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Mangeon Anthony

by Anthony Mangeon


The relationship between Africa and the West both fuels and explains its history. “Africa”, “West” or “East” are all names inherited from Antiquity whose shifts in meaning and reference reveal a number of relational patterns. Although the Greeks called Africa Aethiopia, or “the country of burnt faces”, the Romans called it Lybia, reserving the name of Africa for their province of North Africa instead. Later used to designate the whole continent, the name “Africa” marks the origin of the colonial period in the Western relationship with the black world, while in becoming the names of countries, “Ethiopia” and “Libya” lost their grandeur…

No view is ever neutral. It is always influenced by prior representations. For example there is an entire rhetoric of otherness to be unearthed from travel accounts, religious and philosophical texts, or from novels which in both West and East have viewed the black world as an object. This “colonial library”, to take up a concept devised by Valentin-Yves Mudimbe (The Invention of Africa, 1988) is joined by an enormous “picture gallery” in the case of West.

In the Western arts, Africa gradually came to be represented as barbarism in the face of civilisation, the world of magic in the face of the universe of science, the hell of Satanic creatures pitted against the kingdoms of revealed religion or, later, the continent of darkness against the Europe of the Enlightenment, not to mention black emotion as opposed to Hellenic reason...

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