Home     Events     Store     The Center     The Founders     Gallery     News     Contact Us     Join Us

Ancient Egyptian Wisdom ... Daily Practice

Sunday, May 23, 2010


On April 22 the New York Times Op-Ed column published an article by Harvard University professor, Henry Louis Gates titled, “Ending the Slavery Blame-Game.” Professor Gates argues that Europeans and Africans are equally responsible for the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, both sides profited from the arrangement and as a result the African American call for reparations isn’t workable. He believes since the U.S. now has an African American president, this debate can be properly put to rest. Such arguments are quiet disturbing, need to be challenged and require the many pointes made by Mr. Gates to be placed in proper perspective.

Professor Gates asserts that 90 percent of the blacks shipped to the new world and sold to Europeans were Africans enslaved by other Africans. However, he fails to mention that the institution of slavery was introduced to Africa by Asiatic and European people. Before the intrusion of these groups slavery in its contemporary definition did not exist. What could be classified as slavery in ancient Africa actually was indentured servitude. The people subjected to this circumstance were either imprisoned criminals, individuals who were being punished by requirement to perform menial tasks, prisoners of war and individuals working to pay off a debt. These people were not separated from their families, were allowed to marry within the family and society where they worked and could graduate through the social strata to become chiefs and kings. They were not dehumanized and were eventually released from this arrangement. This is a practice that goes back to ancient Kemet and Dr. Ivan Van Sertima explains that even the ruler of Kemet would spend one day during the year working with the indentured servants building the temples. For African people there was nothing demeaning about labor.

Many African centered scholars have conducted extensive field research on African civilizations and arrived at the same conclusion about slavery. Chancellor Williams for example spent 15 years doing research for his monumental work, “The Destruction of Black Civilization.” He traveled to North, South, East, West and Central Africa gathering data and learned that indentured servitude was practiced throughout the continent. In “Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust,” Dr. John Henrik Clarke relays similar findings in his travels and research specifically on slavery in Africa. In “Afrikan Theology, Cosmogony & Philosophy,” author Ekow Butweiku I explains that in his research conducted in Africa he learned that a system of wageless labor was practiced known as panyarring. Africans captured in wars were also subject to panyarring however, “they could move about freely and acquire property.” Thus, it can be concluded with much certainty that African people did not engage in the dehumanizing chattel slavery that Europeans instituted.

A friend of mine participated in an exchange program in Ghana for several months while in college. In her interactions with the Ghanaians they expressed anger that they and their ancestors were being blamed for the African Slave Trade. They explained that in the traditional Ghanaian language, there is no word for slave and that no such system existed there. It is quite surprising to hear that in this nation where the slave trade was initiated, there is no word to even describe the system on which it is based. However, the pre-existence of slavery on the African continent has often been used as justification for the holocaust implemented against people of that world. In actuality, the word slave is of European origin. According to the Miriam Webster Dictionary, the word slave comes “from the frequent enslavement of Slavs in central Europe during the early Middle Ages.” We must therefore recognize how problematic it is to use terminology from a European culture and understanding to define a system in Africa which has a totally different connotation. These are points that Professor Gates fails to take into consideration in his piece.

Slave raiders such as John Hawkins learned about the African system of wageless labor and decided that it could be exploited to enslave these people in the new world. Through guile and cunning actions Europeans instigated rifts between African nations and when the groups went to war with each other, captives would be purchased from the winner for transport to Europe and America. The number one weapon in their conquest was religion in the form of Christianity. Missionaries were often the first people sent in as spies in various African nations to befriend and convert African kings. The nation would subsequently convert after the king and then European mercenaries would commit their raids once the people had been subconsciously and spiritually conquered.

Sadly, there were Africans who got involved in slave raiding but such cases were manipulated by Europeans through force and the use of intoxicants. Enslaved Africans captured by the Europeans were used for the capture of additional victims. There were very few cases of independent slave raids by Africans for sale to Europeans. This circumstance clearly proclaims the so called slave trade as commerce purely instigated by European people because it was a demand driven business. Enslaved Africans were not just sitting on the shores of the gold coast waiting to be sold to the highest bidder.

