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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 43, Issue 1, 2022

Issue cover
Cover Caption: Tobenna Okwuosa, Before you, mother Idoto, naked I stand…under your power wait I on barefoot, watchman for the watchword at heavensgate…, 2015.

Part II—Essays

Reflections on a Common Purpose in Expanding the Frontiers of Global African Scholarship

The enormous contributions of global African scholars to the academic fields of arts, social sciences, and humanities cannot be understated. This accomplishment has not received adequate recognition in a world dominated by Western scholarship. This domination is not unexpected because the production, distribution, and consumption of knowledge are historically charged, both politically and economically. It is not accidental that the domineering “international” publishers and journals in the global academy are based in the West. Knowledge production in the field of African studies has been affected by this reality. Hence, there is an urgent need to transcend current methodological and pedagogical approaches. Because knowledge is the bulwark of the survival of any group of people, global African scholars in the field of African studies have the mandate of heeding the warnings of the Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Diop. Diop has argued that for African scholarship to attain the distinct recognition it deserves, scholars have the duty of uncovering the commonness and interconnectedness of global African peoples’ historical experiences. While it is correct that geography plays a great role in the production of historical knowledge, the direction of African studies can be aimed at creating a platform for a homogenized pan-African mandate. This paper charged that in achieving the mission of adequate knowledge production by African scholars for the use of global Africans and of the world, the African academy must necessarily be liberated from the dominance of Western scholarship. There will be a reliance on primary and secondary sources in making a case for an encompassing pan-African emancipatory scholarship.

Energy Trajectories and Solar Energy Imaginaries of the Maasai

Solar energy development in Tanzania is steeped in discourses of Western technological transfer whereby the devices themselves are lauded as central innovating agents—the “doers”—that are solutions to local poverty. The trend intensifies in Maasai spaces, where a long history of marginalization in development projects has shaped the narratives of energy change around the practices and perspectives of pastoralists. In this paper, drawing from ethnographic work on Tanzania’s solar energy landscape, including 50 unstructured interviews with Maasai herders, city-dwellers of Arusha, Tanzania, and representatives from foreign solar energy firms, I show how the Maasai reconfigure incoming solar energy devices through locally generated knowledges, philosophies, and technologies in calculated efforts to chart their own futures. Using a sociotechnical imaginaries approach, I analyze interviews, historical literature and other relevant documents to underscore how Maasai pastoralists are central innovating agents in a shifting sociotechnical landscape who engineer and inscribe their own meanings onto solar power. The Maasai repurpose solar energy technologies as tools of negotiation between modern development initiatives prioritized by the national government and foreign solar companies and their own desires to remain anchored to elastic ancestral traditions grounded in the special relationship between herders and livestock. By discussing how solar energy is used and imagined in Maasai communities and combining that analysis with a history of top-down energy imaginaries in Tanzania, I hope to provide new platforms for (re-)imagining solar energy, pastoralism, and Maasai participation in technological futures.

The Resistance Movement of the Mareko People against the Fascist Aggression and Occupation in South-central Ethiopia

The primary objective of the present paper is to explore the patriotic resistance movement of the Mareko people of south-central Ethiopia against Italy’s colonialist aggression and five-year occupation between 1935 and 1941. The paper also uncovers the role played by the Mareko people and other ethno-linguistic individual freedom fighters who opposed the Fascist administration within the Mareko woreda (district). Though the then governor of the Dobena sub-district and his officers became the leading collaborators (banda) with the Fascist administrators, the majority of the Mareko people strongly resisted these detractors. Like other nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia, the estimated 110 Mareko marched against the invaders at the battle of Maychew in 1936 despite enduring major casualties. Acknowledging the local spiritual leadership of Wärѐqѐ Märeyamѐ and Qegnazmach Tuji Anjilo, this paper celebrates the local Mareko defiance in staving off the encroaching Italian regime’s divide and rule tactics specifically, and retaliatory colonialism in general.

