twentieth century landmark paintings that would mark important turning points in the field of modern art. Henri Matisse produced a painting titled the “Blue Nude II” in 1907 the same year Picasso painted “Les Demoiselles d Avignon", but “Les Demoiselles d Avignon" would make the bigger noise not the “Blue Nude II”. Picasso produced controversy and “sensation” by doing “Les Demoiselles d Avignon". Picasso had provoked the same stir in the art world as Edouard Manet did thirty-four years before with his painting titled “Luncheon on The Grass” which he presented before the public in 1863. It was “SENSATION” more so than abstraction that would mark the new direction in 20th Century Art. “Sensation” coupled with “idea” would be the music listen to by both art critiques and art collectors concerning 20th Century Art.
"Les Ambroise-Vollard" -- painted in 1915
Analytical Cubism was the second phase of cubism. Many aspects of perspective were being analyzed all at once. These paintings were painted using a single color so that the artist could concentrate on structure rather than on colors. Analytical Cubist painting is about building structure and pulling structure apart all at the same time.
"Guitar and Violin"
The third and final stage of cubism was Synthetic Cubism. The visual portion of this form of cubism was easier for the general art public to understand.
In spite of his efforts to conceal African influence and make it less noticeable in cubist painting Picasso drew international attention to African art and himself.
Picasso In Paris Art Studion 1908 (notice tall Ibibio mask on the left)
Picasso promoted African art more than any single person did in the 20th Century. Museums, curio shops, galleries and private collectors sprung up all over Europe and the United States promoting, saving or selling African art. Mexican Mural painters began employing cubist techniques in their mural paintings during the 1930s.
The following quotation is taken from “Picasso and African Art” an article published June 12, 2012: African Art , Behind-the Scenes , Curatorial , European Art , Installation of 20th Century Modernism at the Dallas Museum of Art:
“… Picasso is known to have been captivated by African art. He frequented the Trocadéro, Paris’s famed ethnographic museum, to study its holdings. He was also an avid collector of African objects and amassed over one hundred statuettes, textiles, and masks, all of which he stored in his studio.”
“Although these so-called “primitive arts” held little monetary value—most were seen as mere trinkets and lined the shelves of curio shops, flea markets, and bistro tablescapes—their alien forms and dramatic abstractions were invaluable inspirations for Picasso. He carefully studied African works, mimicked them, and even openly copied them. He found them to be complex, conceptually sophisticated, and emotionally charged because their abstractions expressed the “unseen” and “unuterrable” in visual and quantifiable terms. Throughout his career, Picasso struggled with trying to represent the unknown or unrepresentable, and African abstract forms gave him a clear visual language to express what he couldn’t before….”
DR. ALAIN LEROY LOCKE
DEVELOPED A PHILOSOPHY CONCERNING AFRICAN AMERICAN ART
The following quotation has two parts. The first is by an unknown writer who interpreted what Locke said in “Legacy of Ancestral Arts” and the second is Locke himself. I changed the color of italicized quotes so that you can identify them easily.
Alain Locke: Excerpts from "The Legacy of the Ancestral Arts"
"Locke 's essay, "The Legacy of the Ancestral Arts,” has often been misinterpreted to mean that it was Locke's wish that African Americans emulate African art. Locke's exhortation was more subtle. He surmised that since the discovery of African art by Europeans, African Americans would now take "a cultural pride and interest" in their African heritage and that African art should be considered every much as "classic" as the masterworks of Greece and Rome. What African Americans could learn is the discipline that African artists brought to their work and the "almost limitless wealth of decorative and purely symbolic material." To Locke, who was himself struggling to understand modernism, "it is for the development of this latter aspect [the decorative and purely symbolic material] ofa racial art that the study and example of African art material is so important." By "racial art" he seems to mean an art expressive of the African American experience. In this essay, Locke also praises the illustrations, reproduced in color, of the portraits by the German artist Winold Reiss, who was a major influence on Aaron Douglas's developing modernism."
"Locke became a leading advocate of Harlem's writers, poets and artists. During the 1930s and 1940s he worked tirelessly to promote art exhibitions of African American art, such as those mounted by the Harmon Foundation, and often wrote the introductions to their catalogues."
"Music and poetry, and to an extent the dance, have been the predominant arts of the American Negro. This is an emphasis quite different from that of the African cultures, where the plastic and craft arts predominate; Africa being one of the great fountain sources of the arts of decoration and design. Except then in his remarkable carry-over of the rhythmic gift, there is little evidence of any direct connection of the American Negro with his ancestral arts. But even with the rude transplanting of slavery, that uprooted the technical elements of his former culture, the American Negro brought over as an emotional inheritance a deep-seated aesthetic endowment. And with a versatility of a very high order, this offshoot of the African spirit blended itself in with entirely different culture elements and blossomed in strange new forms."
"A further proof of this is the fact that the American Negro, even when he confronts the various forms of African art expression with a sense of its ethnic claims upon him, meets them in as alienated and misunderstanding an attitude as the average European Westerner. Christianity and all the other European conventions operate to make this inevitable. So there would be little hope of an influence of African art upon the western African descendants if there were not at present a growing influence of African art upon European art in general. But led by these tendencies, there is the possibility that the sensitive artistic mind of the American Negro, stimulated by a cultural pride and interest, will receive from African art a profound and galvanizing influence. The legacy is there at least, with prospects of a rich yield. In the first place, there is in the mere knowledge of the skill and unique mastery of the arts of the ancestors the valuable and stimulating realization that the Negro is not a cultural foundling without his own inheritance. Our timid and apologetic imitativeness and overburdening sense of cultural indebtedness have, let us hope, their natural end in such knowledge and realization."
"Then possibly from a closer knowledge and proper appreciation of the African arts must come increased effort to develop our artistic talents in the discontinued and lagging channels of sculpture, painting and the decorative arts. If the forefathers could so adroitly master these mediums, why not we? And there may also come to some creative minds among us, hints of a new technique to be taken as the basis of a characteristic expression in the plastic and pictorial arts; incentives to new artistic idioms as well as to a renewed mastery of these older arts. African sculpture has been for contemporary European painting and sculpture just such a mine of fresh motifs, just such a lesson in simplicity and originality of expression, and surely, once known and appreciated, this art can scarcely have less influence upon the blood descendants, bound to it by a sense of direct cultural kinship, than upon those who inherit by tradition only, and through the channels of an exotic curiosity and interest."
"But what the Negro artist of to-day has most to gain from the arts of the forefathers is perhaps not cultural inspiration or technical innovations, but the lesson of a classic background, the lesson of discipline, of style, of technical control pushed to the limits of technical mastery. A more highly stylized art does not exist than the African. If after absorbing the new content of American life and experience, and after assimilating new patterns of art, the original artistic endowment can be sufficiently augmented to express itself with equal power in more complex patterns and substance, then the Negro may well become what some have predicted, the artist of American life."
"Indeed there are many attested influence of African art in French and German modernist art. [... ] In Paris, centering around Paul Guillaume, one of its pioneer exponents, there has grown up an art coterie profoundly influenced by an aesthetic developed largely from the idioms of African art. And what has been true of the African sculptures has been in a lesser degree true of the influence of other African art forms decorative design, musical rhythms, dance forms, verbal imagery and symbolism."
"There is a vital connection between this new artistic respect for African idiom and the natural ambition of Negro artists for a racial idiom in their art expression. To a certain extent contemporary art has pronounced in advance upon this objective of the younger Negro artists, musicians and writers. Only the most reactionary conventions of art, then, stand between the Negro artist and the frank experimental development of these fresh idioms. This movement would, we think, be well under way in more avenues of advance at present but for the timid conventionalism which racial disparagement has forced upon the Negro mind in America."
"A younger group of Negro artists is beginning to move in the direction of a racial school of art. The strengthened tendency toward representative group expression is shared even by the later work of the artists previously mentioned, as in Meta Warrick Fuller's "Ethiopia Awakening," to mention an outstanding example. But the work of young artists like Archibald Motley, Otto Farrill, Albert Smith, John Urquhart, Samuel Blount, and especially that of Charles Keene and Aaron Douglas shows the promising beginning of an art movement instead of just the cropping out of isolated talent. The work of Winold Reiss,. . . which has supplied the main illustrative material for this volume has been deliberately conceived and executed as a path-breaking guide and encouragement to this new foray of the younger Negro artists. In idiom, technical treatment and objective social angle, it is a bold iconoclastic break with the current traditions that have grown up about the Negro subject in American art. It is not meant to dictate a style to the young Negro artist, but to point the lesson that contemporary European art has already learned--that any vital artistic expression of the Negro theme and subject in art must break through the stereotypes to a new style, a distinctive fresh technique, and some sort of characteristic idiom."
"While we are speaking of the resources of racial art, it is well to take into account that the richest vein of it is not that of portraitistic idiom after all, but its almost limitless wealth of decorative and purely symbolic material. It is for the development of this latter aspect of a racial art that the study and example of African art material is so important. The African spirit, as we said at the outset, is at its best in abstract decorative forms. Design, and to a lesser degree, color, are its original fortes. It is this aspect of the folk tradition, this slumbering gift of the folk temperament that most needs reachievement and re¬expression. And if African art is capable of producing the ferment in modern art that it has, surely this is not too much to expect of its influence upon the culturally awakened Negro artist of the present generation. So that if even the present vogue of African art should pass, and the bronzes of Benin and the fine sculptures of Gabon and Baoule, and the superb designs of the Bushongo should again become mere items of exotic curiosity, for the Negro artist they ought still to have the import and influence of classics in whatever art expression is consciously and representatively racial."
My mother Reverend Daima Clark studied philosophy under Locke and religion under Howard Thurman while she was a graduate student at Howard University. She received a Masters in Philosophy with a minor in Religion; 1941. Mother later married and artist, my father and learned more about Dr. Locke’s contribution music and African American art, which he is best noted for. Dr. William B. Dubois was the first African American to write something about African art and its connection to African Americans in the Crisis Magazine about 1914, but it was Locke that became an authority on the subject drawing a connection between the ancestral arts of Africa and African American art in the U.S. He believed that African Americans should draw a closer connection between their ancestral arts and Western Civilization the same as the African connection found in African American music. Locke was an African Art Collector as well. I saw a nice display when I was visiting Howard University December of 1971. He had an excellent eye for quality as well as what might best be traditional representations of the groups selected.
ALBERT COOMBS BARNES AN ART EDUCATOR AND INDEPENENT THINKER
There is one European worthy of note who looms ahead of European art collectors both in Europe and the West. Dr. Albert C. Barnes placed Traditional African Art in the classical art world alongside European and Asian art, where it was classified as art and not a tribal artifact. Dr. Albert C. Barns was a multimillionaire art collector and philanthropist who amassed a fortune in Nineteenth Century European art collection worth billions on today’s art market. He was a head of his European colleagues in Europe and the United States. Barnes mixed Traditional African Art pieces with European Art side by side in the same galleries. He was a genus when it came to business of marketing his pharmaceutical products and buying or trading for art. In education Barnes surrounded himself with individuals who knew more about the education process than he did and together with his own vision and scholarship created an educational philosophy and institution that bore his own signature.
Albert Barnes was stuck in the 19th century; he would not be of much help when it comes to marketing African Art to a European and Western audiences. That was never his intention in the first place. His contribution was to put together the best collection of 19th century European paintings ever, develop an education approach to help a Western public understand art better; then pull African art out of ethnology display case closets and exhibit it as fine art. We need to look at his model to see how the Western mind operates then draw from those ideas concepts that best suite our purpose.
Barnes was a ruthless arrogant tycoon who made millions off of a co-invention he discovered with a German scientist. He was able to turn their invention into a multimillion dollar business for himself manufacturing the product Argyrol and distributing it to pharmacies from his own factory even during the height of the Great Depression. During the Second World War, German Expressionist artists were stranded with no means to buy art materials to produce paintings. Barnes and his colleagues were obliged to offer the artist, paints, brushes and canvases for their art work instead of money.
Who was Albert C. Barnes, and why was Dewey so fond of him? Barnes (1872-1951), was a successful physician, scientist and entrepreneur. He co-developed the anti-inflammatory drug Argyrol, which went into production in 1902. He later quarreled with Hermann Hille, the German chemist who co-discovered Argyrol; not the first time he would have a bitter falling out with a close associate.
The profits from his business made Barnes a wealthy man. He became a highly influential art collector, and his personal fortune – which he managed to keep even during the height of the Great Depression – allowed him to purchase many masterpieces, especially of the Impressionist School, which he displayed in his mansion in Merion, a Philadelphia suburb.
As a self-made man, Barnes despised phonies and snobs. He had a love/hate (primarily hate) relationship with the Philadelphia art community, which he felt did not truly appreciate the works of art in their various museums. One of the things Barnes attempted to do at his factory was encourage the workers there to develop their artistic and intellectual capabilities, and he initially became an art collector to show his workers some of the best paintings then being produced, as well as to thumb his nose at the Philadelphia curators who did not see the significance of such contemporary artists as Renoir, Picasso, Seurat, Modigliani and Matisse.
