The Africans: A Triple Heritage

Dr. Ali Mazrui explains how African geography has been the mother of its history. The open eastern seabord allowed the entrance of foreign influence from the east. In fact, Islamic culture, which came from the west, made an impact on Africa 1000 years before Western culture could.

After Dr. Ali Mazrui names the three main cultural sources in Africa, traditional Africa, Islam, and the West, he states that Africa is the cradle of mankind, where the earliest human remains can be found. Thus, Africa can be called the birthplace of human culture. However, Africa never advertised itself. Traditionally, Africans tended to stay close to nature, holding dear what was near to them. Though Africans were interested in the oceans for sustenance, they were not interested in what lay beyond the horizons. Interestingly, in Senegal, the African man is the hunter, while the African woman is the mother, cultivator, and market woman, as central to the economy as men.

In the seventh century, there came the new cry of Islam: “God is Great.” The Islamic Arabs first came through North Africa, spreading their Arabic language along with the Islamic religion. The Islamic religion took hold in North Africa because it validated the importance placed on water as heaven became equated with water. The Islamic religion enforced a discipline on the Africans and gave them a new sense of direction, as they faced East to pray.

The Suez Canal determined where Africa ended. The Suez Canal was the manifestation of European power and planning. This European force was also manifested in colonization, as Europeans came to Africa to escape from the ugly face of industrialization. Africans themselves have acquired Western tastes as in the city of Dakar in Senegal, French bread and Western apparel is available.

While the colonial period was rather brief, traditional African beliefs have been disrupted. Traditional Africans believed that animals have souls and that the forces of creation and humans were partners with nature. Christianity and Islam have caused Africans to be separated from the created, and to think of nature as a servant of man. Thus, in the twentieth century, an ecological imbalance exists where the profit margin is more important than a respect for nature.