Africa is cradle of learning

I KNOW you know that it has been said before, but I believe it can never be said enough.

I KNOW you know that it has been said before, but I believe it can never be said enough.

That is, that Europeans love to tell Africans' stories and whenever they do we love to complain.

These stories are normally told through books, plays, music, film and even exhibitions.

You know what we do, we look for the smallest mistake and magnify it and then say, "Look they are distorting our history."

But the real question is, what are you doing to tell the African story in your way?

I mean, how many people have you heard complaining about Nigerian cinema. I bet there are too many.

But you must also have heard an equal number saying, no matter how simplistic their scripts are, no matter that the movies are badly edited (one does not want to watch somebody cooking fufu, second by second, for 30 minutes), no matter that the movies are badly directed and sometimes the stories are scattered all over the place to such an extent that one does not know whether you are watching one story or several stories clumsily woven together, Nigerian movies are part of a cinema revolution in Africa.

Nollywood brings in millions to the Nigerian economy. It empowers many actors, discovers new filmmakers and film directors, makes stars out of ordinary people, and in the end gives something back to the community. In the end they can proudly say, it is Nigerian.

These thoughts went through my mind when I heard that the Manuscripts of Timbuktu, a documentary, will be shown on television this week.

For those who are not in the know, here is a glimpse of what the scripts are all about.

Colonialists like to tell you that were it not for them you would not be reading this because you would probably be somewhere in the bush sharing meals and other daily struggles and lifestyles with animals.

In other words, we Africans and other people from the developing world would probably be uncivilised bush people with no literary skills at all.

Not true. Here is evidence that has stood up to academic scrutiny, has been subjected to rigorous scientific enquiry and passed with flying colours, so to speak.

This crucial evidence is found in the scripts now famously called the Manuscripts of Timbuktu. Found in Mali, they not only show a high level of academia among the ancient Africans, our forebears, but also show evidence of advanced knowledge in scientific subjects.

The Manuscripts of Timbuktu is a 75-minute feature docu-drama about the history of the manuscripts and the city of Timbuktu seen through the life of one of Africa's greatest scholars Ahmed Baba (acted by Eriq Ebouaney, who also played Patrice Lumumba in Lumumba by Raul Peck.

It has been said that Africa had no written tradition. The uncovering in Timbuktu of thousands of manuscripts dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries shows an ancient and great centre of learning existed where scholars from all over the world travelled to study.

The now famous Timbuktu manuscripts showcase a diverse and rich African culture and scientific knowledge incorporating subjects such as architecture, cultural tradition, astrology, religion, science, economics geography and mathematics.

There is evidence that algebra found in these ancient manuscripts is currently being taught at university level in Europe.

This important documentary, which is directed by our own Zola Maseko, and is produced by another of our own, David Max Brown, will be shown on SABC2 at 9pm on January 24.

What an empowering way to start the new year on television. Let us tell our own stories and celebrate that part of our heritage that makes us proud as a people of Africa.

I urge you to watch Manuscripts of Timbuktu.