Tuesday, 31 May 2016

49 Biafrans murdered by Nigeria-occupation military and police in Biafra, scores wounded and hundreds detained as the genocidists shoot peaceful Biafrans celebrating Heroes Day/Independence Day across Biafra, Monday 30 May 2016

According to the wide-ranging report from across Biafra by the Vanguard (Lagos, Tuesday 31 May 2015), filed by a combined team of 11 reporters (Emeka Mamah, Jimitota Onyume, Vincent Ujumadu, Chidi Nkopara, Anayo Okoli, Peter Okutu, Nwabueze Okonkwo, Francis Igata, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Cyril Ozor and Chinedu Adonu), this Biafra day of celebration was “turned bloody” indeed by these Nigerian-occupation murdering assaults across Biafra.

Early on in the morning, “at about 3 am”, the Vanguard reports, the genocidists murdered five worshippers attending mass on the grounds of St Edmund’s Church, Nkpo, near Onicha (west Biafra), and later continued their free-fire assault on Biafra celebrants in the greater Onicha district when they gunned down 35 others. Across the bridge over the Oshimili River in Asaba twin-city (also west Biafra), the genocidists murdered seven Biafrans in addition to two others murdered on the bridge itself.

In Umuahia, east Biafra, one celebrant was murdered and ten detained. The genocidists extended their detention of celebrants in the cities of Enuugwu (capital, northcentral), Abakeleke (northeast), Owere (eastcentral) and Igwe Ocha (south). At the Nsukka University town (north), the genocidists marched into St Theresa’s Cathedral and removed and detained 40 celebrants from the church. 

On this attack of the cathedral, an observer tells the Vanguard: “the police circled the Catholic Cathedral, sneaked into the church and arrested the members of the special thanksgiving mass”.
(Andrew Hill Sextet, “Dedication” [personnel: Hill, piano; Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Eric Dolphy, bass clarinet; Joe Henderson, tenor saxophone; Richard Davis, bass; Tony Williams, drums; recorded: Van Gelder Studios, Englewoods Cliff, NJ, US, 21 March 1964])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe on the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Igbo genocide by Nigeria (video recording: 33.52 mins)

29 May 2016: 50 years of the Igbo genocide and survival

  (To the memory of 3.1 million and more…)
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

82nd birthday of Betty Shabazz

(Born 28 May 1934, PinehurstGeorgia [?]/DetroitMichUS)
Outstanding freedom activist, academic, university administrator

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Thursday, 26 May 2016

90th birthday of Miles Davis

(Born 26 May 1926, Alton, Illinois, US)
Trumpeter, composer, bandleader, innovative musical genius whose First Great Quintet & Sextet (1955-1958) and Second Great Quintet (1964-1968), as well as the later independent careers of each and everyone in these ensembles (tenor saxophonists John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, altoist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, pianists Wynton Kelly, Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock, bassists Paul Chambers and Ron Carter, and drummers Jimmy Cobb and Tony Williams), play a critically contributing role in the phenomenal growth and transformation of jazz, African American classical music, during this historic epoch of African American freedom quest
(Miles Davis & John Coltrane, Live in Stockholm 1960“All blues”/“The theme” [personnel: Davis, trumpet; Coltrane, tenor saxophone; Wynton Kelly, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums; recorded: live, Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden, 22 March 1960])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

67th birthday of Jamaica Kincaid

(Born 25 May 1949, St John’s, Antigua)
Versatile novelist (especially Annie John [1985], A small place [1988], Lucy [1990], Mr Potter [2002], See now then [2014]), essayist (especially in the New Yorker, 1976-1996), academic

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

84th birthday of Adu Boahen

(Born 24 May 1932, Osiem, Ghana)
One of Africa’s preeminent historians
(Jackie McLean Sextet, “Appointment in Ghana” [personnel: McLean, alto saxophone; Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Tina Brooks, tenor saxophone; Kenny Drew, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Art Taylor, drums; recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 1 September 1960])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Eleven classic novels every leader should read (professor Scotty McLennan’s choice who notes: “some of the most valuable insights into the heart of leadership … come from the literary classics”)

(Scotty McLennan, academic and ordained minister, formerly dean of Stanford University’s religious life, currently teaches political economy at Stanford’s graduate school of business … As Rachel Gillett of the Business Insider reports, McLennan’s choice of the 11 literary texts – listed below – for leaders is as a result of his belief “[that] limiting ourselves to manuals and biographies and case studies means we’re missing something big. Some of the most valuable insights into the heart of leadership don’t come from the business aisle … They come from the literary classics”)
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

79th birthday of Archie Shepp

(Born 24 May 1937, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US)
Tenor saxophonist, composer, bandleader, unrelenting freedom activist, academic
(Archie Shepp Sextet, “Syeeda’s song flute” [personnel: Shepp, tenor saxophone; Alan Shorter, fluegelhorn; Roswell Rudd, trombone; John Tchicai, alto saxophone; Reggie Workman, bass; Charles Moffett, drums; recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 10 August 1964])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Monday, 23 May 2016

FWD: Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti administrative region, west Nigeria, bans cattle grazing and rearing in Ekiti; Fayose insists: “those interested in cattle farming should get their own private cattle ranch” (Premier Times, Lagos, Monday 23 May 2016)

(Ayodele Fayose: ... those interested in cattle farming should get their own private cattle ranch”)
Premier Times [original full report], Fayose makes history, bans cattle grazing in Ekiti, Lagos, Monday 23 May 2016

“The Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, has banned grazing and rearing of cattle in the state, saying those interested in cattle farming should get their own private cattle ranch.

