African Independence, 2013, is a documentary that tracks Africa’s relationship with Europeans through her struggle for independence in modern times.
Largely a standard documentary, the film emphasizes some of the progress that Africa has made since its first contemporary nation, Ghana, wrested freedom from the iron hands of the British Empire.
No understanding of African history can be achieved without a true appreciation for the impact of the two world wars and the cold war on the struggle for African independence. Director Tukufu Zuberi wove this needed insight into the fabric of Africa’s relationship with the world through out the last five centuries.
However, this film fails to underscore any understanding of Africa before the independence movement and how it may inform our understanding of Africa’s relationship with Europeans before slavery, during colonialism and the subsequent struggle for independence.
Interviews with famous leaders on the continent, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania – an intelligent statesman, former president of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor, Raila Odinga of Kenya, Samia Nkrumah – daughter of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, and many others spiced up this documentary to some delightful proportions.
Other interviews involving the notorious F.W. De Klerk and P.W. Botha, though provided an allure of a well made and invested documentary, painted a more sympathizing picture of the Apartheid regime in South Africa by insinuating two things:
First, that White South Africa was forced to commit atrocities towards Africans because they were in fear of the spread of communism and like Israel only wanted their own country inside Africa. That is simply a biting unapologetic reading of history.
Second, that White South Africa was the first to fight against colonization by the British from the Cape. That outlandish argument, though I wish it were struck out from the documentary, underscores the mockery to humanity that the self-righteous Apartheid regime in South Africa was. As if the Germans in Trans-Volta Togoland for example could not have made that same argument had they won WWI and WWII.
No reading of African history will change the brutality and the sheer dehumanization that Africans suffered at the hands of those settlers and I wish the documentary, having started that conversation, had completed it in a fashion that painted that brutal regime with the callousness it deserved.
Notwithstanding, key moments in this film will resonate with Africans, Blacks and perhaps others who believe that all men should have the right to their own self-determination.
Paramount is Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah’s narrative – having restored Ghana to the Gold Coast in 1957, and his subsequent dynamism, conviction and strong actions in support of the total liberation of the continent.
Director Tukufu Zuberi was cognizant of W.E.B Dubios, Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko’s qualitative and substantive stance on African freedom. If African’s weren’t free before, how could they ask for freedom?
By including these narratives, Director Tukufu Zuberi’s film shows how African self-determination shook the very foundation of Western ideology.
In addition, the elaboration of the impact of World Wars I and II on the African masses was necessary. The film shows how African soldiers returned from the wars and quickly demanded self-government. But how this happened was not delineated in the documentary.
By the 1940s, when the iron curtains of Western Civilization had been laid bare by the wars, the African soldiers and servicemen who had partaken in its conclusion, having had a first hand experience with its skeletons, had became aware of the true picture of the West.
This consciousness then reverberated across the continent with veteran soldiers and local politicians who had been educated abroad largely leading the fight against colonialism.
With the likes of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah for example, on The Gold Coast, the masses grew increasingly relentless in fighting for self-government.
The film could have simply shown this link and stressed the unique gathering of momentum by the masses, which was vital in the African struggle.
To appreciate this reading of African independence, an understanding of African history comes in handy.