Furthermore, if there were Africans benefiting from the slave trade as professor Gates asserts, what happened to the wealth they amassed from this commerce? The revenue generated during the African slave trade catapulted Europe and America into the industrial age!! If Africans took part in this industry, the logical outcome should be that they would have advanced economically and technologically as well. The reality of the situation is that they didn’t and the entire continent was subsequently underdeveloped due to population loss, the decimation of agriculture and an epidemic of wars.

While Professor Gates articulates the role Africans played in the slave trade, he doesn’t mention the resistance to the system on the continent. Individuals such as Queen Nzingha pioneered wars of defense and national solidarity against the Portuguese occupation of her land. She was able to gain the loyalty of Africans who were being used by the Portuguese as slave holders and waged guerrilla warfare with the enemy. While she had converted to Catholicism, she did so to use it as a means to empower herself and used it as a political tool when it suited her unlike many other Africans who became spiritually enslaved by the religion. Later on in life she even renounced her Christian name Anna and only went solely by Nzingha. Based on the facts presented, it is quite befuddling that Mr. Gates would accuse this African Queen of selling the very people she fought to liberate to the invading enslaver.

In his article, professor Gates also asserts “the African role in the slave trade was greatly reduced after 1807, when abolitionists, first in Britain and then, a year later, in the United States, succeeded in banning the importation of slaves.” However, all the slave trading nations were doing the same thing during this period. At this point in time revenue from the slave trade in the Caribbean was either static or in decline with the exception of a few islands. Furthermore, while abolitionists were fighting to stop the trade, they weren’t in support of emancipation for the slaves. Men like William Wilberforce who championed dissolving the slave trade in Britain opposed emancipation with the following argument, “Our object and our universal language was and is, to produce by abolition a disposition to breed instead of buying.” It wasn’t until 1823 that the idea of emancipation was adopted by abolitionists.

Another rationale for the cessation of the slave trade was international and inter-colonial rivalry. Upon investigation Britain learned that French and Spanish colonies were benefiting from the re-export of slaves shipped into British territories. This circumstance gave Britain more reason to abolish the trading system in hopes of slowing the progress of its rivals. Subsequently, the elevation of revolts also made the slave trade no longer profitable. The successful Haitian revolution led to an escalation of insurrections that spread fear throughout the colonies which further supported the movement towards abolition.

With the above facts inconsideration, the origin, nature and rationale for the African slave trade should place in its proper context that is truly responsible for its perpetuation. What Professor Gates has done in his piece is inadvertently or intentionally placed the blame on the victim for their enslavement, subsequently vindicating the enslaver. Europe and the U.S. still owe the descendants of enslaved Africans a great deal of reparations. This fact is something that is being ignored because the payments would be so vast that it would bankrupt and cripple so many of these nations. When high profile individuals in the African community such as Skip Gates comes out and makes such remarks, it gives these former slave masters reason to not entertain the reparations issue. The record must be set straight and thankfully many African scholars have organized themselves to address Professor Gates’ piece and continue the argument that justice is due to the former enslaved Africans of the world. It is the only way we can ever create a better world and live within the divine principle of Ma’at. The Kemites said it best, “Qualities of a moral order are measured by deeds.” Thank you for reading.


Slave: Etymology. http://www.britannica.com/bps/dictionary?query=slave

Did We Sell Each Other into Slavery?: http://www.africawithin.com/maafa/did_we_sell.htm

Williams, Chancellor. 1987, “The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D.,” Chicago, Third World Press

Clarke, John Henrik. 1993, “Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust: Slavery and the Rise of European Capitalism,” Brooklyn, NY, A&B Publisher Group

Butweiku I, Ekow, 1999, “Afrikan Theology, Cosmogony & Philosophy,” Hampton, VA, The Lumumba Book Printers & Co.

Van Sertima, Ivan, 1984. “Black Women in Antiquity,” Piscataway, NJ, Transaction Publishers

Williams, Eric. 1970, “From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean,” New York, Random House, Inc.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

King Tut Unwrapped: A Critique

In November 1922, English archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Since the discovery much information about Tut’s life has been a mystery. In February this year previously unknown information about Tut was unveiled which culminated with a two part program that aired on The Discovery Channel. While the discoveries presented were quite enlightening, much of it is still questionable while additional information is desirable.

The program had several objectives including establishing who were the parents and grand parents of Tutankhamun, identifying the cause of his death, and providing new details on his reign. Overseeing this production was Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. To ascertain all the desired information Zahi and his team investigated various tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. Two to four DNA samples were taken from several mummies, Tut being the first of them. By matching several DNA markers, the researchers were able identify Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye as Tut’s grandparents, and an unidentified mummy as Akhenaton who they also confirmed as Tut’s father. A third mummy was identified as his mother but her name still remained anonymous.

