Welcome to my A-Z 2018, for which I am revisiting Africa, the continent of my childhood and my dreams. The posts are, as always, infoheavy and opinionated, but they are sectioned off - some music, the day’s topic, couple writers, a slideshow from the safaris – plenty ways to cherry-pick. So you may consume just as much, or as little, as you're cool with. Zero obligation to agree with any of my views either, feel free to air yours :)

Friday, 13 April 2018

L is for Life...and...Lineage


is for


Take a listen to Life while you ponder the big issues :)  Bisa Kdei is the stage name of Ronald Kwaku Dei Appiah, he is from Ghana and has successfully collaborated with a string of African artistes, including Patoranking from Nigeria.




And have a listen to Ismael Lo as well. He's an award winning, internationally acclaimed musician actor of mixed Senegalese-Nigerian heritage.








LineageThere is much debate in scientific circles about how modern humans originated and when. In the last three-four years the established theory is being added to and modified, based on dramatic and illuminating new fossil findings in Morocco and China and Spain. Timelines hundreds of thousand years old are being revised. As we learn to look deeper and closer and more minutely at molecular biochemistry and genetic material, our understanding of human evolution becomes more nuanced.

What is not in doubt amidst all the debate and discussions, however, is where humans evolved. The crucial role that Africa played in the story. Listen to Prof Richard Dawkins explain why we are all Africans in this short video clip:





Of the millions of years it took for humans to evolve, only a miniscule portion of the time the narrative’s played out on other continents. Africa has been the exclusive setting for the human evolution story for the largest chunk of our time on this planet. The DNA evidence confirms this, the fossil records confirm it too.

The oldest fossil of modern humans, Homo sapiens, has been found in Ethiopia, dated to around 195,000 years ago. If we broaden the ambit and look at all hominin fossils, then too the largest numbers have been discovered in Africa so far.

In 1871, long before the mysteries of DNA and genetics were known, long before substantial fossil findings even, Charles Darwin made the boldest possible scientific prediction based on the outward similarities between the African apes and modern man – that humans evolved in Africa and most fossils would be found there. Time and technology have proved him scientifically correct and stunningly astute.

The upshot, of years of DNA research, genetics, and radiometric dating –

  • The DNA variations between the current population of humans (7.6 billion at last count) is less than 0.01%. Or, we are 99.99% the same, and the obvious differences in shape of head, colour of skin etc are expressions of that one-ten-thousandth bit that’s different. Not such a big deal then, hmmm?! Those pure-blood theories of racial superiority so dear to Lord Voldemort (and some non-fictional nutjobs too!) were horribly wrong all along. I knew it!

  • The genetic diversity within Africa is greater than the diversity of all the human populations outside put together. So whatever differences are there, originated within Africa itself and were carried out with the migrations.

 

  • Chimps and humans vary in their DNA by 1.2%. Humans and gorillas by 1.6%. Both chimps and gorillas are African apes. Whereas the difference between humans and orang-utans, which are Asian apes, is 3.1%. Telling.

 

  • A little over 50 km from Johannesburg, the Cradle of Humankind site was still being investigated as of September last year and yielding more fossils of modern humans. There is much to analyse still, but the evidence is now overwhelming as to the African origins of the species of Homo sapiens.


Till about sixty years ago, the accepted theories of human evolution placed human origins in Asia or Europe. Fossil hunters had scoured those continents for years and yet only a few fossils were found there. By contrast, nearly half of all the fossils found so far are concentrated in Africa, in the Rift Valley and South Africa mostly, and this is changing every day as more and more fossils are being found.


From the Safaris



~ Thank you for watching! ~


Books n Stuff 

Camara Laye (1928-1980) – was a Guinean Francophone author born in Kouroussa and educated in Africa and France. His African Child is an autobiographical novel that captures the simplicity of life in an African village. It was one of the books I read as a teenager, it wasn’t a school text. I was moved by it sufficiently to acquire my own copy, and since I have the habit of scribbling the date I buy a book along with my name on the flyleaf, I can tell you now it’s been with me for more than 40 years. It’s written in a straightforward yet lyrical, evocative prose that is memorable. Even the cover is lovely. And because Fontana no longer exists, this particular copy is even more special, as all pre-loved books are.


