An expert in the cultivation and distribution of rice.
An expert in the cultivation and distribution of rice.

The More-Educated Than His Ancestors, the METHA, in West Africa study nothing. Worse, they study nothing about themselves, let alone the cultures they were required by tradition to maintain and carry forward. The current hullabaloo about feminism and the role of women in African culture remain, almost always, devoid of the proper knowledge of African Traditional Systems and Institutions.

The Metha know how best to bash and cast aspersions on what they regard to be African tradition. Nothing aspirational, not even a bad odor, emanates from their hatred of African tradition. Yet, isn’t it a shame on the character of the Metha scholar today when a European woman researcher sees through the chaff of Anti-Blackness in scholarship and agrees with the wisdom of African traditions, more or less? To the extent that Judith Carney was able to challenge the insidious Anti-Black, colonial, ahistoric aspersions of the Metha’s own masters in the European west on what they collectively demean, lambast and corrupt as Africanness.

Western scholars and the Metha students here in Africa often dispel the traditional African notion that African Thought and Expression are diametrically opposed to Western European Thought. However, every now and then, one European scholar out of the blue, like Judith A. Carney, a former professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles (in the Wild Wild West), could not help herself, but agree with African wisdom.

She has exposed some of the terrible excesses of European-American ferocious anti-Black intellectualism in a simple book. For centuries European American scholars attributed American agriculture, in particular the technology involved in rice cultivation, to European ingenuity and sometimes to cultural origins in Asia. Nowhere in the European iteration of their unsuccessful search for civilization is Africa ever credited with ingenuity.

But, they lied. Judy explains in her book, “Black Rice, The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas,” that West Africans not only single-handedly introduced rice cultivation and production to the United States, which provided the foundation for South Carolina’s wealth, but they fed the entire subcontinent of western Europe before it begun to kidnap and traffic those very rice farmers to the Americas.

The foreign relations and geopolitical implications for West Africa are made clearer by such cumulative historical facts as Judy’s—that never should West Africa engage with Europeans, not even for trade, unless she is ultimately armed, intellectually and militarily, to defend against all of Europe’s unique kinds of unctuous barbarism.

Equally important, Judy provides an illustration of the West African gendered system of rice production technology that made it successful, which is the second point after all. She uncovers the hidden records and shows the anti-Black European American academy that there was already a rice cultivation and production establishment in West Africa before the arrival of the first Europeans to it. That, for example, rice sales were only brokered by women traders, as the Portuguese-African (Luso-African) trader André Donelha observed around 1625 in Guinea-Bissau: “Here the black women hold a market when ships are in port; they bring for sale rice.”

That fact alone should make the feminist, Metha bashing of all traditional Africa a bit uncomfortable. Judy, a European woman, has shown the receipts to her fellow Europeans that the Baga peoples of West Africa had a rice production system that was carried by force, “across the Atlantic: a division of labor by task that represented specialized, gendered systems of knowledge. Females transplanted the seedlings while males prepared the irrigated paddy with the flat-bladed shovel known as the kayendo. The latter was a long-handled specialized spadelike shovel used by men to lift and turn over the heavy clay soils planted to mangrove rice.”

The Metha are probably wondering why the need to establish two related ideas about the African method: (1) That rice cultivation existed in West Africa before the European hordes encountered it, and that West Africans introduced rice cultivation to the Americas, and (2) that rice production was based on a specialized, gendered system of knowledge?

To help the Metha’s understanding, consider how Judy, a European woman, begs the European anti-Black academy to think of rice as a “knowledge system—not just a plant or a seed but an entire complex of techniques, technology and processing skills.” Much like the making of Jollof. West Africans who were trafficked by the European hordes into Carolina, “possessed this knowledge, and used their understanding to guide phases of evolution in American rice production.” Even a newspaper in Antebellum South Carolina, for example, advertised the sale of 250 West Africans valued for their knowledge of rice culture.”

The West African technology that Judy describes to the American Anti-Black academy—she demonstrates—called for different roles and distinctive kinds of expertise for men and women, which aspects of rice culture were also transported to the Americas by force. Women played a critical part in seed selection, sowing, hoeing and processing of rice. The importance of these skills enabled the European hordes of human traffickers to command higher prices for West Africa women in Carolina rice-growing areas than in other American slave markets (unlike in the cotton fields of Mississippi). The European hordes even knew which African ethnic groups were experts in rice growing and explicitly favored them in their purchases of civilized men and women.

Despite their unique kind of unctuous barbarism, some of these European hordes, to their utter dismay (much like barbarians who had encountered a sophisticated civilization for the first time), described the West African rice cultivation technology as a “huge hydraulic machine” involving: (1) rain-fed culture methods such as embankments, sluices and canals almost identical to patterns of West African mangrove rice production and (2) tidal flood plain methods, which required large-scale deployment of floodgates, canals and ditches.

The technology and gendered division of labor required to make rice cultivation work seamlessly together made West Africa’s system of rice production a superior method over any other that the European hordes had encountered in all their piracy of native lands. “Along the Upper Guinea Coast from Casamance, Senegal, into Guinea Conakry, where mangrove rice is planted,” Judy writes, “this specialized implement is synonymous with the labor involved in transforming the landscape into irrigated fields. Cadamosto describes its use in rice planting as early as 1455: “Their manner of farming is that four or five of them line up in the field with some paddles [shovels], throwing the earth ahead of them but not deeper than four fingers in the earth, which is heavy and sticky, yet enables the germination of all that which is sown.””

The technology and labor involved in the cultivation of rice by men and the sheer skill involved in the maintenance of the rice fields and the sale by a business class of women, together remain in West Africa a subject that is left for the African scholar to properly explore.

The only problem is that the Metha is wont to introduce neoliberal understandings of European Horde Piracy Philosophy into the study of cultures that are directly and diametrically opposed to European Thought and Expression. For this reason, the legacy of some of the most ingenious systems of agriculture and finance ever created in the world is almost on the brink of extinction for the simple reason that the Metha scholar today would rather imbibe European colonial stratagems than engage the wisdom of the cultures of Africa.

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~ Success is a horrible teacher. It seduces the ignorant into thinking that he can’t lose. It seduces the intellectual into thinking that he must win. Success corrupts; Only usefulness exalts. ~ WP. Narmer Amenuti (which names translate: Dances With Lions), was born by The River, deep within the heartlands of Ghana, in Ntoaboma. He is a public intellectual from the Sankoré School of Critical Theory, where he trained and was awarded the highest degree of Warrior Philosopher at the Temple of Narmer. As a Culture Critic and a Guan Rhythmmaker, he is a dilettante, a dissident and a gadfly, and he eschews promotional intellectualism. He maintains strict anonymity and invites intellectuals and lay people alike to honest debate. He reads every comment. If you enjoyed this essay and would like to support more content like this one, please pour the Ancestors some Libation in support of my next essay, or you can go bold, very bold and invoke them. Here's my CashApp: $TheRealNarmer


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