Rabat, Morocco, 5-9 December 2011   

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Home page » Public Lectures and Scientific Activities » Statutory Public Lectures » Cheikh Anta Diop Public Lecture

Cheikh Anta Diop Public Lecture

Cheikh Anta Diop was born on 29th of December 1923 at Caytou, a small village of Baol (Diourbel) in the heart of Senegal. Like other children of his community, he started his education at the Quranic school, and later attended the French School of Diourbel for his primary education before proceeding to Dakar and Saint Louis for his secondary education.. After his Baccalaureate in 1945, he left for France. The context in which he had grown up in Senegal gave him a deep understanding of the importance of history, a discipline that would eventually supplant the physics and chemistry that he had gone to study in France. History became for him a scientific, political and ideological issues and the main task would consist of bringing to light the history of Africa, not based on the Greek reference, but by showing, beginning from Pharaonic Egypt, the continuity between the Nilotic cradle and the Negro-African societies.

The restoration of the historical consciousness of the black person thus became the guideline of the battle that Cheikh Anta Diop would fight throughout his lifetime. For him, the domination of Africa has not been done only with the gun, but also through the efficacy of the colonial ideology which carried “the most monstrous falsification of which mankind has ever been guilty”. However, the strength of this falsification that he denounces prevented him from submitting the thesis that he prepared in 1951, which however was later published as a book: « Nations nègres et cultures – De l’antiquité nègre égyptienne aux problèmes culturels de l’Afrique noire d’aujourd’hui » by Présence Africaine in 1954.

This publication was what drew attention to the power of the innovative ideas of Cheikh Anta Diop, which continued to appear in his subsequent writings through a multidisciplinary approach that involved the humanities and the natural sciences. Among his numerous publications are Fondements culturels, techniques et industriels d’un futur Etat fédéral d’Afrique noire (Paris, Présence Africaine, 1960), L’Afrique noire précoloniale et L’unité culturelle de l’Afrique noire (Paris, Présence Africaine, 1960), Antériorité des civilisations nègres : mythe ou vérité historique (Paris, Présence Africaine, 1967), Le laboratoire du radiocarbone de l’IFAN (IFAN, Dakar, 1968), Physique nucléaire et chronologie absolue (IFAN-Dakar/NEA, Dakar/Abidjan, 1974), Parenté génétique de l’égyptien pharaonique et des langues négro-africaines (IFAN/NEA, Dakar-Abidjan, 1977), Civilisation ou Barbarie (Paris, Présence Africaine, 1981).

In his busy life totally dedicated to Africa, we may recall two important dates that denote the completion of the scientific recognition of Cheikh Anta Diop:

1. In 1977, as part of the General History of Africa that was being prepared by UNESCO, a symposium that brings together internationally renowned Egyptologists was organised in Cairo: This meeting enabled Cheikh Anta Diop to scientifically discuss his ideas on the subject with his fellow scholars.

2. In 1982, the Sankoré bookstore of the linguist Pathé Diagne paid tribute to Cheikh Anta Diop at the University of Dakar, during a symposium organised on his life and work. This special occasion afforded Cheikh Anta Diop another opportunity to discuss his ideas with his peers at the University, from all disciplines.
For Cheikh Anta Diop, scientific engagement is meaningful only if it allows Africans to arm themselves with what they need to build their future. This explains on the one hand, his political commitment through the République démocratique allemande (RDA), the Bloc des masses sénégalaises (BMS), and the Rassemblement national démocratique (RND); and secondly, his implacable opposition to Senghor’s administration, which was not sufficiently independent of the former colonial power and its interests.

Convinced Pan-Africanist, emeritus researcher and world-class intellectual, Cheikh Anta Diop has certainly been a visionary concerning the place of Africa in the history of mankind. Indeed, his vision, in a way, anticipated the major archaeological discoveries of the 2000s in Africa, whether in Kerma, or much older, Blombos. The Pharaoh of Knowledge died on 7 February 1986 and was buried in his native village, where a mausoleum was built in his memory. In recognition of his great intellectual contributions to Africa’s recognition in world history and development, the University of Dakar and the main avenue of the Senegalese capital (Dakar) which passes by the University, were named after him.

The Cheikh Anta Diop public lecture has been successively delivered by Prof. Samir Amin (Kampala, 2002), Dr. Carlos Lopes (Maputo, 2005) and Prof. Souleymane Bachir Diagne (Yaoundé, 2008). During this General Assembly, it will be delivered by Prof. Jomo Kwame Sundaram.