Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of the Tarzan movies, had never set foot in Africa, yet his vision of a “savage Africa” stuck in the mind of millions of people. Africa, for the most part, is no longer perceived by students as being a country filled with wild and uncivilized people.
Thanks to “20/20,” “60 Minutes,” and “The McLear Report,” The Tarzan and Jane syndrome has been shattered. Even
is making great strides in presenting African people in a more sophisticated light.
The mass media are contemporary vehicles for expressing and propagating modern man’s understanding of culture and heritage. Because of the media, the world knows that McDonald’s and Coke have multi-million dollar franchises in Africa, and that Nigeria is the major source of crude for the Gulf Oil Company. Students are now willing to say that Africans are like us in that they too eat Big Mac’s and drink cokes. Students also know that oil companies are establishing friendly ties with Africa because Africa is abundant in a commodity that America desperately needs.
Thanks to the media, students are knowledgeable of the exotic plant life and animal kingdom of Africa. With the improvement in photographic lenses and color precision, students can almost experience the sensation of actually being in the presence of African plants, animals and people.
All of this has been good for students; yet, the media have not been successful in presenting the African point of view of Africa and other Africans. Not that it is the media’s responsibility to educate the world; but the media have not satisfactorily focused on the thoughts, biases and idiosyncrasies of individual African people. While images of under-developed Africa and starving babies have been proven not to be the general condition of Africa, students are still baffled when it comes to understanding how Africans feel about the European powers that penetrated African soil, culture and tradition.
Therefore, the purpose of this unit will be to introduce the students to a brief history of the European powers that were of tremendous influence on African lifestyles. This brief history will be a comparative study of Britain, France and Germany. The following comparisons will be made:
the stability of domestic affairs of each country before African exploration;
the technological advancements of each country;
the philosophy of each country;
the area of conquest each country made in Africa;
the contributions each country made in Africa.
Also in this unit, the students will be introduced to novels that depict an authentic point of view on African tradition and culture.
This brief history will enable the students to associate places and events in the novels with the political and social situations presented in the novels. The students will be able to explain how the authors’ subject matter and writing style have been influenced by Britain, France and Germany.
The students will be required to read four novels.
Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe and
Cry The Beloved Country
by Alan Paton will be read in class.
by Peter Abrahams and
The Dark Child
by Camara Laye will be read out-of-class. (See bibliography for annotations).
The teacher will guide the students through the first two novels and relate events and ideas in the novel to African history. The latter novels will be a mandatory out-of-class assignment, which is intended to be a pedagogical device that moves the students towards improving their independent reading skills.
The students will be quizzed on the independent reading assignments as well as on the in-class assignments. The final examination depends on the students having read the four novels. The students will be required to write a composition that ties in ideas from the four novels.
Since most students have been taught that Africans are uncivilized, to prove to the students that Africans had a rich civilization before the advent of the Europeans, the students will be provided with a working definition of “civilization.” This definition will involve several characteristics of a civilization, which are:
1. A civilization must have some urban development;
2. A civilization must have some form of government;
3. The people must use metal;
4. The people must have a specialization;
5. The people must have a sense of time and leisure.
These characteristics will help the students determine the degree of sophistication that existed in Africa before the advent of the missionaries. The students will use these definitions to analyze each novel. This method will allow the students to be consistent in determining the civility of African tradition and culture.
The remainder of this paper will include “British, French and German Influence in Africa” or the brief history mentioned above. The teacher may have students take notes on this section or the teacher may have copies of this section made for student use.