One important note needs to be made. The workers at the Argyrol plant were all African American. Barnes may have been drawn to include African Art for the fact that his first classes consisted of people of African descent. Showing them all European success and nothing showing African achievements could produce negative effects on his audience. When not threaten Barnes was a visionary and open to new Ideas. African Americans were not threatening to Barnes for “they were not his equal”, but his own people, Europeans were threatening to Barnes. He wanted to be at the top of any innovation or idea that was presented to him and you can rest assure that he used any information his African colleagues offered to make sure his system was always in the forefront of his European counterparts. He saw wood burnt oil panels that he liked by an African American Artist named Horace Pippin. He included those in the collection as well. African Americans were excluded from the main social fabric of European American society and therefore served as convent confidant, dually, trusted agents for keeping Barnes secrets. Barnes share classified material with his confidants; but it was never called classified because it never leaked anyway. The factory was just up the street from the foundation and Africans were capable of running it without Barnes being present. These tactics proved to be in Barnes favor because most Europeans thought Africans were too stupid to know anything.
Barnes became enamored with the writings of William James, a philosopher whom he believed truly understood the common people. James’ pragmatism was in line with his own ‘can-do’ approach to problem solving. Much to his disappointment however, James was already dead by the time Barnes discovered his writings. Then he learned that a professor at Columbia University named John Dewey was considered to be James’ successor as an exponent of pragmatism. He promptly wrote to Dewey in 1917 and asked if he might sit in on one of the professor’s philosophy courses. The always-courteous Dewey agreed to this. It was said that Barnes promptly fell asleep at the beginning of each lecture and only awoke when the class ended.
Dewey was 12 years older than Barnes, and was flattered by the younger man’s attention. It also didn’t hurt that Barnes was fabulously wealthy and treated the professor to many trips to Philadelphia to see his growing art collection. In fact, Barnes later gave funds to supplement Dewey’s Columbia salary, which no doubt further helped cement their relationship.
……The third event occurred in 1940, when Bertrand Russell was denied a job teaching at the City University of New York because of his controversial views on sexuality, religion and politics, even though the courses he was scheduled to teach were all on mathematical logic. Knowing that Russell desperately needed a job, Dewey asked Barnes if he might be able to employ him at the Barnes Foundation. Barnes agreed, and paid for Russell to give lectures on the history of Western philosophy to the factory workers and other students. Not surprisingly, the equally-headstrong Barnes and Russell soon clashed (it was said that Barnes could not stand the fact that Russell’s wife knitted throughout her husband’s lectures, perhaps forgetting his own tendency to sleep through his friend Dewey’s lectures). Barnes fired Russell, who promptly sued and won. Ironically, the lectures which Russell prepared for the course were eventually published [as The History of Western Philosophy], and the proceeds from the book essentially supported him financially for the rest of his long life.
My mother Reverend Daima M. Clark attended the Barnes Foundation for one year between 1943 and 1944. That would be the same period Bertrand Russell was hired and fired at the Foundation. I remember my father mentioned Russell’s wife knitting. My father who studied at the foundation for four years said that knitting was just an excuse for firing Russell. The real reason for firing the man had nothing to with his wife’s knitting. My mother did not like Russell. She said Russell was a bigot and fascist pig. She was glad to see his “ass” canned.
Albert Barnes was a complex man. He had deep respect for African-Americans, and in his will left his Foundation to be administered by Lincoln University, a traditionally black college. But he sometimes made disparaging remarks about blacks, as he tended to do about all groups. He had a remarkable inferiority complex, yet he could also be extremely perceptive. Many painters – even those who despised him as a person – respected his sensitivity to their work. He was a lover of democracy who ran his company like a tyrant. He was an advocate for the common man who led a highly unconventional life. He was an advocate for public art who only allowed a select few to see his collection. Perhaps the most diplomatic term to describe this unusual and unorthodox man is “freethinker.”
All in all, Barnes was a fascinating individual. He added spice to John Dewey’s life, and Dewey in turn helped to soften Barnes’ bad temper. They had a profound effect upon one another, not only as inspirers of each other’s works but as true companions. For all his ire, there is a humorous and human side to Barnes which can best be seen in reading the vast number of letters he sent to Dewey. Barnes died in 1951 after being hit by a car, and Dewey died the next year.
THE GENIUS OF ONE MAN CHANGED HOW WESTERNERS VIEW AFRICAN ART
Mer Simpson was able to recognize a strong kinship between traditional African art, 20th century Western art and jazz. Stripped of herbs, seeds, leaves, African culture significance and other trappings the Western viewer was left with something simple that would fit in with their life style and understanding.
Merton Daniel Simpson was an African American Abstract Expressionist Painter and an Oceanic; African art dealer. Simpson first received training in art and later became an art dealer, but it was is his reputation buying and selling Traditional African Art that made him world famous. Simpson only had one art gallery and as far as I know Mer was not a multimillionaire. He was best known for increasing a wide public awareness of Traditional African Art both in Europe and the United States of America during his more than fifty years in the business. He found ways in which Europe and the Western World could incorporate African images in their urban public settings and private homes. Most important Simpson found away for the Western client to feel comfortable and see themselves and the African art incorporated in the same living environment together. Simpson used Western concepts of modern art and jazz to enable Western clients to identify themselves with Traditional African art and feel at home with their acquired items. He was able to draw parallels between African American Jazz, European American abstract art and Traditional African images. Simpson was able to achieve this without his clients having to know little or next to nothing about African art or the culture that produced the art, because Mer Simpson gave the art new Western meanings different from their African origins. He heightened viewer’s emotions so that they would be encouraged to pay high prices for art: for example Mer would take a brown patina ivory Pende pendant measuring one by two inches, mount it on a very tall needle like rod attached to a base and sell it for $2,000.00 to $3,000.00. By doing this transfer of an image of adornment and apparel into the realm of modern and fine art Mer could now slide the decimal point on an apparel image priced at $200.00 one place to the right causing the price of that same object to sore to a value of $2,000.00.
He has been known on at least one occasion to buy an art piece at an auction near his gallery, then sale it the next day for more than doubled the price he paid. The first wooden sculpture a Senufo rhythm pounder sold for over $1,000,000.00 at an auction indirectly due to Simpsons razing the market values of African Art in both Europe and the United States.
It seems odd that there is mention of Merton Simpson making three trips to Europe but there is no mention of him ever going to Africa in any of his biographies, yet most of his life Simpson bought and sold Traditional African Artifacts from European and American Auctions and collections. He also bought work from African suppliers from the continent of Africa.
Simpson inspired many African Americans to collect African art the same as the African art collections of Hale Woodruff and Paul Robeson inspired Simpson to collect and sell African art. He showed that African images could prove to be a good investment. He also introduced African traders to Western ideas to help them get better prices for African Art imports. Many of the traders purchased pieces from collectors and resold them again.
Each biography mentioned that Merton Simpson cultivated “middleclass” African Americans interested in African Art and helped them with finding “art that they could afford”. This would seem to suggest that one could purchase affordable quality within a certain category or “enterprise zone”. There is no problem with that if you were satisfied with the circumstances; but what if you did not want any of those requirements or restrictions?
Something needs to be said about Merton Simpson the artist. He was first known as an artist. Simpson trained in America as an artist. He participated in numerous gallery and museum shows. There was nothing African as far as culture was concern that can be linked with his paintings. His abstract and nonobjective work posed the same problems as African American figurative work. With few exceptions African American art is about Western Art and has no links with Africa other than the biological make up of the person producing the artwork. Most African American artists make figurative work. Most of the figurative work depicts African People. European Americans can produce the same art work because it is Western art not hybrid or African art. The European would have to hangout to obtain an understanding of differences in social customs and close their social distance between themselves and African people, but the rest of the training to produce Western art they can get from their European American art teachers, because that is where African Americans got their training from. As odd as it may seem Western art culture is separated from European art and culture and I can see where I would have a very hard time convincing people of that. If I am not able to convince you then you are going to have to trust me. Europeans are capable of producing both European and Western art separate or simultaneously. A Westerner only produces Western Art. He has or she has to be trained in European Culture and European art in order to produce European art.
Jazz is hybrid culture. It is not fully integrated into Western culture enough not to require some “woodshed”. You cannot just hangout and pickup on jazz or go to a music observatory to study a clinical form of jazz and expect to perform well. You can pickup on many other forms of American music that have jazz in it and some of those forms you can teach yourself without any formal training in that art form. Jazz fine arts require some knowledge of European classical, American Euro classical, Caribbean classical, Asian, or African classical music. Jazz requires an understanding of the blues which has its origins in hunters music played on a hunters harp as indicated in conversations I had with Dr. Kouyate master of the donso goni (hunter’s harp). The donso goni (hunter’s harp) has its origins in Old Mali Civilization or older. If one understands either hunter’s music or the blues they can integrate that with some kinds of classical music and produce jazz. All jazz has blues in it and if you don’t understand the blues you won’t be very good at performing jazz. The blues is a sad form of the hunter’s music. It is donso goni roots which provide the African roots and essence of American Jazz. Jazz is hybrid culture; Cubism and Abstract Expressionism are not hybrid cultures. Hybrid requires the mixing of two entirely different cultures.
Some artists paint images of African mask and use African designs in their paintings to try to make them look African. What the artist is actually doing is incorporating African images as motifs or veneer into Western Art. Any one trained in Western Art can do that.
With years of practice I can train a Westerner how to carve the work I do using the tools I use, but it is much harder to transfer the culture. The same is true with blues. It is the African American experience behind the blues that makes it unique. The culture for blues is close by were one can see it sense it and feel it. My culture is secluded. It is not public or in the open.
African Americans have been able to eke out a meager subculture existence under colonial cast system of race. Contributions have been almost entirely in the field of entertainment of which the most outstanding one has been the invention of Jazz. Jazz exist in almost all popular music throughout the Western World. Jazz is hybrid in that it is both an African and Western Art form and art expression. There is a phrase that says “Europeans can own, control and manipulate Negritude, but they can’t create it”. There is something very sinister and derogatory about the statement. There is nothing complementary or flattering about it at all and worst of all the statement is true. Culture serves to protect its benefactor. In the case of African Americans there are always two benefactors; its creation and its adversary. In this situation an adversary reaps most of the benefit from fruits of the people that created the culture.
In African culture there is only one beneficiary; not two. That is why it had to be destroyed in America. African culture is none Western. Culture should serve and protect its benefactor not destroy them. Some hybrid cultures can be devastating to its creator when the second beneficiary is an adversary. Hybrid cultures work very well when all of its beneficiaries are friendly. The United States of America is a very, very unfriendly cultural environment.
Culture is like a will and testament. When you have a full culture rather than a subculture or ‘piece of one’ your entire culture can be passed on to the next generation without having to share it with anyone else unless you choose to. Hybrid cultures are open to anyone within that hybrid. You can’t kick anybody out and you should not want to.
Hybrid culture should be a spinoff from something rooted somewhere. African culture has roots, but the African American using his distant roots from Africa are not rooted anywhere they themselves are spinoffs too, constantly in motion. When you have no roots, you and your culture become hybrid and spinoffs from something that is disconnected and that can be very dangerous when at the same time you have an adversary doing the spins with you who has firm roots as oppose to you having ‘nothing’. Most of that labor should be in your culture because that is what you can put in your will and testament for the next generation. You don’t own a hybrid culture; hybrid culture is shared between two or more root cultures.
When your cultural society is full of sick people, be nice and maintain a safe distance. Above all do not do things that will aggravate them or attract too much attention to yourself. The majority of the people in that society can perform day to day functions without harming you and it is those services that they provide that can be beneficial to you.
The term race has been with Western Civilization sense the very beginning, six hundred years ago. It is often confused with science. Race is a cultural, social political term and has absolutely nothing to do with scientific fact. L. Ron Hubbard did not create the field Scientology until 1952, but that is where the term race belongs not in the field of science. The earliest written philosophy of racist ideology was “Essai sur l’ Inegalite des Races Humaines”, by a Frenchman named Count Arthur de Gobineau in 1853 to 1855. It was followed by a less scholarly but better known publication titled “Mein Kampf” by a German fascists from Austria; Adolf Hitler.
