New look at Africa revealed to the Brazilian society in history collection
For at least three million years, Africa has been contributing with ideas, cultures, knowledge, techniques and technologies to the world. All this passed throughout time not by tribes, as it is often believed concerning African peoples, but by constituted and organized societies.
In order to disseminate this new look at the African continent among the Brazilian population, UNESCO in Brazil, the Department for Continuing Education, Literacy and Diversity of the Ministry of Education (SECAD / MEC) and the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCAR) launched the Portuguese edition of the General History of Africa Collection, on 9 December, in Brasilia.
Main reference work on the issue, the complete collection was published in English, French and Arabic and now has its eight volumes available in Portuguese.
The launch takes place as part of the National Seminar on Evaluation of the Implementation of the National Curriculum Guidelines for the Education of Racial-Ethnic Relations, sponsored by SECAD / MEC, aiming at discussing the actions related to the introduction of African and Afro-Brazilian history in the school curriculum.
The work tells the story of Africa from the continent’s point of view, making use of an interdisciplinary approach that involves specialists in areas such as history, anthropology, archeology, linguistics, botany, physics, journalism, among others. Its content provides new perspectives for studies and research on Africa and also for the dissemination of ethnic-racial relations in the Brazilian educational system.
The eight volumes that comprise the collection covers the continent from Prehistory to the 1980s, passing through Ancient Egypt, several dynasties and civilizations, slave trade, European colonization and the independence of many countries. Africa is highlighted as the cradle of humankind and as of fundamental contribution to the culture and production of world scientific knowledge.
Besides revealing a history unknown to most of the population, the work refutes preconceived ideas, such as stating that the Sahara desert has isolated both the north and the south of the continent. Conversely, after research carried out to prepare the collection, it was proved that the desert has functioned as an exchange area, integrating Ancient Egypt to the dynamics of the continent. The work also shows that Africa has maintained permanent contacts with Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. Moreover, it breaks with the traditional idea according to which the African continent was inhabited by tribes and not by organized societies.
Since it plays an important role in the African diaspora - and being the country with the largest African originated population -, Brazil is mentioned in some chapters of the collection, when the African influence on Brazilian culture is analyzed. However, within the innovated perspective the work suggests, the other side is also shown: black people who returned to the continent after the Abolition period and took the Brazilian culture to countries such as Guinea, Nigeria, Benin and Togo, as it can be noticed from the building architecture technique. Moreover, they had a social, political, economic and development influence on these regions.
The work of nearly 10,000 pages was elaborated through 30 years by 350 researchers, coordinated by a scientific committee composed of 39 experts, two thirds of them being Africans.
Basis for transformation
Not only is the Collection a research base for specialists and professionals around the world who somehow deal with the history of the continent, but also subsidizes the training of teachers of several areas of knowledge. Furthermore, it is source for teaching materials production aimed at schools. In Brazil, in 2011, the three organizations will launch a series of materials, such as teachers’ books, interactive portal and atlas, for all levels of basic education.
The initiative contributes to the implementation of the Law 10639/2003 (National Curriculum Guidelines for the Education of Racial-Ethnic Relations and the Teaching of Afro-Brazilian and African History and Culture). Symbolic for the country, the law points to a change in attitude concerning the approach to racial-ethnic issues. With the support of the collection and educational materials, the implementation of the law has the ability to transform interracial relationships in school and therefore in the Brazilian society.
The Portuguese edition of UNESCO’s General History of Africa Collection will be distributed and available in all municipal, state and district public libraries, in the libraries of higher education institutions, of the Centers of the Open University of Brazil, of the Afro-Brazilian Studies Centers, of the Educational State or District Councils. The eight volumes is available for download at UNESCO website and Ministry of Education website.