“The governor, who became the first ever state executive to take such a drastic measure in the country, also said a bill to make the movement of cattle from one location to another criminal in the state would soon be sent to the State House of Assembly.

“Governor Fayose, who made this known when he visited Oke-Ako in Ikole local government area of the State that was invaded last Friday by Fulani herdsmen that killed two residents of the town and injured others, warned that government would henceforth confiscate any cattle seen anywhere in the State apart from ranch created for them by their owners.

“He described the Fulani herdsmen that attacked Oke-Ako and other communities in the country as ‘agents of the devil that must be fished out and punished accordingly.’

“The governor said, ‘We will not leave our lands for Fulani herdsmen and in a system where the leadership of the country looks the other way while our people are being killed, we will have no option than to defend ourselves by whatever means.

‘I have come here to commiserate with the people of Oke-Ako over the murder of two of our people by these evil Fulani herdsmen.

‘I am also here to assure that this will be the last time your community will be invaded by Fulani herdsmen under whatever guise.

‘I have directed that cattle rearing and grazing should stop in Ekiti State and those interested in cattle farming should henceforth do so in their own cattle ranch.

‘No more movement of cattle from one location to another in the State and any cattle seen anywhere in Ekiti State apart from the ranch created for them by their owners will be confiscated by the government and their owners will be prosecuted.

‘A bill to this effect will be sent to House of Assembly for passage into law to criminalise cattle owners whose cattle are found moving from one location the other in the State.

‘If President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the patron of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), has refused to call the herdsmen to order, we in Ekiti will no longer harbour herdsmen who go about killing our people, destroying our farmlands and raping our women.

‘If the same President Buhari that was so concerned about the killing of Fulani herdsmen in in Saki, Oke Ogun Area of Oyo State such that he, as a private citizen led Arewa to Ibadan on October 13, 2000, to confront the then Governor of Oyo State, late Alhaji Lam Adesina is now keeping silent when the same herdsmen are killing our people, we must rise and defend ourselves.

‘It is our duty to protect our people and we are going to do that without fear or favour.’

“The governor said the activities of Fulani herdsmen was inimical to the revival of agriculture in the country saying, ‘one wonders how Nigerians can go back to farming when those already in the farms are losing billions of naira worth of crops to destruction of their farmlands by the Fulani Herdsmen and the Federal Government is not doing anything about it.’”

(See also Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, “Uzo-Uwani”, http://re-thinkingafrica.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/uzo-uwani-herbertekwe-ekwe-in.html)

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Biafra flag soars! Enuugwu Rangers vs Heartland FC Owere, Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium Enuugwu, Biafra, Friday 20 May 2016

(Enuugwu Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium at 20,000 full capacity crowd, Enuugwu Rangers vs Heartland FC Owere, Friday 20 May 2016; watch clipping below as Biafra flag stretches centre stage...
(Commanding presence: … Rising Sun Biafra flag right there at the pitch of play, Enuugwu Rangers vs Heartland FC Owere, Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enuugwu, Friday 20 May 2016)
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

102nd birthday of Sun Ra

(Born 22 May 1914, Birmingham, Alabama, US)
Pianist, bandleader, prolific composer whose output, arrangements and The Arkestra’s performances are influenced profoundly by Kemetic philosophical, astronomical and aesthetic conceptions
(Sun Ra and his Band from Outer Space, “Space aura” [personnel: Sun Ra, piano, clavioline; Teddy Nance, trombone; Ali Hassan, trombone;  Robert Cummings, bass clarinet; Pat Patrick, baritone saxophone, flute, percussion; Marshall Allen, alto saxophone, oboe, flute, piccolo, percussion; John Gilmore, tenor saxophone, percussion; Ronnie Boykins, bass; Clifford Jarvis, drums; James Jacson, log drums, flute, percussion; Carl Nimrod Malone, sun horn, gong, percussion; recorded, live, University of Buffalo, [?] May 1966])

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Saturday, 21 May 2016

112th birthday of Fats Waller

(Born 21 May 1904, Harlem, New York, US)
Innovative pianist, prolific composer/co-composer including such standards as “Jitterbug waltz”, “Honeysuckle rose”, “Ain’t misbehavin’”, “I can’t give you anything but love, baby”, and “Squeeze me”, comedian
(Fats Waller, “Ain’t misbehavin’” [personnel: Waller, piano, vocal; recording date and other details: not available])
(Charles Mingus Sextet – with multiinstrmentalist Eric Dolphy, Cornell University 1964, plays Waller’s “Jitterbug waltz” composition  [personnel: Mingus, bass; Johnny Coles, trumpet; Dolphy, flute; Clifford Jordan, tenor saxophone; Jaki Byard, piano; Dannie Richmond, drums; recorded: live, Cornell University, 18 March 1964])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Friday, 20 May 2016

273rd birthday of Toussaint L’Ouverture

(Born 20 May 1743, Bréda at Haut de Cap enslaved estate [probably], Saint-Domingue)
Leader of the Haitian Revolution, embarks on the armed mobilisation of tens of thousands of enslaved Africans, beginning 1789, in revolt against French-occupied Saint-Domingue, west Hispaniola, the Caribbean, wealthiest African-enslaved territory of the Americas during the epoch, with the eventual historic 1804 African military victory (against not only France but also the expanded forces of its pan-European allies who come to its aid) when they proclaim the Republic of Haiti
(Mal Waldron Quartet, “Hymn from the inferno” [personnel: Waldron, piano; Clifford Jordan, tenor saxophone; Cecil McBee, bass; Dannie Richmond, drums; recorded: Vanguard Studios, New York, US, 15 November 1981])
 Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Thursday, 19 May 2016

