Women played a central role in the development of Pan-Africanism. It can even be claimed that it was a woman, the South African Alice Kinloch, who initiated the modern Pan-African movement at the dawn of the 20th century. In the early 21st century it has become fashionable, mainly in some academic circles in the United States, to use the term “Black Internationalism” as an alternative to Pan-Africanism. This phrase was also first coined by a woman, Jeanne Nardal, an influential and important Martinican writer in Paris in the 1920s, who used the term internationalisme noir to refer to the growing links between “Negroes of all origins and nationalities.” There is no doubt that she also used the phrase to refer to the growing Pan-Africanism of the period, and therefore it is difficult to see what distinguishes the two terms. There has never been one universally accepted definition of exactly what constitutes Pan-Africanism. It has taken different forms at different historical moments and geographical locations. What underlies the manifold visions and approaches of Pan-Africanism and Pan-Africanists is a belief in the unity, common history, and common purpose of the peoples of Africa and the African diaspora and the notion that their destinies are interconnected. In addition, many would highlight the importance of the liberation and advancement of the African continent itself, not just for its inhabitants but also as the homeland of the entire African diaspora. Pan-Africanist thought and action is principally connected with, and provoked by, the modern dispersal of Africans resulting from the trafficking of captives across the Atlantic to the Americas, as well as elsewhere. The largest forced migration in history, and the creation of the African diaspora, was accompanied by the emergence of global capitalism, European colonial rule, and anti-African racism. Pan-Africanism evolved as a variety of ideas, activities, organizations, and movements that, sometimes in concert, resisted the exploitation and oppression of all those of African heritage; opposed and refuted the ideologies of anti-African racism; and celebrated African achievement, history, and the very notion of being African. Pan-Africanism looks forward to a genuinely united and independent Africa as the basis for the liberation of all Africans, both those on the continent and in the diaspora. However, it should be made clear that historically there have been two main strands of Pan-Africanism. The earlier form emerging during and after the period of trans-Atlantic enslavement originated from the African diaspora and stressed the unity of all Africans and looked toward their liberation and that of the African continent. The more recent form emerged in the context of the anti-colonial struggle on the African continent in the period after 1945. This form of Pan-Africanism stressed the unity, liberation, and advancement of the states of the African continent, although often recognizing the importance of the diaspora and its inclusion. The continental focus of this form of Pan-Africanism can be seen in the orientation and activities of such organizations as the Organisation of African Unity and the African Union. The more recent continental form of Pan-Africanism is likely to include the peoples and states of North Africa, while the earlier form sometimes does not. Although women such Alice Kinloch and Jeanne Nardal have played an important role in the emergence and development of the modern Pan-African movement and its ideologies, there have been few studies devoted solely to women’s involvement with Pan-Africanism. Some significant organizations such as the Pan-African Women’s Organisation, founded in 1962 and still in existence, have no written history and have therefore been excluded from many accounts. It is evident that women were generally less prominent than men in the Pan-African movement, but also that the literature has often overlooked, underestimated, and sometimes ignored the role of women.
Women and Pan-Africanism
Race and Decolonization in North Africa
Muriam Haleh Davis
The precolonial history of slavery is fundamental for understanding the roots of antiblack racism in the region known as the Maghreb. At the same time, the question of skin color does not capture the diverse forms of discrimination that have been experienced by populations in the region over the last two hundred years. French colonial officials, for example, upheld the Berber population as a separate race that was inherently more civilized and less Muslim than the Arab population. Jews in Algeria were offered French citizenship in 1870, further complicating the racial formation of the colonial Maghreb. Despite colonial attempts to posit a racial difference between so-called white and black Africa, the porous geographical boundaries in the southern regions of the Sahara made it difficult to assert a clear distinction between Arab and African peoples. After independence, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia sought to foster a coherent national identity and achieve political legitimacy, and their experiences of state building in turn influenced how religious and ethnic minorities were treated after independence.
