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  • Yazarın fotoğrafıEndris Mekonnen Faris

African Civilization and The Damage Colonization Did To It

Identity, Education, Arts

Cheikh Anta Diop, the doyen of African history, on the first page of his prominent book titled “THE AFRICAN ORIGIN OF CIVILIZATION: Myth or Reality” depicted the Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt. And, he did that for a reason the entire pages of the 1974 book he detailed about African civilization. The central thesis of his arguments asserted that Africa has been a cradle of civilization endogenous to the continent only to suffer distortions, alterations, and worst of all the lasting damage of colonization by the European imperialists.  

What makes a particular society distinct as such has greatly to do with what a civilization that very society has been distinguished with. Civilizations of all sorts mark key attributes of humankind that have lived and have been living in collective terms. African civilization holds one among several civilizations our planet has been accommodating since time immemorial and unique to the continent the African Nation lives in. Such rich and interestingly diverse civilization has for long been flourishing in the geography peacefully until the dawn of the 18th century that ushered in the barbaric European invasions turned colonialism.

Familiar to the continent of Africa due to the slave trade which Africans themselves took share for a significant blame, it has never been difficult as some historians argue to invade the noble land. The invasion came at a concert as it followed broader concessions among powerful European powers for what is well known to history as the scramble for Africa. The preliminary attempt to simply exploit the natural resources for which they solely invaded the land, convinced the armed Europeans to apply a holistic and the said lasting measure.

In doing so the approach would enable the invaders not only to control the resource-rich vast swaths of territories but also the people indigenous to Africa. As such ancient African identity, education systems, monuments, just a few among many others, became targets of oppression, alteration, and most importantly extinction by the invaders. African civilization in general appeared to be the target of the slave traders turned invaders so that the resource exploitation of Africa now became efficient and complete.

The concerted invasion of Africans the Europeans ruthlessly practiced created colonies mainly on the basis of resource acquirement among themselves and also would parallelly make it easier to manipulate African civilization. The colonies ruled under a comprehensive ruling system widely known to be colonization. At its apex, the colonization system stretched across the continent bringing about nearly 75 percent of the African population under full control of such six European powers as Britain, France, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, and Italy.     

At its very distinct feature, Colonization does a direct merciless attack against its subject seeking a complete submission to its subjugations. A society is subject to colonization and the cost is facing detachment from its societal chemistry to the extent that the subject at the receiving end would adopt another identity at full scale or incorporate key elements of other identities into its own. A textbook example of this could be that several African local languages have been spoken and mingled significantly with either English or French to the extent that some local languages lost their indigenous language structure, nor they are pure English or French.  The impact hence would be losing one's identity completely and/or would take a longer period to retrieve one. Upon its arrival, the colonialist force retained a part of African civilization that could go with its approach of ruling and dismantled others deemed to deter its rule.

Key Manifestations of African Civilization

Civilization manifests in forms that embody its uniqueness and structural presence in a society where it flourishes-common to all humans and geographies. Identity, Education, and monumental (selected here for analysis purpose) stand here.


Civilization constitutes an important bloc of a polity with a recognizable identity. Civilization marks the attainment of a structural existence of a political society distinguishing the self as one or another but different from the other. Long before the advent the devastating colonialism African nation evolved into a recognizable societal identity that fit the very geographical location of the continent. In mass terms, slavery challenged that African-ness, and then the same Europeans unleashed the force of violent colonialism that impacted the identity of the wider inhabitants of Africa for centuries now.

Colonization engendered such lasting damage to the continent to the extent that Africa currently lives a regrettable experience that its inheritors aspire to a civilization that symbolizes the colonizers’ identity, not the self. As African civilization is made to exist void of African identity, or filled with identity that symbolizes backwardness and poverty it looks inevitable that a brainwashed generation could simply grab what is available and “attractive” too.  Despite this major impact, proud Africans both in the continent and diaspora significantly embrace the African civilization that carries their identity and the nation’s true color rooted in such strong constituting factors as linguistics, history, culture, and psychology.     



It was and is through education that civilization comes alive, protected, and transferred to the generation to come. African systems of education extended and practiced across the continents for centuries became an important target of the European colonizers and was replaced by the missionary system of education. The key aspect of the missionary education system aims at turning the religiously diverse colonies into a single religion, Christianity. Post-colonial Africa more or less practices curriculum exogenous to its very social fabrics.

African nations are left completely dependent on an education system that has originally been formulated to reflect, promote, and sustain importantly un-African civilization. For the colonization system to achieve its exploitation objectives education methods that constituted core aspects of the continent and endogenous to the African nation were made irrelevant and replaced. Civilization-ingrained African education systems were labeled as undeveloped and backward while the colonizers’ education ingrained with the West’s civilization was made acceptable and superior.

Arts: Monuments and Artifacts

Africans crafted artifacts and monuments that represent a significant level of sophistication in African civilization before the advent of the damaging colonialism to the continent. Colonialism dashed the world’s finest African arts that go back as far as the civilizations of the third and fourth centuries BC. The aforementioned colonizers targeted African tangible arts; key parts of the continents’ collective values unique to the colors of the geography.

Widespread looting, merciless burning, smuggling, and orchestrated ransacking and damaging characterize the entire period of the colonialism African civilization endured as far as the nations’ monuments and artifacts are concerned. Numerous African-made monuments and artifacts have been subject to deliberate destruction and a forceful taking away from their land of origin to European countries. Africa never became the same after all this was done to it.

Over the last recent decades, Africans openly engaged and concert efforts to bring back monuments and artifacts that still exist in European countries. Promising results indicate that more efforts could lead to the return markers of African civilization to home. Italy, Britain, and Belgium lead an exemplary action of returning the antiques in their possessions. Belgium, for instance, has reportedly returned thousands of objects it took from its former colony, currently Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).


The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality-

Mental Alienation and African Identity: Exploring Historical Perspectives in Response to Crises of African Society:

How Did British Colonial Education in Africa Become a Reason for Decolonization? -

Stealing Africa: How Britain looted the continent’s art-

Educational reconstruction and post-colonial  curriculum development: A comparative study of four African countries-

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