africaIn conjunction with the Second Annual Harry and Berniece Gockel International Symposium, "Africa: The Neglected Continent," and in conjunction with "The Africa Semester" scheduled for Missouri Southern State College in the Fall of 1998, KGCS-LP, the television station of the College, aired the television series The Africans.

The Africans is a series of nine one-hour programs and is a co-production of WETA-TV, the public television station in Washington, D.C., and the British Broadcasting Corporation. Major funding for The Africans was provided by The Annenberg/CPB Project. Additional funding was from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Public Broadcasting Service, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The Africans premiered in the fall of 1986. It is a view of Africa from the inside looking out and provides an unparalleled opportunity to offer the public a set of interdisciplinary resources on a topic of paramount contemporary and historical interest.

At the core of The Africans is the thesis that contemporary Africa is a product of three major influences ¾ an indigenous heritage, Western culture, and Islamic culture. The co-existence of these three legacies helps to explain the diversity of the continent and the people who are called African.

The Africans looks at examples of both cultural conflict and cultural synthesis. It shows the impact of geography on African history as well as the variety of environments and lifestyles within contemporary Africa. It explores the co-existence and interlocking influences of the three religious heritages and the means by which Africa's human and natural resources have been exploited. It examines Africa's experiments with different forms of government and assesses the problems of a continent that is caught between dependency and decay. Finally, the series considers Africa in the context of its relations with the rest of the world.

The host of The Africans was Ali A. Mazrui, who was be the keynote speaker at the Second Annual Harry and Berniece Gockel International Symposium on the campus of Missouri Southern State College on April 13-14, 1998. Dr. Mazrui is the Albert Schweitzer professor in the humanities and director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at Binghamton University, State University of New York. He is also a research professor at the University of Jos, Nigeria.

In the television series, Dr. Mazrui guides the viewer through the Africa of his experience, drawing on the knowledge of scholars throughout the world. Mazrui, a native Kenyan, earned a B.A. from Manchester University, an M.A. from Columbia University, and a doctorate from Oxford University. He is regarded as probably the most prominent political thinker on and from Africa today.

Dr. Mazrui is author of the book The Africans: A Triple Heritage (New York: Little Brown and Company, 1986) and co-editor (with Toby Kleman) of The Africans: A Reader (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1986), both designed to accompany the television series when used as a telecourse.

The nine programs of the series are as follows:

1. "Anatomy of a Continent" which examines Africa as the birthplace of humankind and discusses the impact of geography on African history, including the role of the Nile in the origin of civilization and the introduction of Islam to Africa through its Arabic borders.

2. "The Triple Heritage of Lifestyles" explores how African contemporary lifestyles are influenced by indigenous, Western, and Islamic cultures and questions whether Westernization is reversible. The program compares simple African societies with those that are more complex and centralized and focuses on the importance of family life.

3. "New Gods" examines the factors that influence religion in Africa, paying particular attention to how traditional African religions, Islam, and Christianity co-exist and influence each other. It also explores the extent to which Christianity and Islam are becoming Africanized.

4. "Exploitation" contrasts the impact of the West on Africa and the impact of Africa on the development of the West, looking at the manner in which Africa's human and natural resources have been exploited before, during and after the colonial period.

5. "New Conflicts" examines the tensions inherent in the juxtaposition of the three heritages, looking at the ways in which these conflicts have contributed to the rise of the nationalist movement, the warrior tradition of indigenous Africa, the jihad tradition of Islam, and modern guerrilla warfare.

6. "In Search of Stability" studies several means of governing. New social orders are examined to illustrate an Africa in search of a viable form of government in the post-independence period. The program asks which efforts have succeeded, which have failed, and why.

7. "A Garden of Eden in Decay?" identifies the problems of a continent that produces what it does not consume and consumes what it does not produce, showing Africa's struggle between economic dependency and decay.

8. "A Conflict of Cultures" shows the coexistence of many African traditions and modern activities and the conflicts and compromises which emerge from the mixing of cultures. It explores whether Africa can synthesize its own heritage with the legacies of Islam and the West.

9. "Africa in the World" illustrates African contributions to contemporary culture, including the significance of the African Diaspora, particularly in North America, and examines the continuing influence of the superpowers on the affairs of the continent.

Air dates for the series were as follows:


Sunday, 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, 11:00 a.m.

1.The Nature of a Continent

January 25, 1998

February 5, 1998

2. A Legacy of Lifestyles

February 1, 1998

February 12, 1998

3. New Gods

February 8, 1998

February 19, 1998

4. Tools of Exploitation

February 15, 1998

February 26, 1998

5. New conflicts

February 22, 1998

March 5, 1998

6. In Search of Stability

March 1, 1998

March 12, 1998

7. A Garden of Eden in Decay?

March 8, 1998

March 19, 1998

8. A Clash of Cultures

March 15, 1998

March 26, 1998

9. Global Africa

March 22, 1998

April 2, 1998

(The illustration at the top of the page is by Mark English, and all material used is from "Telecourse Preview," copyright 1985 by the Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association, Inc.)