Author: Geofrey Parrinder
PUBLISHER: Peter Bedrick Books, New York
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 1986 (Third Reprint, 1991).
Number of pages: 144
Reviewed by: Hannington Ochwada.
Africa is portrayed in two different ways, in the positive and the negative. In ancient classical stories and discourses, for instance, it is portrayed as a land where religious inspiration and civilisation came from. The Greeks, Phoenicians and other Mediterrenean peoples got the names of their deities and religious practices from ancient Ethiopia via Egypt. Classical writers such as Herodotus, Strabo and Pliny all attest to this.
Many African masks|
represent in realistic
and stylised form
the heads of animals
which are believed to
have great power,
A painted |
The author also examines the races that make up the people of Africa classifying them as "Negroes" and "Hamites". This classification was tenable in imperialist literature. However, while anthropologically, it distinguishes African people, it pins racist labels on Africans, assigning Europeans the civilising role while Africans played that of the subordinates.
The racist connotations, notwithstanding, there are several myths recounted in the text including that of the creation of the world which acknowledges the respect Africans had for the Supreme Being and the role God played in their lives.
God was assigned various attributes and his role dramatised in all aspects of their lives. Given this realisation, the Supreme Being and other deities are variously portrayed in art, and especially in the poetry of the African communities. Moreover, oracles and divination, witches and monsters, the secret societies and the role of ancestors, and legends of old Africa all spoke of human relationships with the Supreme Being.
A family group|
The mythical |
buck of the
Bambara of Mali
was sent by the
creator to teach
men how to
Animal fables also abound in African Mythology, generally discussing relationships between individuals. These highlight the experiences of human beings using animal characters. Despite being ridden with Eurocentric cliches, it generally introduces one to the African world. This makes it easier for the reader to understand modern interpretations by African scholars on the same subject.
It is very captivating for the general reader.
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