Race has served as a grassroots supplement for Plato’s Utopia. When I was growing up my parents told me that racism was institutionalized; I took that to mean that racism was a system. This brings us back to the field of science. If science is part of an institution then it would stand to reason that science is full of race as well. Dr. Cress Welsing M.D. confirmed it for me by the late 1970’s in her publication titled “The Cress Theory of Color – Confrontation And Racism (White Supremacy)” first published in August of 1970. Racism is “White Inequality” (1), but racism cannot operate by itself. I am not here to talk about racism. The topic here is race and there is no way I can exclude the term racism when talking about race. There is only one person or people that are racist and that would be the person or people that have the power to govern and define what race is. Count Arthur de Gobineau confirms it and Europeans regard Count Gobineau as the “Father of Race Philosophy”. Race is a much broader topic than racism. First of all race is cast and cast is an institution run within a system. Race is an unwritten policy which people in the Western world have learned to memorize. Each person quotes their version of racial policy then checks with their social group for accuracy. Race is a pageant people play in their daily lives. The racist playwright has given each actor; actress the parts they are to play. It takes two to tango. The racist has defined what the moves are in the dance so that when the music starts all dancers should perform well. Which means we cannot blame all of the performance on the racist even thought the racist taught us the dance. We have to learn to stop whenever the music starts so that there is one dancer on the floor by himself.
African American culture is burden with race. We have gotten to the point where we won’t do anything unless we can include race with it. We travel to foreign countries where people don’t know what race is and drop the burden on them. We tell them how we as Africans are treated in the U.S. so that the newly converted can treat us the same way; - STUPID - . What were we doing before we came over on those slave ships? If we didn’t have race then, so what the hell we need it for now? Civil Rights leader Bayard Rustin and minister, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. organized a bus boycott in New York City so that Africans would be allowed to sit anywhere they wanted to on a bus. The same thing was done in Montgomery Alabama when seamstress Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a Caucasian, a Baptist Minister Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized a bus boycott. After the boycotts, in both cities, Africans still ride at the back of the bus because we have back of the bus mentality. So it doesn’t matter whether the place is Mason Dixie or Yankee Doodle the mentality is the same. Everything that happens to us we blame it on them and if we woke up tomorrow without a racist we would go out and invent one. It takes two to tango and we as a people keep dancing with the wrong partner. We think we can humanize the racist and still keep race, because we don’t know to get rid of it and stay away from the racist. Let them humanize themselves. “Race is a mental illness” and should be treated as such.
Race is something you can see or at least you can be educated until you think you see it. If you want to poison people’s minds you don’t need Europe to do it anymore. One of England’s former colonies, the United States of America, has become the foremost top expert on the subject of race. American Europeans and African Americans have written more books and documents on race than you can shake a stick at. Probably about 80% of the books that African Americans have written make some mention or reference to the subject of “Race” and I would estimate that about half of those books have “Race” on the front cover as part of the title of the book. If you want to have a best seller book among African Americans that will continue to sell with each new coming generation make sure the word “Race” is part of the title, or at least make sure the title looks like something that will deal with color conflict. The person buying the book does not have to know the author. They just need to know if the author will give them new insight on the subject. What started out as a European concoction has become an African burden. European Americans don’t clutter their libraries and bookshelves with books about race, because it wasn’t meant for them in the first place. Besides you only need a small minority of “White folks” to make sure the “bad Niggers” stay in place; unless the country is on a verge campaigning to produce a Third Reich.
The following is my list and my definitions concerning oppressive behavior. You may want to check other sources for comparison. The first word requires action. Oppression means to subject person or persons to harsh or cruel treatment. If it is harsh treatment, the situation could be good or bad; good if you are training to be a Navy Seal (a special operation force) and bad if you are on a slave ship coming to America (a lost souls).
Violence – is an action which uses physical force or mental harassment to cause injury or death. To say violence is bad becomes a personal choice. Personally I don’t like it, however a masochistic person thinks different. If someone else does not impose violence on them some are willing to do it themselves just for the pleasure. For me that sounds sick. Initiation into an organization by hazing is another example. Navy Seal or convert organizations use violence on other members to impose secrecy. Most people don’t like to have violent things done to them, however many like watching it being done to other people or pretend that they are doing it to someone else. In my opinion that is sick too. The human primate is predicated in violence. If humans are to evolve to a higher state of consciousness they need to get rid of it.
Bigotry – This form of behavior is a bad attitude which sometimes exhibits some form of action. This person exhibits intolerable behavior. They are a human rights menace that is “possible source of danger”.
Chauvinism – This person exhibits a bad attitude requiring action. They have a false superiority feeling of one's own gender (like “male chauvinist pig”), or superiority of one’s own ethnic group over everyone else (such as “White Arian Nation”).
Prejudice – This form of behavior is an attitude. This person has made a judgment beforehand without even observing or trying something that is being judged. There are good and bad prejudices. I have a prejudice against some kinds of foods. I have heard bad reports concerning genetic manipulation of the human food chain and I am not willing to at least try eating some of those products. I am not against science and medicine genetic manipulation of plants and animals. I just don’t want businesses doing the manipulation or financially involved in it. I believe business and I have a conflict of interest concerning my health. I am not against prejudices particularly when they are useful in protecting my own welfare. I am only concerned when ones prejudice will infringe on someone else’s human rights.
Paternalism – This form of behavior is an attitude. The paternalistic adult treats another adult as if that person were a child.
Patronizing – This form of behavior is an attitude. This behavior is a form of “put down”. This type of behavior would be considered condescending. One person or groups of people look down on another group of people. An example would be whenever I did something unusual Europeans would say in a condescending manner that I was a “clever person”. A clever person is “crafty” and sometimes dexterous, but never smart or intelligent.
Profiling – This behavior can be categorized under attitude and can produce both good and bad results. This is an analysis, study or classification, sometime involves stereotyping persons or group. An analysis of people’s shopping habits can produce good results. Racial profiling is both bad and very destructive behavior.
Discrimination – This form of behavior is an action. This could be good or bad. There is nothing wrong with being discriminating when it does not infringe on the rights of others. Even that definition can be debatable. I discriminate all the time when it comes to cultural issues and I am very outspoken on the subject. Cultural discrimination is not something I try to hide. I do it for survival reasons. That type of discrimination is not about race. I discriminate against certain types of ideology I find in European and Western Civilization. I find anyone exhibiting that behavior must be excluded from any program I initiate because their behavior is counterproductive.
Ethnocentric – This form of behavior is both an action and an attitude. There are good and bad ethnocentrism. This behavior is dangerous when it is used to oppress other people. When that person thinks his or her way of life is superior to someone else’s way of life “period”. When someone thinks that their culture is the best way of life for their group of people I find nothing wrong with that.
Stereotype – This is a mental attitude. A person or persons can over simplify individuals, groups or situations. This practice can exhibit both negative and positive results. For example these definitions can be considered a form of stereotyping. That is why I suggested you might want to check other sources for comparison.
Miscegenation & Assimilation – This type of behavior is a physical form of action as well as mental a process. Miscegenation is concerned with biological reproduction of different physical types of persons and or biological blend of cultural differences in same physical type people. You can get many more variations of those two choices. It is difficult to talk about miscegenation without including assimilation and by the same token it is very difficult to separate humans from their culture. Both the cultural assimilation and physical miscegenation can produce positive or negative results. I do not believe in arranged marriages whether administered by parent or an ethnic population. I believe in making my own choices; it is my business not someone else’s. Miscegenation is a biological integration of different ethic people. I also must be noted in such cases it is not only an integration of different people, but an integration of different cultures as well. I believe in cultural harmony and cultural compatibility. Miscegenation is sometimes voluntary behavior and sometimes it is involuntary. When it is involuntary miscegenation it becomes rape, which is a form of violence comparable to death. Rape destroys a person’s character and self worth and at the lowest level it is considered one of the worst forms of character assignations. A person’s self-worth is trashed and in some cases the person becomes a vacant shell or lifeless soul. This forced miscegenation has been administered by individuals, groups and entire governments for thousands of years. Europe has practiced this type of miscegenation for 600 years on a global scale. China has practiced it for thousands of years. Whenever a new province was added to China and the men in that province start acting up. The bad actors were carted away to work camps never to return. They were then replaced with Han bachelors to cool down the situation. The general practice in China has been known to move whole Han families into a new province. The example I gave first was the worst scenario. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo an old practice that was probably used during King Leopold’s time is still in practice today under different circumstances. Leopold sent in African soldiers to round up all the women in a community and hold them hostage until the male portion of the population had collected enough rubber from rubber vines to export. Your guess as to what was happening to the women in their absence is as good as mine.
When governments implement miscegenation it generally is used to dilute or wipe out resistance of an indigenous population by out numbering them or polluting their gene pool. When this is done the culture of the dominate group culture takes hold and the weaker group becomes demoralized.
Genocide – Is active behavior. There are two types of genocide. One is cultural genocide and the other human genocide. Genocide is both subtle and active.. The most common form of genocide is cultural genocide. There is very little outcry over cultural genocide because so many people along with Europe practice it. Cultural genocide is not a human rights issue. I am against cultural genocide. Africans participate in cultural genocide Asian perform cultural genocide and Europe is the most notorious offender concerning cultural genocide. People have been known to exterminate or try to exterminate an entire group of people. Extermination can be as small as a family or clan. The Bolshevik attempted to exterminate the Czar and royal family in Russia. Any human extermination is a form of genocide. You are attempting to remove an entire gene pool so to speak from the face of the earth. This is a behavior often referred to as Ethnic Cleansing. An attempt is made to eliminate an entire ethnic group from the face of the earth. There is absolutely nothing positive about human genocide. There is a practice known as cultural. If anything positive that comes out of cultural genocide it is by accident, rarely by design. So often small exterminations go un noticed and many are never view as genocide because the numbers are not large enough. The Tasmanian people of Australia were exterminated by the British. That was also genocide.
Holocaust – This is an action that involves a horrific number of human deaths resulting from unnatural causes. We generally refer to holocaust as deaths caused by humans. A holocaust is sometimes a form of genocide. Sixty million Africans lost their lives in the Middle Passage (holocaust). Six million Jews were exterminated by Germans during World War II (both a holocaust and genocide). The holocaust during the transporting of African slaves to the Americas was a lack consideration; respect for humanity and a result of poor “business practice”. It does not matter whether a holocaust is genocide or a holocaust; a holocaust is a holocaust.
Racism – is first white inequality which says Europeans are white and unequal to everyone else on the planet earth. Second race is a form ethnic stereotyping of both European and non European people for cultural, political and economic purposes. This practice is also used to convince other ethnic people that they are unequal to each other. Racist assume that ethnic groups can be classified by the color of their skins. This form of identification is used to divide and classify people for different types of labor production for the benefit of European society. An understanding of Plato’s Utopia would provide a clear understanding of how this system is used in economic gains for Europe.
I can find nothing positive to say about race. At its best scenario race is a lie or misinformation and at its worst a form of cultural assignation. It is impossible for me to believe that anyone in their right mind would want to improve “race relations”. I have heard people say there is no such thing as race; there is only a “human race”. That person is bent on fixing the problem whether it deserves fixing or not – plain and simple ERACE!!! Those infected by the bug will not turn that word loose. It has become a mental disorder among entire populations of people. Race is a form of human stereotyping by skin color, then applying physical characteristics which apply only to that color. The result of the two matches of physical type and color as a stereotype does not properly match in nature, but in the minds of the poorly educated it works wonders. People have to be taught race. They don’t grow up knowing about it unless they are taught by someone from Europe or the West.
THE PARENT AND THE CHILD RELATIONSHIPS vs HUMAN AND WILD LIFE PRESERVATION
Department of Wildlife for the Endangered Species
Rubbing Dat' Good Old Pet Puppy Pickaninny Moss - Isn't He Cute?
Before we start the next section I want to make something clear in our minds first. The two pictures directly above depict how we are portrayed in the eyes of liberals, not KKK, Not White Citizens Council and not the Third Reich. This is not about “strange fruit”; it is about subtle dehumanization. Now you are seeing what others see. We are a first world people, because our human mutation appears much earlier than the one that produced Caucasoid people yet we are treated like extraterrestrial and third world people. It doesn’t look good at all from either side.
The colonists see themselves as people and to them people of color are considered “others”. They do not see it possible to live in a society conducted any other way. Whenever you disturb them they pretend to be sorry and interested in change. It is been said, “a little education can be a dangerous thing”. Any help you give them in correcting a problem only provides them with a weapon and enough information to continue keeping you in control. It is only when they make a conscious effort themselves without any help from you or anyone else that they just might be sincere.
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and Dr. Walter Rodney were the first to cover this topic and it was because of their work that I was inspired to write “Coin Conspiracy”. The direction that I need to take to complete that assignment; came from a very unlikely source. A young capitalist attorney by the name of Dr. Khalid Abdullah Tariq al-Mansour (Donald Warden) lectures proved most helpful. “Coin Conspiracy” is located on the black tool menu at the top of this page. I am going to elaborate on four things concerning the topic of “Neocolonialism” which I don’t think have been effectively addressed and must be address if we are to continue traditional African art and to transfer the principles of Africa Art to forms in the West and more important than that come up with new African forms that serve African People and at the same time can be adapted to Western purpose.
That is my aim as an African Art Nationalist and advocate of Indigenes Art and Culture World Wide. I only know about African Art, but I think much of the political ideology and principles are transferable, though our respective cultures are different.
