Africanist or not?

To be an Africanist or not to be an Africanist?
I have heard about this term, Africanist for many years.
I do have a few friends, not born in Africa, whom I would consider as “Africanist”.

My understanding of the term “Africanist” is someone, preferably not born in Africa, who are interested in the continent, so much so, that they may have learned an African language or are interested in the many cultures that thrive there. As such, I probably fit into the latter category.

Now the reason I bring this up is because I came across the term “Africanist” in a CBC news article called One Hell of an Impression by Emily Chung. The story is about a Polish palaeontologist who was on a holiday in Crete in 2002 and found what he thought were the oldest footprints in the world.

As such, if they were the oldest footprints then they would pre-date those found in Africa; in Tanzania and Ethiopia to be exact.

The Polish palaeontologist, Gerard Gierlinski, believed the footprints he found at Trachilos, Crete were from 5.6 million year ago. That time period would be during the Miocene period when the Mediterranean Sea had temporarily dried-up.

That would mean these footprints were earlier than the 3.66 million-year-ago Laetoli footprints found by Mary Leakey near Olduvai in 1976 and the other earlier hominin ones found in Ethiopia that dated to 4.4 million years ago.

My argument is not about the dates or where the first hominid prints were found, but rather, the use of the term “Africanist”.

I do have a few friends whom I would consider as “Africanist”; those who have learned an African language or have lived and studied within a culture. Bill Curry did his MA in Applied Linguistics and left England to live, work and study in Kenya since the 1970s. He is fluent in Kiswahili.

Jerome Harris has been living and working in Ethiopia since the 1980s and can speak Amharic. Both Tina Mangieri and Ephraim MacDowell have spent time in Africa and can get by on Kiswahili and they have studied different cultures there. I would consider them all as “Africanists”.

I guess palaeontologist who believe that mankind came out of Africa now call themselves “Africanists” or at least that is what this article proclaims. I have never heard it used in this manner especially since, as far as I know, none of these palaeontologists speak an African language nor have studied any culture there except for some very old bones. However, maybe since Mary Leakey lived and raised her family in Nairobi, she learned Swahili—I am not sure about that.

Maybe I am nit-picking, but that is the way I see it. Agree or disagree?

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