03.04.2011 - UNESCO Office in Brasilia

Bahia celebrates the history of Africa

Researchers, political authorities and black leaderships in Bahia celebrated the launching of the UNESCO “General History of Africa” Collection.

The Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) hosted the ceremony of launching of the UNESCO’s General History this Monday, 04/04, all day long. Held in partnership with the Pedro Calmon Foundation / SecultBA and the Center of African-Eastern Studies (Ceao/UFBA), the event was attended by African researchers, historicists from Bahia, and religious leaderships and leaders of the black movement.

The event will approach, among others, the importance of the African culture in the building of the global black identity, interculturality and religious diversity – aspects so prominent in the culture of Bahia’s.

The collection in Portuguese was edited by UNESCO, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, and was launched at national level in December last year. The collection aims at disseminating the African history and culture among the Brazilian schools, besides fostering changes in the ethnical-racial relations all over the country.

According to Vincent Defourny, UNESCO Director in Brazil, "this is the first time that the history of Africa is told under the African viewpoint". He also adds that there is no other place better than Bahia to launch the collection, since the state is known as “child of Africa” for the strong traits it shares with that continent. “This Collection brings to Brazil the best references to foster additional surveys and publications, and to promote the teaching of the rich African history, free of prejudiced stereotypes”, Defourny emphasizes.

Besides unveiling a history unknown to most of the Brazilian population, the collection rebuts preconceived ideas about Africa. Moreover, the content opens new perspectives to studies and research, as well as to disseminate the ethnical-racial relations in the Brazilian educational system.

The general-director of the Pedro Calmon Foundation/FPC, Professor Ubiratan Castro, states that “the African survival is not schizophrenia. It is a work of resistance of men and women that rebuilt the links, and kept their memories. Being black in Brazil is to re-think the self out of Africa, but keeping the links. Being black in Brazil is a reinvention of the African. A deep knowledge about the history of our continent of origin is crucial to keep this rebuilding in a dynamic process”.

During the launching ceremony, the Governor of Bahia, Jaques Wagner, highlighted: "this launching is a sort of recovery, recognizing history in the light of the blacks, and affirming the self-esteem of this culture”.

Differential – The poet and composer José Carlos Capinam believes this collection is a differential in the path of the history of civilizations. “The focus changes, because now the Africans are writing about Africa, in opposition to the past, when Europeans used to talk about the continent in their own way”.

When celebrating this moment, the Minister of the Secretariat of Promotion of Racial Equality (SEPPIR), Luiza Bairros, insisted on recalling the contribution of the black movement and the African blocks “that opened the possibility of discussing this topic out of the academic spaces”.

The Collection is comprised by almost 10 thousand pages, elaborated by 350 researchers in 30 years, coordinated by a scientific committee composed by 39 experts, two thirds of them Africans.

The eight volumes making up the collection approach the continent from Prehistory to the 1980’s, passing by the Ancient Egypt, different civilizations and dynasties, slaves trade, European settlement and the independence of many countries. Africa is prominent as the cradle of humanity, and for its crucial contribution to culture and the scientific knowledge production in the world.

The African Thought – The director of the UNESCO Cultural Diversity Department, Ali Moussa Iye, called for the cooperation of different actors, both in Africa and in the Diasporas, "so that the History of Africa can be effectively disclosed". The writer and historicist from Congo, Elikia M´bokolo, said that the eight volumes of the Collection are an intellectual milestone in history. “It is organized in such a way as to emphasize the multidisciplinary aspects related to the field of history, philosophy, theology, anthropology, among other sciences, without disregarding the resistance and fight against colonialism and slavery”.

Jean-Michel Tali, Professor at the University of Michigan and member of the UNESCO Scientific Committee, president of the Association of African Historicists and coordinator of the review of the General History of Africa Collection’s content, Valter Roberto Silvério of the Federal University of São Carlos, technical coordinator of the Collection version in Portuguese, and other experts have participated in the debates.

According to the historicist Jaime Sodré the big gap in the actual knowledge about the continent was the lack of serious materials approaching the history in a political way. Jaime also says that “therefore, the Law 10639/03 which mandates the teaching of African History and the African-Brazilian culture should be enforced, free of obscurantism and racism”. The collection will be made available to the public through public libraries and the centers of African-Brazilian studies in the universities (Neabs). Moreover, a teaching-aid material is being produced, and there is the possibility of commercializing the collection.

Meetings – Additionally to the event this Monday, many activities will be promoted to foster and discuss with the society the recognition of the importance of the intersection between the African and the Brazilian histories. On Friday (01/04), an academic interaction was promoted with researchers from Ceao/UFBA, and cultural meetings were held at the Olodum School (Pelourinho) and at the Ilê Aiyê headquarters (Curuzu).

On Saturday (02/04), the group formed by UNESCO representatives and African researchers visited the city of Cachoeira, where they participated in a round table at the Federal University of the Recôncavo Baiano (UFRB), which gathered professors, students and cultural agents from the region. In the noon, they visited the headquarters of the Irmandade da Boa Morte and the Terreiro Seja Hundé, considered to be the root of the Gege Mahin tradition in Brazil. There, the religious community members reported to the commission the serious land conflicts they are facing, additionally to the religious intolerance that happens all over Bahia.

TVE Debate – This Tuesday (05/04), at 10:00 pm, TVE Bahia will broadcast the TVE Debate program, on the topic of General History of Africa. The program will count on the presence of the historicist Elikia M’Bokolo, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, director of Studies of the School of High Studies in Social Sciences of the University of Paris III; the political scientist and sociologist Valter Roberto Silvério, professor at the Federal University of São Carlos and coordinator of the Brazilian edition of the General History of Africa; and the historicist Ubiratan Castro de Araújo, professor at the UFBA and current director of the Pedro Calmon Foundation / SecultBA.

The TVE Debate on History of Africa will also be broadcasted next Sunday (10/04), at 9:00 pm, and can be checked in real time at www.tve.ba.gov.br. (Source: Pedro Calmon Foundation - SecultBA -  www.fpc.ba.gov.br / ascom@fpc.ba.gov.br)http://www.unesco.org/new/http://

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