18. Pan-Africanism (1)

Reviewer: Ahmet Sait Akçay
Review Publisher: Independent Türkçe 
Author: Adekeye Adebajo (eds.)
Date: 19 March 2021

Discussing and speaking the idea of pan-Africanism today brings with it a reading equivalent to the historical gains and losses of black people.

Pan-Africanism is a political and cultural perspective that most fundamentally produces blackness on the mainland and diaspora.

Pan-African thinkers had to be political and even ideological in their positions. Pan-Africanism had to fight slavery, racism and colonialismat the same time.

Pan-Africanism is a rebellion in which African intellectuals produce blackness as a value, and it has a very strong government on its ideological grounds.

In recent months, a very important study has been published that reinterpretes and positions the idea of pan-Africanism.

The Pan-African Pantheon: Prophets, Poets, Philosophers, edited and contributed by Adekeye Adebajo, director of the Pan-African Thought Institute at the University of Johannesburg, is a very ambitious reading, as its title suggests.

By calling pan-Africanism a pantheon, Adebajo adds an ontological meaning to the concept itself.

Adebajo’s goal is to build pan-Africanism as a secular and modern religion.

At a moment when the idea of pan-Africanism is almost pushed back between the dynamics of the global world, the study also reveals the search for a new revision.

Different pan-African thought movements can be mentioned. Pan-Africanism of sub-Saharan Africa and Black Atlantic Pan-Africanism are not the same, and pan-African thinking covering the entire continent is not well respected.

Because Africa has been pushed under the Sahara over time and marginalized. Both Europeans and Arabs have a part to play in this. So when we say Africa, we mean a black geography.

Pan-Africanism is a way of thinking produced by black people both on the continent and in the diaspora. Although some believe that there is a rebellion with ideological dynamics in essence, the comprehensive analysis of the Pan-African Pantheon study argues that pan-Africanism is more of a worldview in which black history and the economic politics of the continent are reproduced and understood than an initiative.

Adebajo describes pan-Africanism as “efforts to develop the political, socioeconomic and cultural unity of Africa and its diaspora”.

The 650-page book, which consists of articles by numerous African, African-Caribbean and African-American academics, contains illuminating information about thirty-six pan-Africanism advocates, including thinkers, politicians, literary figures and musicians.

The editor says the book aims to contribute to curriculum transformation efforts on a global scale.

Fifteen years after the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference, where European imperialists sat down for “The Partition of Africa”, the Pan-African movement was born with the first Pan-African Conference of Henry Sylvester-Williams of Trinidad in London.

Thomas Pakenham’s recently published The Partition of Africa in Turkish literature dramatically shows how Western imperialist powers have tarnised the continent.

Between 1919 and 1945, five Pan-African Congresses were held in Europe and America, led by diaspora intellectuals WEB Du Bois and George Padmore.

During the Pan-African Congress, the movement shifted its centre from the diaspora to Africa, with the fifth meeting in Manchester in 1945.

In the book Pan-African Pantheon, Edward Wilmot Blyden, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, Amy Ashwood Garvey and Pixley Seme are pan-Afrikan pioneers; Kwame Nkrumah, Thabo Mbeki, Dudley Thompson; Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, Walter Rodney, Ruth First and Wangari Maathai; Ali Mazrui, Arthur Lewis, C.L.R. James and Stuart Hall are also social scientists of the movement.

Franzt Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, Steve Biko, Mudimbe and Kwame Anthony Appiah are presented as Pan-African philosophers.

Poets such as Wole Soyinka, Leopold Senghor, Derek Walcott, as well as female writers such as Nigerian novelist Buchi Emecheta, Senegalese feminist and novelist Mariama Bâ and Kenyan poet and playwright Micere Githae Mugo are also considered pan-African.

This should be read as an objection to the fact that it is seen as the framework drawn by men to date by commemorating the contributions of women in African thinking.

Anyway, the nomination of Amy Garvey among the founders is also an important contribution.

Miriam Makeba, Bob Marley and Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, also known as Mama Afrika as pan-Africanist musicians, are featured prominently in the book.

The Pan-African Pantheon study can be read as a new history of Pan-Africanism. It can not be said that the names in the book are directly linked to the idea of pan-Africanism, or even the absence of some names that should be included in pan-African thought can be discussed.

Hilary Beckles, who took the roots of pan-African thought back to before the Haitian Revolution, argues in his article that King Kofi’s leadership in the Afro-Caribbean Kingdom, founded in Ghana in 1763, was in many ways a  pan-African governance model.

The transformation of pan-Africanism into a school of thought as a concept undoubtedly begins with Edward Wilmot Blyden.

With his writings, Blyden makes important determinations about his black identity and sees blacks as part of civilization.

Both in native Africa and in the diaspora, black people should be proud of their achievements and contributions to world civilization, Blyden says. He also claims that those who ignore the contributions of black people to world civilization will one day of course appreciate this achievement.

The idea of pan-Africanism actually means a new perspective, a worldview; In particular, Blyden’s concept of “African personality” encompasses the spiritual, sociocultural and ideological contexts of the African way of life.

The idea of an African personality who framed an African consciousness was accepted as a motto for later generations, and in novels and poems in continental Africa, these thoughts began to appear in the early twentieth century.

According to Blyden, the only way to bring honorary posture and dignity to blacks is to build new, progressive empires on the African continent, adapting the necessary values of the West.

Blyden’s idea, which sees Africa as a “father’s quarry,” undoubtedly led to another Pan-Africanist thinker, Marcus Garvey,who would call for a return to Africa.

Blyden commemorates Islam as an African element and even sees anti-racism in the Islamic faith as an advantage for blacks.

Blyden’s approach inspired the other Pan-Africanist, Ali Mazrui,who followed him exactly a century later.

In Mazrui’s study of Africans, Islam, Christianity and indigenous cultures are considered the triple pillars of black geography.

*The ideas contained in this article belong to the author and may not reflect the editorial policy of Independent Turkish.

Ahmet Sait Akçay Comparative Literary | African Studies, Colonialism, Postcolonialism, wrote for Independent Turkish.