Rants & Epiphanies
“Wisdom that will bless I, who live in the spiral joy born at the utter end of a black prayer.” • — Keiji Haino
“The subject of human creativity is not an ethnic-centric, but a composite subject.” • — Anthony Braxton
“… It is not my mode of thought that has caused my misfortunes, but the mode of thought of others.” • — The Marquis de Sade

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Chinua Achebe || The Education of a British-Protected Child

… “of Africans selling their brothers and sisters and children for bauble. Was that truly what happened? What about the sad, sad story of that king of the vast kingdom of Bukongo who reigned as a Christian king, Dom Afonso I, from 1506 to 1543; who built schools and churches and renamed his capital São Salvador; whose son was bishop of Utica in Tunisia and from 1521 bishop of Bukongo; who sent embassies to Lisbon and to Rome? This man thought he had allies and friends in the Portuguese Jesuits he had encouraged to come and live in his kingdom and convert his subjects. Unfortunately for him, Brazil was opening up at the same time and needing labor to work its vast plantations. So the Portuguese missionaries abandoned their preaching and became slave raiders. Dom Afonso in bewilderment wrote a letter in 1526 to King John III of Portugal complaining about the behavior of Portuguese nationals in the Congo. The letter went unanswered. In the end, the Portuguese gave enough guns to rebellious chiefs to wage war on Bukongo and destroy it, and then imposed the payment of tribute in slaves on the kingdom.
    The letter Dom Afonso of Bukongo wrote to King John III of Portugal in 1526 is in the Portuguese archives and reads in part as follows:

“[Your] merchants daily seize our subjects, sons of the land and sons of our noblemen and vassals and our relatives… They grab them and cause them to be sold: and so great, Sir, is their corruption and licentiousness that our country is being utterly depopulated… [We] need from [your] Kingdoms no other than priests and people to teach in schools, and no other goods but wine and flour for the holy sacrament: that is why we beg of Your Highness to help and assist us in this matter, commanding your factors that they should send here neither merchants nor wares, because it is our will that in these kingdoms [of Congo] there should not be any trade in slaves nor market for slaves.

    Dom Afonso was a remarkable man. During his long reign, he learned to speak and read Portuguese. We are told that he studied the Portuguese codified laws in the original bulky folios, and criticized the excessive penalties which were inflicted for even trivial offenses. He jokingly asked the Portuguese envoy one day: “Castro, what is the penalty in Portugal for anyone who puts his feet on the ground?”5
    Here was a man obviously more civilized than the “civilizing mission” sent to him by Europe. Radical African writers are inclined to mock him for being so willing to put aside the religion and ways of his fathers in favor of Christianity. But nobody mocks Constantine I, the Roman emperor who did precisely the same thing. The real difference is that while Constantine was powerful and succeeded, Afonso failed because the Christianity which came to him was brutal and perverse and armed with the gun. Three hundred and fifty years after Dom Afonso, Joseph Conrad was able to describe the very site on which his kingdom had stood as the Heart of Darkness.”

Excerpt From: Chinua Achebe. “The Education of a British-Protected Child

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