I am only going to address four issues that identify Neocolonialism; language, paternalism, Plato’s Utopia and culture.
Colonialism and Neocolonialism are first and foremost a parent child relationship. If you do not understand what “paternalism” is then you might never understand what colonialism is. An imperialist first attempts to reduce its colony to the state of a crib or play pen and its persons inside the play pen to the state of toddlers and infants. That is a very distorted definition, but I find it necessary if I am going to get the point across. If we present ourselves to the world as children, adults will treat us as children. No one is going to raise us to adulthood. If we want to become adults, then we have to be our own parent.
Language is one of the key tools used in colonization and means of control in a neocolonial society. Languages reveal how you see yourself and reveals how you might treat other people who are different from yourself. There are many clues in the English language that reveal which persons are favored over another. Many of the clues are contained in names people are called or color. Phrases like “White is Pure” (in the religious context), “White is Clean”, Black is Dirty”, David is a “Bright Child” (referring to a person’s intelligence), “Black Friday”, “Black Listing”, “Black Marketing”, “Black Death” (in reference to Bubonic plague that swept trough Europe during the 12 century AD wiping out two thirds of the human population) etc. Those of you who are familiar with “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” will recall that Goldie is European and that the bears are personified as people of color who are less than human. Goldie tamper with food breaks a chair and was found sleeping in someone else’s bed. There was no court case, police report for break and entering private property; no nothing. The moral of the story is “Don’t go into that type of neighborhood again and stay away from those kinds of people”. There is no mention of any kind of injustice taking place. Every thing turns out to be honky dory. The bear’s porridge should have been immediately thrown out and the bedding washed and disinfected because we do not know what kinds of diseases Goldie might be capable of transmitting. After all Native Americans were nearly “wiped out” with small pox. Those of you who remember little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk can recall the inequities in those two stories plus many others as well. There are African stories that have made their way into Europe. Check those stories out because African stories have consequences resulting from poor behavior. Color is a big issue; we will cover it again under Plato’s Utopia and explain why the Utopia and race are linked. People in European Western world are categorized by color. This practice is a cultural enigma which has absolutely no scientific evidence to verify its physical presence and therefore can only be considered a cultural practice. Yet psychologist of both African and European swear by it and write tons of books to support its presence, which according to the culture that they both live in demands it. You have people going as far to try to improve race relations, whereas race should be gotten rid of in the first place.
Children interring schools in Africa for the first time are told that the languages they speak at home are not official languages - They are vernaculars. They are told that vernaculars are different from “real languages”, they have certain qualities missing which make vernaculars inferior forms of speech.
What is a vernacular? Definitions: 1.) Vernacular (as everyday language) is the everyday language of the people in a country or region, as distinct from official or formal language. 2.) Vernacular (as spoken language) is the common spoken language of a people, as distinct from formal written or literary language. 3.) Vernacular (as a common name) is in biology a common name of a plant, animal or other organism, as distinct from its scientific name.
One might ask if that is the definition of vernacular then what is the definition for an “official language”? The definition for “official language” is far easier to define than vernacular. An official language is your mother tongue.
In Africa the mother tongue of most Africans is some form of European language. This would seem to mean that the parents of most Africans are Europeans. They were either rejected as children by their biological parents or the children rejected their biological parent. What does that do to a child when the grade school exams are not administered by his biological parents, but are administer by people in some distant country that he or she never sees during the course of the exam. Some Africans never see a European until they reach adulthood, yet they learn to walk and talk like a European during childhood. What is going on; has someone lost their mind? Is there any hope for us as a people?
One’s language is a people’s basic culture distinction between one group of people and another. It governs everything they do; even Traditional African Art.
EXCUSES & CAN'T
I have heard all kinds of excuses from my people in the homeland and I do not want to hear any more. Nigerians have excuses why they cannot use the Hausa language as there official written and spoken language. In Ghana they have excuse for why they don’t use Akan and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Lingala. Europeans helped spread and promote the use of Lingala yet several African republics sought to see things different.
The following is an account of Lingala: ".... Lingala is one of the principal languages spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), (Congo-Kinshasa), and the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville). The Lingala of today is based on Bobangi, spoken by the people (bangala) who lived along the Congo River between Lisala and Kinshasa. Bobangi was the regional trade language until the arrival of the Europeans in the late nineteenth century.
The colonial administration needed a common language for the region and started to use the language for missionary and administrative purposes, calling it Bangala to set it apart from Bobangi. Compared to local Bantu languages, its sentence structure, word structure and sounds were simplified and its speakers freely borrowed words and constructions from other languages they knew. It became the language of the army, police, administration, education, politics, media, and missionaries.
Lingala language can be divided into four variations: Standard Lingala, Spoken Lingala, Kinshasa Lingala, and Brazzaville Lingala.
Standard Lingala is mostly used in educational and news broadcasts on radio or television, in religious services in the Catholic Church and is the language taught as a subject at all educational levels. Standard Lingala is historically associated with the work of the Catholic Church and its missionaries. It is largely used in formal functions.
Spoken Lingala is the variation mostly used in the day-to-day lives of Lingala speakers. This variation of Lingala is historically associated with the work of Protestant missionaries. Spoken Lingala is largely used in informal functions, and the majority of Lingala songs use Spoken Lingala over other variations. Modern Congolese music, called soukous, is one of the most popular in Africa and is a true source of enrichment of the language....."
There ladies and gentlemen you now have an official report on Lingala from Omniglot.com. It does not appear that Lingala was considered vernacular in Kinshasa and Brazzaville, then why the change. I would hope that French would be considered a second language or an elective and not the official language.
Do you remember the big man François Luambo Luanzo Makiadi? Of course you don’t, but you remember Franco Luambo and you remember the Franco TK OK Jazz Band with its Bakongo lead guitar sound mixed with Cuban rhythms influencing Highlife music all the way from Kinshasa to Accra back in the day. What language did Franco sing in? Was it Frencn? Someone told me that they speak Pidgin Bantu in the Congo. Where did that come from?
If the mother tongue written and spoken in Tanzania is Swahili then why is the official language in Kenya English and the second language Swahili? The Chinese are coming. They are coming to Kenya. In fact they are already there in Kenya. Chinese just finished building several new express ways so that working people can get to work on time. What do you think they are going to think when you tell them that your mother tongue is English when their mother tongue is Mandarin? Some Chinese are going to ask you why your official language is English. When you give them an “excuse” they probably will not say anything, but rest assure that excuse will come back to haunt you. Just as we avoid confronting the language issue we have avoided a number of issues which will eventually create a domino effect.
I don’t expect you to avoid using the Roman alphabet and Western Arabic Numerals and the nine character Indian number system and of course the zero. I do expect National Languages to come from the countries were people originated.
Keep in mind Africans on both sides of the Atlantic have two things in common which forever impede progress we both have excuses and can’t. An excuse is identical to the word “CAN’T”. As Africans we have a monopoly on the word “CAN”T”. We are the CAN’T people of the planet.
Brothers and sisters until we change our way of thinking we will begin to see everyone on the planet as imperialist accept for the people that have remained children just like us.
CULTURAL PHILOSOPHY CAN BE A CAUSE FOR JUDGEMENT
Something needs to be said about culture, because this is how I judge everybody on the face of the earth and culture determines whether I can work with that person or people or avoid having contact with them as much as possible. It doesn’t matter what the pigmentation of skin or color of eyes. I first see each person connected with a culture and if I don’t know what it is I keep probing until I find out. People’s ideas are almost impossible to change. If a person tells me that man is the measure of all things, then for me that becomes serious conflict. If a person tells me that countries should be divided into three worlds of people first, seconds and third; I have a problem with that. First of all I want to know what criteria this person is using and did they bother to consult countries before making such decision. People who set up various economic means for committing theft I have a problem. Falsehoods – It doesn’t matter what colors they come in. When I see a company where all the employees have to have security codes on their computers to guard against fellow employees from breaking into them; I would not want to work there. Why are those people working together and how can they be sure that they have any friends where they work. My next quest would be what type of person did the hiring? If you lift a pencil from my desk without my permission and don’t remember to bring it back; I am going to always remember you even though I never bring up the subject.
In the country where I live I am having some difficulties with way the constitution is worded. I don’t see that I have equal protection under the law. One thing I notice is they never change any unjust laws in the constitutions. It is said to be a perfect legal document. There are amendments added that over the years, but the amendment never block use of earlier laws. We were taught in school that slavery was completely abolished, but that was false. That is not so; it says so in the constitution. The thirteenth amendment clearly states the following; “….. Section 1.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction...."
"Section 2.Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation…”Everything hinges on one small word “except”. It is that one word which over the rules slavery ever being abolished. The system of where the institution of slavery may be conducted, but it was never abolished. My question concerning section 2 is does Congress understand the gravity of the 13th Amendment and are they willing to enforce the “except” portion of the Amendment?
As you can see I am not such a nice guy to get along with. My father would say that his son does too much nitpicking. Interesting, I wander where I got it from? I have too many rules and I make judgments on the slightest differences in protocol or provocation. Guess what I have found over the years though I may be out of place and out of touch in the United State of America that there are people in Asia and Africa sharing similar views; - how cool.
Africa has a wealth of minerals and natural resources and its people are some of the poorest people in the world. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the richest territory on the planet and yet its people are some of the poorest in Africa. Under neocolonialism Europeans have attempted to turn African countries into confederacies to reduce the opposition to European control. So far the plan has been working though there has been some opposition.
You would think that a continent of people so needy of minerals and resources would feel blessed and humbled that someone having plenty was so generous enough to come to their aid and took pity on their dire situation. This is not the case, because the recipient is so arrogant they try to make it look as though they are the ones bearing the gifts. The French have a proverb which states “The ends justify the means”.
A dictionary description of Neocolonial is as follows – “a powerful country uses political and economic power over a poorer country for its own benefit”. There is a dichotomy in question – What does a person mean when they say rich and poor? The meaning of the word poor is debatable. The powerful countries this definition refers to are some of the moderate and poorest in minerals and natural resources. There are a few exceptions such as Germany that could manage to do something relying on trade and manufactured items from its own resources. Many of the other countries would have problems unless they were willing to change their lifestyles and economies, which they are not. Most European countries having to rely on their own resources would have to become agricultural economies trading in wheat and barley. Africa has the resources to pull off an industrial revolution and maintain it with out trade from outside the continent of Africa, yet its people are some of the poorest on the planet and gain nearly zero advantages in extracting their resources.
As more Africans adopt Western culture and education they look for items and ideas that are produced by productive Western nations and put little or no value on what they make. Their governments stubbornly insist on adopting national languages of total strangers instead of adopting one of their own languages as a national language. African people are full of excuses concerning why this cannot be done. One excuse is that all of the colonial books have to be translated into an African language. My question is if you are trying to get out of colonialism why would you want to spend so much time reading their books anyway? In reality the problem is with the human “twinkly” and has nothing to do with what could or can not be done.
NEVER ANY TRADE BETWEEN FOREIGN COUNTRIES
Another dictionary description describes Neocolonialism first as “Economic Domination” – then it goes on to say that “the domination by a powerful, usually Western nation of another nation that is politically independent but has a weak economy greatly dependent on trade with the powerful nation”. The problem here is that the definition uses the term “trade”. Since the dawn of Western Civilization in Africa there has never been any trade with countries below Sub-Sahara, only extraction. The economy in those countries has only been one of extraction, not trade; therefore both the economies and the governments are weak in Africa. You can not be politically independent if the Neocolonialist and there allies tell your government what prices they are willing to pay for items coming out of your country, then tell you what you need to pay for items coming from their factories. In some African countries people do not have any power tools for mining. The workers, of which some are children, use only pick and shovel or pull everything out with their bare hands and store the resource in what ever vessels or containers the can manage to salvage.
The biggest problem is that foreign governments will not buy any of the products made in Africa, unless they are made in Morocco (bingo – one positive). The same results could happen in other parts of Africa if those countries had independent governments and departments of commerce, instead of what they have now – which is nothing.
MERCANTILE MADNESS - AND A CLASH OF CULTURES
The Chinese are coming. They are building large gift Infrastructures for themselves and Africans to use. Chinese are coming to stay. They are leasing water rights. The African continent has the second largest water shed in the world; second only to U.S. and Canada, yet Africa always has a water shortage greater than Europe and China because of poor management.
Southern Chinese immigrants from the coast of China experience extreme humidity in some arias and the weather is worm or hot during the spring and summer. There is no cooling off in sea water fore the China Sea is a hot tub. It is very difficult to distinguish between one’s own sweat and the hot sea water. For them to live in places that are hot with much lower humidity would be like living in paradise to them.