81st birthday of Cecil McBee

(Born 19 May 1935, Tulsa, Oklahoma, US)
Eminently influential bassist, composer, academic
(McCoy Tyner Quartet, “Bluesin’ for John C” [composer: McCoy Tyner] [personnel: Tyner, piano; Pharoah Sanders, tenor saxophone; Cecil McBee, bass; Roy Haynes, drums; recorded: Impulse! Records, New York, US, 9 July 1987])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

91st birthday of Malcolm X

(Born 19 May 1925, Omaha, Nebraska, US)
One of the preeminent leaders of the African American freedom movement
(Sonny Rollins Trio, “The freedom suite” [personnel: Rollins, tenor saxophone; Oscar Pettiford, bass; Max Roach, drums; recorded: Riverside Records, New York, US, 7 March 1958])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

“Block the sale of warplanes to Nigeria”: What is missing in an otherwise excellent editorial from the New York Times, Wednesday 18 May 2016

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

At last, a major news organisation in the United States/West has come out to challenge the deafening silence that has pervaded across the West World over the genocidist Muhammadu Buhari regime in Nigeria installed in office in March 2015 by the David Cameron and Barack Obama administrations. 

Today’s (Wednesday 18 May 2016) New York Times editorial (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/18/opinion/block-the-sale-of-warplanes-to-nigeria.html?_r=0, accessed 18 May 2016) has unambiguously called on the US government not to sell war planes to the murderous regime. But it completely misses the compelling geographical focus of the crime against humanity being perpetrated by Buhari: it is not northeast/northcentral region of Nigeria in some “war” with Boko Haram/Fulani militants. No, itsn’t. Buhari is not “at war” with Boko Haram/Fulani militants. On the contrary, Buhari is an integral component of Boko Haram/Fulani militants.

Free-fire zone...

Muhammadu Buhari’s war, since his March 2015 imposition, is to the south of Nigeria – in Biafra, occupied by Nigeria since 13 January 1970. Buhari has continued the Nigeria state genocide against the Igbo people, fully supported by Britain, which he, himself, as a lieutenant then in the genocidist army has been a ruthless active participant right from launch date, 29 May 1966. 3.1 million Igbo people or one-quarter of this nation’s population were murdered in the three phases of the genocide (foundational genocide of post-[European]conquest Africa) prior to 13 January 1970 and hundreds of thousands have been murdered subsequently, including those murdered since Buhari’s current position in power, especially beginning November 2015 and has continued unabated.

During this period, Buhari has essentially turned Biafra into a free-fire zone where his occupying troops and adjunct forces Boko Haram and Fulani militants have tactically picked and chosen where and when and what targeted firing range to murder the next Igbo child, woman or man as the grim record of the committed murders by the tripartite amalgam in the following population layouts in Biafran cities, towns and villages attest chronologically: Onicha … Igwe Ocha … Ubulu-Ukwu ... Asaba … Oka … Enuugwu … Aba … Igwe Ocha … Asaba … Enuugwu … Igwe Ocha … Onicha … Uzo-Uwani ... Onicha ...

Ban all arms sales/transfers to Nigeria

Buhari will surely use any US planes in his armoury against Biafra. Nowhere else. Buhari is very much aware of the sheer savagery of the carpet-bombing campaigns that Igbo population centres were subjected to (during October 1966-January 1970) by loaned Egyptian pilots flying Nigeria air force Soviet-supplied MiGs and looks forward, eagerly, to a repeat performance. 

Besides denying Buhari planes to murder Biafrans, the New York Times and other public institutions and the US public in general should now intensify a principled demand on their government to ban all US arms sales/transfers to Nigeria. Any American bullet, pistol, rifle, grenade, rocket, bazooka, helicopter gunship, naval gunship, the fighter aircraft, the bomber, the tank… – each and everyone of these items sent to the Buhari regime would be more likely than not deployed to murder Igbo people, one of the world’s most peaceful and resourceful peoples. The United States can no longer remain bystanders as this orgy of murdering is brazenly carried out in Biafra day in, day out.
(Booker Little Sextet, “We speak” [personnel: Little, trumpet; Julian Priester, trombone; Eric Dolphy, alto saxophone; Don Friedman, piano; Art Davis, bass; Max Roach, drums; recorded: Nola’s Penthouse Studios, New York, US, 17 March 1961])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

65th birthday of Emma Okala

(Born 17 May 1951, Onicha, Biafra)
Towering goalkeeper of the indomitable Enuugwu Rangers International, the football club, during the 1970s-1980s, which, arguably, most symbolises the dogged and resilient spirit of Igbo people in the wake of the cataclysmic genocide, 29 May 1966-12 January 1970, the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa, when Nigeria and principal ally Britain murder 3.1 million Igbo or one-quarter of this nation’s population
(Cecil Taylor, “Pontos cantados” [personnel: Taylor, piano; recorded: One night with Blue Note: The historic all-star reunion concert, Town Hall, New York, US, 22 February 1985])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

