The Savannah Review – Number One
In the past two decades or so the word ‘renaissance’ has been bandied around in Africa. It was first invoked by direct reference to the historic transformations in South Africa, and served to register the effervescence that went with the emergence in that county of a new nation, after of apartheid. In that context, it was a most appropriate term – one that conveyed the sense of a rebirth of the collective self and the promise of a new history that seemed to have been opened up by the release of Nelson Mandela and the political arrangements that were put in place in the immediate aftermath of that momentous event. Subsequently, the term became attached to the person of Tabo Mbeki who, upon his succession to the presidency after Mandela, sought to embody the confident mood of a new generation of black leaders in South Africa as they took over the management of the country. In this sense, the renaissance denoted the release of African energies, the will to meet the challenge of modernity in all its manifestations, in their impact upon the nation.
It is no mere paradox that the term was also interpreted as a regeneration, a return to the values of a rooted African humanism, evoked by the term ‘Mbuntu’, a concept that has never been properly defined or elaborated, but to which Archbishop Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission gave a peculiar resonance. It was in these circumstances that Radio South Africa was reinvented as “Radio Renaissance’ – as the voice of the new nation reasserting itself after a long history of collective agony. The euphoria translated by the constant invocation of the term ‘renaissance’ can only be understood against the background of this experience.
It needs to be recalled, however, that the ideological premise of the South African reawakening derives from a long-standing nationalist discourse on our continent. What we have witnessed in recent times in South Africa is the revival of an ideal that has constantly haunted the minds of African and black intellectuals and has been given voice all over the continent since our encounter with Europe, a disposition that was given sharp articulation in West Africa in the thirties, as exemplified by the title Nnamdi Azikwe gave to his book, Renascent Africa. The decolonization process that began in earnest in the late fifties was in many ways a fulfilment of our striving toward this ideal. As we know, it has produced what can only be termed an ambiguous result – the partial, often bitter, fruit of our dream of a new and more rewarding moral and material dispensation. In the perspective afforded by fifty years and more of African independence, there is good reason for re-appraisal of the meaning we have sought to impart to our struggle for a new estate, one free of the burden imposed by external forces and ordained solely by our collective will. However, the turn of events in Africa, wracked by turmoil and disasters of every description – what Ali Mazrui has called ‘the African condition’ – seems to contradict the sense of a renaissance that our recent history has seemed to imply. We only need to consider events in the Arab world, embracing a substantial area of Africa, and home to a significant part of its population – an area that has lately emerged as a testing ground for the difficult process of the apprenticeship of freedom on our continent – to grasp the truth that the African utopia remains a distant dream. And indeed, in South Africa itself, the fabric of political and social life has begun to fray...
The African condition thus requires to be meditated upon, in an effort give a more positive definition to our place in the world. Our ambition is to provide with this publication the intellectual ground for this effort. The Savannah Review will offer a forum for debates on issues of vital concern for Africa and the black world generally in the contemporary world: for the elaboration of ideas having to do with the promotion of a new African consciousness and the construction of a new and more acceptable state of collective existence. In this sense, our effort of reflection has a wider relevance to all of black humanity, for which our continent remains the fundamental reference. The journal will also be attentive to developments in other parts of the world, on the broader front of human concerns that commands our attention and challenge our moral sensibility. In this connection, we will endeavour to establish connections with the intellectual community in the Arab world, East Asia and Latin America. In addition to these areas of concern, the journal will provide a medium of sustained engagement with the discourse on Africa in the Western world.
It is our hope that, in pursuing the objectives outlined above, our journal will serve not simply to promote and sustain the ideal of an authentic African renaissance but to generate a veritable revolution of thought.
Click on articles title below to read or download articles
Inside and Outside the Whale: ‘Bandung’, ‘Rwanda’, and Postcolonial Literary and Cultural Studies
Senghor’s Other Europe
Michael J.C. Echeruo
The Alpha Discourse: Theorizing ‘We’ in Michel Foucault and Edward Said
Lewis R. Gordon
Reasoning in Black: Africana Philosophy under the Weight of Misguided reason
‘A Most Lucid African’: Interview with Albert Memmi
Salon II: Paulette Nardal
Night after Night
Review Essay (Derek Walcott’s White Egrets)
F. Abiola Irele
Book Review (Shaden M. Tageldin’s Disarming Words: Empire and the Seductions of Translation in Egypt)
In Other Worlds – Edouard Glissant 1928 – 2011
Lost and Found: Lewis Nkosi (1936 – 2010)
Notes on Contributors