Chinese work twenty four seven in twelve hour shifts with only one to two days off each month. They cook food, wash clothes and help their children with homework at night and take them to school each morning. The dragon never sleeps. Many of the construction crews don’t hire Africans because Chinese workers say Africans are too lazy, which means that we as Africans will have to make adjustments in work habits and how they view education. We no longer afford to be lackadaisical about Western task or lackadaisical about promoting; learning African culture and heritage. If we don’t have anything of your own foreign people don’t hold you in very high regards. They look down on us. When I travel abroad I have something to put on the table that foreigners can see.
Civilization has many definitions. We are going to attempt to define it in this lesson only because we will be using the term civilization in connection with Traditional African Art and we need to know what it means in this context. We could spend time getting no where, trying to redefine and give credit to those who defined the term in the past, but if you are not going to use their material why should we bother? I am not sure that I will do any better, but it is worth a try. We will try to give it some shape and form for our basic needs concerning Traditional African Art. This definition will receive additional changes as we continue to get incites into what civilization means concerning our cultural dilemma (African cultural dilemma or anyone else for that mater).
Civil is a Latin word that means citizen. Civilization is a community of citizens that form a larger group to better their chances of receiving more opportunities and wealth than possible as smaller tribes or cultural units. A Civilization consist of a group of citizens compose from multi ethnic groups and/or cultures coming together in some form of organized civil community; sharing legal, economic and social systems that meet their common needs and interest. Civilizations are often made up of independent sedentary communities that network as a group of citizens belonging to one community. These sedentary communities are agricultural based; which involved the domestication of animals as well. An annual abundant of food supple allows its citizens to become highly specialized in skills and industries that require a long time to develop. Civil communities have the ability to produce industries and organize large scale labor force on projects for the benefit of community. Sometimes sedentary communities included nomads that owned domesticated animals and had access to foreign trade and commerce. There are three types of civilizations Old School Civil Communities, Middle School Civil Communities and New School Civil Communities.
Old School Civil Communities are the founders of their civil way of life. They do not depend on outside civil communities for support or help with their development. In old school, the ethnic groups that came together to comprise a larger community remained somewhat independent as citizens. The king’s rule ended at the village gate, so to speak (Chinese Proverb). The same was true in Africa, tribes, clans and families maintained their autonomy even though they were classified as citizens of a larger community. Tribal communities were very spiritual and believed the universe had laws the need to be respected. Ethnic people received new information that would help them flourish even when the civilization fell, because they were never robed of their cultural independence.
After the fall of Egypt and Nubian, African Civilizations moved South Eastward and Westward. Old Civil Communities continued to flourish on a much small scale until both the Arab and European slave trading began to dismantle civilizations, because of economics and human trafficking.
Decline and Dismantling (West African Civilizations)
Broken up into Smaller Empires and States (West African States)
During the early fifteen hundreds large scale raids on West African Civilizations by other Africans migrating from the east caused these civilizations to fall and divide into smaller states. Prisoners of war were sold to the Arabs slave traders. By the early sixteen hundreds Portugal and Dutch began gaining control of West African economy and collapsing communities in the North West by trafficking slaves through the south coast of West Africa.
Though many of the skills of the ancient civil communities are lost there are still a multitude in tact; West and Central African; South and East African communities still know how to perform those skills, however time is running out. It is imperative that Africans in Africa and Diaspora become the stewards; custodians of our glorious past and legacy by learn the skills of the ancients and pass them on to the next generation, thus we are practicing “Sankofa”. Know thy self (Egyptian) by reaching back into the past and bring something forward (Ashanti).
OUR CULTURAL DILEMMA
It is important that we, as African crafts people, be the architects and builders of our own culture. We cannot afford to use our relocation in America with our subsequent loss of cultural tradition and need for modernization as an excuse for failure to address ourselves to this dilemma.
As African Americans our experiences have been different from those in the homeland. We must assert ourselves to learn our African heritage and African crafts; then apply these tools to our experiences here in America.
It doesn’t matter if you are African, Native American, Tonga, Hawaiian, Koi San, Gullah Geechee, or what ever. When you are displaced some where it is important to always remember who you are; what you stand for and if you don’t see anyone barring your torch, then you must do it alone until you find someone. You do not have the right to say I don’t know how. Heritage is a life and death issue; “Don’t know how” is never an option. You make it your business to find out how.
Middle School Civil Communities do not start on their own accord. They receive their foundation from Old School Civilizations. In the early stages of development they are very dependent on Old School for help and information. Their way of life and understanding of old school thought are quite often very different from their predecessors. Many principles of the old school middle school could not comprehend. They were smart enough to develop their own direction. They tended not to integrate with indigenous people or independent tribal cultures and had very little tolerance for cultures that were different. There civil laws were designed to keep citizens in toe with a single legal system. “All roads lead to Rome, therefore do as the Romans do” was their basic principle. They were less tolerant of ethnic groups having their own laws. Greece was a group of city-states; with each city-state having its own political system. Most of the governments were run by dictators or tyrants. Athens was an exception. They practiced democracy because there leaders found that they could get the public to do what they wanted them to do even if they lost an election. Middle School Civil Communities were atheistic and they were the first people to produce a secular society (read Cheikh Anta Diop). Middle School believed that man was the measure of all things and that the gods were super human.
Greek philosophy would become the foundation for European Civilization. It would also be use to restructure and manage Western Civilization with grave consequences. European’s unwillingness to yield or accept change would result in an upheaval and clash of cultures. New Civilizations would begin to emerge inside of the West. Islamic Fundamental Civilization would be only the first. Philosophy is a way of life. It is completely absurd to me to think that someone living in another culture would adopt another set of philosophical principles from a person living in a completely different world and set of circumstances than theirs.
New School Civil Communities continued with a separate secular society coupled with religion. They presented one new principle which would serve to make them masters in conquest. New School Civil Communities were the first to develop a “scientific method”. Old Schools Communities made discoveries based on chance, accidents and experience. New School Science was based on carefully controlled experimental study, record keeping and analysis. This procedure enabled New School to ask questions and get answers quickly. The oldest New School Civil Communities were united under the Catholic Church by one of Rome’s Emperor’s discovering that if you use religion you won over more people without having to shed blood. Each European state had similar cultures and spoke different languages. With in each European states the dominate group concurred all of the indigenous people and made them do what they wanted them to do. Coupled with the church the European states were able to implement institutions from Greece and Rome thus making themselves first citizens of the church and second citizens of ancient laws handed down from Greece and Rome.
We are all global citizens of Western Civilization. Western Civilization is less than 600 years old; it doesn’t have a heritage and its past virtually doesn’t exist. Western Civilization moved from a cottage industry to an Industrial Age and from an Industrial Age in to an Age of information in less than thirty seconds. So where are we in time; what comes next? Regardless of what your country’s passport says or is you have another passport, but you don’t know that you have it. That is why it is important to hang on to what ever heritage you have, for the West is like a ship sailing aimlessly without a port, or an anchor; everything is predicated in the future and nothing is permanent. By contrast Europe is composed of many cultures and each country has many ethnic groups and their heritages. If you want a solid foundation to stand on, don’t depend on the West to provide one for you, because Western Civilization does not have any roots, there is no depth, it is shallow. In American only the indigenous Native Americans have roots; everyone else stands on shallow ground unless they brought their roots with them. If you don’t have roots, don’t remember roots or you lost them, then go back and get them. Another mistake people make in reference to Western Civilization is they think it is European Civilization and it is not. At best Western Civilization is token Europe. It has what is needed to be able to communicate with Europeans, produce products for Europe and trade with them; that is about all. Westerners know very little about Europe unless they make an in depth study of Europe on their own.
Everyone on the planet is in danger of losing touch with their hand skills, crafts, stories and social institutions hand down to them from the early beginnings of their cultural heritage. If the Chinese want to make paper windows for some of their ancient buildings, then they may have to go to Japan to learn the craft. Japan has one family still making sumurai swords using ancient fold method. There is only one sword maker left in Taiwan. He is about my age and he doesn’t have any apprentices so he uses industrial machines to help him with the work, so hurry, hurry time is running out.
Check this out, you won’t believe what I am telling you, but I lived though this period so I know. The Peoples Republic of China (Chairman Mao Zedong invention) just attached a section partition to a space lab in space. The Chinese put that space station up there themselves without any help. Their payload this year included a space lab and three people. One person was a woman. This year (2012) marks China’s 63rd year anniversary since they came out of the cottage industry and feudal period in China. It took the United States 200 years to get where it is today but it only took China 63 years. Western Civilization started 600 years ago and it took China only 63 years to get from where it was to where it is today.What can I say? That is sad and it is also awesome; incredible.
As I speak, China with the help of several Western Countries is building a computer cloud and just this month the United States got itself engaged in a David and Goliath battle with two Chinese mega giants in the communications products industry. The U.S. is trying to close them down, but there is one problem this David can't shoot straight, because he does not know how to use a slingshot. His rocks keep missing their targets.
Europe is now a part of Western Civilization. Western Civilization has something to offer. Some Western countries are far more advanced in technology and biotechnology than Europe. Because of advanced biotechnology many machines will contain live cells and tissue in the future. You will be able to roll up an ipad or laptop and put it in your pocket or take it under water. Use of the English language is a head of the technology. Live things produced by nature are referred to as “mechanisms” as if they are already products of science. Though Europe may be the founder of Western Civilization, the founder is no longer in control. Former colonies control Western Civilization now. The rest of the world does not need Europe any more. Western Civilization can continue to develop on its own without her.
In 1976 I made my first trip to the African Continent. On my return I started a small collection of African coins. What started out as a curious study quickly became an addiction. I began collecting common world coins at an alarming rate by the pound. Fortunate my ability to sell coins was almost as good as my ability to buy and collect. I sold the common coins as fast as I could so that if the price of silver dropped I could then buy silver by the roll. I figured if I could buy silver I might be able to resale silver in order to buy larger quantities of silver. Several of the Hunt brothers in Texas were on trial in federal courts for trying to buy the worlds silver. Though I was new at the game, I figured that if they lost the court case silver might suddenly flood the market lowering the price of silver coins. Fortunate for me I was correct. The prices came tumbling down fast and over a short period of time slowly began to rise.
This presentation was first titled "SCRIBE: AFRICAN WORLDVIEW" and appeared in Black Family Community Web Site, the spring of 1999. Next the essay title was changed to "HOW AFRICA WAS UNDERDEVELOPED ECONOMICALLY" Then in the fall of 2002 the title of this essay changed to "COIN CONSPIRACY". The topic has remained the same. We are getting better at defining it. This article was written to show the importance economics has in understanding Colonial African History. You can take this same topic; "How Africa Was Underdeveloped" and discuss it from a political slant, cultural rape, or technology disadvantage and get entirely different results concerning Africa's plight in the 21st century. All of these views are important and you miss something by not having them. If you presented all three articles on this same platform, I think the reader would come away totally confused.
I would hesitate to say that my view is the correct one. For some one else it may not work. All I know is the economic view works for me. Many topics concerning our past left me completely confused as a reader. So it meant that I would have to rewrite the pages of history that didn't suite me, so that I could then understand what I didn't understand before.
Many of us in humanities view money making as a shallow subject. I share the same view. It is not only shallow; it's boring. However if I find by ignoring a subject that I continue to not realize my goals, then I am willing to change. After all, why reinvent the wheel?
MODERNSTONEAGE Ever since we were hunters and food gathers our question of survival depended on economics. Modern stone age people could count. We understood the importance of 1 (one). Modern stone people probably used ten fingers and toes as well. We didn't have to like economics. That is just the way it was. Some of us were better hunters than others. Moderen Stone age people led a nomadic existance. Some had talents that hunters didn't have and a few of us had talents that were highly sought after. If you made the best arrow and spear points and served your clients on time, you could probably look forward to a good livelihood. If you could make points and shafts to all hunting weapons, then your future was probably more secure than the craftsman that made only points.
Your family size was probably as large as the best of hunters and you probably didn't have to pack up and move as often as your clients, because your food and water were brought to you rather than you having to fetch them.
What was used for money in those days? Probably flint, arrow heads, food and water. That's not hard to figure out. Creating fire and having the best game tools to work with, were probably two most important things to have for hunters and craftsmen alike. Everyone had to have food and water. Flint and good arrow points were convenient to store, transport; came in standard sizes and were not easily available. We will explain the importance of standards, convenience, and availability later on in this text. If your arrow mint was miles away sometimes it was easier to trade with other hunters at a higher price of course. The hunters trading the arrow heads would receive food and water in exchange for the trade.
FOODSTORAGE & AGRICULTURE The next revolution was three-fold - permanent dwellings, food storage and agriculture. The ability to store food enabled humans to do other things besides fetch food. They had a sedentary life; time to begin agriculture and wait for crops to develop. Wild cereals and grains could be gathered and stored the longest. It was in grain producing locations that people had time to produce arts, crafts and develop technology skills. Craftsmen worked at their skills during months when they were not need to work the fields.