85th birthday of Jackie McLean

(Born 17 May 1931, Harlem, New York, US)
One of the preeminent alto saxophonists, bandleader, prolific composer including the classic Let Freedom Ring (1962), worked through as this phase of the great African American age of freedom gathers pace, altoist on the Charles Mingus Quintet’s recording of Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956), the iconoclastic bassist’s audacious orchestration of the tortuous and contradictory human march across the ages, co-founder, in 1970, with wife Dollie, of Hartford’s (Connecticut) Artists Collective which works for the preservation of African diaspora art and culture, academic, named after the University of Hartford’s department of African American Music – Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz
(Jackie McLean and McCoy Tyner, “Passion dance” [composer: McCoy Tyner] [personnel: McLean, alto saxophone; Woody Shaw, trumpet; Tyner, piano; Cecil McBee, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums; recorded: live, One night with Blue Note, Town Hall, New York, 22 February 1985])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

85th birthday of Dewey Redman

(Born 17 May 1931, Fort Worth, Texas, US)
Versatile tenor saxophonist, composer and bandleader, collaborates with a number of distinguished artists (especially alto saxophonists Ornette Coleman and Prince Lasha, trumpeter Don Cherry, pianists Cecil Taylor and Keith Jarrett, guitarist Pat Metheny, bassist Charlie Haden, drummers Ed Blackwell, Paul Motian, Charles Moffett, Elvin Jones) in groundbreaking recordings (1960s-1990s), plays in the celebrated Jarrett’s American Quartet of the 1970s particularly in the ensemble’s exquisite composition, The Survivors’ Suite (1976), father of the equally brilliant and accomplished tenorist Joshua Redman
(Ornette Coleman Septet, “Happy house” [personnel: Coleman, alto saxophone; Don Cherry, pocket trumpet; Bobby Bradford, trumpet; Redman, tenor saxophone, musette; Charlie Haden, bass; Billy Higgins, drums; Ed Blackwell, drums; recorded: Columbia Studios E, New York, UK, 9 September 1971])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Chinua Achebe’s Chancellor’s Lecture on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 18 February 1975

(Chinua Achebe: ...work of redressing...)
[Chinua Achebe, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’”, Massachusetts Review, 18, 1977, reprinted Robert Kimbrough, ed., Heart of Darkness, An Authoritative Text, Background and Sources Criticism, 1961, 3rd ed., London: W. W Norton, 1988, pp.251-261.]

In the fall of 1974 I was walking one day from the English Department at the University of Massachusetts to a parking lot. It was a fine autumn morning such as encouraged friendliness to passing strangers. Brisk youngsters were hurrying in all directions, many of them obviously freshmen in their first flush of enthusiasm. An older man going the same way as I turned and remarked to me how very young they came these days. I agreed. Then he asked me if I was a student too. I said no, I was a teacher. What did I teach? African literature. Now that was funny, he said, because he knew a fellow who taught the same thing, or perhaps it was African history, in a certain Community College not far from here. It always surprised him, he went on to say, because he never had thought of Africa as having that kind of stuff, you know. By this time I was walking much faster. “Oh well,” I heard him say finally, behind me: “I guess I have to take your course to find out.” A few weeks later I received two very touching letters from high school children in Yonkers, New York, who – bless their teacher – had just read Things Fall Apart. One of them was particularly happy to learn about the customs and superstitions of an African tribe.

I propose to draw from these rather trivial encounters rather heavy conclusions which at first sight might seem somewhat out of proportion to them. But only, I hope, at first sight. The young fellow from Yonkers, perhaps partly on account of his age but I believe also for much deeper and more serious reasons, is obviously unaware that the life of his own tribesmen in Yonkers, New York, is full of odd customs and superstitions and, like everybody else in his culture, imagines that he needs a trip to Africa to encounter those things.

The other person being fully my own age could not be excused on the grounds of his years. Ignorance might be a more likely reason; but here again I believe that something more willful than a mere lack of information was at work. For did not that erudite British historian and Regius Professor at Oxford, Hugh Trevor Roper, also pronounce that African history did not exist?

If there is something in these utterances more than youthful inexperience, more than a lack of factual knowledge, what is it? Quite simply it is the desire – one might indeed say the need – in Western psychology to set Africa up as a foil to Europe, as a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar, in comparison with which Europe’s own state of spiritual grace will be manifest.

This need is not new; which should relieve us all of considerable responsibility and perhaps make us even willing to look at this phenomenon dispassionately. I have neither the wish nor the competence to embark on the exercise with the tools of the social and biological sciences but more simply in the manner of a novelist responding to one famous book of European fiction: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which better than any other work that I know displays that Western desire and need which I have just referred to. Of course there are whole libraries of books devoted to the same purpose but most of them are so obvious and so crude that few people worry about them today. Conrad, on the other hand, is undoubtedly one of the great stylists of modern fiction and a good storyteller into the bargain. His contribution therefore falls automatically into a different class – permanent literature – read and taught and constantly evaluated by serious academics. Heart of Darkness is indeed so secure today that a leading Conrad scholar has numbered it “among the half-dozen greatest short novels in the English language.” I will return to this critical opinion in due course because it may seriously modify my earlier suppositions about who may or may not be guilty in some of the matters I will now raise.

Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as “the other world,” the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization, a place where man's vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant beastiality. The book opens on the River Thames, tranquil, resting, peacefully “at the decline of day after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks.” But the actual story will take place on the River Congo, the very antithesis of the Thames. The River Congo is quite decidedly not a River Emeritus. It has rendered no service and enjoys no old-age pension. We are told that “Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world.”