Socialist Regimes and Economic Planning
Between 1950 and the mid-1980s, several African countries adopted socialist systems of government. In the first decades of independence, socialism appealed to some African leaders both as a political ideology and as an economic system. Socialism represented the promise of a new anti-imperial, revolutionary, and independent path to national and continental development. The socialist policies adopted in African countries included centralized state control of the economy, collectivization of land and agriculture, the nationalization of key sectors of the economy, and public sector–led social development. From Ghana to Algeria, and from Tanzania to Egypt, these socialist policies brought significant economic and social changes with mixed results. The end of the Cold War in the 1990s, and the wave of pro-democracy movements that followed, signaled the end of socialist experimentation in Africa. However, the legacies of socialist economic planning persist across the continent.
Emerging Modernities in 19th Century Africa
While the single most consequential event in Africa during the 19th century was European colonization of the continent, most of the century was characterized by tremendous growth and innovation in African political and economic institutions, as well as the expansion of literacy and the development of enduring intellectual traditions. Many African societies were making strides toward the creation of new self-governing nations over the course of the 19th century, as the ending of the transatlantic slave trade made way for the development of new industries and commercial systems. Large powerful states governed in numerous places across the continent, including the Sokoto and Tukulor Empires, Asante, Dahomey, Egypt, Buganda, Bunyoro, and Ethiopia. Many African states had powerful armies and distinct political identities. The emergence of modernities in 19th-century Africa also came in the form of religious change. This era saw the expansion of Islam in rural areas of western, northern, and eastern Africa, accompanied by the rapid growth of Islamic education and literacy. At the same time, Christian mission societies facilitated the establishment of mission schools and colleges based on European institutions of higher education. The new class of mission-educated African elites included teachers, clergymen, doctors, civil servants, law clerks, journalists, private entrepreneurs, and academics. These individuals, mostly men, had a profound influence on African visions of modern nationhood, particularly in West and Southern Africa. In many ways, Africa was becoming modern in the decades prior to the European conquests of the late 19th century. For the purposes of this article, “modernity” refers to the cultural and social revolution that accompanied the rise of industrial capitalism and included an expansive universalism. The development of modernity in Africa and elsewhere was linked to the new age of science, economics, realism, rationalism, and humanism dawning toward the end of the 18th and start of the 19th century. In particular, the newly founded colonies of Sierra Leone and Liberia became centers for the diffusion of African-American cultural influence, as liberated former slaves and their descendants from the British Empire, the United States, maroon communities, and captured slave ships settled there. In order to appreciate the 19th-century development of African modernity, it is important to remember, as A. Adu Boahen once explained, that European colonization of the African continent occurred suddenly and unpredictably. As late as 1880, there was little indication that European nations intended to dramatically alter the map of Africa by force. Most African states and societies were entirely autonomous and controlled by their own rulers. The unexpected European conquest of African territories at the end of the 19th century thwarted much of the progress Africans had made throughout that century and arguably reversed key processes of modernization. And while colonial regimes also introduced new modernities into Africa, these were mainly destructive and exploitative in nature.
Socialist Politics in Lusophone Africa
Michael G. Panzer
From the 1950s through the 1970s, several liberation movements emerged in Lusophone Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, and the Cape Verde Islands) that fought for independence from Portugal. One of the most significant ideological frameworks that informed the political orientation of these movements was socialism. In Lusophone Africa, several liberation leaders gravitated toward the economic and political potentialities inherent in the discourses and practices of pan-Africanism and Afro-socialism. The liberation movements in Lusophone Africa that most identified with a socialist paradigm were the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA of Angola); Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO of Mozambique); Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC of Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands); and Comité de Libertação de São Tomé e Príncipe (CLSTP—later, MLSTP—of São Tomé and Príncipe). These groups suffered the burden of Portuguese colonialism and actively fought for independence from colonial rule. Although several other liberation movements also emerged in the Lusophone colonies, these four movements most espoused the hallmarks of Afro-socialism to challenge Portuguese colonial rule. All four liberation movements maintained networks with international actors opposed to colonialism, as well as diplomatic connections with sympathetic socialist and communist nations. Most notable among these bases of support were the Conferência das Organizações Nacionalistas das Colónias Portuguesas (CONCP) and the governments of Tanzania, Egypt, Guinea, the People’s Republic of China, East Germany, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and Cuba.
