Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

African History Revisited

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African History Revisited in Paris Exhibit

Africa in Words, a blog I follow, had a story about an exhibit in France that shows the depth of African history. It’s called “African Roads,” or “L’Afrique des routes.”

Nok, earliest identified culture in Nigeria, between about 500 BC and about AD 200

Nok, earliest identified culture in Nigeria, between about 500 BC and about AD 200.

The African history exhibit, “looks at the important role of African communities and resources, which range in the exhibit from ivory, pearls, and copper to labor, music, cartography, and botany,” the article says. “It places Africa at the center of economic and social development across global history.”

One of the pieces that demonstrates the rich history and the reach of Africans is a fresco. It depicts scenes from Africa that inspired ancient Greeks and Romans.

“The accurate depiction of wildlife specific to Sub-Saharan and central regions of Africa helps one to understand the vast social connections already established by this early period, well beyond the North African coast,” I read. I find this fascinating.

The African history exhibit traces events to the modern day.

The exhibit shows how African people and resources were exploited by colonialists. But the writer is critical of the exhibit curators for giving limited attention to France’s own role as a colonial power. It also depicts little of the influence of Africa in French culture today.

Historic center of Agadez in Niger

Historic center of Agadez in Niger developed in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The article concludes, “Overall, ‘African Roads’ is an engaging display of the long history of creativity and ingenuity across the African continent that has shaped global development from the very early periods of human civilization.”

The exhibit at the Quai Branly Museum (Musée du Quai Branly) ends next week. So I won’t see it. But if you are in Paris you still have time! If you go, please share your impressions.

I hope it will be come to other museums, especially here in the U.S.

Africa is Not A Single Entity (and certainly not a country!)

Even though the exhibit in Paris talks about African history, it does not treat it as a single story. It traces strands from all parts of Africa.

From Brittle Paper, I found an article in Huffington Post South Africa about comments from Nigerian-Ghanaian author Taiye Selasi. She was visiting South Africa.

Author Taiye Selasi was speaking in South Africa.

Author Taiye Selasi was speaking in South Africa.

People should stop saying South Africa is not African enough, she says. “In order to say that South Africa doesn’t feel like Africa, you would have to first believe in a huge fallacy, which is that Africa is one thing.”

When someone is describing an African experience, they must say where in Africa there are. Locality is crucial to understanding what someone describes, she says.

I just went to Wikipedia to read her bio. “Of Nigerian and Ghanaian origin, she describes herself as a “local” of Accra, Berlin, New York and Rome.” She doesn’t include Lagos, I notice. Her picture is from Wikipedia.

I also found she is a fellow alum of Yale! She graduated “summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in American Studies,” while I earned an MBA from Yale’s School of Management.”

And the name Taiye? Of course! I should have known she is the elder twin. The first-born of twins among the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria is customarily named Taiye, or Taiwo, which is how I’ve known it. The other twin is always Kehinde.

Stew Leonards Store in Norwalk CT

Kenechi, Beth, Ikem and me watching the train at Stew's

Kenechi, Beth, Ikem and me watching the train at Stew’s

Are you familiar with Stew Leonard’s?  It began as a small dairy in Norwalk Connecticut, and, “has grown to become not only the World’s Largest Dairy Store, but one of the most renowned grocery stores, with annual sales of almost $400 million and almost 2,000 Team Members.”

There are now six stores. Stew’s is known for customer service. On their website, they say, “At Stew Leonard’s, we follow a principle so important that we etched it into a three-ton granite rock! Rule 1: The customer is always right! Rule 2: If the customer is ever wrong, reread Rule 1!”

The Norwalk store, like the others, is an amazing place! It does not look like a traditional grocery store. Instead, “the aisle configurations guide customers to walk through the entire store (although there are short cuts). As customers walk through the aisles, they are greeted by various employees dressed up in costumes.” There are also singing, dancing, and whirling figures, an animal farm, and a model train overhead.

Kenechi and Mary with the cow

Kenechi and Mary with the cow

My favorite is the large cow with a button to make it moo.

Children love Stew Leonard’s, which means mothers who have their kids with them when shopping like to go there.

I suggested taking Ikem, our 4-year old grandson, today. Our daughter Beth and her family, with their older son Kenechi’s girlfriend Mary, were here.

Mary was thrilled. She had studied Stew’s as a case in her marketing class at Cornell, but had never seen the store.

She said her class discussion featured their excellent marketing. Now she knows it’s all true!

We had a great time!

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.

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