DER Documentary

Roots of African Culture

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by Michael Chapman and Keyan Tomaselli with the graduate students in Cultural and Media Studies at the University of Natal, Durban SA
color, 30 min, 2003




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"This is very important for us. Not only to engage and for the reconstruction of the historical past, but also for our national heritage." — Professor Yonah Seleti

Historical revisionism and propaganda were important elements of apartheid ideology, proclaiming that black peoples were not the owners of Southern Africa by stating that the whites arrived in the same areas at nearly the same time. Today a crucial objective of South African education is to erase this interpretation as presented in earlier textbooks, and to give their students a genuine history of their country. Roots of African Culture, a video produced by the University of Natal, is an indispensable pedagogical tool for this purpose.

Recording the teaching process of Professors Jeff Guy, Leonard van Schalkwyk, Haskell Greenfield, and Yonah Seleti, this video depicts the entire process through which students are enabled to rediscover the history of Africa. Examples of falsified apartheid literature are juxtaposed against the fieldwork evidence that shows evidence of the first South African settlements, in existence well before the arrival of European populations in Natal area in 1652.

Under the supervision of experts, students participate in archaeological excavations in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, between "historic" Natal and the Zulu Kingdom, where African communities lived in the Iron Age. The entire process of excavation of a site is described and carried out. The process of "Carbon 14 dating" is explained.

Through this concrete and delightful academic experience students are finally able to affirm the existence of African farming communities during the 8th century.

Suitable for African Studies, archaeology, anthropology, history, and educational practice.

View more photos on www.flickr.com

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