Lessons from the foragers

Hadza hunters in the Gideru mountains, Tanzania. Photo by Matthieu Paley/Paleyphoto Hunter-gatherers don’t live in an economic idyll but their deep appreciation of rest puts industrialised work to shame By Vivek V Venkataraman, is assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Calgary, Canada. He is also assistant director of the Guassa Gelada Research Project in Ethiopia, and the co-founder and co-principal investigator of the Orang Asli Health and Lifeways Project in Peninsular Malaysia. In the seminar I teach about hunter-gatherers, I often ask my students whether they think life was better in the past or … Continue reading Lessons from the foragers

Under the mkone tree

Illustration by Ivyy Chen When I returned to Kenya, where I grew up, I found biomedicine and traditional medicine in conversation about mental health by Priya Basil – is a writer and activist. She is the author of two novels, a novella and two books of narrative nonfiction, as well as essays for publications including The Guardian, Die Zeit and Lettre International. She is also the co-founder of Authors for Peace, a political platform for writers and artists. She lives in Berlin, Germany. Which way now? We scan the verge for signs to a place that is not on any map. My smartphone purports to … Continue reading Under the mkone tree

The other Cleopatra

A silver coin dated 25-24 BCE featuring King Juba (REX IUBA) and, on the obverse, the Greek legend BASILISSA KLEOPATRA and a crocodile (associated with Egypt). Photo courtesy the British Museum Daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, she became the influential queen of a mysterious, abundant North African kingdom Jane Draycott is a lecturer in Classics at the University of Glasgow. Her books include Prosthetics and Assistive Technology in Ancient Greece and Rome (2021) and Cleopatra’s Daughter: Egyptian Princess, Roman Prisoner, African Queen (2022). You may not have heard of the Roman client kingdom of Mauretania, not to be confused with the contemporary African country … Continue reading The other Cleopatra

It never existed

Equestrian Oba and his attendants (1550-1680): detail of a brass plaque, one of many adorning the Court of Benin (in modern-day Nigeria), and plundered by the British Army c1892. Courtesy the Met Museum, New York The idea of a ‘precolonial’ Africa is theoretically vacuous, racist and plain wrong about the continent’s actual history by Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò is professor of Africana Studies at the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University in New York. He is the author of How Colonialism Preempted Modernity in Africa (2010) and Africa Must Be Modern (2014). We should expunge, forever, the epithet ‘precolonial’ or any of its cognates from all … Continue reading It never existed

The Calvinist conquest

In the 17th century, Dutch proselytisers set out for Asia, Africa and the Americas. The legacy of their travels endures by Charles H Parker, is professor of history at Saint Louis University. His research focuses on early modern European and world history. His most recent book is Global Calvinism: Conversion and Commerce in the Dutch Empire, 1600-1800 (2022). At the turn of the 1600s, a handful of Protestant pastors and chaplains in Amsterdam began accompanying ships of the United East India Company (VOC) to small Dutch commercial settlements in Southeast Asia. These Calvinist (also Reformed Protestant) ministers went to faraway lands to … Continue reading The Calvinist conquest

A question of bias: Trophy hunting is a contentious industry and shaping research to get a desired outcome doesn’t help

 A visitor walks past a rifle brand advert during the annual Huntex held in Johannesburg, South Africa, 25 April 2019. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook) By Don Pinnock Follow In the complex and urgent crises of climate change, biodiversity collapse and pandemics, it makes good sense to heed science and specialists. But what happens when scientists intentionally load the dice? The inquiry explored below began after a simple question by the editor of the highly respected journal Science to five researchers who submitted a letter opposing import bans on trophy hunting. Could they, asked the editor, declare any potential conflict of interests? It turned … Continue reading A question of bias: Trophy hunting is a contentious industry and shaping research to get a desired outcome doesn’t help

The South African model

What the United States and other settler societies can learn from South Africa’s push to create a nonracial democracy Mahmood Mamdani is Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University in New York City and executive director of the Makere Institute of Social Research in Kampala, Uganda. His books include Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror (2009) and Neither Settler Nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities (2020) Edited bySam Haselby In the course of the struggle against apartheid, South Africans did something remarkable: they tried, with incomplete success, to destroy the settler and the native by reconfiguring … Continue reading The South African model

Africa writes back

European ideas of African illiteracy are persistent, prejudiced and, as the story of Libyc script shows, entirely wrong D Vance Smith is a medievalist and Old Dominion Professor in the Department of English at Princeton University. His books include The Book of the Incipit (2001); Arts of Possession (2003); and Arts of Dying: Literature and Finitude in Medieval England (2020). Edited by Sam Dresser Four different writing systems have been used in Algeria. Three are well known – Phoenician, Latin and Arabic – while one is both indigenous to Africa and survives only as a writing system. The language it represents is called Old Libyan or Numidian, simply because … Continue reading Africa writes back

See the horrifying place where your old clothes go to die

A landfill in Ghana is the final resting place for many of our fast fashion purchases. When author Maxine Bedat visited, it was literally on fire. BY MAXINE BEDAT One August day I found myself on top of one of the most impressive mountains I’ve seen. I’d scaled it with very little equipment, in the same Nike sneakers I wear on the treadmill. There were no harnesses, no guides, and no resupply stations along the way. In fact, it only took about 20 minutes to get to the summit, despite frequent picture breaks. At the top, I looked out into … Continue reading See the horrifying place where your old clothes go to die

After slavery

Abolition in Africa brought longed-for freedoms, but also political turmoil, economic collapse and rising enslavement Toby Green is professor of precolonial and lusophone African history and culture at King’s College, London. He is the author of A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution (2019) and The Covid Consensus: Edited by Sam Haselby On one of my first visits to West Africa, more than 20 years ago, I went to the Fuuta Djalon (also known as Fouta Djallon) mountains of Guinea-Conakry. These beautiful mountains range across high waterfalls, cliffs and lonely paths leading from one village … Continue reading After slavery