Memo culture : Writing History, reality and misperceptions
Main points of the high level debate on ’Writing History : reality and misperceptions" led by M. Walter Bgoya, Founder and Managing Director of the publishing house Mkuki na Nyota, M. Chambi Chachage, PhD student in History at Harvard University, Ms. Sophie Dulucq, professor of Modern History at the University of Toulouse (France), and Dr. Marie-Aude Fouéré, senior lecturer at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), whih took place the 21st of April 2016.
Why care about History ?
History is dynamic; it is a process that is in perpetual construction by everyone. Thus subject is nonetheless often controversial. It is important to ask oneself questions on the dominant discourse on History: who wrote it? In which way does it influence people’s life?
History can be used as a “weapon of mass destruction” however its reconstitution can also be a tool of reconstruction.
Who writes History?
Historiographers specialise in the way in which History is written and aim to transcribe a version that is as “objective” as possible. Their work consists of organizing data, of understanding it and of applying a critical mind to it. However, History is malleable. It can be reviewed with different perceptions.
The States, governments, power possessors have the means to censure and influence the way the events are transcribed. However, each person is an actor of the creation of History. It is not just about ‘great Men’.
Africa has a place in History and a place in the History of the world
There is an unsustained belief that Africa doesn’t have a History. The perspective used in the writing of Global History is biased by the western world. The average Tanzanian has a better knowledge of the History of Europe than the average French has of Africa.
The oral tradition of transmission and the progressive disappearance of local languages contribute to the oversight of the History of the African continent.
African historical figures of reference should be identified and promoted to create a feeling of belonging to a national and African History.
The bad state of History teaching in Tanzania
Tanzania does not have an official History manual. At a secondary level, the History curriculum focuses on Africa in general, without a specific interest on Tanzania.
At a higher education level, a decline of the teaching of History is flagrant, more particularly at the University of Dar es Salaam, which was previously known for the quality of its teaching in this domain.
The definition of a History curriculum is a political question
A curriculum is defined by clear aims that ally pedagogy, science and politics. In French History teaching in France, one of the main questions asked is whether there should be a promotion of a multicultural History or of a national History promoting unity.
The definition of a History curriculum asks questions, which are different depending on the countries. In France and more generally in Europe, the colonialist and enslaving past are sensitive questions. The questions are not the same in Tanzania, whose independence is recent on a historical scale.
A revision of the Tanzanian school curriculum will have to incorporate the ethnic and religious diversity of the country whilst promoting national unity.