Is Conrad saying then that these two rivers are very different, one good, the other bad? Yes, but that is not the real point. It is not the differentness that worries Conrad but the lurking hint of kinship, of common ancestry. For the Thames too “has been one of the dark places of the earth.” It conquered its darkness, of course, and is now in daylight and at peace. But if it were to visit its primordial relative, the Congo, it would run the terrible risk of hearing grotesque echoes of its own forgotten darkness, and falling victim to an avenging recrudescence of the mindless frenzy of the first beginnings.

These suggestive echoes comprise Conrad's famed evocation of the African atmosphere in Heart of Darkness. In the final consideration his method amounts to no more than a steady, ponderous, fake-ritualistic repetition of two antithetical sentences, one about silence and the other about frenzy. We can inspect samples of this on pages 36 and 37 of the present edition: a) it was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention and b) The steamer toiled along slowly on the edge of a black and incomprehensible frenzy. Of course there is a judicious change of adjective from time to time, so that instead of inscrutable, for example, you might have unspeakable, even plain mysterious, etc., etc.

The eagle-eyed English critic F. R. Leavis drew attention long ago to Conrad’s “adjectival insistence upon inexpressible and incomprehensible mystery.” That insistence must not be dismissed lightly, as many Conrad critics have tended to do, as a mere stylistic flaw; for it raises serious questions of artistic good faith. When a writer while pretending to record scenes, incidents and their impact is in reality engaged in inducing hypnotic stupor in his readers through a bombardment of emotive words and other forms of trickery much more has to be at stake than stylistic felicity. Generally normal readers are well armed to detect and resist such under-hand activity. But Conrad chose his subject well – one which was guaranteed not to put him in conflict with the psychological predisposition of his readers or raise the need for him to contend with their resistance. He chose the role of purveyor of comforting myths.

The most interesting and revealing passages in Heart of Darkness are, however, about people. I must crave the indulgence of my reader to quote almost a whole page from about the middle of the stop/when representatives of Europe in a steamer going down the Congo encounter the denizens of Africa.
We were wanderers on a prehistoric earth, on an earth that wore the aspect of an unknown planet. We could have fancied ourselves the first of men taking possession of an accursed inheritance, to be subdued at the cost of profound anguish and of excessive toil. But suddenly as we struggled round a bend there would be a glimpse of rush walls, of peaked grass-roofs, a burst of yells, a whirl of black limbs, a mass of hands clapping, of feet stamping, of bodies swaying, of eyes rolling under the droop of heavy and motionless foliage. The steamer toiled along slowly on the edge of a black and incomprehensible frenzy. The prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us – who could tell? We were cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings; we glided past like phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse. We could not understand because we were too far and could not remember, because we were traveling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign – and no memories.  
The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there – there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly and the men were… No they were not inhuman. Well, you know that was the worst of it – this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped and spun and made horrid faces, but what thrilled you, was just the thought of their humanity – like yours – the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough, but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you – you so remote from the night of first ages – could comprehend.
Herein lies the meaning of Heart of Darkness and the fascination it holds over the Western mind: “What thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity – like yours… Ugly.” Having shown us Africa in the mass, Conrad then zeros in, half a page later, on a specific example, giving us one of his rare descriptions of an African who is not just limbs or rolling eyes:
And between whiles I had to look after the savage who was fireman. He was an improved specimen; he could fire up a vertical boiler. He was there below me and, upon my word, to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat walking on his hind legs. A few months of training had done for that really fine chap. He squinted at the steam-gauge and at the water-gauge with an evident effort of intrepidity – and he had filed his teeth too, the poor devil, and the wool of his pate shaved into queer patterns, and three ornamental scars on each of his cheeks. He ought to have been clapping his hands and stamping his feet on the bank, instead of which he was hard at work, a thrall to strange witchcraft, full of improving knowledge.
As everybody knows, Conrad is a romantic on the side. He might not exactly admire savages clapping their hands and stamping their feet but they have at least the merit of being in their place, unlike this dog in a parody of breeches. For Conrad things being in their place is of the utmost importance.
“Fine fellows – cannibals – in their place,” he tells us pointedly. Tragedy begins when things leave their accustomed place, like Europe leaving its safe stronghold between the policeman and the baker to like a peep into the heart of darkness.

