1 Shevat 5779
Life is too short for long introductions. This is an ongoing discussion on the interwoven nature of the distant past and the present from the appendix of Africa.
Indeed, truths are often hidden away in appendices that seem useless until their value is discovered by a rigorous, enquiring mind. This finger of the continent on which I live points to the frozen wastes of Antarctica, itself evidence of our imperfect knowledge of the past. Here, a string of islands, mountains, valleys, larger landmasses and active volcanoes is sugared over with kilometres of ice. Similarly, the ice veils the complex nature of lands taken by an extremely rapid freeze, the cause of which has not to my knowledge been adequately explained.
If we think of Antarctica as a continent, we are mistaken, as its true complexity is only emerging now. Strangely, one Sixteenth Century map points to a group of lands where Antarctica is located which are ice free. Strange indeed, as Antarctica was only “discovered” almost exactly a hundred years ago and the Piri Reis Map to which I am referring was copied from an older source. Our monolithic, uniformist ideas are manifestly false and are not even useful for even the simplest explanations of our history, let alone pre-history.
This modern fallacy contextualizes our local, misunderstood and misapplied history. Who indeed were the initial inhabitants of Southern Africa? Were the aboriginal population refugees from a conflict zone who discovered an open and safe land? And was that land itself the habitation of an earlier, unknown people who were destroyed by a much earlier catastrophe? I sense the fatigue at the possibility of infinite regression in the argument but the purpose of this blog is to delve deep and go South of the usual explanations. Further, I will not impose a single interpretation on the reader, rather, I will suggest that there is more than one answer to most questions and that a conversation – even a virtual one – is a more profound source of knowledge.
For the present I will leave the aspects of pre-history raised above untouched; instead I use them as analogies of my guiding philosophy: divergent thought allows for multiple perspectives and undermines the narrow approach to diversity which has taken hold in the Southern part of my continent. Diversity cannot be imposed, nor can it be narrowly defined – the process of definition itself is much like the effect of measurement in the quantum realm. As soon as one measures a particle in its quantum state, you alter it and while this might seem like a politician giving him- or herself a license to fib, I compare my limited intellect to the small beam of a torch, which as it illuminates a patch of darkness, exposes an even larger darkness around itself.
To borrow the words of an ambiguous pop culture hero: politicians use lies to hide the truth, artists use lies to uncover the truth. Such is my quest and such is my confession, that at best, I will be an ambiguous hero as we travel South.