How Africans Are Almost Losing their Identity

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Have you ever wondered why other formerly colonised people (Indians especially) saw the need to hold tight unto their identity? Have you ever wondered why blacks are always subject to racial prejudices?

Kindly read through these excerpts below:

“The dismemberment of Africa occurred in two stages. During the first of these, the African personhood was divided into two halves: the continent and its diaspora. African slaves, the central commodity in the mercantile phase of capitalism, formed the basis of the sugar, cotton, and tobacco plantations in the Caribbean and American mainland. If we accept that slave trade and plantation slavery provided the primary accumulation of capital that made Europe’s Industrial Revolution possible, we cannot escape the irony that the very needs of that Industrial Revolution—markets for finished goods, sources of raw materials, and strategic requirements in the defense of trade routes—led inexorably to the second stage of the dismemberment of the continent.”

“The Berlin Conference of 1884 literally fragmented and reconstituted Africa into British, French, Portuguese, German, Belgian, and Spanish Africa. Just as the slave plantations were owned by various European powers, so post–Berlin Conference Africa was transformed into a series of colonial plantations owned by many of the same European powers. The requirements of the slave plantation demanded the physical removal of human resources from the continent to work on land stolen from other subject peoples, mainly native Caribbeans and native Americans. The result was an additional dismemberment of the diasporic African, who was now separated not only from his continent and his labor but also from his very sovereign being. The subsequent colonial plantations on the African continent have led to the same result: division of the African from his land, body, and mind.”

“The land is taken away from its owner, and the owner is turned into a worker on the same land, thus losing control of his natural and human resources. The colonial subject has no say over the colonial state; in effect, he produces but has no say over the disposal of the product. Yet the state has power over every aspect of his being. Whereas before he was his own subject, now he is subject to another.”

“Even today, years after achievement of political independence, the African continent is often identified as Anglophone, Francophone, or Lusaphone.

Europe has also planted its memory on the bodies of the colonized. This phenomenon is not peculiarly European but, rather, is in the nature of all colonial conquests and systems of foreign occupation. In his attempt to remake the land and its peoples in his image, the conqueror acquires and asserts the right to name the land and its subjects, demanding that the subjugated accept the names and culture of the conqueror.

When Japan occupied Korea in 1906, it banned Korean names and required the colonized to take on Japanese ones. But one might ask: What is in a name? It is said that a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet; however,
the truth is that its identity would no longer be expressed in terms of roses but, instead, would assume that of the new name. Names have everything to do with how we identify objects, classify them, and remember them. The encounter between the unnamed man and Crusoe in Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe readily comes to mind.”

The excerpts above explicitly underscores the pre-meditated formation and implementation of systematic, diverse forms of subjugation. That’s why most of our founding fathers, who fought for independence in Africa took to changing names the colonial masters named their countries. Ghana today was formerly Gold Coast, Benin Republic was formely Dahomey, Congo Democratic Republic was formerly Zaire (of Portuguese origin), Zimbabwe was formerly South Rhodesia (after Cecil Rhodes), Djibouti was formerly French Somaliland, and Burkina Faso was formerly Upper Volta..

The name change even went from collective naming to distortions of/if not total change of names of specific towns and villages, this peculiar phenomenon is still evident today and it has led to systematic divisions between people of same ethnicity and linguistic affinities in Africa today.

…culled from Something Torn and New: An African Renaissance, Dismembering Practices: Planting European Memory in Africa by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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