The earliest grain cultures developed in Africa and the Fertile Crescent. Not all-agricultural societies had grains and cereals. Those cultures without grains spent most of their time at agriculture and gathering food, fore they had a smaller food chain to draw from and their crops had a short storage life, so they didn't have time to develop other skills. The grain cultures passed them by and created civilizations.
The next important development was domestication of animals. Most animals on the planet were not suitable for domestication. The Fertile Crescent had almost a monopoly on four legged hoofed, docile social herd animals. About eighty percent of the docile hoofed animals on the planet lived in the Fertile Crescent. Some of these animals were slow and couldn't run fast. Humans could run in their bare feet and catch them with their hands. These animals were safe from being stepped on by elephants, or scratched and bitten by large kittens living in the Serengeti. They had very few enemies in the places where they lived. Animals moved from this region of the world had to depend on humans to protect them from disease and wild animals. There were a few wild docile hoofed animals living in North Africa, India and China. The lama, relative to the camel, lived in the Americas. Hoofed animals rated high in bartering and trade. They were often treated like money. People that had domesticated animals had something to munch on while waiting for crops to harvest. Europe and Africa obtained their domesticated animals from the Fertile Crescent (located where Iraq is today).
Many people living in close proximity to Africa contributed to the development of the world's first civilizations, but the conditions for starting and sustaining civilizations existed in Africa. Africa didn't just start one civilization. The first civilization served as catalyst creating a chain reaction for all other civilizations.
AFRICA'SSUPER HIGHWAY & BOTTLENECK
Nubian people lived along the bottleneck of the Nile River, in an area known today as the Sudan. They were the first famous civilization in a series of African Civilizations. This section of the Nile was also the bottleneck of commerce, trade and information. The river was like a Super Highway for the Nubians. The Nile River was the longest river in the world. It spanned two completely different geographical zones. Nubians only had to travel the length of their highway to get what they needed in order to become civilized. In the south there were two seasons a year, wet and dry and along the tropical rain forest on the equator, there was one season; rain. The North was arid and dry. Nubians took advantage of the grains and domesticated animals contributed in the North and abundant source of lumber, ivory and gold in the South. Nubians had access to stone and the first hot rocks fashioned into iron tools occurred in their region. Items made of hot rocks were used to make tools. Iron tools could be used to carve items made of wood and other materials. Iron tools could be useful in building and agriculture. Iron tools could be use in barter and trade like stone tools were used many centuries ago. Iron tools were used for currency in many parts of Africa and the world outside Africa.
Dr. Cheikh Anta Deop Africa's most celebrated archeologist explains the characteristics between Northern Cradle and Southern Cradle Civilizations in his book titled "THE CULTURAL UNITY OF NEGRO AFRICA", Published in 1962, Presence Africaine. We are not going to discuss those differences here however. We are going to introduce one concept that he didn't mention "River People versus Acropolis People". These differences play an important part in the coin consperacy and the outcome of current affairs that we are faced with today.
EUROPEAN PRACTICE OF COLONAZATION BEGAN IN GREECE
People in civilizations along rivers traded for goods along the path of the river. Most river people were farmers. In contrast people of the acropolis had land which was arid and dry, so the Greeks produced colonies so that they could gain access to food and materials needed to sustain their civilization. These people use a combination of trade and occupation to obtain the things they wanted. Most of the food consumed by Greek City States was supplied by their colonies because they did not have enough fertal land to produce the quantity of food needed to sustain city states. The city of Athens developed their philosophy (way of life) and government to meet the needs of cultural domonance and political occupation. The Greeks grew basically grapes and olives. The Greek peninsula was surrounded on three sides by sea, thus the Greeks focused on Mediterainian settlements near their area. Village settlements began appearing in Greece around 1500 B.C. About 750 B.C. Greece began building cities in other countries and establishing colonies. Without colonies Greek Civilization would not have taken on the characterstics it did in arts, government and philosophies as we know them. As Greek civilization grew the number of colonies multiplied. This early economic dependency became a characteristic of other Northern Civilizations that followed. Producing colonies became a practice of European civilization. The Greeks produced several more practices that European Civilization adopted secularism, democracy, Plato's Utopia and the use of the coin. All together Europeans had 5 important contributions from Greece that would enable them to control other people around the world; colonialism, secularism, democracy, Plato's Utopia and the use of the coin.
The Greek five principles appear again in European Civilization. Colonialism, secularism, democracy, Plato's Utopia and the use of the coin were imporant for several reasons. First colonialism allowed Europeans to accumulate their wealth by enslaving other people on lands outside Europe. Europeans could import resources from colonies not available in Europe. Goods could be sold to colonies for profit. Secularism separated church from state, civil affairs and public education. This allowed people to develop institutions that had a set of laws value system and ethics separate from religion. Democracy allowed more people to become involved in the decision making process governing their lives. This made people more committed to inforcing laws and a way of life that they themselves helped put into action. In countries that did not practice democracy the people that lived there were less commited to supporting government decission. Palto's Utopia was a cast system designed to help Greek oppressors rule and control the world. Europeans later used the same principles under the heading Globalization or New World Order. During the Wilsonian Democracy, after World War I an attempt was made to put Plato's Utopia in place by the League of Nations failed. During the Roosevelt Administration the utopia was set up in the form of three economic levels - 1st, 2nd and 3rd World People and its implementation through the United Nation succeeded.
As the 21st Century approches, the 1st World (in therory) should manage and store electronic information used by itself and the rest of the world. The 2nd world aquired manufacturing used by itself plus 1st and 3rd world people to produce machines and machine made goods. The 3rd world would supply agriculture and mineral resources for itself and world.
Under Plato's Utopia each of the 3 cast was suppose to be satisfied with their place in society. No one could move up in cast, but one could "develop with-in their present state of existance". Thus we have "Developing 3rd World Nationss".
AMERICA'SCHILDREN & THE COIN
I would like to leave you with one last note. Making use of a coin is not hard to learn or practice. Children seven and eight years old can organize and implement a very complex system of their own. I witnessed such a system at an elementary school, Richmond California, during the fall of 2005.
Students stole a teacher aid's hourglass and the teacher tried in vain to get it back. She first tried explaining why the glass was important for her to have in order to effectively teach them lessons. She was giving them rational information concerning the loss and this "rational approach thing" wasn't working very well.
One student went into the teacher aid's box and pulled out another hourglass to show the teacher that she already had a second hourglass to replace the missing glass. Another student tried to console the instructor by giving her a choice of several stuffed animal toys he had tucked away in his cubby. They were not able or ready to process her concerns. Her requests went way over their heads.
Teacher even turned off the lights several times so that the item could be placed on the table without teacher noticing it. All students were in volved in the search and the hourglass failed to surface.
The teacher finally had to leave to go to another class. I told her that the search would continue. My approach was different however. I began watching activities of the students. My objective was to find -- "THEIR CURRENCY".
I first began shutting down their access to game and indoor toy activities with the pretext that if parts to the games and other indoor activities got lost they would not be able to use them again. The hope was that it would force them to gravitate toward a single activity that they equally enjoyed the most. The plan worked.
Students began producing small blue square paper tickets. These paper tickets were given to them by teachers and administrators for citizenship, good grades and good deeds. The tickets were called by different names at different schools. For our purpose we will call them 'Bear Hugs'. At some schools the colors for the Bear Hugs changed each markinhg period. Making the previous colors worthless.
This school apparently kept the same color the year round. The seven-year-olds had developed a value system of their own to which they were addicted. Some students were selling toys and candy to acquire Bear Hugs. Two girls had clear plastic bags about two feet long, filled with Bear Hugs. Apparently they may have had a banking system. One boy was asking for a loan from one of the bankers. She carefully meassured a fist full of Bear Hugs and gave them to him.
I made an announcement "that a missing hourglass had not been found. All purchases, bank transactions and loan collections must be put on hold until the missing hourglass was found."
My ultimatum received instant results. Students turned the lights off and in less than ten seconds the missing hourglass was placed on a table. Apparently money and math have few age and language barrier. For children of seven and eight to grasp the magnitude of numbers and money at such an early age tells us something about the ability to transmit what appears to be a complex culture. On the down side the goods and services system they were using required a high rate of theft since these children did not have the technical know how or skills to produce the goods they were selling. It also sheds some light on how people can be made to depend on money for almost everything they do.
The Bear Hugs were of no use to adults. We couldn't pay bills with them. Children were using Bear Hugs to purchase items which required real money. Their Bear Hugs were working perhaps for the following reasons: Their monitary system could not be forged by such a young age and the two girls knew how to secure their banks against theft [something which was a big problem in that class]. The Bear Hugs could be used to trade for any object or service they wanted, therefore a student would never be stuck with money they could not trade. The amount of cash flow among the students was controled by the two bankers. The pricing of items was something they could all agree on and all students had faith that their monitary system would work. If there was no faith built into the Bear Hug monitary system the children would not have use the Bear Hugs for money.
I hope you get as much enjoyment out of reading
this presentation as I enjoyed writing it. At the end is an e-mail address. Be sure to let
me know what you think, didn't understand or suggestions for improving this article.
20th CENTURY WRAP-UP IN AFRICA & DIASPORA
As we enter the 21st century, we need to first look at the last 100 years in
retrospect, so that we can access our accomplishments and address our failures. Once we
are aware of what works in our favor and what seems to be holding us back, we can begin to
SANKOFA PART I
AN ANCIENT COIN CONSPIRACY?
The monetary evolution of ancient economies has much to do with human fait in today's economy, but we can hardly call that a conspiracy. Expert conspirators created the conspiracy. The conspirators were those groups or individuals who took it upon themselves to distinguish a difference between people operating with a given economic system as different and superior to those people operating without that economic system. Europeans found that people with economic systems similar to theirs could easily interact with their system of trade. People without a similar economics had to be worked with differently. Europeans sought to put a coin economy in place for themselves, which would favor them (the oppressors) and never favor their victims.
When trading with coin economies Europeans were forced to set up "commerce trade agreements" and where there was an absence of coins Europeans established "trinket agreements". People with coins had their own elaborate recording systems, currency coin exchange, social civil services and bureaucracies setup for coin economics, therefore Europeans exploited what was in place rather than set up new systems. China accepted only gold and silver in payment for goods.
It would cost Europeans less money; time and energy if a populace had their own civil services in place needed to make trading easier. In economies without coins many of those services were missing which gave the conspirators an opportunity to put the missing systems in place and exploit those subjects differently.
In societies were colonial economies replaced earlier trade systems, these people became colonial victims and their currency was put in place by the colonialist to benefit colonialist and never to benefit the colonies. These colonies would continue to be colonies even after independence (Neocolonialism). Coin economies that established trade relations with Europe before becoming colonies under Europe were able to re-establish their own trade after colonialism, because they never lost their currency culture and currency infrastructure. When these colonies became free from their tyranny they were able to re-establish themselves taking part in "international trade agreements and produce their own currency" because their pre-colonial commerce tools and culture were still in tact.
Under Neocolonialism subjects had to have their coins struck and their paper currency printed by European Colonialist and sold back to them in order to have money to sell and buy commodities with. Just imagine having to purchase both your money and your goods and services with credit. How were you ever going to get out of debt? Some countries sold an entire cash crop a year in advance in order to obtain better credit.
By the time European Civilization began Roman Numerals were no longer being used in economic transactions.
How people count was very important. There weren't always nine characters and a zero. The nine numeral system and zero had to be invented. The invention took place in India and worked it's way into the Fertile Cresent where it received the name "Arab Numeral". In the Arab World the numbers received promotion and eventually spread to the rest of the world. This numbering system was simple enough so that large numbers of people could adopt and use the nine character system easily. The Indian numbering system and the coin gave Europeans the tools they needed to conquer the world economically. Without the Indian numbers and the coin European Global Conquest probably would not have been possible.
In another part of the world Americas people developed the zero. The Mayans had a zero and two additional characters - a one and a five. Their numbering system was simpler than the Indian Numerals, but never spead to the rest of the world. Mayan develop one of the worlds best calendar systems.
The metric system divides weights, measurements and money into sets of tens. In the United States money was the only thing used in metrics. Everything else was done the hard way. Twelve inches equal a foot and three feet equal a yard.
Our Personal Computers use a bynary code consisting of ones and zeroes. All software was developed using this code as its foundation. The one and zero codes were placed in sets of eight. One set of eight ones and zeros represent a single letter or number. It is a series eight sets that make up a single word. Programing software arranges the code for the programer so that they don't have to re-envent the weel before writing a software program.
