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Critique of Wonders of the African World by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Vivian Windley


One redeeming feature of the travelogue, Wonders of the African World, though it lacked depth, is that both black and white viewers who know little if anything about Africa would have gained some important information about the continent in the midst of trivia. It is most unfortunate that Professor Gates missed a wonderful opportunity to present the series in a scholarly fashion. Instead, he trivialized much of the information and displayed irreverence and disrespect for what is held sacred in the various cultures. For example, when told about the Asantehene, the Chief or King of the Asante in Ghana, his retort in jest was that he was the Skipahene. Had he done his homework, he would have known that "hene" means Chief or King; that the Asantehene is revered as the King of the Asante, a people with a highly developed and respected culture. Does Professor Gates equate himself with the King of the Asante? Is he King of any kingdom? And why would he flippantly call the powerful Queen Mother the Queen Mum (a British term of endearment for a retired Queen Mother without power)? Further, he should know that the traditional dress worn by men in Ghana is not a robe, but the "Ntama" or cloth.

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

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