Nov
13

The Ethiopia Book of Travels

In many of my critiques of books written about Qatar I have focused on the almost exclusive reliance upon the British colonial record for history making, despite other sources being available (notably Ottoman records in that case). I was directed to an interesting translation of a travel dairy of an Ottoman dignitary, sent by the Sultan, to meet with Menelik II to explore anti-colonialist alliances in Ethiopia in the years following the Ethiopian defeat of Italy in their attempted colonization of the country. The travel took place in 1904, and draws on Turkish and Arabic source material, and was translated in 2021 as "The Ethiopia Book of Travels". The book is largely a record of travel logistics and experiences along the road. Nonetheless, this is one of many examples where source material democratization can help with the decolonization of history making.

A contextual note about the book: "The Ethiopia Book of Travels takes you to June 1904 to accompany Sadik Pasha on a mission for sultan Abdulhamid II to go before emperor Menelik II, the ruler of Ethiopia. One of the three missions to Africa by Sadik Pasha to counter the scramble for Africa by West European powers, this volume should be considered a companion to Journey in the Grand Sahara of Africa, republished with contributions from his descendants in Journey in the Grand Sahara of Africa and Through Time." (p. vii)

An interesting reflection on modernity, as it was in 1904: "While we were watching and observing the paradise like surroundings and the sunrise from the hill that we were on, numerous young [] girls were passing, singing with a high voice all at once. The mixture of their voice with the echo was creating a nice harmony. Apparently, they were going from the village to the fields. Rising from behind the hill at this moment, the sun combined its rays with the zephyr and dampness of the morning. The song that the girls were singing happily in this way, the charm of the surroundings emerald like hills were forming such a beautiful scenery that only a skilled painter, a skilled poet would be capable of describing this. It can be seen that the health of these girls wearing a tunic each, walking bare feet over the meadows is much better than those of prosperous girls with the pampering and abundance of civilization." (p. 78) 

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Jul
14

Resistance and Decolonization

Amilcar Cabral (1924-1973) is one of Africa's great anti- and de-colonial activists and writers, and led the struggle for the independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde. Another post, on Davidson's "No Fish is Big Enough to Hide the Sky", also covers Cabral. This post focuses upon a collection of his ideas in "Resistance and Decolonization" (1977). Some of what he left us with:

  • "At the end of the day, we want the following: concrete and equal possibilities for any child of our land, man or woman, to advance as a human being, to give all of his or her capacity, to develop his or her body and spirit, in order to be a man or a woman at the height of his or her actual ability. We have to destroy everything that would be against this in our land, comrades. Step by step, one by one if it be necessary - but we have to destroy in order to construct a new life. This is the principal objective of our resistance." (p. 77)
  • "We have remained clear that we don't struggle against the Portuguese people. Everyone in our Party knows that. We do not struggle against the Portuguese or the Portuguese people; we struggle against Portuguese colonialism, against the Portuguese colonialists. We are fighting to clear out the Portuguese colonialists from our land. Yet we are even clearer: we in Guinea and Cape Verde, PAIGC, don't struggle against Salazarism or fascism in Portugal. That's the work of the Portuguese, not ours." (p. 83).
  • "Our political resistance should orient itself around three fundamental points: 1) to realize national unity in our land and to place it entirely in the service of the struggle, in the service of our people, under our Party's flag; 2) to isolate the enemy from all of its allies, from all of its collaborators, from all those who offer some support against our struggle - without forgoing our principles; and 3) to orient our struggle in such a way, to work so well, that we should never forget our struggle is fundamentally political, and that we must assure the victory of our political resistance." (p. 89)
  • "Our cultural resistance consists of the following: while we liquidate the colonial culture and the negative aspects of our own culture in spirit, in our midst, we have to create a new culture, also based on our traditions, but respecting everything that the world has won today for serving people." (p. 117)
  • "Culture proves to be the very cornerstone of the liberation movement, and only societies or groups that have preserved their culture are able to mobilize, organize, and struggle against foreign domination. Whatever the ideological or intellectual characteristics of its expression, culture is an essential element in the historical process. It is culture that has the ability (or responsibility) to elaborate or enrich the elements that make for historical continuity and, at the same time, for the possibility of progress (and not regression) of the society." (p. 173-174)
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