Synopses & Reviews
The Companion Volume to the PBS Television Series
Wonders of the African World is an exuberant, visually stunning journey across Africa and through the history of its glorious but forgotten civilizations.
Traveling by camel, by dhow, by Land Cruiser, and on foot, the renowned scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., takes us to twelve countries in search of Africa's magnificent past, the now neglected civilizations that in their day were as grand and sophisticated as any on the face of the earth. From Nubia's ancient empire, which for a time ruled Egypt and centuries before had established the earliest known African city, to the fabled town of Timbuktu, where during the medieval period there thrived a center of scholars that rivaled any in Europe and where books were as prized as gold, to Ethiopia's Christian kingdom, where the Lost Ark of the Covenant is said to reside under perpetual vigil, Gates reveals an Africa little known to Westerners. And as he shows us the achievements that exploiters of the continent have ignored or denied for centuries, he introduces us as well to the fascinating variety of modern-day Africans, many of whom are descended from the great peoples who built Africa's most formidable cultures?including the Asante, the Swahili, the Tuareg, and the Shona.
As Gates's compelling narrative shows, the continent's past continues to be felt in the lives of many Africans today. And in America for the descendants of those brought here as slaves, that past has been a controversial inheritance, passionately embraced by some, fiercely rejected by others. For this reason, Gates's deeply personal account of discovery is charged throughout by a question posed by Countee Cullen in his 1925 poem "Heritage" and perennially asked by African Americans: What is Africa to me? Finally, though, it is the wisdom of this book that the legacy of Africa?no less than that of Greece or Rome?belongs to all the world's civilized peoples.
Illustrated with spectacular full-page photographs specially commissioned from the internationally acclaimed Lynn Davis, Wonders of the African World is Africa as we have never known or seen it before.
With 66 photographs by Lynn Davis, 132 illustrations in black-and-white and full color, and 7 full-color maps
Includes bibliographical references (p. 261-267) and index.
About the Author
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of Humanities and the chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Harvard University. The author of seven previous books, including the widely acclaimed memoir Colored People, Professor Gates has also edited several anthologies and is coeditor with Kwame Anthony Appiah of Encarta Africana, an encyclopedia of the African Diaspora. An influential cultural critic, he is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and other publications and is the recipient of many honors, including a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the National Humanities Medal.
Lynn Davis has won international acclaim for her photographs of sacred sights and landscapes all over the world. She has had thirty-two one-person exhibitions and is represented in numerous private and public collections. Born in Minneapolis, she lives in New York City; Hudson, New York; and Nova Scotia.
Table of Contents
Africa, to me --Nubia : Black gods and kings --Ethiopia : the Holy Land and the lost Ark of the Covenant --Salt, gold, and books : the road to Timbuktu --Searching for the Swahili --The tree of forgetfulness --South Africa and Zimbabwe : legends of lost cities.