A King or A Priest in the City of 201 Gods: Interrogating the Place of the Oòni in the Religious system of Ilé-Ifè in Southwest Nigeria

The tradition of the origin of the Yorùbá people of Western Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Togo, and the Diaspora indicate one source, Ilé-Ifè, where the varieties of their indigenous political system originated. However, since the colonial period, a debate remains about the place of the Oòni, the King of Ilé-Ifè, in the political and religious systems of the Yorùbá nation, which has led to a perennial discourse across Yorùbáland. Using literature, primary sources such as oral interviews, and participant observations of rituals and festivals spanning several years, this study critically analyses the position of the Oòni in the religious system of Ilé-Ifè. The findings of this study reveal that the festivals in Ilé-Ifè are within the purview of certain family compounds headed by the Ìsòrò (king-priests). It also discovered that the mandatory performance of the Oòni in Ifè festivals is limited the Ìdìó, Olójó, Edì, Ìtàpá, Pokùlere and Ifá festivals only. The participatory role of the Oòni is reflective of the commemoration of the important culture heroes of Ile-Ife who have reigned before Lajamisan, the originator of the current dynasty in the Ìtàpá festival of Obàtálá, Ìdìó festival of Odùduwà, Olójó festival of Ògún, and Pokùlere festival of Obalùfòn. The study further reveals that in the Edì and Ifá festivals, the Oòni re-enacts the performance of the previous Ifè kings in the epochal events in the history of Ilé-Ifè considered important enough to be re-enacted. In line with existing debate about the nature of the religious or political status of the King of Ifè, this study concludes that the structure of the Ifè religious system does not underscore the Johnsonian theory ascribing the role of a chief priest to the Oòni.

Retelling the Mau Mau Past from the Mbeere Perspective

This article analyzes the contested historical narrative behind the Mbeere’s role in the Mau Mau movement. Specifically, it explores the role of memorialization and marginalization in reconfiguring this past. With respect to the latter, the Mbeere were ostracized from the Mau Mau movement after the Kenyan Parliament, headed by Dedan Kimathi, sought to consolidate support by encouraging local officials to lobby bordering ethnic groups. As a result, the Mbeere, who were suspected to be pro-government and anti-Mau Mau, faced brutal reprisals from the Kikuyu and the Embu, key players in the movement. Although the physical violence may have ended, the symbolic violence of denial and ostracism persists as the Mau Mau movement’s memory is popularized and commodified through the British government’s acknowledgement of their abuse against Kenyans in the Mau Mau struggle. The dominant history of the Mau Mau rebellion is harrowing for the Mbeere Mau Mau veterans, who in fact existed and fought tenaciously against the British but were subsequently omitted from these narratives. This article draws on oral testimonies and archival sources to explore this history and potential avenues for official recognition and memorialization.

Transnational Migration, Identity, and the African Literary Experience

This essay seeks to examine transnational migration by looking primarily at 20 th- century writers historicizing the concept of the ‘post-colonial’ and pointing to its development as captured in their writing. In the paper, transnational migration is viewed as the movement of persons across national boundaries where the migrants live their lives across borders, participating simultaneously in social relations that embed them in more than one nation-state, and in which there is a process by which such immigrants forge and sustain multi-stranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement. Going by this definition, all major African writers (such as Ayi Kwei Armah, Chinua Achebe, Ben Okri, and the like), with the possible exception of Ayi Kwei Armah, are transmigrants. This is because their migration took place—is taking place—within fluid social spaces and identity-forming contexts, which are constantly reworked through their simultaneous connectedness to more than one society. In this case, the term that better expresses this situation is ‘post-colonial’. Although there is a growing community of African writers and artists living in the West, it is uncertain how they might influence the events, politics, and cultural discussions within their original homeland. The conclusion is that it is not clear how the transmigration of African intellectuals could help shape the identity and tenor of the post-colonial African literary experience, which has been historically and culturally shaped by the impact of the African colonial experience. In this sense, then, recent migration by the African literati (specifically novelists) to the West is only the latest version of the pull that Europe and the United States of America exert on African post-colonial identity. This is not likely to slow down in the foreseeable future.