Five Hundred Years Rediscovered
Southern African Precedents And Prospects
A reframing of the oft-misunderstood history of the last 500 years in southern Africa
In the age of the African Renaissance, southern Africa has needed to reinterpret the past in fresh and more appropriate ways. The last 500 years represent a strikingly unexplored and misrepresented period which remains disfigured by colonial/apartheid assumptions, most notably in the way that African societies are depicted as fixed, passive, isolated, un-enterprising and unenlightened. This period is one the most formative in relation to southern Africa's past while remaining, in many ways, the least known. Key cultural contours of the sub-continent took shape, while in a jagged and uneven fashion some of the features of modern identities emerged. Enormous internal economic innovation and political experimentation was taking place at the same time as expanding European mercantile forces started to press upon southern African shores and its hinterlands. This suggests that interaction, flux and mixing were a strong feature of the period, rather than the homogeneity and fixity proposed in standard historical and archaeological writings. Five Hundred Years Rediscovered represents the first step, taken by a group of archaeologists and historians, to collectively reframe, revitalise and re-examine the last 500 years. By integrating research and developing trans-frontier research networks, the group hopes to challenge thinking about the region's expanding internal and colonial frontiers, and to broaden current perceptions about southern Africa's colonial past.
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