NTOABOMA — It didn’t begin with the coming of the Pale People. It didn’t start with a single invasion. No, it didn’t suddenly become a problem during colonial rule. Africa’s historic plunge to nothingness did not commence when she stooped low and declined into crass senselessness, colluding with a Colorless People and selling her own children into slavery. Don’t be surprised. Our geometric retrogression did not pick up steam with the onset of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade – although that still remains the single most devastating blow to the continent yet.

But, that trade had its roots in the fall. That trade sunk its gnashing teeth into the inevitable collapse. That tumble, I will stress, did not begin with a baptism in a Holy Religion led by a bearded Colorless Savior on a bloody cross. Holy Christian oils did not suddenly bring Africa to her knees. Our mission schools, to which we dispatched our next generations, and our ejaculatory enjoyment of imported aged grape juice for holy bloody communion did not launch Africa on a path to disaster. Neither did our arithmetic fall from grace begin with the invasions from the North by Islamic Moroccan rebels nor with the invasions and settling on our lands by Colorless People to the South and Middle Easterners to the North and North East.

Africa’s historic fall from a continent that conquered the world and gave the world her first civilization to the one that seems incapable of defeating a rug-thug assembly of thieves – that is Boko Haram – started five hundred years ago. I shall explain.

There is only one cause of our historic decline – one root cause of our troubles in Africa. It stares us in the face. It is the very compilation of the lines of language you have read and the lines you’ll continue to read, whether you like it or not. For if you can only read these lines, penned in foreign script, you have already fallen. And if you cannot comprehend these lines – you have someone reading it to you in bed – and you cannot read and write anything else that is your own, anything else that is the creation and expression of your people’s genius, then you and your people have totally become unhuman.

Do not bore yourselves with the excessive confidence in Oral Tradition or the speeches of the Talking Drums. They have undoubtedly become symptomatic of a culture and a consciousness in rapid, inexorable decline. Please, do not sing hosanna about the unparalleled grace of our dancing feet, the sheer strength of our physique or the immaculate rhythms of our voices. Such artistry beckons the envy of others but what good are they – what good are we – when these objects of envy are all but forgotten? What good is our thick embrace of polyrhythm if none shall survive with our Oral Traditions?

The griots of West Africa were famous. But they weren’t great – they were deaf to the Cassandras of the times. Let us stop genuflecting to that part of our history. Those jalis, believe it or not, marked the beginning of the most impactful decline in our long illustrious history. Twelve thousand civilizational years of it – pissed away in Oral Tradition alone. The elevation of jalis in our collective communities marked the beginning of a degeneration that may yet never again see a recovery.

Africa’s historic fall rests on one thing alone: the abandonment of her writing cultures some five centuries ago and the elevation of an oral tradition unto a pedestal. Before then, hundreds, if not thousands, of diverse writing traditions spanned the continent – protosaharan, old Nubian, nsibidi, medu neter, kemetic, thinite, tifanagh, vai, wadi el-hol, meroitic, ge-ez, sabaean, coptic – the list is endless. So, what happened? None thrives the way they all once blossomed.

With only an Oral tradition, Africa abandoned self-reflection. What followed was a concerted erosion of a long, trusted historical consciousness that oozed out steadily, like the breath of joy from a deflating balloon.

How can a people improve, create, keep intact and pass on the historical memory of their existence without an authentic writing culture – one that reflects their unique ethos and beliefs, their unique struggles and joy, and their unique trials and tribulation, all expressed in prose, all captured in logical thought, all spoken in conversation and all painted with artistic mastery? How can we manipulate our thoughts, twist them, turn them and fashion a purview of our own world that is worthy of our convictions and innermost inhibitions?

Better yet, how can we pass on the collective consciousness to the next generation with some level of fidelity? An Oral tradition all but washed away the high fidelity with which our consciousness, via a solid writing system of our own invention, was passed down through the generations. From fishing to farming, from drumming to dancing, from walking to running, from eating to drinking, from birth to death, from peace to war, nothing captures who we are more than an authentic writing tradition; nothing ensures the passing down of that information with great fidelity except a solid writing system of our own invention.