Miriam Makeba (March 4, 1932–November 9, 2008) was among the first to popularize African music on a global scale. Nelson Mandela named her South Africa’s first lady of song; she was also nicknamed Mama Africa. Makeba has been credited with inaugurating the “world music” movement, a designation that she did not like as it marginalized music from a so-called Third World. Already renowned in her native South Africa as a sophisticated and highly sought-after performer in her own right, Makeba’s arrival in the United States in 1959 transformed that country’s music scene. She was a contemporary of Nina Simone and Odetta, with the three women credited for a resurgence of folk music in the United States as they drew songs of everyday life onto the concert stage. South Africa’s apartheid government revoked Makeba’s passport in 1960, when she sought to return home to bury her mother. She was a vocal critic of apartheid in exile, appearing before the United Nations (UN) on at least four occasions (including twice as a delegate of Guinea) to urge sanctions against the apartheid regime and mobilize support for Black South Africans caught under apartheid’s yoke. She supported US civil rights movement organizations and activists, and through her activism embedded US struggles for civil rights within a continuum of African liberation struggles, including anti-apartheid and anti-colonial liberation movements on the continent. She was a cultural ambassador who bore witness to the independence of many African countries through song, with countries for which her performances contributed to the ushering in of independent regimes including Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique. She was the only performer at the inaugural conference of the Organization for African Unity. As South Africa’s apartheid government began transitioning power, Makeba was able to return home in 1992 for a brief visit and subsequently decided to permanently return. Under South Africa’s democratically elected regime, Makeba was appointed an FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) Goodwill ambassador for the UN. She continued performing in her later years, but in November 2008 she collapsed following a performance in Italy and died from cardiac arrest. Her legacy continues through the work of the ZM Makeba Foundation.
Festac 77: A Black World’s Fair
From January 15 to February 12, 1977, Nigeria hosted an extravagant international festival celebrating Africa’s cultural achievements and legacies on the continent and throughout its diaspora communities. Named the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (or Festac 77), it was modeled on Léopold Senghor’s inaugural Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres (World Festival of Black Arts, or Fesman) held in Dakar in 1966 but expanded its Atlantic horizons of Africanity to include North Africa, India, Australia, and Papua New Guinea. Festac’s broader vision of the Black and African world was further bolstered by Nigeria’s oil boom, which generated windfall revenues that accrued to the state and underwrote a massive expansion of the public sector mirrored by the lavish scale of festival activities. Festac’s major venues and events included the National Stadium with its opening and closing ceremonies; the state-of-the-art National Theatre in Lagos, with exhibits and dance-dramas linking tradition to modernity; the Lagos Lagoon featuring the canoe regattas of the riverine delta societies; and the polo fields of Kaduna in the north, celebrating the equestrian culture of the northern emirates through their ceremonial durbars. If Festac 77 invoked the history of colonial exhibitions, pan-African congresses, Black nationalist movements, and the freedom struggles that were still unfolding on the continent, it also signaled Nigeria’s emergence as an oil-rich regional and global power. Festac’s significance lies less in its enduring impact than in what it reveals about the politics of festivals in postcolonial Africa.
West Africa and the African Diaspora
West Africa and the African diaspora share an intertwined history. From the earliest moments of the development of the diaspora, West Africans and members of the African diaspora have sought ways to connect to each other. They have done so through the exploration of cultural links, travel back and forth between West Africa and the diaspora, and the development of shared philosophical and political movements. They have celebrated the idea of a collective “African” identity shaped by people on both sides of the Atlantic including the Pan-African Movement, the New Negro Movement, and Negritude. The late 20th century has seen the travel of diasporic subjects to West African countries including Ghana, the Gambia, and Senegal, which have fashioned themselves as African homelands. Artists, activists, and migrants continue to travel back and forth between West Africa and various points in the African diaspora and, in doing so, shape the contours of the Black Atlantic World. The continuous communication and contact between West Africa and the diaspora constitute an ongoing dialogue that has led to cultural innovations on both sides of the Atlantic.
