Life on the ground: Exploring the Africa ‘Local Intellectuals Strand’
In the latest issue of Africa Carola Lentz (University of Mainz) introduces the work of Kumbonoh Gandah, an intellectual and historian from Northern Ghana. Gandah was the son of an influential chief and witnessed the way in which colonial rule and political developments played out in Northern Ghana during the 1940s and 1950s. In addition to his autobiography (The Silent Rebel, edited by Jack Goody), Gandah wrote a history of his father, Gandah-yir, drawing together oral tradition, local memories and written history. The manuscript represents a valuable contribution to African historiography from Northern Ghana. As part of Africa’s ‘local intellectuals strand’ (see below) Lentz now presents and introduces extracts from the manuscript to a broader readership. In the online journal version Gandah’s full manuscript as well as Lentz’s original introduction are reproduced as supplementary material.
Africa is proud to publish a number of works produced by authors outside the literary or academic mainstream. The aim of the Africa local intellectuals strand is to introduce and analyse texts – whether oral, manuscript or print to bring to light this work which might otherwise have remained unknown. The texts might include notebooks, diaries, letters, local works of history, philosophy or literature, performed or written poetry, newspaper serials and a host of other forms. This rich seam of intellectual work is increasingly becoming a focus of attention by historians, anthropologists and literary scholars. Texts by local intellectuals constitute an archive of local thought and experience, experiment and commentary. They shed a fascinating light on life ‘on the ground’ in Africa, past and present. However, the texts themselves are rarely accessible outside the local context of their production so the journal will be building up an important on-line repository of materials to which scholars and researchers can return over the years.
The Gandah-yir project will be presented at the forthcoming ASAUK conference (University of Leeds, 6-8 September 2012) as part of a panel on ‘local intellectuals’ sponsored by Africa/ The International African Institute.