Like the DNA that binds us together, like the genetic material we must pass down to ensure our continued existence, a writing system of our own creation is the genome that ensures the generation that succeeds us will think like us, build upon what we have achieved and take pride in the struggles and glee from which they have been fully forged.

Our ancestors understood this very essence. Our ancestors conceived writing. They invented paper and fashioned the first several writing systems – and carried it to excess. Every facet of Kemetian life was documented, every song written, every speech penned and every name in the family tree recorded. Without this, Kemet would have never risen to give the world the civilization that she gave it. Without this our ancestors wouldn’t have known who they were and what they wanted to become.

No wonder, some quote the Bible for history. No wonder our children truly believe that Abraham, Isaac and Jonah were their great ancestors. No wonder some rely on the Alcoran for some comfort in establishing in mind and soul who they are. No wonder some find civilizational solace in Colorless books, in Shakespeare and in Moby Dick. No wonder some swear that a Colorless man on a cross, hung on the living room wall is coming soon to spirit them away into paradise. He never comes. No wonder some hold steadfastly unto doctrines from abroad – Buddhism, Satanism, Hinduism, etc.

The African without a writing tradition has even forgotten that he gave the world religion. This realization represents the bottomlessness of our historic decline. This alone represents the infidelity of our oral traditions.

If Africa must rise, she must rise in African terms, in African language, in African prose, in African consciousness and in African self-reflection. Without retrieving or re-creating our authentic writing systems, we are nothing but colonies of thieves. Without entrenching the teaching and grading of the mastery of our own expressions in script, we are nothing but animals with ephemeral names and a short-term memory, soon to be fully forgotten.

Imagine a different Africa today, five hundred years hence, notwithstanding the fall, bathed still in the writing traditions of our forebears. What a piece of civilization we would have built? How noble in reason we would have become, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving, how express and admirable, in action how immortal, in apprehension how omnipresent our manifest destiny would have revealed.

Instead we lost the chance, we discarded the opportunity, and we shirked our sole responsibility to capture who we were and what we shall yet become, in our typical profuse polyrhythmic expressions, in a stupendous writing system too. Imagine, by now, what we could have mustered, what refinement we could have mastered; we – the beauty of the world, the paragon of civilizations – could have simply achieved immortality.

A writing tradition is the pinnacle of civilizational expression. It is bravery; it is identity. Without it, there is no narrative. Without it, there is no prior knowledge. Without it, we never existed. And we shall never again exist if we continue this way.

A writing tradition is the beginning of our humanity. It is what separates the truly human from the unhuman. Writing is everything we know and more. A writing tradition of our own invention is immortality – it ensures our collective memory and guarantees our collective indestructability. Abandon it and you will decline. Embrace it and you shall begin your climb upwards and towards civilization. Cherish it and you will surely rise again. Obsess over it and you will again reconquer the world we lost to a whole bunch of Colorless thieves.

If there is any argument left to make for retrieving our writing systems, one must liken it to our genome. Our writing systems were and are the DNA structure that binds together our collective consciousness and delivers it intact to the next generation. Abandoning our writing cultures and taking on other people’s systems is essentially a conscious act of self-extinction.

If the genome ensures the species, then a writing system ensures their immortality. Africa’s freedom, maturity and longevity rest squarely within this paradigm.

31 COMMENTS

  1. You don’t write down your thoughts because you think them correct. You don’t even write them down because you think them palatable to the powers that be. You write down your thoughts, fully, and hand them over to the next generation because without it, you never existed. Without it, you’ll never be counted. Without it, at any point, the whole reason that you ever existed, at all, is completed wiped away.

    Your thoughts fully captured in prose, fully bound and fully passed down are more powerful than the half-set of genetic material you’ve passed down in a child. Beware, without your thoughts fully inscribed in prose and fully enhanced by the sophistication of the minds of your generation, your own child, will count you out.

    Now imagine a community. A nation. A whole continent. This is what has happened to Africa, for the past five centuries and counting. The consciousness of the generation before us are lost entirely to the wind. They never existed. The only hope perhaps still left for us is to make sure we don’t end up like them. We must write, in our own languages, our own thoughts, in our own (re)-invented writing systems.

    “If the genome ensures the species, then a writing system ensures their immortality. Africa’s freedom, maturity and longevity rest squarely within this paradigm.”

