Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rome, and before that the Greeks, and before that... Ethiopia? - Who Knew?

The BBC produced a 4 hour series on the pre-Roman and Greek history of Africa hosted by Dr Augustus (Gus) Casely-Hayford entitled, "The Lost Empires of Africa"

Each of the four, one hour films starts in part with this overview:

"The African continent is home to nearly a billion people. It has an incredible diversity of communities and cultures, yet we know less of its history than almost anywhere else on earth.

But that is beginning to change. In the last few decades researchers and archaeologists have begun to uncover a range of histories as impressive and extraordinary as anywhere else in the world."

Dr Augustus (Gus) Casely-Hayford takes us on a tour of ancient Africa guided by his understanding of the art and architecture of Christian and pre-Christian empires dating back 2,500 years.

Lost Kingdoms of Africa | Ethiopia

(part 2 of 4 of the series)

I think the good Doctor is leading the way in writing and popularizing a narrative of the history of civilization on the African continent that is, especially in the western historical canon, sorely lacking in detail and context.

Dr Casely-Hayford begins to put into context the history just before the Mediterranean centric history (Egypt, Greek, Roman) that you and I likely learned in school was the beginning of western civilization.

This one hour film focuses on the eastern side of the African continent in Ethiopia. In the first chapter of this series, "Lost Kingdoms of Africa | Nubia" Dr Casely-Hayford talks about old rivers that stretched across the North African Desert - the beds of which can be seen despite the shifting sands of the expanding North African Desert via new satellite imaging technology. From the Great Zimbabwe Empire and the associated kingdoms around it in the south, to the Great civilizations all along the Nile, we know that African civilization was much more wide spread and advanced than western scholars have given them credit for.

Is it too much to guess - as has always been my conjecture - that eventually we are going to find examples of great civilizations on the western side of the continent as well? Along the great  Congo River Basin perhaps we will find evidence of kingdoms that were connected with these early African trading empires. May we discover that these Western African Empires disappeared at a time when the North African Desert began to expand about 3,000 years ago - forcing the Nubian migrations south and perhaps cutting trade routes to the west that had been used for 1,000's of years - leading to the collapse of great civilizations on the Atlantic coast?

The BBC has commissioned the Doctor to do a second series, due in 2012.

Stay tuned!

Dr Casely-Hayford completed a PhD in African History from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University where he taught MA level classes in International Culture. His is the former Executive Director of Arts Strategy, Arts Council England, and Ex - Director of the Institute of International Contemporary Art (inIVA). Dr Casely-Hayford has offered leadership to some of the most high profile arts organisations in Britain. He has advised the United Nations and the Canadian, Dutch and Norwegian Arts Councils, commissioned to develop the future audience vision for the Tate family of galleries and has written widely including for papers like The Guardian and The Independent.

This bio is a compilation of biographies found at the Guardian online, the talent agency, "Peters, Fraser and Dunlop" (PFD), and from Wikipedia.

Lost Kingdoms of Africa

(My Youtube Playlists)

Part 1 (Playlist - 60 minutes) Lost Kingdoms of Africa | Nubia

Part 2 (Playlist - 60 minutes) Lost Kingdoms of Africa | Ethiopia

Part 3 (55 minutes) Lost Kingdoms of Africa | Great Zimbabwe
Looking for copies to embed.
See it now at TVO:
(may be taken down at any time: )

Part 4 (50 minutes) Lost Kingdoms of Africa | West Africa
Looking for copies to embed.
See it now at TVO:
(may be taken down at any time: )


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