Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.
Professor of Sociology
This column suggests that we Zambians and Africans are taught and continue to teach ourselves the wrong and distorted Zambian history. The column explains the Eurocentric context of the current history. The column proposes the Distracted Dog Syndrome (DDS) as the reason we continue to teach ourselves, sustain, fiercely continue to support our wrong history. The column appeals to both educated Zambians and Ministry of Education to revise the current education to teach ourselves the accurate Zambian/African history.
*In Memory of the Great Africanist and Thinker Ali Mazrui.
In our African history in 1968 in Form II (Grade 9) at the prestigious Chizongwe Secondary School, we learned that some of the earliest humans 125,000 years ago included the Broken Hill man (Kabwe) whose skull was found in the mine. There was also Zinjanthropus whose bones were located in East Africa in the Olduvai Gorge from 1.75 million years ago. The history also included the numerous names of Zambian and African tribes that I could not easily remember during exams and too many people that constantly fought each other; the Sebetwane of the Kololo fought their neighbors, Mzilikazi of the Ngoni fought the Chewa, the Ndebele fought the Matebele and so on. Zambia has 72 names of tribes.
The big part of the African history was European explorers’ arrival in Zambia such as missionary David Livingstone, Mungo Park, Henry Morton Stanley and others spreading Christianity, European colonialism and stopping the brutal Arab Slave trade in East Africa. My classmates and I did not have to be geniuses to realize that our place in this narrative of history was that we Zambians and Africans lacked religion, were ignorant, uneducated, passive, fighting tribal wars, lacked modern schools, democratic institutions, we were uncivilized, superstitious until the more advanced, enlightened, and powerful Europeans arrived.
This narrative of history clashed with my personal experiences when I grew up among the Tumbuka people. I experienced my grandparents, aunts, father and mother and everyone in the village as the most confident, intelligent, confident use of indigenous technological knowledge, articulate in Tumbuka language people I have known in my life. My paternal grandfather Zibalwe Tembo was smelting and forging iron in the late 1800s. The founding fathers and mothers of the Zambian nation led by President Kaunda did not look lost in 1964. They were a confident lot. Indeed, looking back my grandfathers and mothers behaved more like people who have been around for numerous generations going back perhaps thousands of years. There was a confidence, knowledge and dignity about their persona and life that I can’t describe that suggested to me that they are people who had been around for thousands of years. They didn’t behave and look like people who were waiting for Europeans to tell them what to do. But why was their legitimate and accurate history not in the textbook official Zambian history I was being taught? For forty-six years these questions and contradictions were always in the back of my mind as I continued to gain Western education and lifestyle.
Why does the history we learn always have this undeserved underlying background and undertone of Zambian inferiority? Why do we continue to teach the history in this manner so that future Zambians will believe they have been always passive, colonized, slaves or somewhat inferior and will be perpetually behind while trying to catch up especially to the West and the rest of the world?
This column will address four major ideas. First, I will discuss the more broad accurate history. Second, I will discuss why our Zambian history is so distorted. Third I will discuss the Distracted Dog Syndrome (DDS) as the major obstacle to we Zambians as individuals and a nation discovering and teaching our 13 million citizens the accurate and appropriate history. Fourth, I will discuss in what ways as Zambians through the Ministry of Education can teach, reclaim for our future generations, and learn our accurate Zambian history.
The More Accurate History
The more accurate history is that many groups of Africans called homo sapiens evolved from Savannah East Africa about two hundred thousand years ago. They migrated through present day Saudi Arabia through India, Andaman Islands, to the Far East including Islands in the South Pacific, Australia, and New Guinea. The same Africans may have lived in North Africa, Southern Europe, the Middle East and some may have migrated by canoe from West Africa and settled in North and Southern America. This may have been thousands of years before what are known as the Dark Ages in European History
Adaman people look just like us Zambians and African but are found on Andaman Islands East of India .
(500-1500 AD), Spanish exploration(1492 – 1892), Portuguese exploration (1500-1600), and European voyages of exploration and colonialism around the world. I discuss some of this information which is at the center of human evolution in Chapter 17 of my book: Satisfying Zambian Hunger for Culture. In other words all the 7 billion people today all over the world may be biologically descendants of Zambians and Africans starting from about two hundred thousand years ago. If this is the broad accurate history, why is it today that the history of Zambians and Africans is so distorted that nearly everyone generally denies that Africans had any significant influence in history? That somehow Zambians and Africans are a black race that have always been colonized, inferior or were slaves?
