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The African Renaissance

First presented in an earlier version on December 10, 1997 in Art Kleiner's "The Future of the Multimedia and Telecommunications Infrastructure" course, Interactive Telecommunications Program, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.

During the European invasion of Africa from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries, African centers of higher learning, the initiation schools, were suppressed by colonial powers. The esoteric teachings that integrated art, science, medicine, technology, and religion went underground. African people were dispersed.

The forbidden codes of the African universities — the initiation schools — were imported into the New World and were expressed and communicated not only in gesture, speech, and foods but even more significantly in dance and music. The entire world is now informed by expressions of the African code such as ragtime, jazz, bebop, rhythm and blues, boogie woogie, soul, hip hop, tango, mambo, reggae and rap. These pieces of code are African timing devices.

The African time sense tempers and modulates the rule of the key invention of the modern industrial age — the clock. In the Western world, time moves on because the clock says move. In Africa, time is formed by the activities of humans — by events. If nothing happens, time stops.

Clock-consciousness produces terror in the Western mind that's on its way to a late appointment (or racing to catch up with the millennium). The non-Western mind thinks, "The party starts when I get there." Being of both minds, I have developed the following pre- and post-millenial scenario:

1960 to 1997: Through music and music videos, African-(American) culture spreads throughout the world, even to places with no African presence. Everybody is into this groove.

1997: Genetic researchers release a study of mitochondrial DNA which indicates that all living humans descend from one maternal source — christened Mitochondrial Eve — who lived in Africa between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago.

2000: The human genome project is completed and unveiled. All human genes have been mapped out. Indeed we are all descendants of Africa. This realization, once it sinks in, creates a transformation in the attitudes of all peoples towards Africa. Genetics has put the last nail in the coffin of racism.

a) There is a new ethos of openness, as we all finally realize that we are brothers and sisters, having come from the same maternal ancestor. Defining oneself by race or nationality comes to be seen as backwards and corny.

b) There is a worldwide increase in interest in the study of African history and culture. Uganda, Japan, Brazil, South Africa, The Congo, Nigeria and the United States become the leading centers of study.

c) The African schools of higher learning that were driven underground by European invasions resurface physically and on-line. These "universities" become extremely popular among computer programmers and developers of multimedia and communications software (many of whom have previously studied and applied Hindu, Buddhist and Native American concepts to their work).

d) Digital professionals travel to Africa seeking to be educated in African schools of philosophy. Excited by the limitless possibilities of creating and developing out of another worldview, another paradigm, they become initiates in the once-secret societies, engaging in rituals that allow them to re-integrate art, science, medicine, technology, and religion.

e) New mythology and new metaphysics permit the initiates to see into new realms. They emerge from their magic circles and sacred groves speaking a new African code.

f) The new code is expressed in software and devices that subvert the tyranny of clock rule. The world-public "adopts" the new code subliminally. Human brains are changed electrically, chemically, and physically. Some new neural pathways are set up. Others are torn down.

g) Many of the recently initiated students decide to stay in Africa to live and work. Multimedia and telecommunications enterprises emerge and prosper. The African continent convulses with business activity, with boomtowns sprouting everywhere and with Uganda, in the heart of Africa, emerging as the pre-eminent incubator nation. Citizens of Uganda thus shape the communications infrastructure of the 21st century, based on African sociopolitical and other codes.

• Few technological advances have been made without the commission of African resources.

• There is only one race — the human race. Africa is the motherland of us all.

• By the year 2005, worldwide human connectedness, modulated by the values of African philosophy and facilitated by African advances in telecommunications, will subvert the rigid "clock-time" structure of Western hegemony.

• The "haves" will be the people who have maintained their humanity; the "have-nots" will be those who have not. In the 21st century, identifying with Africa and becoming more African will be synonymous with becoming more human.

First published in Outloud Magazine, ed. Bob Richards. Volume 8, No. 1, December 1999.

©2000-2002 Frigate: The Transverse Review of Books
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