History has its way of showing its face every once in a while. Basically, if it does not come up in history books, ‘not-so-current’ affairs, and occasionally on days earmarked to celebrate it, then it did not happen. In other words, the thin line between continuous relevance and obscurity is documentation. In Africa, that line is even thinner.
Sometime last week, I was at a friend’s place and a film adaptation of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography came up on television. After spending about an hour watching what was left of it, it was as if I had been there myself as I knew so much about it already. Thinking out loud, I wondered if other wonderfully important things had happened in the past. Whether by names we know of, or those we have never heard of that were undocumented or not properly documented.
A sneak peek into South Africa’s history books, reveal a major battle that we are all glad was laid to rest. The issues surrounding apartheid, democracy, and the entire political imbalance were intense. It would have been such a waste if we did not have books like Long walk to freedom, Country of My Skull, Midlands, and the many others to learn about them.
This was necessary because of the long term implication of those issues, how delicate the matters were, and their importance generally. A little research into a few other African countries, reveal that there are also books that talk about various issues of national importance. The problem? Well, there is not enough information. You see, Africa is too rich to have sparse information on our cultures and traditions.
The reason South Africa has dragged on so much recognition to its history is that there has been so much information put out. From the fiction and non-fiction books, to film adaptations like ‘Sarafina’ and ‘Long Walk To Freedom’; there is no forgetting the fight. However, the reason I had to do a little digging in to find out if other countries had the same stories of heroism and perseverance is because they are just not widely known.
In Nigeria, a good number of books talk about a couple of issues like the Biafran war, Nigeria’s independence, and so on. Some are more popular than the others but that is just a case of preference in means and a case of preferred authors. Things Fall Apart, Half of a Yellow Sun, and No longer at ease are some of the common picks.
It is wonderful to know that some people painstakingly took out time to carry out research into these matters and penned them down. However, we can only imagine what more was left unnoticed or simply undocumented. The travails of some specific heroes and heroines, movies on conquests and failures of the past, and so on. Even while embracing the ones that were written, are we sure that was all that happened? Could there be varying versions of the truth, maybe?
The truth is that there is always more; Winnie and Nelson Mandela were not the only heroes of South Africa. The Civil War and Journey to Independence were not the only cool history facts of Nigeria. Sure, all other history facts have their spots in the ‘not-so-current’ affairs pamphlets but a little more credit needs to be given to a good number of them.
While we commend the ones that were documented and turned into movies, books, or both and wish we had more than peeks into our great African history, we can only wonder what today holds for the future. Are people taking notes too or is nothing fun happening anymore? It really is not until we have another war – God forbid – that we prepare to talk about them. The trends in African fashion, our traditions and cultures, the journey through redefinition of the entire continent; we have to document them.
Without doing so, we would all eventually die and fade into an extinction that is worse than those of the dinosaurs – I mean, there are even museums for them. Rather than die and become invisible, we can keep records of what we stand for and our ordeals so that we would still exist in centuries to come – through books and cool film adaptations.
Thanks to the advancement of the digital age, documentation is easy. We can have blogs, and various social media pages that talk about the issues around us – good or bad. Talk about our experiences, the news, music, and ourselves as a people. Maybe one day, your simple write-up may end up as part of the references for a book or a movie that millions of Africans would watch and learn from long after you are gone.