Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The African Renaissance: The Greatest Story Never Told Part 1

Aya - symbol of endurance and resourcefulness

In Destruction of Black Civilization the author,  Chancellor Williams, discusses the economic, social, political, and environmental factors leading up to the destruction of the ancient civilizations that our African ancestors had established. In short, environmental and political issues (ie. soil becoming  unfavorable for farming, Arab, Asian, and European invasions, etc.) caused the inhabitants of these established societies to migrate.

  As the people became further engulfed in the nomadic life these large groups of people began to splinter off into smaller groups to the point that each group had its own spoken language, customs, and territory. After some time, few of them realized they had once come from the same civilizations. Over the generations the old written languages were forgotten; they had little time to develop written languages as they were always on the move. Eventually, some groups would begin to conquer another, or they would willfully combine to form larger groups. Some of these large groups would often settled to establish new civilized societies, while others continued their nomadic lifestyle (and began to splinter again as a result).

  Once nation in particular was Kuba. Kuba was a nation located in central Africa, southeast of the Congo. The nation was founded as the result of alliances between the Bushoong tribe and 17 other smaller tribes. Between 1475 and 1630, Kuba developed a democratic republic state, and  which included a king(comparable to the president) and councils of Elders and chiefs representing their respective tribes and clans(families). The tribes within themselves were also democratic. The idea of Kuba being a melting pot of cultures would put the US to shame. Individual tribes were praised if their group excelled in a particular area with techniques or customs that were unique to that tribe. These customs would become adopted as part of the mainstream Kuban culture. Although the Bushoong tribe made up roughly 80% of the population each group was also equally represented under the government. There were a type of checks and balances that prevented any tribe from having the advantage of a "tyranny of the majority". 

  One of the greatest achievements of Kuba was its economic revolution. This revolution was started by Shyaam the Great who became king of Kuba around 1630. Before Shyaam Kuba's Economy was on the level of subsistence, the nation only produced what it needed in terms of goods. Whereas previous kings(and queens) had focused on conquering land, Shyaam turned the national focus inward to improve the economy. Shyaam set the momentum that led to the success of his successors in establishing Kuba as the most advanced African nation of the time.

  The people of Kuba began to experiment with a larger variety of crops. Many of these crops had been grown in the territories of respective tribes and were now being grown on a national level, being grown in different areas of the nation. New and more efficient methods of production for crafts and tools were developed. Better yields of crops and higher production and new styles for the arts and crafts led to surplus production, which opened the door for national and foreign trade. Caravans began to form. Except for agriculture, masters of every trade began to form guilds. Farming was common, everyone farmed the land in addition to their own professional trade. Although agriculture was important, more emphasis was placed jon the professional trades since they were what strengthened the national economy.

  One of the most interesting, and maybe the most important, fact about this renaissance is that it occurred exclusively in Africa. For Africans, by Africans. Although the Europeans and Arabs had gradually conquered the coastline surrounding Kuba and the rest of central Africa, the people of Kuba had never had any contact with any other races. Their nomadic ancestors who had adopted the nomadic lifestyle before settling in the 1470s were the last to come in contact with Arabs or Europeans. The whites would not come in contact with Kuba until the 1800s. By then, Kuba had since been on a gradual decline from its revolutionary spurt of political, cultural, and economic development of the1630s.

A history lesson for those who think the Africans were better off being conquered and enslaved... Part 2 will discuss the problems the Kubans faced that eventually led to the downfall of the civilization.

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