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From: "Don Osborn" <dzo@xxxxxx>
To: qalam @ yahoogroups . com
Subject: Re: TDC Type Salon: Conversation with John D. Berry & Saki Mafundikwa
Date: Tue, 13 Jul 2004 22:57:32 -0000
I pass on the following item in which Saki Mafundikwa offers some thoughts on the nature of writing in case they may be of interest. The publisher of his book gave me the pointer to the URL http://www.markbattypublisher.com/servlet/article_view?number=3D5003 ... DZO
Type Ramblings from Afrika by Saki Mafundikwa writing from Harare, Zimbabwe
Publication Date: May 2002
Since the completion of my Master's thesis at Yale University in 1985, I have been on a mission to re-write Afrika's history in my own small way as a Graphic Designer.
I will never forget the time I first came upon the forgotten Afrikan scripts. I had spent almost thirty years of my life being told I was pagan, heathen and that misused of all words: primitive! Levi Strauss the French anthropologist wrote that the word meant "without writing." If that is true, then western civilization was wrong to call us Afrikans primitive because we did have writing. Now that I understand fully the concept of "writing," I now realize that when my ancestors painted their faces a certain way in a certain color during a certain time of the year, they were passing on information and communicating ideas. This is the essence of writing.
Historians, most artists, and others continue to willfully delude the masses by scant references to, or, in the worst case scenario, by total silence on, Afrika's influence and contributions. Indeed it is said that facts are stubborn and this is one fact that no one can erase from the pages of history. A history we have to rewrite ourselves in order to set the record straight.
The story of writing is filled with such mischief as well. As far as most "authorities" on the subject are concerned, Afrika's contribution begins and ends with Egyptian hieroglyphics. True, hieroglyphics were important in the development of the Roman alphabet, but it is not the only contribution Afrika made! We also have to rid some people of the wrong thinking that the Roman alphabet is superior to all others. First, what is 'writing' anyway? I found the best possible answer in Albertine Gaur's "A History of Writing" in which she states:
If all writing is information storage, then all writing is of equal value. Each society stores information essential to its survival, the information which enables it to function efficiently. There is in fact no difference between prehistoric rock paintings, memory aids (mnemonic devices), wintercounts, tallies, knotted cords, pictographic, syllabic and consonantal scripts, or the alphabet. There are no primitive scripts, no forerunners of writing, no transitional scripts as such (terms frequently used in books dealing with the history of writing), but only societies at a particular level of economic and social development using certain forms of information storage. If a form of information storage fulfills its purpose as far as a particular society is concerned then it is (for this particular society) 'proper' writing.
So when the Ashante people of Ghana were weaving kente cloth into intricate patterns, with proverbs and other symbols embedded in them, they were "writing" since they were indeed communicating ideas, messages and concepts. Likewise, the rock cave paintings of southern Afrika, which were mainly narratives of memorable events-like the celebration following a big kill in a hunt, were writing as well. In fact, my research has led me to the realization that there is no group of people anywhere in the world that at some given point in their development did not devise a way of communicating-with symbols or pictures: ideographs and pictographs, or actual scripts.
We are being led to believe that the world is becoming one happy global village, well then, it is time Africa commanded the respect she is long due in the village. Only we Afrikans can ensure that this indeed does happen through our active participation in the process of writing our own history. Telling our own stories.
Item retrieved from the downloaded archives of Qalam. Its last functioning group archive URL was:
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