Further DNA analysis also identified genes specific to malaria parasites in Tutankhamun and three other mummies. The research team “infer(ed) that Tut suffered from a vascular bone necrosis, a condition in which poor blood supply weakens or destroys an area of bone, plus malaria.” CT scans of the mummies also concluded that Tut’s royal family didn’t suffer from a hormonal disease which gave them a feminine or androgynous appearance. This idea was assumed due to the depictions of the family in art from their time period.

While these discoveries are a welcomed bit of education, many issues still weren’t addressed in the investigation. For one, the ethnicity of the mummies was never addressed. There DNA studies revealed so much vital information about the Tut family, however, their racial make up was left out of the picture. It is indisputable and irrefutable that the ancient Kemites were indigenous African people. However, throughout the program several reenactments of the Tut family and other Kemites were portrayed by people of Arab descent. At certain points in the program while Zahi is investigating the tombs, the drawings on the walls around him clearly depict the people of the land as being African.

Now, there are several ways to prove that the ancient Kemites were African people. For one all the major golden ages of dynastic Kemet were initiated by kings who originated from the south in Upper Kemet closer to Nubia. There is no way for one to argue that Arabic people originated in the South of Kemet, closer to the heartland of Africa. Another way to prove the ethnicity of the Kemites is to collect as many pictures of all the rulers of the four golden ages, and sit them and their family members side by side. It will be clear to the eye that these people depict the phenotypical traits of African people. A third way to prove the race of the Kemites is to show that there is a cultural, political, linguistic and spiritual unity between it and all other kingdoms in Africa. The combination of these three points and others prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, the ethnicity of the Kemites.

Furthermore, Arabic people didn’t gain control of Kemet until 651 A.C.E. when they invaded the land. It was then that the cultural and racial make-up of Kemet changed. This era ushered in an influx of Arabic people from Southwestern Asia. It is thus quite baffling that Zahi Hawass and the producers of his program did not present the ancient Kemites as African people. However, this is what happens when a people don’t know their history or lack the means to present it to the masses. Noam Chomsky says, “He who controls the media controls the minds of the public.”

From this assertion we can understand how devastating it is for African people to not be identified as the creators of one of the greatest civilizations in history. Without the world universally recognizing Kemet as an African nation creates a negative perception of African people and a misinterpretation of the culture. Many Egyptologists from other cultures in studying ancient Kemet come to wrongful conclusions about various aspects of the nation. One example of this is the assumption stated earlier that the Tut family had an androgynous appearance. Individuals who are truly knowledgeable of the culture understand that such depictions were purely symbolic. This bit of information I learned myself from attending guided tours of Kemetic exhibits with the Center for the Restoration of Ma’at at the Brooklyn Museum and The Metropolitan Museum here in New York City.

Jabari Osaze (DjedenMa'at Aten-Ra) and the late Dr. Asa G. Hilliard both do impressive jobs of explaining symbolism in Kemetic culture. The writing and art of this civilization is purely metaphorical and convey messages and lessons for the people of the land to learn from. If one conducts a study of Akhenaton and his reform of Kemet’s spiritual system, it will be easy to understand how his philosophy influenced the art at that time and what message he was trying to convey.

It is therefore essential that the rightful owners of Kemet’s legacy reclaim it so they may properly present it to the world. The Center for the Restoration of Ma’at is committed to this effort. The Center will conduct at least two tours of the Tutankhamun Exhibit currently at New York City's Discovery Time Square Exposition in order to provide an African centered explanation of who Tutankhamun was and the mystery surrounding his death. In closing I will state an ancient Kemetic proverb, “To know means to record in one's memory; but to understand means to blend with the thing and to assimilate it with oneself.” Thank you for reading.


Begley: King Tut's DNA Reveals a More Manly Pharaoh: http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/thehumancondition/archive/2010/02/16/begley-king-tut-s-dna-reveals-a-more-manly-pharaoh.aspx

The Master Keys to the Study of Ancient Kemet: http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/kemet.html

Kemetic Chronology: A Summary: http://www.cwo.com/~lucumi/Baffour-chart.pdf