African Films and FESPACO
The Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) was founded in 1969. It began as an intimate week-long gathering of filmmakers and enthusiasts in the capital of what is now Burkina Faso to watch contemporary films made by African filmmakers. At its peak in the 1990s, it attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators, both local and international. Since the 2000s, iterations have been smaller affairs, significantly impacted by both changes of government in Burkina Faso and wider political instability in West Africa, as well as ongoing debates about what films it should be showcasing. Despite such challenges (and with only one exception in the mid-1970s), however, FESPACO has remained a constant on the African continent, faithfully screening films by African and diaspora filmmakers every two years for more than half a century. FESPACO was conceived in the age of decolonization by a group of men and women who are considered to be the pioneers of African cinema, including the Senegalese writer and filmmaker Ousmane Sembène. It was established as the first sub-Saharan showcase of African filmmaking, an emergent and significant field in the era of independence when cinema was prized for its ability to make visible African realities and to (re)constitute national histories eclipsed by colonial rule. The concept of a distinctly “African” cinema was articulated most extensively by filmmaker and scholar Paulin Soumanou Vieyra and referred to films made by Africans, telling African stories, principally for African audiences. For Vieyra, Sembène, and their contemporaries, it was essential to take back control of the art of cinema on the African continent, where it had predominantly been deployed as a colonial tool; FESPACO was conceived as the regular forum for those committed to its development to come together and share their work. Through the course of its development, FESPACO has been confronted with a number of challenges regarding its form and its evolution. Its strong connections with the Burkinabe state have been seen as both a significant factor for its growth and its success, and, particularly in the era of Blaise Compaoré, as a source for concern regarding freedom of expression. Since the turn of the 21st century, questions about where video filmmaking—an industry that has proliferated on the African continent in a manner unprecedented internationally—fits within FESPACO’s definition of cinema have been consistent. The festival has, over the years, been accused of being both outdated and elitist in its commitment to celluloid, but also of straying from its original remit to showcase African stories for African audiences, accusations it has responded to by the creation of new prize categories and requirements for submission. The year 2019 was one of reflection, but many critics felt that after some difficult years the festival was showing signs of rejuvenation. Though it is now one of many film festivals on the continent committed to showcasing African cinema, there remains significant appreciation for the historic status of FESPACO as a preeminent sub-Saharan cultural institution.
West Africa and the Middle East since 1900
West Africa has long-standing economic, religious, cultural, and military ties to the Middle East and North Africa. Historical links between the two regions include centuries of pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, educational travel to Al-Azhar University in Egypt, and trading and religious links with the Arabian Peninsula and Maghreb. The years from 1900 to c. 2020 can be divided into three periods: the colonial era until 1960, the years of pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism from 1956 to around 1979, and the intensification of political and religious contact after 1979, with Saudi Arabia and Iran playing prominent roles. In the 21st century, trading relations have intensified and diversified, involving new interventions by Turkey, the Gulf States, and Morocco, while Middle East and North African actors, both state and nonstate, were closely implicated in the destabilization of the Sahel in the 2010s, including providing military, intelligence, and ideological support to West African states and terrorist groups. Since 1900, significant issues and ideas affecting interactions between the Middle East and West Africa included pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism, Salafi and Wahhabi thought, spanning far beyond jihadist ideas to incorporate social and political critique, and new formulations of shiʾi Muslim identity following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. Importantly, Africans actively appropriated and developed these ideas for diverse ends, mounting their own interpretations of the Middle East, ranging from ʿulema settling in Mecca to shiʾa students in Iran, Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem, and the search of West African Jews for recognition by Israel.