    Another powerful piece from a scribe.

  2. A pythonic indictment of our forgetfulness and laziness for the past 500 years. This essay is simply pythonic. Excuse my using the same word twice – this is good!

  3. Hmmmm, very interesting piece, my great friend; for a while i have chosen to ignore strong critique on few unpardonable errors of your published papers on such a mighty platform like this, which my attention was drawn lately not to overlook at such error for endorsement anymore because it communicate dozen of fact about the kind of scholars we are. However i will want to narrow myself in terms of my critique on this very paper. It was very clear the paper is wonderfully worded of logic narration defining the cause of our present predicament but bet to differ whether it contribute to the knowledge body of the African science of development because you raise argument of lost of an Indigenous Africa language being the root of retrogression but never defined the cause of the lost of African Indigenous language and how to recover or solve such question raised. But choose not to address your raised argument but beautify it with wonderful grammar descriptions, makes this piece categorized into the faculty of poem… a reaction situation in respond to many problems of Africa solving nothing but making us an emotionally loquacious entities. However “Cheers for the narration”

    • Tweneboah Senzu, don’t overlook errors. It is not a great platform until real debates are had in full glare. So, please shoot the counter-narrative. I want us to all engage. We must not keep what we think inside. The goal of scholarship is to fully debate our ideas in public, not in private. Your criticisms were valuable to many. Now that you keep them from us, I am not sure. So shoot, and let’s see the errors!

  4. A great piece to read…. once again the debate of how we contributed to, and continue to contribute to our own detriment has come up.
    I think the issues that are raised in the piece, due to Narmer Amenuti writing skills will mesmerise anyone who care to comprehend the issue at hand.
    But what I want to drive to is my belief that both the side taken by Tweneboah Senzu and the writer are effects to a causal factor we have failed to recognise, which is our belief in the good of mankind; our tendency to think everyone assumes we are good people and love us. This has the first effect of ensuring we operate comfortably with any language, philosophy and on ontologies capable of making us harm ourselves in favour of the outsider… such things for me, are where the idea that one black person will sell another originate from.

  5. You make a very interesting point Audu Salisu. Equally powerful and central to this debate is the idea that Africans are overly receptive of the “stranger”, even when the stranger is carefully defined. African culture has a tendency to embrace others. It does not define the “other” in order to strongly critique what the “other” brings to the table. It does not define the “other” in order to “ostracise” it when needed.

    This xenophilic apetence stems partly from the absence of a unique cultural framework that is fully defined and from which we can carefully gaze, analyse and address competing “other” ideas. In order to define the “other” we need to define first and foremost, “who we are”. Without an authentic writing tradition the “Us” is missing and with it the “Other”. This cultural framework has been seriously lacking, seriously extinct, and woefully disturbed for 500 years now.

    I think you have raised a conjoining theory. I am not sure if it is a chicken-egg issue of which one came first, or of which is more fundamental. This is the healthy cultural debate we must have. You would agree that both must be addressed and we as a people must change because of it if we are to lay a solid foundation for a renaissance. However, I even wonder, as you opined “if anyone who care to comprehend the issue at hand” really gets it?

  6. Akosua M. Abeka I think we need to relook at the various ontological grounds on which our notion of knowledge and use of language stand, as well as understand what power we give to people or take from them with the mere utterances we make. I have thought for a long time about whey Africans are no nice to others, have a good notion of the other and never justifies the means with what ends lie ahead of them. the means.
    If we look at African languages, almost all have the same terminology for stranger and guest. I have looked at the 4 I speak well, others I somehow speak, and I have asked many africans whose language I don’t speak and they have all not found the word stranger in their language. they tend to give me the same word for a guest too. So every one is our guest, we don’t know the concept of strageness and estrangement.
    So this makes it easy for African to side with non african at the detriment of his fellow Africa.

  7. That my friend is a good start. Perhaps Audu Salisu, you could explore some more and enlighten us. I am, as always, extremely curious.

  8. Ok I’m working in that direction, a piece centred on our inability to hate.. being too friendly and believing in the good of all mankind as an unhealthy pursuit, with clear historical examples of harm being good people has brought to us.