Trade and Commerce was all about "NUMBERS". Bartering was a form of trade by exchanging goods and/or services. Bartering was a form of trade using numbers in the exchange of goods and/or services. When one traded goods and services, two traders were involved. Each trader had to establish a set of numbers suitable for exchanging their commodities or services. Coins were not commodities. Coins represented a consistent system of numbers established to make trading for commodities and services easier. Coin culture was easy for the masses of people to learn. Numbers were represented in the form of physical objects, (coins). Instead of two traders you now had a buyer and a trader. The trader bartered for numbers from the buyer. The buyer then decided if he or she wanted to part with their numbers for the goods or services to be offered by the trader. With two trade items you had to astablish numbers for each item before astablishing the trade. With coins and item purchase the trader decide how many numbers he wanted for his item. The numbers contained in the coins were already astablished. Numbers, in the form of coins, could be used as tools to purchase goods and services anywhere and at any time by a consumer in a society as long as everyone could agree on using those numbers or coins for exchange. Numbers vs. commodities in exchange was a quicker way of doing business, than numbers mixed with commodity vs. commodity exchange.
If two countries had different currencies they would decide how they were going to evaluate each other's money. Much of their success in rating the currency exchange would depend on the quality and interest in products and services each country had to offer. Countries lacking in quality services and products of interest would receive short end of the stick. Natural resources and cash crops were not considered quality products. You had to make something of value; a product someone else would be willing to buy that was produced from natural resources and agriculture crops. And in many cases that product was something that could only be acquired from you.
With the new numbering system came a ("coin culture"). Coin culture brought about changes in (commerce culture) the way people traded. There was a desire to claim and hoard numbers. The person collecting the most numbers was considered wealthier than the person collecting the most commodities. Person with the most numbers could purchase what he or she wanted; where-as the person with commodities had to sell something first in order to buy and that wasn't always easy. The cost of a commodity or service could fluctuate either deflating or inflating in price depending on what the public was willing to pay; however the number of units in each coin remained the same. It was that consistent ability to represent precise numbers and remain predictable that made coins a valuable asset. The coin became both dependable and indispensable in trade. The use of coins was easy to learn and it was transferable accross different cultures.
A new vocabulary developed with the intervention of the coin. The coin became a convient host for negociating and identifing numbers. With commodities and money commbined one could now use terms like leveraging, inflation hedge, liquidy, safety, yield and interest to describe various changes occuring with their wealth.
When we collected coins, we used other coins to do so and we still valued our collection of gold and silver coins as money no matter how new or old the coins were.
We don't have enough information yet to know how coins came about. We suspect that the invention occurred in several places throughout the world at different times. The earliest Civilization to use coins was China. Coins from the Shang Dynasty in China seem to suggest that coins may have started out as "Rare Valued Copies". Chinese copied rare images used in trade which were considered secred by the masses. Copies were made to make the item accessible to a wide public. The copied images often had holes for stringing or warring, such as in a necklace or charm. In China one of the earliest rare copied images was a cowry shell. The Chinese populous had a spiritual involvement with their coins. Charms and coins became mixed. At times it was difficult to tell them apart.
Notice cowrie shells were not considered the forunner of coins. It was the ("copied cowrie") that were considered to be coins. Some of the early Shang copies were (hand carved from shell, stone, bone). During the Shang and Zhou Dynasties in China some cowrie shells were copied in bronze and given a gold leaf cover (bronze substitute cowrie 1766-1122 B.C.). If rare copied images can be said to be the beginings of coin culture, then they should be seen as that and not as true coins. Such cultures may have also been under develpment in parts of Africa, but would not have been sufficticated enough to survive the modern coin age under slavery and colonialsm.
Next the Chinese began using animals in nature and mythology to develop their own coin art forms in bronze.
During the late 18th century Europeans increased their exploration and trade in Africa.
From about 1880 to 1905, most of Africa was partitioned among six European Countries:
Belgium, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, and Portugal.
In the grab for riches of Africa, Europeans were coming close to carving each other apart. At the height of the African slave trade Europeans were blasting each other's ships out of the ocean with canons hidden behind fort walls lining the coast of West and Central Africa. As the European economic stage shifted from feudalism to an industrial capitalist economy, depending heavily on global traded, something had to be worked out so that all of Europe could get a piece of the pie. If something didn't happen soon, the battles between Europeans on the Africa Coast might shift from killing each other in Africa to squaring off in each other's backyards in Europe.
Global trade required an open access to ocean and sea. The invention of air power was a long ways off. Most European countries were surrounded by either ice, or land, which blocked them from gaining access to sea. These countries had to depend on countries with seaports and ships to gain access to resources produced elsewhere. The Berlin Conference in (1884-1885) should first be viewed as a European Peace Conference before discussing its merits concerning Africa, because if not for the conference Europe would have ended up repairing its own shambles as a result of a continental war. This would have delayed further European exploitations in Africa. The "Berlin Peace Settlement of (1884-1885)" was held to prevent war from taking place throughout the European Continent like it did during the French Revolution of (1789 - 1815). Europe was on the verge of Continental war concerning events in Africa. World War I and World War II started out as European Wars over some of the same issues. Each of the two European conflicts quickly escalated into global conflict. Europeans fighting for more resources and global markets for their goods and services were key issues during each war. Representatives attending the conference could not foresee the events coming in 1914 and 1935, but they did see war coming their way before 1900 and it was that war they managed to avoid.
This intrusion on African populous was made possible by the Atlantic Slave Trade, which took place over several centuries. In the process an estimated one hundred million people went to their deaths as a result of war, middle passage and "breaking process of the Caribbean"; enough people to rival the current populations of China and India had they survived to reproduce.
COLLAPSE OF AFRICAN PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE
By contrast Africans killed very few Europeans. During colonialism Europeans were more than eager to show Africans how to make themselves sick and die early. Africa became known as "the white man's grave", because Europeans died in such large numbers. They started by trying to settle themselves in tropical Africa and as long as Africans left them alone very few Europeans lived long enough to become Albert Schweizers. Europeans thought Africans had nothing to contribute in the field of medicine. They called African medicine witchcraft, and refused to be helped. Most Europeans ended up becoming anonymous John Does with only a wooden stick to mark their presence.
Tropical environments and diseases were too much for them. Thus Europeans used divide and conquer and 'trickonomics' to take Africa, because they were never able to produce enough of their own human manpower in Africa.
When Europeans encountered a new desease they tried to produce a drug to get rid of the desease. When Africans encountered a desease they produced a medicine or vaccine that prevented you from getting sick. Europeans didn't develop their first vaccine until the early twentieth century. African doctors kept track of all of their clients and informed them of when their peiodic medical exams were due. Everyone lived in a close community so it was easy to keep track of each other. When colonialization came all of that changed.
When Africans were pulled away from their communities and village doctors to work for Europeans in distant farms, mines, cities and factories, they too suffered the same fate and began dying like flies. Africans had preventative medicines and vaccines they needed to take in order to stay healthy and keep from getting sick. Their doctors did not know how to make them well again if they got sick, but they did know how to keep their clients healthy and well. If these medicines were not made available to their clients on regular bases they became victims of the same diseases that Europeans suffered. Europeans tried to correct this problem by inventing Albert Schweizer, to validate their culture and condemn African culture. They used the Albert Schweizers and Christian religion to force African "heathens" from visiting their "witchdoctors" on regular bases to take "concoctions, or potions for one type of witchcraft or another". When African doctors could not cure the sick, Europeans had the weapon they needed to condemn African culture and validate their own culture. Thus Africans became victims European drug pharmaceuticals, drug side effects and theocracy. Africans eventually lost their infrastructure in medicine.
The trade routes in West and Central Africa were heavily guarded at the coast and Sahara margins, by the people who lived in those regions. They extracted tolls from foreigners and often wouldn't let them explore the region or deliver their goods in person. This barrier did not prevent a big problem for Europeans. Chattel slavery changed all of that. We will not cover that topic here however.
Africans were designated to third world status in the early stages of trade with Europe during the fifteen hundreds. Europeans only bought natural resources, human livestock and agricultural items from Africans. Products made by Africans in Africa were of no interest to Europeans. Products made by Africans living under European control was of interest.
Africans never had large inventories of textile, clothing, ivory products or woodcarving for sale. They had no concept of selling hand made objects just for “money” only. These items were commissioned for social and spiritual needs, not manufactured for consumption sake only. They were not sold at the marketplace, were food and raw materials were sold. Without the coin and coin culture Africans were not encouraged to produce in volume for prospect consumers. They were still bartering with product for product, even when beads and cowries were being used as “money”. Africans did not have shops or stores like some Asian countries did. Metal tools, clothing, decorative items in bronze, ivory and wood had to be commissioned. We will talk more on this later on in this publication.
A few Europeans liked the ivory work that craftsmen in the Congo and Benin were making. The quality of carved work during the 1600's was better in quality than the ivory carvings of Europe and China. Africans did not understand the importance of tailoring their products to meet European taste, so the Europeans bought African slaves and trained them to design products that would suit European taste. They then took those products and sold them to other Europeans. Africans, who sold Europeans slaves, received none of the profits made from sales of ivory products produced by the slaves. Europeans were engaged in buying human livestock, minerals, cash crops and other natural resources. This process was repeated with other trade skills as well. Europeans wanted highly skilled Africans that they could control.
Europeans used military force and trade to gain a foothold on the Africa continent. Military force served only as a short-term solution. Once the first was achieved one was required to come up with an economic plan quickly if they wished to maintain control over a people. Our study was designed to show how economic control of Africa served to defeat self-reliance of a people who once had been independent and productive. Control of African economy achieved dimensions slavery never met.
GAINING CONTROL OF TRADE THOUGH ECONOMICS
Europeans introduced spun glass beads as trade items. They were easy to transport over rugged terrain and Africans were already familiar with beads in the form of trade. Before the coming of the French and British cowries were universal currency throughout Central and West Africa. The Dutch took care of that problem several centuries earlier by bring ship loads of cowry shells from the Indian Ocean and dumping them in West and Central Africa. By doing so, thus they managed to devaluate the cowry and increase the value of European glass beads. From this point on Europe would control the availbility of currency used in Africa and eventually control the African Economy.
The Dutch were the first to sell glass beads, but they were not able to get the market that the British and other Europeans obtained. The Dutch used the same glass beads they manufactured for domestic use in Holland to sell. Most Africans wanted something different.
The British did not try to manufacture beads themselves. They collected the best quality beads in West Africa, all which proved to be superior to Dutch beads. Next the British took the best African beads to the best European bead companies, all which happened to be located on the Island of Venice. This glass center produced glass beads similar to glass beads produced in Egypt many centuries ago. The British asked Venetian bead suppliers to copy the beads and sell those designs only to them. They then showed the beads to Africans and ask them what other designs did they wish to see in beads. Africans made drawings and specified the colors they wanted. The British showed the drawings and specifications to their suppliers and asked them to supply them with the designer beads. Again the same instructions were given, "Sell these designs only to the British and no one else".
There was evidence that Africans copied many of the Venetian trade beads sent to Africa, but Africans did not have the advanced fast technology, nor marketing strategies the British were using.
Africans viewed the European glass, much like their own glass and shell beads; but African People were not prepared for what came next; the coin. This exchange item had a fixed value and you couldn't bargain with it like you did with beads. Beads were both a commodity and an exchange item, but coins were used for exchange only. All coins of a given size and value looked exactly the same. There were no imperfections in a coin.
When coins came on the market glass beads were the next item to lose their market value. Africans then had to learn an entirely new commerce. They had to learn to use money for purchases rather than use beads and shells to trade. It became more practical to carry coins in pocket rather than push a wheelbarrow full of shells and beads to market in order to make a purchase or perform some other economic transaction.
Seeds and shells presented another problem. Beads and shells were seen as a commodity. Coins were not a commodity.
First, Europeans viewed the African continent as a supplier of natural resources and agriculture resources. Second, Europe was only interested in developing an African consumer economy among Africans; fore as far as Europe was concerned Africans didn't nave any human resources worth developing. Mentally Europe had devalued that possibility as a result of the African slave trade.
With the arival of coins banks soon followed in the major cities. It was necessary to keep people from stealing money and control the amount of cash flow on the streets.
In West Africa, the nearest item Africans had resembling a coin was a horseshoe like brass bracelet. It presented a problem however. Even though the shape and design were standard, the small ones as well as the large ones were too big and bulky for easy transport. They were also used as ingots by brass casters. Coins were almost never used in this fashion. Last, manufacturing availability was most important. Ingots could be cast by anyone with knowledge of metallurgy. Plus you could cast as many bracelets as you wanted, because they were always being melted down and fashioned into more "practical things" such-as sculptures, boxes and jewelery.
Colonial coins were struck and milled using a high speed manufacturing process. Africans would have to raise money to buy coin minting equipment and machines from Europe.
COLONIAL MONETARY SYSTEM
For coins to work, you had to follow these three things; restrict their production, increase the availability and guard against forgeries.
Colonial coins were minted in Europe (some samples of British African coins). The British put holes in the center of most of their coins so that their subjects would identify them with the beads. The experiment worked. Africans decorated themselves and their artwork with coins. The silver coins with faces presented a different problem. They didn't have holes. So it became clear that these coins were not a commodity, fore if one put a hole in these coins it would be considered defacing the coin; thus the value of such coins would drop. Also if you melted the coin down and decided to sell the coin for its going rate in silver ounces, nine times out of ten, you might come out with less than the coin was worth before the change. After all silver by itself was no longer coin money. Once you melted the coin it became a commodity.