Early Factionalism in Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle
The course of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle was fundamentally shaped by tensions among competing nationalist factions. The impact of this dynamic is typically observed from 1963, when Zimbabwe’s long-serving ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)-Patriotic Front, was founded following a fissure in the liberation movement. Earlier instances of intranationalist competition in Southern Rhodesia (colonial Zimbabwe) have generally escaped scholarly attention despite their pioneering contributions to the dynamics of political pluralism in Zimbabwe and the presence of noted political figures amidst their leadership. In 1961, the Zimbabwean nationalist movement experienced its first significant split with the formation of the Zimbabwe National Party (ZNP) which broke away from the National Democratic Party. The ZNP, in turn, experienced its own rupture a year later when the Pan-African Socialist Union (PASU) was formed. Although these were the two only two nationalist challengers of note in the early 1960s prior to ZANU, several other short-lived Black-led political parties emerged at this time in settler-dominated Southern Rhodesia. The ZNP and PASU appealed to rising grievances with the prosecution of the anticolonial liberation struggle. They were also a consequence of the changing geopolitics wrought by Africa’s decolonization. The two parties sought to consolidate their position by appealing to the emerging cohort of African anticolonial leaders across the continent. These efforts induced extensive backlash from the main wing of the nationalist movement, then led by Joshua Nkomo. Both the ZNP and PASU were short-lived, effectively collapsing by 1963. While neither party was able to effectively overcome these intense assaults, their comparatively fleeting existence shaped the political environment by influencing tactics and providing a template for subsequent nationalist contenders seeking greater longevity.
History of Ghana
Taking its name from the medieval West African kingdom of Ghana when it gained political independence in 1957, the former British colony of the Gold Coast is known for its pan-African stance, gold and cocoa production, and national commitment to Western formal education. The Portuguese, the first European nation to arrive on the Costa da Mina (the Gold Coast) in 1471, reported of coastal communities organized under the leadership of chiefs. The position of the chief, with the support of local elders, illustrates the stratified political structures and chains of authority from the small village to the centralized states with whom the early Europeans and other foreign traders conducted commerce. Attracted by its gold deposits, merchants from several European nations followed the Portuguese to establish competing commercial ports on the 300-mile coastline. They invested in and defended the trading posts as forts and castles. Some of these establishments are now preserved as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in remembrance of the transatlantic slave trade. To the northern fringes of the Akan forest and through the Volta Basin, Mande Muslim traders from the old Western Sudanese empires, as well as Hausa merchants from the northeast, arrived as early as the 15th century to exchange Sahelian products for gold, slaves, and kola nuts. The history of Muslim engagement in the commerce from the north is linked to the spread of Islam in the territories. The European missionary activities on the southern coast introduced Western formal education and Christianity. The contemporary boundaries of Ghana can be traced to the history of precolonial state formation resulting from local wars of expansion and consolidation of territories by the powerful ethnic kingdoms, especially of the Akan nations. The long Asante resistance to the British presence and the ultimate European territorial delineations led to the consolidation of British rule of the Gold Coast in 1902 to commence the colonial era. Ghana’s independence from British rule was historic, as it represented the first Black sub-Saharan African nation to become independent. But, for the first thirty-five years after independence, the rule of law was intermittent, as the military overthrew civil administrations deemed corrupt or incompetent to address ongoing national economic challenges. The return to civilian constitutional rule, a free press, and successive changes of government through the ballot box since 1992, despite economic and development challenges, gave room to grow the nation’s democracy.
James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey: Educator, Minister, and Global Black Intellectual
Ethan R. Sanders
James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey (1875–1927) was a transatlantic black intellectual, educator, and Christian minister. Aggrey was raised in West Africa, where as a young man he became a rising figure among the educated elite of the Gold Coast and played an important role in the Gold Coast Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society’s defeat of the Public Lands Bill of 1897. For two decades, he served as a professor at Livingstone College, the chief educational institution of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church, and as a pastor in two AMEZ churches in rural North Carolina. Throughout this period, he became connected to a number of black intellectuals and educators in Washington and New York, including Robert Moton, James Cromwell, W. E. B. Du Bois, John Edward Bruce, Arthur Schomburg, and Carter G. Woodson. Through these connections, he became a promoter of Ethiopianist ideas and developed a vision for Africa’s redemption and a positive outlook toward the continent’s role in the future of the world. In 1920–1921 and again in 1924, Aggrey was selected to join two educational commissions to visit eighteen African territories. Over the course of eighteen months, Aggrey made hundreds of appearances and spoke to thousands of Africans through both public speeches and private audiences. His fame during this time led to his becoming the first continental celebrity of sub-Saharan Africa. His fame in the West also peaked during the early 1920s, and he became one of the most sought-after Christian speakers in Britain and North America, leading one scholar to suggest that Aggrey was perhaps the most well-known African in the United States during this period. Aggrey had a long-lasting impact on the African continent, in large part through helping the people of the continent to see themselves as belonging to an African nation of people who had a glorious future once they unified as one people. Aggrey helped to infuse a positive value into an “African” identity, and his vision was interpreted in various ways throughout colonial Africa and led to numerous educational, political, and social movements and shaped the ideas of many prominent African figures throughout the 20th century.
