The historical Bandung Conference: Part Two…promoting African and Asian cultures

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THE second segment of the Asian-African conference held in the city of Bandung in Indonesia in 1955, was centred on the topic of culture.
It was the issue that concerned the member-nations the most and the resolutions were applauded by all the parties in attendance.
It was recognised that Africa and Asia were interconnected in ancient times and were the cradle of great religions and civilisations which have enriched other cultures.
These joined landscapes and their indigenous people were dominant and trend setters in antiquity.
The cultures of Africa and Asia were based on spiritual and universal foundations.
They sought harmonious existence with nature and preserved the ecology of the known world for latter generations.
In the past few centuries, the development of this region was greatly interrupted by the West.
Social order was disrupted and these once prosperous continents were on a decline.
Thus there was a keen and sincere desire to renew old cultural contacts and develop new ones based on the old.
The conference condemned colonisation in any form.
This was because colonisation hindered cultural co-operation, suppressed national cultures, denied indigenous people basic human rights and education among others.
This disrupted the development of people’s personality and led to low self-esteem, identity crisis and other undesirable traits that humans ought not to suffer from.
Colonisation was identified as the main culprit behind the decline of Asian-African cultural intercourse which thrived since the beginning of time.
Colonial borders and foreign government regimes are examples of how this disruption of Asian-African cultural intercourse came about.
Colonisation, in its varied forms, also amounted to the denial of people’s fundamental rights to speak and develop their own languages and practice their own cultures.
The example of North-West Africa was given because in this period, the nations of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco were being forced to use French instead of the Arabic language and were persecuted for being Muslims by the French colonisers.
The issue of racism was also a burning topic which the whole region suffered.
This was condemned as both Africa and Asia had an age-old tradition of tolerance and universality.
This was one of the key reasons that such a conference was held between the two inter-joined continents.
This trait of tolerance and universality was viewed in a positive light and regional members were encouraged to keep it for the cause of world stability.
In so doing, other cultures, particularly those from outside the region of Africa and Asia could learn humaneness from those endowed with it.
This would enrich their cultures, promote world peace, stability and understanding.
In this period, most countries in the region were under some form of colonisation and the indigenous people were suppressed, oppressed and ignored.
Independence was being granted to some countries but not to the full extant and the systems that were set up were to benefit the coloniser or former coloniser at the expense of the people of the land.
This remains true in many cases and was of great concern at the Bandung Conference.
It was acknowledged that many regional members had not developed their education institutions, particularly in the fields of science and technology.
These are regions which began mathematics, complex constructions, writing and so on, yet they were being relegated to Third World status under which they were set up to be servants and serfs while being denied the right to proper education.
The conference urged member-states fortunate enough to retain or acquire knowledge in science, technology and other fields to teach other regional members.
This would be achieved by accepting and inviting students and trainees from the region to equip Asians and Africans with education that empowers them and enables them to once again become the inventors and entrepreneurs they used to be before the advent of colonialism and imperialism by the West.
Another important part of the discussion was the resolution for regional members to acquire knowledge of each other’s countries.
This would pave the way for mutual cultural exchange.
At present, this goal is yet to be achieved as most regional members are taught more about their former colonisers’ cultures and histories than those of regional members.
This is all to do with inheriting a Western-oriented educational system and does not contribute positively to regional unity. Rather it has led to identity crisis, ignorance, self-hate and brain drain.
People of the region are still being subliminally groomed to love and respect the West and demonise their own culture and history by way of neo-colonialism and mis-education.
In Zimbabwe, the education system is based on that of the UK and English is still used as the main language of learning.
The syllabus is almost compatible with that of the UK and thus Zimbabwean students are known to do extremely well in Cambridge examinations.
But if we are to be examined on Chinese, Indian or even Zambian history, we are likely to fail.
This is an anomaly that the conference addressed and urged each regional member-country to take necessary action to make the accomplishment of the above stated goals feasible.
After all, what good is it for one to know about others and not know about one’s own?
China has done well in retaining its language and culture.
They have developed their language to the point of being able to study astrology, mathematics and other complex sciences without the use of foreign languages.
Learning in one’s own language leads to thorough understanding and is a doorway to self-determined development which can lead us to compete or even surpass nations of the West.
The conference, time and again, stressed that it was not their intention to demonise or completely cut away relations with non-regional states.
However, they wished to take care of their needs first and address issues of mutual interest in the region.
In the quest to attain independence, freedom, solidarity and sovereignty, they urged member states to avoid becoming like the villains they were fighting.
Thus they condemned negative traits such as racism.
The tone that was set at the conference speaks a million words to the humaneness of Africans and Asians.
Even in the midst of oppression, they wished no malice against anyone, not even their supposed enemies.
Such positive human traits must be emulated by the world, particularly the West, if we are to restore and preserve world peace and stability.

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