Before the story takes us into the Congo basin proper we are given this nice little vignette as an example of things in their place:
Now and then a boat from the shore gave one a momentary contact with reality. It was paddled by black fellows. You could see from afar the white of their eyeballs glistening. They shouted, sang; their bodies streamed with perspiration; they had faces like grotesque masks – these chaps; but they had bone, muscle, a wild vitality, an intense energy of movement that was as natural and hue as the surf along their coast. They wanted no excuse for being there. They were a great comfort to look at.
Towards the end of the story Conrad lavishes a whole page quite unexpectedly on an African woman who has obviously been some kind of mistress to Mr. Kurtz and now presides (if I may be permitted a little liberty) like a formidable mystery over the inexorable imminence of his departure:
She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent... She stood looking at us without a stir and like the wilderness itself, with an air of brooding over an inscrutable purpose.
This Amazon is drawn in considerable detail, albeit of a predictable nature, for two reasons. First, she is in her place and so can win Conrad’s special brand of approval and second, she fulfills a structural requirement of the story: a savage counterpart to the refined, European woman who will step forth to end the story:
She came forward all in black with a pale head, floating toward me in the dusk. She was in mourning… She took both my hands in hers and murmured, “I had heard you were coming.” ... She had a mature capacity for fidelity, for belief, for suffering.
The difference in the attitude of the novelist to these two women is conveyed in too many direct and subfile ways to need elaboration. But perhaps the most significant difference is the one implied in the author’s bestowal of human expression to the one and the withholding of it from the other. It is clearly not part of Conrad’s purpose to confer language on the “rudimentary souls” of Africa. In place of speech they made “a violent babble of uncouth sounds.” They “exchanged short grunting phrases” even among themselves. But most of the time they were too busy with their frenzy. There are two occasions in the book, however, when Conrad departs somewhat from his practice and confers speech, even English speech, on the savages. The first occurs when cannibalism gets the better of them: “Catch ‘im,” he snapped with a bloodshot widening of his eyes and a flash of sharp teeth – “catch ‘im. Give ‘im to us.” “To you, eh?” I asked; “what would you do with them?” “Eat ‘im!” he said curtly… The other occasion was the famous announcement: “Mistah Kurtz – he dead.”

At first sight these instances might be mistaken for unexpected acts of generosity from Conrad. In reality they constitute some of his best assaults. In the case of the cannibals the incomprehensible grunts that had thus far served them for speech suddenly proved inadequate for Conrad's purpose of letting the European glimpse the unspeakable craving in their hearts. Weighing the necessity for consistency in the portrayal of the dumb brutes against the sensational advantages of securing their conviction by clear, unambiguous evidence issuing out of their own mouth Conrad chose the latter. As for the announcement of Mr. Kurtz’s death by the “insolent black head in the doorway” what better or more appropriate finis could be written to the horror story of that wayward child of civilization who willfully had given his soul to the powers of darkness and “taken a high seat amongst the devils of the land” than the proclamation of his physical death by the forces he had joined?

It might be contended, of course, that the attitude to the African in Heart of Darkness is not Conrad's but that of his fictional narrator, Marlow, and that far from endorsing it Conrad might indeed be holding it up to irony and criticism. Certainly Conrad appears to go to considerable pains to set up layers of insulation between himself and the moral universe of his history. He has, for example, a narrator behind a narrator. The primary narrator is Marlow but his account is given to us through the filter of a second, shadowy person. But if Conrad’s intention is to draw a cordon sanitaire between himself and the moral and psychological malaise of his narrator his care seems to me totally wasted because he neglects to hint however subtly or tentatively at an alternative frame of reference by which we may judge the actions and opinions of his characters. It would not have been beyond Conrad’s power to make that provision if he had thought it necessary. Marlow seems to me to enjoy Conrad’s complete confidence – a feeling reinforced by the close similarities between their two careers.
Marlow comes through to us not only as a witness of truth, but one holding those advanced and humane views appropriate to the English liberal tradition which required all Englishmen of decency to be deeply shocked by atrocities in Bulgaria or the Congo of King Leopold of the Belgians or wherever.

Thus Marlow is able to toss out such bleeding-heart sentiments as these:
They were dying slowly – it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now, nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation lying confusedly in the greenish gloom. Brought from all the recesses of the coast in all the legality of time contracts, lost in uncongenial surroundings, fed on unfamiliar food, they sickened, became inefficient, and were then allowed to crawl away and rest.
The kind of liberalism espoused here by Marlow/Conrad touched all the best minds of the age in England, Europe and America. It took different forms in the minds of different people but almost always managed to sidestep the ultimate question of equality between white people and black people. That extraordinary missionary, Albert Schweitzer, who sacrificed brilliant careers in music and theology in Europe for a life of service to Africans in much the same area as Conrad writes about, epitomizes the ambivalence. In a comment which has often been quoted Schweitzer says: “The African is indeed my brother but my junior brother.” And so he proceeded to build a hospital appropriate to the needs of junior brothers with standards of hygiene reminiscent of medical practice in the days before the germ theory of disease came into being. Naturally he became a sensation in Europe and America. Pilgrims flocked, and I believe still flock even after he has passed on, to witness the prodigious miracle in Lamberene, on the edge of the primeval forest.

Conrad’s liberalism would not take him quite as far as Schweitzer’s, though. He would not use the word brother however qualified; the farthest he would go was kinship. When Marlow’s African helmsman falls down with a spear in his heart he gives his white master one final disquieting look:
And the intimate profundity of that look he gave me when he received his hurt remains to this day in my memory – like a claim of distant kinship affirmed in a supreme moment.
It is important to note that Conrad, careful as ever with his words, is concerned not so much about distant kinship as about someone laying a claim on it. The black man lays a claim on the white man which is well-nigh intolerable. It is the laying of this claim which frightens and at the same time fascinates Conrad: “... the thought of their humanity – like yours … Ugly.”

The point of my observations should be quite clear by now, namely that Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist. That this simple truth is glossed over in criticisms of his work is due to the fact that white racism against Africa is such a normal way of thinking that its manifestations go completely unremarked. Students of Heart of Darkness will often tell you that Conrad is concerned not so much with Africa as with the deterioration of one European mind caused by solitude and sickness. They will point out to you that Conrad is, if anything, less charitable to the Europeans in the story than he is to the natives, that the point of the story is to ridicule Europe’s civilizing mission in Africa. A Conrad student informed me in Scotland that Africa is merely a setting for the disintegration of the mind of Mr. Kurtz.

