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Deconstructing Gates' Wonders of the African World

Gwendolyn Mikell


These comments were delivered on November 13, 1999 at the African Studies Association Meetings in Philadelphia Pennsylvania on the ASA Board Sponsored Roundtable on the Wonders of the African World film series, which aired in late October 1999 on PBS. It seems fitting that in a gathering of Africanists such as this, we should assess the images of Africa with which we are being presented on the eve of the 21st century. This means that our Africanist credentials are sufficient, and we need not be filmmakers or journalists in order to comment on the Wonders of the African World, the series which was directed and narrated by Henry Louis Gates. After all, many of us have predicted that the year 2000 is supposed to be the African century; that having begun to clean house by removing the cobwebs of colonialism and the East-West conflict during the last decade of the twentieth century, Africa was positioning itself for a renaissance in the 21st. Indeed, the ending of apartheid through democratic elections in South Africa 1994 and the holding of democratic elections in Nigeria in 1999 gave indications that these two sleeping giants would help lead the renaissance we envisioned.

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West Africa Review. ISSN: 1525-4488 (online).
Editors: Adeleke Adeeko, Nkiru Nzegwu, and Olufemi Taiwo.

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