Dakar conference delegate presses for African cultural identity

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- On the eve of the conference of intellectuals from Africa and the Diaspora scheduled here, an informed delegate insisted Wednesday that a shared African identity was conceivable inasmuch as meeting points can still be observed in cultural variations that resulted from the artificial boundaries of colonisation.
"Colonial boundaries were demarcated at a time migration among African peoples was in full bloom, with the potential for an extensive cultural exchange," Prof.
Charles Binam Bikoi, research director and executive secretary of the Yaounde-based Regional Centre for Research in Oral Tradition and African Languages (CERDOTOLA) recalled in a briefing with PANA.
Bikoi, who is in Dakar for the three-day conference opening here Thursday, affirmed that common threads run through African languages, insisting on the similarities among them.
"It is therefore the role of the intellectual to propose a trans- cultural approach to forging integration and common identity for the continent," he said in reference to a key theme on the conference agenda: African identity in a multicultural context.
Bikoi cited the case of tribes and cultures that cut across the peoples of Cameroon, Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, saying such anthropological commonalities could be harnessed to surmount prejudices that came about mainly as a consequence of colonial separation.
He dismissed the contention that the complexity of Africa as a cultural mosaic makes the search for continenthood illusive.
"Europe is no less diversified, with its Nordic, Anglo-Saxon, Slavic and other such mix.
Yet they are pushing for a European identity.
The now 25-state European Union has more languages than the UN which uses six languages, hence there is nothing utopic about Africa's quest for a common identity," he argued.
Bikoi lauded the initiative to convene a conference of the continent's intelligentsia, lamenting that whereas it has little to envy other regions in terms of human resources, Africa remains dogged by unfounded doubt about its intellectual capacity, forced by other continents to unduly feel inferior.
"Coming at the turn of the 21st Century, the challenge for such a conference is to set off the dynamics of intellectual exchange with the rest of the world.
Africa should shed off any feelings of complex, knowing it has a lot to offer the rest of the world," he urged.

06 october 2004 20:06:00

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