Which is partly the point. Africa as setting and backdrop which eliminates the African as human factor. Africa as a metaphysical battlefield devoid of all recognizable humanity, into which the wandering European enters at his peril. Can nobody see the preposterous and perverse arrogance in thus reducing Africa to the role of props for the break-up of one petty European mind? But that is not even the point. The real question is the dehumanization of Africa and Africans which this age-long attitude has fostered and continues to foster in the world. And the question is whether a novel which celebrates this dehumanization, which depersonalizes a portion of the human race, can be called a great work of art. My answer is: No, it cannot. I do not doubt Conrad’s great talents. Even Heart of Darkness has its memorably good passages and moments:
The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across tile water to bar the way for our return.
Its exploration of the minds of the European characters is often penetrating and full of insight. But all that has been more than fully discussed in the last fifty years. His obvious racism has, however, not been addressed. And it is high time it was!

Conrad was born in 1857, the very year in which the first Anglican missionaries were arriving among my own people in Nigeria. It was certainly not his fault that he lived his life at a time when the reputation of the black man was at a particularly low level. But even after due allowances have been made for all the influences of contemporary prejudice on his sensibility there remains still in Conrad’s attitude a residue of antipathy to black people which his peculiar psychology alone can explain. His own account of his first encounter with a black man is very revealing:
A certain enormous buck nigger encountered in Haiti fixed my conception of blind, furious, unreasoning rage, as manifested in the human animal to the end of my days. Of the nigger I used to dream for years afterwards.
Certainly Conrad had a problem with niggers. His inordinate love of that word itself should be of interest to psychoanalysts. Sometimes his fixation on blackness is equally interesting as when he gives us this brief description:
A black figure stood up, strode on long black legs, waving long black arms…
as though we might expect a black figure striding along on black legs to wave white arms! But so unrelenting is Conrad’s obsession. As a matter of interest Conrad gives us in A Personal Record what amounts to a companion piece to the buck nigger of Haiti. At the age of sixteen Conrad encountered his first Englishman in Europe. He calls him “my unforgettable Englishman” and describes him in the following manner:
(his) calves exposed to the public gaze … dazzled the beholder by the splendor of their marble-like condition and their rich tone of young ivory … The light of a headlong, exalted satisfaction with the world of men … illumined his face … and triumphant eyes. In passing he cast a glance of kindly curiosity and a friendly gleam of big, sound, shiny teeth … his white calves twinkled sturdily.
Irrational love and irrational hate jostling together in the heart of that talented, tormented man. But whereas irrational love may at worst engender foolish acts of indiscretion, irrational hate can endanger the life of the community. Naturally Conrad is a dream for psychoanalytic critics. Perhaps the most detailed study of him in this direction is by Bernard C. Meyer, M.D. In his lengthy book Dr. Meyer follows every conceivable lead (and sometimes inconceivable ones) to explain Conrad. As an example he gives us long disquisitions on the significance of hair and hair-cutting in Conrad. And yet not even one word is spared for his attitude to black people. Not even the discussion of Conrad's antisemitism was enough to spark off in Dr. Meyer’s mind those other dark and explosive thoughts. Which only leads one to surmise that Western psychoanalysts must regard the kind of racism displayed by Conrad absolutely normal despite the profoundly important work done by Frantz Fanon in the psychiatric hospitals of French Algeria.

Whatever Conrad’s problems were, you might say he is now safely dead. Quite true. Unfortunately his heart of darkness plagues us still. Which is why an offensive and deplorable book can be described by a serious scholar as “among the half dozen greatest short novels in the English language.” And why it is today the most commonly prescribed novel in twentieth-century literature courses in English Departments of American universities.

There are two probable grounds on which what I have said so far may be contested. The first is that it is no concern of fiction to please people about whom it is written. I will go along with that. But I am not talking about pleasing people. I am talking about a book which parades in the most vulgar fashion prejudices and insults from which a section of mankind has suffered untold agonies and atrocities in the past and continues to do so in many ways and many places today. I am talking about a story in which the very humanity of black people is called in question.

Secondly, I may be challenged on the grounds of actuality. Conrad, after all, did sail down the Congo in 1890 when my own father was still a babe in arms. How could I stand up more than fifty years after his death and purport to contradict him? My answer is that as a sensible man I will not accept just any traveler’s tales solely on the grounds that I have not made the journey myself. I will not trust the evidence even off man’s very eyes when I suspect them to be as jaundiced as Conrad’s. And we also happen to know that Conrad was, in the words of his biographer, Bernard C. Meyer, “notoriously inaccurate in the rendering of his own history.”

But more important by far is the abundant testimony about Conrad’s savages which we could gather if we were so inclined from other sources and which might lead us to think that these people must have had other occupations besides merging into the evil forest or materializing out of it simply to plague Marlow and his dispirited band. For as it happened, soon after Conrad had written his book an event of far greater consequence was taking place in the art world of Europe. This is how Frank Willett, a British art historian, describes it:
Gaugin had gone to Tahiti, the most extravagant individual act of turning to a non-European culture in the decades immediately before and after 1900, when European artists were avid for new artistic experiences, but it was only about 1904-5 that African art began to make its distinctive impact. One piece is still identifiable; it is a mask that had been given to Maurice Vlaminck in 1905. He records that Derain was “speechless” and “stunned” when he saw it, bought it from Vlaminck and in turn showed it to Picasso and Matisse, who were also greatly affected by it. Ambroise Vollard then borrowed it and had it cast in bronze … The revolution of twentieth century art was under way!
The mask in question was made by other savages living just north of Conrad’s River Congo. They have a name too: the Fang people, and are without a doubt among the world’s greatest masters of the sculptured form. The event Frank Willett is referring to marks the beginning of cubism and the infusion of new life into European art, which had run completely out of strength.

