I pass on the following item in which Saki Mafundikwa offers some
thoughts on the nature of writing in case they may be of interest.
The publisher of his book gave me the pointer to the URL
number=5003 ... DZO

Type Ramblings from Afrika
by Saki Mafundikwa
writing from Harare, Zimbabwe

Publication Date: May 2002

Since the completion of my Master's thesis at Yale University in
1985, I have been on a mission to re-write Afrika's history in my own
small way as a Graphic Designer.

I will never forget the time I first came upon the forgotten Afrikan
scripts. I had spent almost thirty years of my life being told I was
pagan, heathen and that misused of all words: primitive! Levi Strauss
the French anthropologist wrote that the word meant ¡°without
writing.¡± If that is true, then western civilization was wrong to
call us Afrikans primitive because we did have writing. Now that I
understand fully the concept of ¡°writing,¡± I now realize that when
my ancestors painted their faces a certain way in a certain color
during a certain time of the year, they were passing on information
and communicating ideas. This is the essence of writing.

Historians, most artists, and others continue to willfully delude the
masses by scant references to, or, in the worst case scenario, by
total silence on, Afrika¡¯s influence and contributions. Indeed it is
said that facts are stubborn and this is one fact that no one can
erase from the pages of history. A history we have to rewrite
ourselves in order to set the record straight.

The story of writing is filled with such mischief as well. As far as
most "authorities" on the subject are concerned, Afrika's
contribution begins and ends with Egyptian hieroglyphics. True,
hieroglyphics were important in the development of the Roman
alphabet, but it is not the only contribution Afrika made! We also
have to rid some people of the wrong thinking that the Roman alphabet
is superior to all others. First, what is 'writing' anyway? I found
the best possible answer in Albertine Gaur's "A History of Writing"
in which she states:

¡±If all writing is information storage, then all writing is of equal
value. Each society stores information essential to its survival, the
information which enables it to function efficiently. There is in
fact no difference between prehistoric rock paintings, memory aids
(mnemonic devices), wintercounts, tallies, knotted cords,
pictographic, syllabic and consonantal scripts, or the alphabet.
There are no primitive scripts, no forerunners of writing, no
transitional scripts as such (terms frequently used in books dealing
with the history of writing), but only societies at a particular
level of economic and social development using certain forms of
information storage. If a form of information storage fulfills its
purpose as far as a particular society is concerned then it is (for
this particular society) 'proper' writing.¡±

So when the Ashante people of Ghana were weaving kente cloth into
intricate patterns, with proverbs and other symbols embedded in them,
they were "writing" since they were indeed communicating ideas,
messages and concepts. Likewise, the rock cave paintings of southern
Afrika, which were mainly narratives of memorable events-like the
celebration following a big kill in a hunt, were writing as well. In
fact, my research has led me to the realization that there is no
group of people anywhere in the world that at some given point in
their development did not devise a way of communicating-with symbols
or pictures: ideographs and pictographs, or actual scripts.

We are being led to believe that the world is becoming one happy
global village, well then, it is time Africa commanded the respect
she is long due in the village. Only we Afrikans can ensure that this
indeed does happen through our active participation in the process of
writing our own history. Telling our own stories.

--- In qalam@yahoogroups.com, "Don Osborn" <dzo@...> wrote:
> This item (received on a12n-collaboration) may be of interest...
> Don Osborn
> Bisharat.net
> ----- Forwarded message from info@... -----
> Date: Fri, 9 Jul 2004 18:09:15 -0400
> From: info@...
> Reply-To: info@...
> Subject: TDC Type Salon: Conversation with John D. Berry & Saki
> Mafundikwa
> To: info@...
> TDC Type Salon
> Conversation with John D. Berry and Saki Mafundikwa
> Thursday, July 15, 2004, 6 to 8 p.m. (admission free)
> TDC office (new location)
> 127 West 25 Street, 8th Floor