  9. Narmer Amenuti writes as a poetic one-man band, shifting rapidly among his roles as raconteur, scientist, educationalist and historian. Besides the fact that this elocution lesson has left me with the suitable mot juste in the occasion of our dropping our writing systems in Africa in place of foreign nonsense, I find the entire piece fascinating, to say the least. How did we drop these writing systems?? What caused it. I want to see Narmer tackle this in his own time. For me this is what is left to make the ideas here complete.

  10. The reason the Jews are still celebrated today is that they documented every aspect of their history(Old Testament) that is why you and I in Africa today have adopted their written history

    • They didn’t document it though, they borrowed it. However, your point is well noted that because it is documented, it is celebrated.

  11. That’s debatable that the Old Testament section of the bible is a written documentation of Jewish history as regards to majority of the present day Jews who celebrate it. Just as you say we have adopted their history, it’s arguable that they have also adopted it from earlier civilizations, but they made it theirs. I realize this is outside the scope of the point you are trying to make,so I won’t harp on it further.

  12. It is not debatable its their history as they lived it. Their kings and Queen, their various tribes, their journeys, their customs, their local religion, their wars etc yes +/-a some embellishment. Which was incorporated in the bible at the first ecumenical council.
    The part about the birth of Christ etc may have been adopted from earlier civilization but that is the New Testament.

  13. The fact that most people on earth today identify as Christians and celebrate the bible as a holy book is a testament to the importance of written documentation

  14. But stories of the Old Testament are found in the stories and myths of earlier civilizations, even before the Jews became a literate culture.

  15. There is no question that religions of the book reign supreme to their oral counterparts. Not just with Christianity, but Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism have huge followers.

  16. Writing keeps us all informed. How can we challenge injustice if we do not write about it, especially in our languages? How would we really know what is going on in the day to day life in the village or the city if no one keeps a running log of their thoughts? No wonder we only learn about things after they have happened and we are such a reactionary culture. Narmer Amenuti the writing culture that you discuss is very important.

  17. Solid article. There is however a certain danger – the main one is essentialism – which I will not go into.

    Interestingly, the proposition-thesis in your “Our Historic Fall” is in conflict with certain substantial claims you make in your “African Writing Systems – Where Do We Go From Here?”

    These contrasts are somewhat interesting.

    I shall briefly illustrate.

    In the former you claim that

    “Without retrieving or re-creating our authentic writing systems, we are nothing but colonies of thieves. Without entrenching the teaching and grading of the mastery of our own expressions in script, we are nothing but animals with ephemeral names and a short-term memory, soon to be fully forgotten.”

    And yet in later you write that

    “By contrast, continental Europe’s oldest writing, Greek, was not fully in use until c. 1400 BC (a clay tablet found in Iklaina, Greece) and is largely derived from an older African script called Proto-Sinaitic.”

    I hope you appreciate the paradox.

  18. That is a very interesting observation. However, can you clarify if you’re suggesting that because English, French, Spanish and Portuguese are used in Africa – plus the idea that they may have derived from the ancient Greek – that it makes them African?

    I cannot speak on the writing systems, grammar, phonology, morphology and vocabulary of European and Indo- European languages. Modern Africa has no writing system baring a few remaining writing systems to the East, of course, and a wider – reaching Arabic in the North.

    I don’t think the throwing away of most African writing forms happened overnight or even over a period of 100 years. I believe there was a steady erosion of writing in West Africa for example since the pinnacle of Sankore. The conquests of some of the last prominent writing cultures of the North (in Timbuktu) fully sped up that erosion until its complete demise.

    Still, in Ntoaboma for example, where my mother comes from, the Traditional cult still has a writing form only taught to the initiated. I have always wondered why they would only teach this to the initiated. This is another arm of my thesis I would like to explore later.

  19. In answer to your question: I suggest nothing. The implication I underscore is made by non other than yourself. It is what your argument – applying modus ponens – implies.

  20. Of course not. I never said that. I never made the statement: That if the Greek script has African roots then all European languages which [may have] derived from it, up to and including English, are African.

    I said: That if the Greek script has African roots then all European languages which [may have] derived from it, up to and including English, have an African script [foundation].