The point of all this is to suggest that Conrad’s picture of the people of the Congo seems grossly inadequate even at the height of their subjection to the ravages of King Leopold’s lnternational Association for the Civilization of Central Africa.

Travelers with closed minds can tell us little except about themselves. But even those not blinkered, like Conrad with xenophobia, can be astonishing blind. Let me digress a little here. One of the greatest and most intrepid travelers of all time, Marco Polo, journeyed to the Far East from the Mediterranean in the thirteenth century and spent twenty years in the court of Kublai Khan in China. On his return to Venice he set down in his book entitled Description of the World his impressions of the peoples and places and customs he had seen. But there were at least two extraordinary omissions in his account. He said nothing about the art of printing, unknown as yet in Europe but in full flower in China. He either did not notice it at all or if he did, failed to see what use Europe could possibly have for it. Whatever the reason, Europe had to wait another hundred years for Gutenberg. But even more spectacular was Marco Polo's omission of any reference to the Great Wall of China nearly 4,000 miles long and already more than 1,000 years old at the time of his visit. Again, he may not have seen it; but the Great Wall of China is the only structure built by man which is visible from the moon! Indeed travelers can be blind.

As I said earlier Conrad did not originate the image of Africa which we find in his book. It was and is the dominant image of Africa in the Western imagination and Conrad merely brought the peculiar gifts of his own mind to bear on it. For reasons which can certainly use close psychological inquiry the West seems to suffer deep anxieties about the precariousness of its civilization and to have a need for constant reassurance by comparison with Africa. If Europe, advancing in civilization, could cast a backward glance periodically at Africa trapped in primordial barbarity it could say with faith and feeling: There go I but for the grace of God. Africa is to Europe as the picture is to Dorian Gray – a carrier onto whom the master unloads his physical and moral deformities so that he may go forward, erect and immaculate. Consequently Africa is something to be avoided just as the picture has to be hidden away to safeguard the man's jeopardous integrity. Keep away from Africa, or else! Mr. Kurtz of Heart of Darkness should have heeded that warning and the prowling horror in his heart would have kept its place, chained to its lair. But he foolishly exposed himself to the wild irresistible allure of the jungle and lo! the darkness found him out.

In my original conception of this essay I had thought to conclude it nicely on an appropriately positive note in which I would suggest from my privileged position in African and Western cultures some advantages the West might derive from Africa once it rid its mind of old prejudices and began to look at Africa not through a haze of distortions and cheap mystifications but quite simply as a continent of people – not angels, but not rudimentary souls either – just people, often highly gifted people and often strikingly successful in their enterprise with life and society. But as I thought more about the stereotype image, about its grip and pervasiveness, about the willful tenacity with which the West holds it to its heart; when I thought of the West's television and cinema and newspapers, about books read in its schools and out of school, of churches preaching to empty pews about the need to send help to the heathen in Africa, I realized that no easy optimism was possible. And there was, in any case, something totally wrong in offering bribes to the West in return for its good opinion of Africa. Ultimately the abandonment of unwholesome thoughts must be its own and only reward. Although I have used the word willful a few times here to characterize the West's view of Africa, it may well be that what is happening at this stage is more akin to reflex action than calculated malice. Which does not make the situation more but less hopeful.

The Christian Science Monitor, a paper more enlightened than most, once carried an interesting article written by its Education Editor on the serious psychological and learning problems faced by little children who speak one language at home and then go to school where something else is spoken. It was a wide-ranging article taking in Spanish-speaking children in America, the children of migrant Italian workers in Germany, the quadrilingual phenomenon in Malaysia, and so on. And all this while the article speaks unequivocally about language. But then out of the blue sky comes this:
In London there is an enormous immigration of children who speak Indian or Nigerian dialects, or some other native language.
I believe that the introduction of dialects which is technically erroneous in the context is almost a reflex action caused by an instinctive desire of the writer to downgrade the discussion to the level of Africa and India. And this is quite comparable to Conrad’s withholding of language from his rudimentary souls. Language is too grand for these chaps; let's give them dialects!

In all this business a lot of violence is inevitably done not only to the image of despised peoples but even to words, the very tools of possible redress. Look at the phrase native language in the Science Monitor excerpt. Surely the only native language possible in London is Cockney English. But our writer means something else – something appropriate to the sounds Indians and Africans make!

Although the work of redressing which needs to be done may appear too daunting, I believe it is not one day too soon to begin. Conrad saw and condemned the evil of imperial exploitation but was strangely unaware of the racism on which it sharpened its iron tooth. But the victims of racist slander who for centuries have had to live with the inhumanity it makes them heir to have always known better than any casual visitor even when he comes loaded with the gifts of a Conrad.
(Herbie Nichols Trio, “The prophetic” {Vol I} [personnel: Nichols, piano; Al McKibbon, bass; Art Blakey, drums; recorded: Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, US, 6 May 1955])
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