It’s All About Perspectives

 
In the course of putting together our forthcoming webinar sesssion on HISTORY which flights on Thursday December 03 at 8pm (SA), I’ve been reflecting on how heedless we are if we disregard pointers by philosophers like Santayana, who caution: 
”Those who cannnot remember the past are condemmed to repeat it”. 

While assembling images for this History webinar that covers the impact and legacies of two colonial players on South Africa over some 300 years, I found a number of depictions of global powers who’ve been getting together since the late 1800’s to divide and rule the African continent (a Roman Empire strategy that been extraordinarily successful throughout the ages). Above is a current take attributed to SA’s president Cyril Ramaphosa.     

The term “Scramble for Africa” describes the carving up of the African continent into colonies and resource lodes by the leading European powers during the period of New Imperialism between 1881 and 1914. The legacy of this Western domination violently subjugated African people, plundered regions of rich natural resources and left Africa devastated with crippling rates of poverty, hunger, and disease.

The current scramble for Africa is characterised by a scenario in which main players like the United States, European Union, People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia seek to “consolidate their grip on Africa’s oil, its minerals, and other resources”, and invest exponential sums of money to secure their influence in the region.

Overall, the world recognises that Africa has huge potential and the dynamics of the modern “Scramble for Africa” reveal how different actors go about securing their interests on the continent.
While China invests in infrastructure, the EU approaches its deals based on reciprocal trade, and the US which hitherto granted non-reciprocal duty-free access to its market, is now leaning towards reciprocity, Russia’s engagement is defined by strong military presence.

Historian R.W. Johnson writes that ”If you take history seriously, the real point is to understand one’s own history and work with the grain, not against it. It means learning from mistakes and not clinging to yesterday’s theories and visions”. 
His piece talks of la longue duree – long term factors which exert an insistent pressure down the ages, versus histoire evenementielle – short term events and personalities.
It’s a most thought-provoking article that covers the ubiquity of patronage, patriarchy and corruption. Well worth the read.  

For another take on Africa’s ”unstoppable” creative forces at play, (so labelled by Trevyn McGowan in our Art/ Craft & Design webinar) here is an eloquent interpretation of the Scramble for Africa by Yinka Shonibare CBE (RA) that depicts 14 life-size fiberglass mannequins, 14 chairs, table, and Dutch wax printed cotton that was commissioned by the Museum of African Art,  New York.

History is all about perspectives! Do join us for more insights & answers on history on December 03.
It would be wonderful to share with you even a digital shadow of what was once our mission, and will be so again.

Acknowledgements:  RW Johnson: The Lost Souls of the Revolution
& www.africanstudies.org.uk/2019/04/02/the-modern-scramble-for-africa/
Bottom image: The Collection of The Pinnell Collection, Dallas, courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, photo by Stephen White

 

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