    But these are two different conditional statements. The antecedents are the same but the consequent statements are miles different. Therefore the inferred, which is that there’s no reason African languages have lost their writing systems can be construed from what I said.

    I am not advocating for the re-working of African scripts per sey. I am advocating for the full-blown intellectual use of African languages (which are almost all written and studied) in the education of our own children. There’s absolutely no reason why a child in Ghana must learn how to read and write first in English. He can do it Dagbani. He can do it in Twi. She can in Ewe. She can in Ga.

    There’s no reason why a child in Ghana must comprehend the Laws of Motion in English. She can in Dagbani. She can understand Chemistry and her own History in Dagbani – whatever the African language can be.

    Now, we can also discuss what I never said: English is African. All I can say is this: There’s no English ethnic group in Ghana, so English is not Ghanaian, therefore I will not advocate for teaching Ghanaian children in a foreign language in the same way the English are not teaching their children in Dagbani or German or Nynorsk for that matter.

  21. Narmer but no one said you said what you have just written.

    What I said, and which you deen not to challenge, is that your thesis-propositions in your “Our fall” and the substantive claims you make in “African writing systems” inconsistent — indeed, paradoxical.

    Surely you understand that what you are and are not advocating is orthogonal to implication I underscore?

  22. It’s fine you claim inconsistency. But where? Where, my brother. Where? I just explained why they are not inconsistent.

    In one I fully expand on some of Africa’s writing systems; still some of which gave rise to other scripts on other continents (African Writing Systems – Where Do We Go From Here?). That is not farfetched: that Europe has borrowed, immensely from Africa. In no way do I say English is African. In fact it is not an African language.

    This is why I say, boot it out – it is undermining our intellectual development which is key to understanding our fall (Our Historic Fall).

  23. If P is one of the Implications/derivations of Q; and Q and R are identical; then P is also an implication of R.

    To wit,

    If the Greek alphabet is a derivative of an African system; and say for example the English alphabet is derived from the Greek alphabet; then the English script is genetically derived from the African system.

    Your foundationism (ultimately, essentialism), more than you realise, is a weakness.

  24. “Without retrieving or re-creating our authentic writing systems, we are nothing but colonies of thieves. Without entrenching the teaching and grading of the mastery of our own expressions in script, we are nothing but animals with ephemeral names and a short-term memory, soon to be fully forgotten.”

    In one article you deny that the European systems are African and we are mere imitators. In the next article you maintain that those we allegedly imitate imitated themselves from Africa . Which is which, Narmer?

  25. I see: I think you are mixing two things – language and script. Sometimes you take script to mean language and in others you confuse language with scripts.

    If the English script is derived from the Greek and the Greek from African, it still doesn’t make English language an African language.

    If you mix scripting with language (vocabulary, phonology, grammar and morphology) then you cannot fully understand the theses.

    I can write English in Insibidi script, it still doesn’t make English language an African language.

    Also by your logic: There’s no such thing as an ethnic group. Hence no such thing as difference.

  26. Grace A introduces an interesting concept that deserves further inspection. Firstly any belief system’s general acceptance is not an indication of the veracity of that religion. To date not a single thing in the Bible has been verified yet an intelligent mind that understands history, sociology and anthropology having weighed the facts would conclude the Bible to be a false document. The Egyptians as well as the Romans and other cultures in the supposed area and time frame of the people of the Bible were vast record keepers. To understand that imagine that if the US suddenly disappeared and off-worlders showed up a few hundred years hence they will find lots of stuff about Kim Kardasian, Trump, Hillary, Obama, Coons, Police and Uncle Toms and other people and concepts that are being heatedly debated right now.

    Given the volume of records they have from the period as well as the thinkers of the time from multiple civilizations, one would think that if someone was walking on water or healing the sick and raising the dead that someone would have written it down at least once, yet it’s not been found. The issue is that most people reading the Bible mistake the lore of the Bible that matches up with that of other cultures from around the world like the flood stories with supposed histories of the Bible such as the time of Jews in Egypt when the Egyptians themselves have no records of such encounters. Given the amount of time the Jews alleged to have been in Egypt you’d think again that there would be at least one record.

