Re-Centring AfroAsia: Musical and Human Migrations in the Precolonial Period 700–1500 AD
Re-centring AfroAsia is a multi-pronged research, mapping, and archiving project supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This project aims to not only revolutionise Humanities research in South Africa but also create an AfroAsian community of scholarship. There are three dimensions to this: firstly, as the Charter for the Humanities and the Social Sciences observed, the scholarship on the pre-1652 period is scant and it was untenable to continue as if the history should start with the arrival of the Dutch in the Cape. Although work around Mapungubwe has started re-positioning of Southern Africa in World and African history, it is still a tentative first step. Secondly, as Mamdani argued, the “customary” is a very recent colonial ossification, trapping Africa into a “traditional” mush which is ahistorical, static and highly problematic. Thirdly, the aesthetic fields have remained particularly Eurocentric and at best limited to Transatlantic scholarship, with the opening up of Africa’s contribution to the North-East being largely ignored. Furthermore, scholarship has been “Anglocentric” with a vast archive that speaks to Africa’s social, political and cultural past remaining unexplored: Swahili, Farsi, Arabic, Sanskrit and Mandarin (although Farsi was the aristocratic language of the Tang dynasty) sources are as yet unavailable to Southern Africa.
Map above: Jan Huygen van Linschoten; Deliniantur in hac Tabula, 1596