Nationalism and Decolonization in the Gold Coast
Gold Coast nationalism cannot be approached solely through the prism of decolonization. Debates about what constituted the building blocks of the nation go back to the start of the 20th century, drawing on renditions dating back a further half-century. A fundamental contention was that the coastal populations had entered the Gold Coast Colony through active consent, and that the sovereignty that had been conceded to the British was limited. And it was asserted that while Asante had been conquered, and the Northern Territories had been added through treaty, southern populations had been partners in the process. A second contention was that the Gold Coast nation was constituted by the sum of its traditional parts, which were necessarily of unequal size and complexion. Although the British acted on the basis of a different reading, this version enjoyed hegemonic status. It was repeated by the chiefs themselves but was most clearly articulated by the coastal intelligentsia. In the 1920s, the formation of the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA) signaled a shift in which the educated elite across British West Africa combined to demand greater political rights and sought to pursue economic liberation in association with the black population of the Americas. In the 1930s, in the wake of the Great Depression, cocoa farmers were pitted against the European buying firms, and there was a proliferation of youth associations that took up causes such as the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Meanwhile, the injection of ideas derived from international socialism added a more radical inflection to Pan-Africanism. However, this momentum was halted by the outbreak of the war. As the Gold Coast Youth Conference (GCYC) looked to the future in the early 1940s, it abandoned Pan-Africanism and socialism. It continued to emphasize economic freedom but paid more attention to gaining political concessions. After 1947, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) sought to pursue this agenda in alliance with the chiefs. The notion that Kwame Nkrumah, who led the breakaway of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in 1949, effected a radical rupture—even a revolution—is no longer tenable. Like his opponents, Nkrumah placed politics first and merely wanted self-government to come more quickly. After the 1951 election, the CPP governed in close alliance with the British. While it won the elections of 1954 and 1956, it singularly failed to attract mass support at the polls. Finally, while Nkrumah revisited older ideas derived from international socialism and Pan-Africanism, his real focus was on consolidating his grip on power in the Gold Coast—to the exclusion of addressing the concerns of border populations. After 1954, the CPP faced a coalition of parties that advocated a federal solution to the national question. Nkrumah, supported by Governor Arden-Clarke, insisted on a unitary state and toyed with drastically curtailing the powers of the chiefs. In the end the first was achieved, but Nkrumah backed away from a more radical overhaul. The conception of the Ghanaian nation as the sum of its traditional parts, and the assumption that the reach of the state is limited, was therefore further entrenched and remains fundamental to the social contract to this day.
West African Cinema
John C. McCall
Motion picture technology developed at the dawn of the 20th century, just as the formal colonization of Africa was launched at the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885. While it took a few decades for cinema houses to spread in West Africa, by mid-century the colonial administrations began to use film as a means for conveying colonial culture to African subjects. For the British and French colonials, film was a means to shape public opinion. Both British and French colonial administrations criminalized indigenous filmmaking for fear of the subversive potential of anti-colonial messages—film communicated in one direction only. When West African nations became independent in the late 20th century, these restrictions vanished and Africans began to make films. This process played out differently in Francophone Africa than in Anglophone countries. France cultivated African filmmakers, sponsored training, and funded film projects. Talented and determined filmmakers in Anglophone Africa also struggled to produce celluloid films, but unlike their counterparts in former French colonies, they received little support from abroad. A significant number of excellent celluloid films were produced under this system, but largely in Francophone Africa. Though many of these filmmakers have gained global recognition, most remained virtually unknown in Africa outside the elite spaces of the FESPACO film festival and limited screenings at French embassies. Though West African filmmakers have produced an impressive body of high-quality work, few Africans beyond the intellectual elite know of Africa’s most famous films. This paradox of a continent with renowned filmmakers but no local film culture began to change in the 1990s when aspiring artists in Nigeria and Ghana began to make inexpensive movies using video technology. Early works were edited on VCRs, but as digital video technology advanced, this process of informal video production quickly spread to other regions. The West African video movie industry has grown to become one of the most prominent, diverse, and dynamic expressions of a pan-African popular culture in Africa and throughout the global diaspora.
