Africa-An Uncharted Place of Rich Tradition
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AfricaÐ–An Uncharted Place of Rich Tradition
During the early to mid 1900s, colonization in Africa commenced with several European countries claiming different areas of the continent. Many countries colonized because of the rich African resources, some to spread capitalism, and still others to expand Christianity throughout the continent. While heavy colonization was taking place in Africa, several films such as Tarzan and Sanders of the River were being produced attempting to expose the mysterious African culture to somewhat ignorant Americans and Europeans. American and European films of the early 1900s depicted Africa as backward, uncivilized and illogical because African societies did not have written languages or written histories. Instead, Africa had a rich oral history which had its positives, but Americans and Europeans found it at times to be inconsistent and fictitious. The differences between the ways Africa is depicted in the oral history An Epic of Old Mali and European films such as Sanders of the River are caused by unfamiliarity of Africas interior, large amounts of racism, and false colonialist assumptions.
Unfamiliarity of Africas interior was made difficult by Africas difficult climate, rough geography, and rampant disease. First, unfamiliarity was caused by Africas difficult climate which is characterized by severe wet and dry seasons. Africas wet season is distinguished by months of heavy rain instigated by the Intertropical Convergence Zone, which is caused by the collision of Atlantic and Saharan weather systems. The dry season takes place for the other half of the year and includes several months of no rain and scorching sunshine, making it difficult for crops to prosper. Although this severe weather could catch a foreigner off guard, the native Africans have revolved their entire life around these seasons, which has become routine over the years. Second, Americans and Europeans were caught off guard by Africas rough geography. Africa is characterized by severe rapids located close to the coastline, making penetration into Africa by water difficult and dangerous. Consequently, many American and European explorers were turned away from discovering the interior of Africa, along with learning about the several cultures which reside there. Third, Africa was unfamiliar to Americans and Europeans because of threatening diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, and sleeping sickness. Over half the Americans and Europeans who traveled to Africa came down with a disease, and this fact alone caused hesitation for those making a voyage to Africa. The seriousness of the illness is depicted in the movie Sanders of the River when the European Sandy, the king of the colony of Nigeria, comes down with Malaria during his reign. During his sickness, Sandy shows signs of severe fever, which could have easily lead to death if he didnt receive professional help as he did in the movie.
The large amounts of racism towards Africans were caused by widespread slavery and civil rights factions throughout the United States. First, large amounts of racism towards Africans were caused by the widespread slavery throughout the United States before and during the time of colonization. Slavery gave Americans an especially distorted view of African culture because slaves were thought of as uncivilized and uneducated. On the other hand, African natives saw their fellow cohorts not as slaves, but as civilized individuals who all can think and act in an intelligent manner. An excerpt from An Epic of Old Mali which demonstrates this concept reads, “The first objective to be reached was Tabon, the iron-gated town in the midst of the mountains, for Sundiata had promised Fran Kamara that he would pass by Tabon before returning to Mali (Niane, 48)”. This passage shows the planning capabilities associated with the African people, something which Americans and Europeans tended to overlook. Second, racism towards Africans was caused by the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s in America. During this time, African-Americans were thought of as incapable of doing certain tasks which resulted in extreme discrimination, especially throughout the American South. As a result, the entire African culture became subject to prejudice, which could be clearly seen in both Tarzan and Sanders of the River. Racism is indirectly portrayed during these movies, but most commonly shown by the way white men are represented as more capable than native Africans. One example from Sanders of the River is when Sandy is identified by the native Africans as “lord”. Conversely, African views of themselves differed greatly, as most Africans thought of their peers as equals to one another, all striving for the common good. An example of natives working together in war from An Epic of old Mali states, “Sundiata adopted a very original form of deployment. He formed a tight square with all his cavalry in the front line. The archers of Wagadou and Tabon were stationed in the back (Niane, 51)”.
Several false colonialist assumptions included labeling Africa as a continent which was unchanging, without civilizations or development, and had no history or past connected with it. First, many colonialists believed that Africa was a place without change. This idea was depicted throughout