Why Our History is Distorted
We cannot understand why our Zambian history is distorted until we are aware and conscious of how we as humans have a major weakness: we try to impose the present day conditions on past history. We wrongly impose what we know and the language and terminology we use now on the past and are wrongly convinced that what exists today or now was there and is going to be there forever. Also once as human beings we have declared one group of people as inferior, the dominating group or nations work hard at suppressing and successfully removing and distorting the history of that targeted inferior group. Europeans have been very successful in all three in suppressing and distorting the history of Zambians and Africans. Today we have language and divisions according to races; Caucasian, (white or European), Mongloid, (yellow skinned), Negroid (black or dark skinned). All of these skin colors are false. A “black person” or “human” never existed among the Africans or Zambians from two hundred thousand years ago. In fact, munthu wakuda (Nyanja or Chewa) or munthu mubinkha (Tumbuka) referring to the physical race of person never existed among our people or Zambian ancestors. These terms are recent inventions and adoptions from probably the 1950s as a response to European racism and the superficial racial constructions. The term “Bantu” in our Zambian lexicon means “human” with zero reference to skin color. In this sense, all 7 billion people today are actually banthu or bantu.
Europeans have used three principle motivations and forces to successfully suppress the accurate history of Zambians. The clash between Zambians and Africans in the ancient Egyptian civilization and the Greek Civilization, the Atlantic Slave Trade of Africans to North and South America, and European Colonization of the entire African continent.
Ancient Egyptian and Greek Civilizations
The ancient civilization of Egyptian Kingdoms headed by powerful Pharaohs dominated North Africa and the Middle East for almost two thousand years ago from c 3100 to 1090 B.C. E. This was before Assyrians, Persians, the Babylonian Empire, Greeks, and Romans occupied Egypt. This was also before Christ. The African Egyptian civilization was the first to create a large empire, establish writing using hieroglyphs, large scale political economy, the bureaucracy and built the sophisticated massive pyramids. In 330 B. C. E: Alexander the Great of Greece had gained control of Lower Egypt and established the city of Alexandria. Greeks ruled Alexandria for 3 centuries or 300 years until the Roman conquest.
Egyptian Pharaoh or King
In 30 B. C. E: Rome imperial rule was established. Queen Cleopatra committed suicide to avoid being humiliated in Rome. Roman law and religion were imposed on Egyptians until the 4th century. From 7-2 B.C. E. to 30 -33 AD was the period of Jesus also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth the central figure of Christianity. From 640 -1600 was when the historical Age of Islam took root.
Zambian Direct Descendant of Egyptians
Europeans, their scholars, and other supporters for a long time have denied that any Africans were involved in the Egyptian Civilization. Their argument was that if they built the Egyptian Civilization, where are those same Africans and their descendants to day?
We Zambians are direct descendants of the ancient Egyptians. The journal article that Dr. Chisanga Siame had published was titled: “Katunkumene and Ancient Egypt in Africa” from the Journal of Black Studies of 20 March, 2013. It clearly shows that all of us Zambians might be descendants of the ancient Egyptians. Dr. Siame had cracked the secret code which was hiding right under our noses; our clan names and our Bantu languages which have left our imprints all over North and West Africa, the Middle East and all over Africa up to Cape Town on the Southern tip of the African continent. The secret code might be buried all over rural Zambia in our 72 tribes and our languages and clan names which include Lozi, Tonga, Bemba, Nyanja, Chewa, Kaonde, Luchazi, Tumbuka, Namwanga,Luvale and dozens of Zambian languages. Dr. Siame found out that the Bemba term uku tunkumana may have descended from the name Tunka Men (Tutankhamun: c. 1346-1328 bc) the name of the ancient kingdom of Sudan suggesting a connection between the Bemba and Namwanga people and ancient Egypt.
Towards the end of the fall of the great Egyptian Civilization, the Greeks are believed to have taken some of the technical knowledge and philosophy from an Egyptian library in Alexandria. Some of the key technical knowledge for building the
Hieroglyphics are the earliest forms of written language.
great Egyptian pyramids is believed to have been later adopted in the construction of sophisticated building structures in Greece, Mesopotamia and the Biblical great tower of Babel. As Europeans advanced during the enlightenment period in the 17th century, they sought to expunge or remove completely African Egyptian influence in the Greek Civilization. They wanted to make Greece suddenly a white, Caucasian, or exclusively European.The reinforcing and hanging on to this myth still goes on to day in form of conflict between Eurocentrists and Afrocentrists in American academia. The European suppression, denial and distortion of Zambian and African history may have started in earnest about ten thousand years ago.
The Atlantic Slave Trade
In the early 1600s Europeans began to buy and ship Africans as slaves to North America, the Caribbean Islands and South America. In 1619, the first 20 Africans arrived in Jamestown in Virginia in America as free indentured servants. By the 1660s all the British colonies had passed laws making all Africans outside the continent of Africa slaves for life. The Portuguese bought Africans from Angola and shipped them to Brazil. Other European countries bought slaves from West Africa. It is estimated that 11 million Africans were enslaved in the transatlantic slave trade. The significance of the trade is that it helped create and reinforce the image and ideological belief of Africans as an inferior people and therefore it was probably morally and ideologically appropriate not only to enslave them but to distort and deny their significant contribution and participation in human civilization but instead always portray them as just slaves and passive inferior observers in history of the rise and fall of civilizations.