Kojo Laing (1946-2017) –  was a Ghanaian poet, novelist and educator, born in Kumasi and educated at home initially and then in the UK. He passed away almost exactly a year ago, his first death anniversary comes up on the 20th. His writing was known for using Pidgin English and vernacular languages alongside English. He was awarded multiple times though some feel he was one of the unsung heroes of African literature during his lifetime. Read a few lines from his poem below -

Black Girl, White Girl

Ampa I used to walk through the streets
with a black girl and a white girl
and they both looked exactly alike:
high cheekbones, slimmish, good hair, calm,
and with a fine sense of history…

Slimmish, high cheekbones, good hair, calm,
a black girl and a white girl
who both looked exactly alike,
used to walk ampa through the streets with me,
with my terrible sense of history…

Me in the high streets, my cheeks with bruised bones,
me looking exactly like my history,    
slim enough to push eternity forward, calm

with Vaseline in my hair, good for all colours…
   



Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2018


22 comments:

  1. I really, really like learning that we can all trace our heritage back to the 'dark continent'. And the way it has thrown accepted wisdom out the window.

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    1. Darwin predicted it way before any fossils were found - no-one was willing to consider his theories except...okay, that's a different post :)

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  2. Hari OM
    ...ekaanvaya... literally! Lovely post. YAM xx

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  3. Listening to song #2 and glad you shared it. I read Camara Laye's book a long time ago too. It was a book I bought it in the 1960s, I think, at a black bookstore in Detroit, Vaughn's Bookstore.

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    1. It's a lovely book - I reread it again for this A-Z - oh, nostalgia!

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  4. My, Nila, just SO MUCH here. I find it fascinating that the latest discoveries show the African origins of the species of Homo sapiens. Along with many, I suspect, I leaned more towards Iraq. Whatever it is, the minute variations in the DNA show how ridiculous it is to judge each other by the color of our skin or other differences. We are all one family. Get used to it. 'Nutjobs.' Great description.

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    1. Iraq is one of the oldest civilisations, Egypt is another, but civilisations and history are only around 7-8000 years old. Modern man as a species evolved some 2-300,000 years ago, and even that is constantly being pushed back and forth as new research comes to light...the African theory of origin has been accepted by the scientific community for a few decades now.

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  5. Human evolution was a little bit outside of my own field of archaeology (Roman era), but when we did study it, it was utterly fascinating. And to imagine it is still a short time compared to other species...

    The Multicolored Diary: Weird Things in Hungarian Folktales

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    1. Yup, humans are the johnny come lately specieswise. But seriously, it's just so mind blowing the story of human evolution...and half of it I suspect hasn't been discovered yet...

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  6. Another very interesting post; thank you for sharing. www.hesterleynel.co.za.

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  7. I'm listening to song #1 as I write this quote. I love it! I'd never heard of that artist, and I'm glad you shared. Time for song #2...
    https://melaniecrousesblog.blogspot.com/2018/04/l-is-for-more-or-less.html

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    1. Nigeria and Ghana both have a pretty rich music scene actually...

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  8. Another post to love. The lineage piece is fascinating to the would-be anthropologist in me. And I've come to count on you to expand my musical horizon and you've yet to fail me with some delightful new-to-me discovery. Thank you!

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    1. Glad you're enjoying the posts, Deborah - I am fascinated by anthropology too. :)

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  9. Hi Nila - another great post ... with lots of information in it - I'd realised Africa was the cradle of 'us lot' ... but was interested to see how the Cradle of Humankind outside Johannesburg has developed into a heritage site - when I go back ... I'll make a point of going out to visit. I never got to the Sterkfontein caves when I visited ...

    Fascinating and also for all the other references ... and lots of long! Cheers Hilary

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    1. South Africa has quite a few of these palaeontology sites - utterly captivating history...also the rift valley.On my bucket list among the top ten :)

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  10. Funny thing, but when I was in grammar school and high school, we were told about evolution as if it were accepted fact. During the last few years, science and scientists have fallen out of favor with a lot of people, and one often hears arguments against the concept of evolution. Sometimes I think the human race is travelling backwards.

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  11. I did not know that about baby zebras legs, Nila. Fascinating! Love your videos!

    We are all so close to the same that each of us would be convicted based on our DNA in some other world's court. (That made sense to me but maybe not to anyone else.)

    Thanks for another wonderful read!

    Emily In Ecuador | Lights Reflecting Off the Ocean, Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

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    1. That makes perfect sense to me as well.

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