African Feminist Thought
African feminist thought refers to the dynamic ideas, reflections, theories and other expressions of intellectual practices by politically radical African women concerned with liberating Africa by focusing women’s liberation, and as such cannot be easily defined or captured. However, the conditions out of which Africa’s feminist movements form, and the intellectual labor that they carry out in the pursuit of women’s rights and freedoms can be explored and discussed. African feminist thought is the potentially limitless product of movements that are themselves constantly in the making, succeeding in changing the conditions of their formation by their very existence. African feminist political thought can be traced to the world’s women’s movements that formed in the context of transnational liberal and emancipatory political discourses of the late 19th and 20th centuries of European empire. Out of these liberal emancipatory reformist, international labor, communist, socialist revolutionary, and Pan-African Diasporic and African nationalist movements were all formed. However, following the flag independence of over fifty nation-states, women who joined the anti-colonial freedom movements have had to pursue further struggles in independent nation-states, because Africa’s new states often hesitated or reverted to conservative patriarchal views when it came to extending freedom and equality to African women. It is as citizens of new nations that 20th century African women have formed independent feminist movements that continue to demand freedom, equality and rights, for example, by seeking freedom of movement, political representation, educational and economic equality, and perhaps most commonly of all, freedom from sex and gender-based violence. Contemporary publications and writings by African feminists are the primary sources consulted here, because of the need to correct the spurious mis-representation of African feminism as “un-African,” a position that hinges on the definition of feminism as exclusively Western. This view is advanced by conservative African men and women who seek the restoration of pre-colonial cultures, as well as in some of the early scholarly literature on the subject. African feminism is a radical proposition: it refers to the liberatory political philosophies, theories, writings, research and cultural production, as well as the organizing work of the transnational community of feminists from Africa. These respond to objective conditions of global systemic inequality that have led African women to resume the struggle for freedom and liberation. African feminists in 2019 identify with earlier generations of women freedom fighters but enunciate visions of a future in which the women of Africa will be afforded human rights and freedoms, on a continent liberated from a global neoliberal capitalist system that continues to marginalize the vast majority of the world’s peoples and exploits natural and human resources to a degree that now threatens planetary survival.
Emperor Haile Selassie I is a household name in Africa and across the globe. His name evokes a variety of feelings in people. To the radical elite of the 1970s he was seen as despot; for the older generation of the same period, he was a redeemer who restored the nation’s independence. For people of African descent Haile Selassie echoes an iconic significance of pride and black identity. The Emperor was a complex personality, preventing anyone from viewing him from a singular optic. No single conceptual category can encapsulate Haile Selassie; not facile Western constructs such as absolutist, reformer, or modernizer or autocrat. All constructs touch aspects of his many-ness, and none wholly reflect the complexity and multiplicity of his character and actions. His life and political career were shaped by various domestic and external circumstances. Changing local and global dynamics molded his thoughts, actions, persona, and policies. The Emperor presided for the most part of his reign over a nation whose state structure was, by and large, weak: hence the sense of incumbency he felt to guide the process of the nation’s progress under the care of a father figure. Managing the unity of a multiethnic and multireligious nation with a complex history was a political experiment entailing huge responsibilities and challenges. His story is not easy to tell since it is shrouded in paradoxes and ironies. In understanding the Emperor and his leadership style, it is vital to put him in the context of the many-layered history of the nation and the changing political dynamics of Africa. Haile Selassie led a nation rapidly encountering social and political changes in the 20th century while at the same time championing pan-Africanism. Thus, there is a great need to present a full picture and a nuanced contribution to understanding this influential Emperor.