European Colonization of Africa
There were dozens of large Empires in Africa and movement of Zambians and Africans on the continent and beyond for thousands of years. In 1885, 14 European countries met at the Berlin Conference and divided the continent into 54 countries that they colonized. Zambians and African were suddenly not only dominated and exploited, but were divided into 54 small countries. Often many tribes were divided between 3 or 4 different countries. For example, half a million Tumbukas are in Eastern Zambia and half a million are in Northern Malawi. A large population of the Lozi people are in the Western Province of Zambia. But some of the Lozi people are found in Namibia and Botswana. Some of the Luchazi people are in NorthWestern Province but others are found over the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Chewa people are in the Eastern Province but many of the same Chewas are in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. All of these people are Bantu or just Africans and belong together in terms of their origins, language and culture.
The most destructive aspect of the Atlantic Slave Trade and European Colonialism in Africa is the ideology of racial inferiority of Africans that Europeans generated, spread, and maintained all over the world. What made it possible to maintain this distorted and often racist knowledge about Africans was especially after the invention of the Guttenberg Printing technology in Germany in 1450. This made it possible to print newpapers, journals, text books that could easily spread false information and propaganda all over the world and into Africa about the inferiority of Africans. Why and how do you think the inferiority of Africans and anyone with dark skin was spread all over the world?
Distracted Dog Syndrome (DDS)
Why is it that 13 million Zambians cannot teach ourselves a more accurate history 50 years after gaining independence from European colonialism? Why do even the most educated Zambians at Universities and Africans in the 54 countries still learn and believe in the distorted history that is Eurocentric and continues to project and have the undercurrent of the inferiority of Zambians and Africans? The answer is the Distracted Dog Syndrome (DDS).
The “Distracted Dog Syndrome” (DDS) is a useful metaphor. Supposing you are walking along and out of the blue a big menacing vicious dog is charging at you and closing in. If you have a bone or a piece of very rotten meat in your pocket, you can throw it away from you. The dog will immediately change course and go where you threw the bone or meat. You distract the dog. You will escape safely.
The same analogy can be applied to how we Zambians and Africans have failed to uncover our own ancient history, because each time we may try to ferociously and tenaciously uncover our own history like that vicious charging dog, Europeans and others who have joined them who want to continue to bury that history throw us a bone or a piece of rotten meat and we charge into the wrong direction chasing the bone instead of pursuing our own ancient history going back to antiquity. How does this happen?
Whenever you mention an interest in finding out if Zambians, Africans, or we the Bantu created the ancient Egyptian civilization for example, you will be told: “Black Africans were in Sub-Saharan Africa and were always enslaved to America and sold by their fellow Africans”. “There were so many people crisscrossing Africa, there is no definitive evidence who built ancient pyramids in Egypt”. “Do you have a degree or qualification in Egyptology or Greek? If not, how can you tell?” “Aliens must have built the pyramids because Africans today are so backward. How could they have built the sophisticated pyramids that even present day European engineers do not understand?” These sources of distraction are not only by Europeans but also our very educated Zambians and Africans who have been coopted to the Eurocentric thought or perspective in the process of acquiring Western education including Secondary School Certificates, B.As, Masters, and Ph. D degrees. If you are an educated Zambian like this author, if you criticize your fellow Zambians and Africans harshly, you are said to be “rational” “objective” and the most well “educated”. The conversations and arguments will turn to who enslaved Africans, why Africans have failed, what were the other groups that crisscrossed North Africa and Egypt hundreds if not thousands of years after the fall of the Egyptian civilizations instead of the main topic. All the distracting tactics constitute the Distracted Dog Syndrome or what the Bemba would call “ukufulunganya ifintu”, “mifulungenye” or what the Chewa would call “musokonezo”(causing confusion), what the Tumbuka call “ku tangwaniska munthu” or causing “mfundukutu” or confusion and doubt.
Ministry of Education and Zambian History
Both the very educated and ordinary Zambians will be bewildered and will ask questions like: “What will learning our accurate ancient history do for us?” “Will this knowledge provide us food, create democracy, employment, get rid of HIV, now Ebola, or help us compete in the modern world, will this be racism in reverse?” “Will all the teachers have to be retrained and the Ministry of Education write and print new text books?” “Will all our Eurocentric educational certificates, degrees and credentials that we have be revoked or become useless?” “All of this will be wasting money and time that can be used for true development.” Insisting that we learn our own accurate history is not racism in reverse or retrogressive as those who practice DDS will claim or charge to create confusion and doubt like they have done during the last perhaps one thousand years. To the contrary, the answer to all these questions is “yes” in the long run we will develop better. Our accurate history is so important that it will truly liberate us from “mental slavery” as Bob Marley would say. If all the 13 million Zambians learn our accurate Zambian and African history, the thousands and millions of teachers who will also have this knowledge will play a very special role. This new knowledge will truly improve our lives and we will be truly educated, liberated, strengthen our sense of dignity and we will make better strives in development.
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First Migration of Africans The five foot black skinned Andaman Island Isolated Tribe Evolution.