    The problem is that proponents of the Bible discount cultures that documented everything such as the Egyptians and the Romans in favor of a people who appear to have existed on paper only. Let’s not forget even up until the late 1800s early 1900s there were no people on earth who actually spoke Hebrew so again that has to be figured in. The question then becomes is there a pattern of discounting the beliefs and stories of some in favor of a narrative we simply choose to believe? If we answer that then the next logical question is even if we had writings in Africa what difference would we expect it to make and what are the ramifications for addressing our current situation.

    It’s really a simple fact. The Bible is only prevalent in societies where Europeans control the media and where Europeans colonized. That’s all. One of the reasons I think China has been successfully stood against the West is that they have been basically religionless. Thus with no Jesus in common the Europeans couldn’t play the we’re brothers card. Even the Russians are Eastern Orthodox given their church split with the Roman Catholics. Thus Europe hasn’t been able to assimilate them so clearly having your own writing, language and belief system are important.

    What is fascinating to me are that Christians who can’t verify a single fact in their Bible routinely refer to the Gods of Egypt or even the Persians as fairy tales when all that we have in Western society can’t be traced to the Europeans or their gods but in fact to the high sciences of KMT, and others that preceded all of European Europe. Clearly the Jews were mere sheep herders and carpenters and we take their gods and the thought to be definitive. The Dogon for instance have given information about star systems that we can only now just begin to barely see into. Yet with each technological advance we only further verify what the Dogon have apparently known for some time. India has tales of great battles and all kinds of seemingly unbelievable stories yet there are places there that demonstrate all the characteristics of ancient nuclear blasts. Yet despite this clear proof the so called children of the Bible through the media and the university systems of learned have labeled the narratives of the Dogon and India as lore. When you can’t proof your claims but they can one can only see this as self serving and self preservation.

    The imperative is that however we choose to proceed having our own language(s) and thought recorded for future generations, we do so with this in mind. The Bible if you read it was not created in a vacuum. It was a document that was designed to take on other belief systems ahead of it and refute them. If you know what they were then its easier to see the Bible was a take down. No different than a split in a modern denomination or the creation of a new religion due to frustration with another. How do we know this. It starts by putting down snakes which are often holy in Asia, Africa and India and ends vilifying dragons, just a larger snake. Egyptian stories also have a tree and fruit, and the women in Egyptian belief systems were revered why the treatment of women in the Bible totally reflects Europe’s relationship with its women. All of the cultures that the Bible clearly has issue with were people who looked at the stars and understood them.

    Once you research the various pyramids around the world (yes) and other holy structures that all continue to be aligned with star systems and constellations, its easy to see that even with the Dogon, the verification of their belief are the stars themselves. Anything they leave to future generations is signed in the verifiability of the stars themselves like a watermark. Even to this day during the equinoxes there are things that can only be seen on those days which means the thousands of years ago those structures were built the calculations had to me right. Going a step further do you want something built by Imotep or Solomon because its clear that Imotep could build to last just like the people in Ankhor Wat and other places that even to this day we can’t conceive how they were built.

    My point is regardless what the state of us may have been 500 years ago, much further back we were people of high thought and sciences that integrated Creation on every level of what we did. Our starting point has to be about achievement which is what we were about before. I’m not saying the goat herders chose the wrong god(s) but I’m guessing it might be easier to impress one. On the other hand what could bring the great minds of the ancient past to the point of worship and awe that they built such structures that continue to testify to that reverence and love today. It is admitted that the Dogon tradition even includes nuclear science as well as that related to DNA and its function among many other concepts all of a scientific nature. So when we can see that civilizations who’ve recorded everything and have proven their ability time and time again could have their contributions ignored in favor of that which supposedly supports the claims of the persons making the claims but is wholly unverifiable, factor in the deeds of those people to begin with and I can only say that you need to be very realistic about your plans for getting us out of our current state.

    Language, history and culture are imperative yes, but it is achievement that will capture and unify our collective minds. It will take courage and it will require us first and foremost to refashion African countries not around European archetypes but needs and the calling of the African spirit. The Chinese are dogmatic about forging a society that looks like them for them. When African countries start forging their own agendas that do not look European, the first thing that will stand out are those among us acting on behalf of the Europeans. Language and writing won’t reveal the traitors and thieves among us but pursuing your own agendas will immediately.

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