More serious steps would be needed to get Africans to use these coins however.
By contrast Ethiopia minted its own coins. Menelik II had his coin dies cut in Paris then sent back to Ethiopia. Ethiopian coins were struck in Ethiopia and not struck in Paris, thus Ethiopians were able to control their wealth and economy. The Ethiopian mint was in Addis Ababa. When Haile Salassie came to power he repeated the same coin policies.
Akan speaking people of Ghana came close to figuring out how the money game was being played, but they had one problem. The Akan monetary system was very sophisticated, but its evolutionary process was headed in the wrong direction. No one else on the plant was doing what these people were doing. Their monetary culture was too complicated to learn or transfer to people living outside the culture. Akan people were trading in bullion. The rest of the world viewed bullion differently. Gold dust had to be weighed at each transaction. The rest of the world was gravitating towards an easy to learn coin culture. Akan monetary system centered around gold dust or gold bullion. They used weights to give accurate weight measurements of gold dust, but this principle was much like the one used for weighing salt, just south of the Sahara. They even had an early prototype of today's bank and safe, a kuduo used for storing gold dust. Their idea was better than most Africans, but not close enough. Had the Akan people stored the gold and started using the weights as currency they may have gotten some where; however before the Akan had a chance to figure out the purpose of the coin and convert to it, British outlawed gold mining in 1913.
Africans would supply Europeans with cash crops and natural resources to feed
Europes industrial economy. Europe would then sell the manufactured goods and
resources in much smaller quantities and at higher prices back to Africa and the rest of
the world, thus were the major objectives of the colonialist.
In order to achieve this goal Europeans had to gain control of the African economy. They achieved this by gaining control of the food production first. The theory being, if you had a need and a desire to eat you were going to respond to demands quicker. European Colonialist taxed village chiefs. If chiefs didn't pay taxes they went to jail. In order to pay taxes chiefs sent a constant labor supply to support European interest. The workers were paid only in coins; therefore the chief collected tax in the form of coins from his villagers, then paid the colonialist their share of the same tax in coins. With a shortage of labor in towns and villages there were not enough people left to farm the land, so Africans needed money to buy food as well. Thus Africans became dependent on the coin.
In Africa the economic setup was fixed. If not managed properly, after independence, African countries would not be able to pay off colonial nor neocolonial depts. For example: The highest denomination in coins offered by the British in West Africa was two shillings. Much of the coinage was in pence and pennies. It took twelve pence to equal a
shilling. While Britains economy operated at the pound sterling, which amounted to about twenty shillings, African labors were paid in pennies and pence, while top management positions were paid in shillings: Thus we were always owing on something valued at the pound.
Three or four European nations would produce a single can of yams. One country would process imported metal used to produce tin cans. A second country would produce the can. A third prepared and seasoned the yams and a fourth country would package and label finished product. Only one of those Nations was a colonial power; the rest were European Nations who did not have access to colonies. Thus Africa was not colonized by just six nations,
but in theory and practice; Africas economy was under siege by all of Europe.
SPIRITUAL THOUGHT VERSUS SECULAR THINKING
In Africa any form of creation was considered secret. Fire arms were first introduced to West and Central Africans by the Portuguese. Basic properties of fire arm metalurgy and principles of fire arm construction were easy for African smelters and blacksmiths to figure out. The problem was not with understanding phisical makeup of the weapon itself, but understanding the social culture that produced it. They had a contruction skill that would not be of much use to them until they made some basic changes in their way of thinking.
Spirrtuality and secular culture may have had an effect on similar concepts in African and European cultures evolving differently.
In 1798 Eli Whitney developed industries first standardized, "interchangeable gun parts system". Whitney designed templates for each of the gun parts. This idea was first used in making dress patterns to replicate clothing. Second Whitney developed the production process by which the guns would be manufactured and assembled (an "assembly line"). And third Eli developed a political social culture for the American Manufacturing Industry. All of these ideas and developments were results of Whitney's European secular culture heritage, which in no way interfered with Eli's Christian spiritual culture. Both worlds coexisted separately.
In Africa a single steel blade could perform many tasks. The task would be determined in part by the handle attached to the blade. Changing both the handle and use of the tool changed the name of the task. Notice "name of the task" and "name of the tool" does not mean the same thing. When you changed the parts of a gun or rifle the name of the tool changed, but not the task. The task for the gun remained the same; "...to launch a miniature projectile in order to puncture something". Task required a different physical make up and/or transition plus a different course of action in order to obtain a different name.
Nubian warriors wore a large circular woven umbrella like object over their heads that protected and shield them from the scorching hot sun and frequent showers of pointed arrows during battle. When Nubians met their adversaries in hand to hand combat, they removed the circular object from their heads and used it as a body shield.
When a fire arm was made, in Africa, secret spiritual rights had to be preformed for each individual weapon; its creation, creator and its user. People like the Ashanti had no problems converting iron to steel in order to make canons and rifles that were both equal and superior to European fire arms, but they did have a serious problem with "spiritual thought versus secular thinking". "Secular Thinking" what was that? We didn't have even a clue as to what "Secular" was. The European secular world was constantly in conflict with African spirituality. The two very different types of thought were running a serious collision course, which would result in serious consequences for Africans.
Eli Whitney manufactured guns to make money. His factory produced and sold guns to clients that needed them to make war on people and win. Eli Whitney was a very good businessman in competition with other gun makers who were trying sell to his clients. Whitney had to keep improving the quality of his product in order to keep his competitors away from his clients, so that he could continue to make money. It was important for Whitney to always have more money on hand than guns and never the other way around; fore Whitney was not a gun collector. Eli Whitney was a coin collector.
Europe was made up of many special interest groups all after the same goals. The European mercenaries that faught wars for their clients were coin collectors. They were in the business of making money. They could only make money if they won. Mercenaries didn't make money by losing conflicts. They had to win.
Europeans employed to put Africans to work extracting the meneral riches of Africa were coin collectors. That was how they earned a living, collecting coins and putting Africans to work.
The people running the whole opperation made the most money and they too were coin collectors. These people owned the factories that made items to sell to people.
The people running the show put elected government officials in power to help them stake geographical claims though-out the world. Government officials were in their jobs to make money by performing the tasks that powerful people wanted them to perform. Government officials were coin collectors. If the geographical claims could be made by peaceful means then so it be, but if violence was needed, it was government people's job to figure out how to get the job done, so that they could continue to make money.
This coin money thing that Europeans were into would have made no sense to Africans.
Africans were able to copy each new weapon that appeared on the African continent, but they were never able to create a secular cultural process for developing and running a "Manufacturing Industry". What they had was a physical object that launched a miniature projectile and that was all they ever learned and understood about the European gun culture. Africans were missing the social political culture that went with this item. African people were trying to replicate this new weapon using the tools and ideas provided them from their own culture and it wasn't working very well for them.
African people already understood the concept of "interchangeable tool parts" (read article titled - "Iron Against Wood", by Claude Lockhart Clark). This concept went back thousands of years in Africa, but the cultural concept was different from Europe. In Africa interchangeable parts was applied to "use or (action)", where-as in Europe interchangeable could become either a series, or "single physical item - (thing oriented)". That was because in one culture the final physical make up of an item defined its use where-as in the other there wasn't any single physical item to identify. There was only a use to identify. These two totally different views were worlds apart. In one culture a person saw an object or series of objects while in the other culture one witnessed a series of activities.
Africans would have to learn how to distinguish spirituality and religious ideas from state and secular ideas. This spiritual conflict with secular technology would plague them in the monetary and commerce disciplines as well.
TECHNOLOGY AND INDUSTRY
In any economy that wishes to be self-sufficient, in to days world, it is important that its citizens produce and maintain a productive tool infrastructure. One of the main ingredients of this infrastructure is metallurgy ["The science that deals with procedures used in extracting metals from their ores, purifying and alloying metals,
and creating useful objects from metals."] This definition comes from The American
Heritage Dictionary. Notice the use of the word "science". It seems to suggest
that any one mastering the art of extracting, purifying, alloying and creation of useful
objects in metal is involved in some sort of science.
Rev. Samuel Johnson, a Yoruba man living in Nigeria, at the turn of the 20th century
describes his peoples fate in the iron businesses. "Iron smelting was carried
on more largely in earlier than modern times. Certain districts are rich in iron ores, its
iron production gave its name to the city of Ilo irin, iron grinding, also to
Eleta a district of Ibadan Eta being the term for iron ore. Certain districts
in Ekiti province are also famous for their iron ores from which good steel was made, such
as Oke Mesi. Charcoal from hard wood and shells of palm nuts are the materials generally
used for generating the great heat required for the furnace (called Ileru)
which is kept going all the year round. Iron rods and bars of European commerce being
cheaper are fast displacing home made products and here and there all over the country the
furnaces are being closed and soon will doubts being to be expressed as to whether Youbas
ever knew the art of smelting iron from ores!"
How were smelting furnaces being closed? Why were imported goods cheaper than the hand
goods made at home? Rev. Johnson did not address these problems. These were economic
ECONOMICS OF INDUSTRY
The next move, the colonialist made, would deliver a devastating blow to Colonial Africa's tooling infrastructure, causing Africans to be totally depended on Europe for technology choices and development. First, metal smelters were taxed out of existence, causing blacksmiths and brass casters to look elsewhere for their raw materials, because the smelters were raising the price of their goods in order to pay taxes. And if you didn't pay your taxes you either went out of business, spent time in jail or both. So the smithies looked to Europe for their raw material. This left the blacksmiths as easy pickings, because colonialists could control the availability of materials blacksmiths needed. To make sure that all possible threats of self-sufficiency were prevented, blacksmiths were taxed next. Casters did not pose any problem, because they used their craft for art decorative purposes. Besides with smelters and smiths gone, brass casters would never have a chance to learn practical things to do with their craft.
Africa would enter the industrial age under developed, not being able to take care of its basic technological needs. Without smelters African countries would remain behind Europe economically and technologically. Because of this Africans wouldn't be able to copy and/or reproduce tools and technology sold to them on the European market.
Algeria, a North African Country, became industrialized. Algeria smelts iron and steel
for markets in Europe and Asia.
In South, Eastern Nigeria, the Nigerian Government has oil and oil refineries, or
should we say, Shell Oil Company has oil and oil refineries in Nigeria. As we mentioned
earlier, without smelters Africa would inter the 20th century without the necessary tools.
To obtain and transport oil you need metal. To refine oil you need metal. Thus without
metal rapped around oil in its early stages of development, it would be extremely
difficult if not impossible to produce and transport oil fast enough to compete in
todays market place.
Education provided by colonial powers was structured to facilitate better connectivity of cash crops and raw material between Africa's interior to the coast. The labor force would consist of farmers, lumberjacks and miners. A small civil service was trained to facilitate the paper work in coastal city ports and interior economic centers. This civil service would make sure a productive work force stayed on task and insure a constant flow of goods from the interior to the coast, bound for Europe. In order to perform paper work and tasks, required by the colonialist, civil service workers were required to read and write.
Unlike many outsiders believed, African intelligentsia among the highly organized people, such as Akan groups and Yoruba understood the means of writing, spiritually. They just couldn't grasp the context of mass education for expediency, under which the Europeans used it. The priesthood and nobility used writing as "secret text". Unfortunately it was never intended for every ones use. In most places in West Africa no text was used at all since most things were still memorized. (to be continued)
Timbuktu was one exception. The education system was secret, but educated believed in developing its masses, which Egypt and other African Civilizations did not. The Universities of Timbuktu developed out of Koran Schools. They were successful in preserving and developing knowledge in the sciences and medicine. During the colonial period, French were able to locate West Africa's three Universities that supplied the Western World and Fertile Crescent with so much of its early knowledge about math and science. They could not afford to let this educational system compete with their colonial education, besides if the French took away the metallurgy infrastructure Africans might be able to put metallurgy back in place through information about properties of metal contained in their books.
"Neo-Colonialism" The Last Stage Of Imperialism, by Osagyefo Dr. Kwame
Nkrumah, published 1965. Dr. Nkrumah was the first president of Republic of Ghana.
"How Europe Under Developed Africa", by Walter Rodney, published in 1972.
Read "Iron Smelting" and "Smithery", pages 119 & 120, Chapter
VIII "Manners and Customs", in "The History of The Yorubas" From The
Earliest Times to the Beginning of the British Protectorate, written by Rev. Samuel
Johnson, published by his younger brother Dr. O. Johnson, in 1921.
Under POSTED MATERIALS: look for "CHANGING ROCK INTO METAL", by Tony Gleaton
View videos "Steel Making in Ethiopia", filmed in 1926 and "A smiths