In 1974, Cheikh Anta Diop was one of about 20 participants in a UNESCO symposium in Cairo, where alongside Theophile Obenga from DRC, still alive, and a few others he established the African origin of the ancient Egyptian civilization and led all the egyptologists and anthropologists to surrender. However, Diop’s contribution was subject to the editorial comment that “[t]he arguments put forward in [the] chapter have not been accepted by all the experts interested in the problem”, a comment coming from the Arab scientist now occupying the land. He presented his work ten years later at a conference in Niamey, Niger. These are some of his words answering the questions posed by the students:
“The evil that the occupant did to us is still not healed. This is the depth of the problem. Cultural alienation ends up becoming an integral part of our substance, of our soul. And when we think we have got rid of it, we still haven’t done so completely.
Often the colonized looks like, or, even, the ex-colonized looks a bit like the slave of the 19th century whom when liberated goes as far as the front of the door and then goes back home because he doesn’t know anymore where to go (Since the time he has lost freedom, since the time he has acquired subordination reflexes, since the time he has learned to think through his master). This is almost what has happened to the African intellectual as a whole. Because, in other words, all the questions you have asked me boil down to one: when will white people acknowledge us? Because the truth sounds white! This is what it is! But what you are inferring is dangerous. Because if intellectual equality is really tangible, Africa should, on controversial matter, access the truth by its own intellectual investigation, maintain itself to this truth until humanity knows that Africa will not be frustrated anymore. The ideologists would waste their time because they would have met equal intelligences that can stand up to them when it comes to research of the truth. But you are persuaded that for a truth to be valid and objective it must sound white! But this is an issue in our soul that must disappear.
I have ideas I have always developed and against which you cannot raise scientific arguments worthy of this name. You can make a conspiracy of silence. Young African generations will remain alienated, until they recover, until they acquire direct knowledge because it is through direct knowledge, through Egyptology that we will move past this stage of resilience and somnambulism.
UNESCO had asked everyone to get their weapons, to do everything necessary for this discussion to be
conclusive. And you see [raising a book, not very audible]. As a consequence the white truth that you want is here solid in this document. But you don’t even read! It is necessary to first learn all the literature that exists in this field.
We have called a meeting to the highest level and the results are tangible, here they are! What you were waiting for is before your eyes, read it yourselves. But even if we didn’t have it and this is what concerns me. Because we needed to reduce to the inconsistency of European ideologists and theorists, that they acknowledge it to a certain measure like in this document, for you to have an opinion. But the adversity is worse than this! You need to know that the adversary kills you intellectually. He kills you morally before killing you physically. And it is in this manner that they have been suppressing entire groups. You are denied as a moral being, you are denied as a cultural being, our eyes are closed we don’t see the evidences! They count on your complex, your alienation, on the conditioning! They count on the reflexes of subordination and so many factors of this kind. And if we don’t know how to emancipate ourselves by our own means, there’s no salvation!
At this point, the question you ask me you’ve answered it. Because you’ve answered by actions of inferiority, so in a sense you have proved or suggested the inferiority of the black world! – Because the truth must come from the other side.
We have to be careful! If I wasn’t intimately persuaded of the equality of the races, if I wasn’t intimately persuaded of the capacity of each race to lead its cultural and intellectual destiny, I would be disappointed. What would we achieve in the world! If there really was this intellectual hierarchy we would have had to expect our extinction in one way or another! Because the conflict is everywhere, it is at every level! It is in all its debates! It goes as far as our international relations! They lead against us the most violent fight, even more violent than the one that has led to the extinction of some species. And it is necessary that your intellectual sagacity gets to this point.
What I said in the preface of Obenga was this; that through direct knowledge, Africa must be able to seize a truth, to know that she is in possession of a truth no matter the field (It’s not only in the cultural
field). And to maintain herself to this truth by using conservatory methods, until everyone accepts it, until we know that the trickery is over! That they are not facing children or newborns anymore.
But it is at the same time an intellectual reaction, a cultural reaction. It requires the mobilization of all the capacities of the black; a black whom having made abstraction of his alienation has the same capacities as any other being.
Look, as soon as you talk about cultural heritage, the left and the right continental collide! Do the experiment, they bring you an abstract equality, but the idea that negroes could have known a historical promotion in the past, they are refractory to it! It is because their intellectual training, lately acquired, is found at a superficial level, to the level of the cortex, of the intellect. But the training they have received in their early childhood, the stereotypes they are used to in the environment of their childhood, the caricatures as I was showing you here. All this was keeping them blind to observe truths such as those we were showing them. As a consequence there is only one salvation! It is direct knowledge! And no laziness will exempt us from this effort. We will absolutely have to acquire direct knowledge. At equal training the truth triumphs.
Train yourselves; arm yourselves of science to the teeth and snatch your cultural heritage! This is what I said to Obenga. Otherwise call me out if when you get to this direct knowledge you discover that my arguments were inconsistent. This is it and there’s no other way. And the supports you are looking for you will not have them because it’s a world, a universe of ideologists, which you’ll have in front of you. And you think that if the truth was tangible it would be accepted? I came back from those illusions!
Look, in the second part I answered the critics, I even had to be sparing with the leftist intellectual who had served Africa a little. I could have cut them in half as we say. And they saw that I stopped half way in my argumentation because it would have been catastrophic… So the weight of the arguments is heavier on the African side I regret.”
We need to ask ourselves how far we have gone since then and take it upon ourselves to do better than the previous generations. Let’s liberate ourselves from mental slavery.
By Nkululeko Zulu
Words in quotation translated into English from French by the writer.
2 thoughts on “Cheikh Anta Diop (1974 UNESCO Symposium in Cairo)”
Thank you VERY much!!
peace. We must achieve the culture by our own hands and also manifest the legacy that was left. Ultimately being granted our long due respect .