Senegal Celebrates Pioneer of African Historical past Cheikh Anta Diop

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This 29 December marks the a centesimal birthday of one of the vital influential African students of the twentieth century: Cheikh Anta Diop, who pioneered a brand new understanding of the continent’s place in historical past and left an everlasting legacy in his native Senegal and past.

A specialist in nuclear physics in addition to a passionate linguist, anthropologist and historian, the Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop laid the inspiration for a rewriting of African historical past, past colonial prejudices.

As an Egyptologist, he studied the African roots of historical Egypt, defending and proving Africa’s elementary place within the historical past of humanity, and its contribution to different nice civilisations.

“Egypt is to the remainder of black Africa what Greece and Rome are to the western world,” he notably wrote.

A politician in later life, he was a fervent advocate of Pan-Africanism and a determined opponent of Léopold Sédar Senghor, Senegal’s first president after independence and one other influential cultural theorist.

Diop’s works have influenced generations, and proceed to encourage the event of African-centred scholarship and the Pan-African motion.

A polymath pioneer

Born in 1923 within the village of Thieytou, a few hundred kilometres east of Dakar, Diop got here from a Wolof household of aristocratic origin.

From 1946, Diop went to check in Paris. He first selected physics and chemistry earlier than turning to philosophy and historical past.

He learn the canon of European thinkers extensively, but his thesis addressed “precolonial black Africa” and the “cultural unity of black Africa”.

From that time on he labored to unskew European-centric views and domesticate Afrocentrism.

He opened the primary radiocarbon courting laboratory in Africa to check historic paperwork from Historical Egypt, and gathered proof that the Pharaonic civilisation was black African.

When Senegal turned one of many first international locations to declare independence from the French Empire in 1960, Diop returned house and devoted the next many years to instructing, analysis and politics.

Politically, he turned a nationalist and an advocate for African federalism.

African historical past reimagined

A prolific author, Diop authored many works on the previous – and future – of Africa, together with his influential Negro Nations and Tradition (printed in 1954) and The African Origin of Civilisation: Fable or Actuality (1974).

He notably labored on the writing of a “Basic Historical past of Africa” for Unesco.