Through this documentary, “Road to Timbuktu” episode 5, 1999,
Henry Louis Gates shows the image of an ancient city, Mali, deep in the heart of Eastern Africa that had civilization and organized ways of life long before the advent of Islam through the Arabs, and the Europeans; an image starkly different from Western portrayal of black Africa as a place of darkness inhabited by people of no intellectual ability.
Gates compares the mosque of Jenna which dates back to the 13th century to the cathedral at Notre Dame, and comments that “these discoveries prove that the medieval kingdom of Mali and the great towns of Jenna and Timbuktu grew out of a civilization as old as the Roman Empire.”
In Mopti, Gates discovered slavery and in Dogan, male and female circumcision: “Like the slavery I found in Mopti, female circumcision is a custom whose barbarity no appeal to tradition can ever justify.” Could it be taken that slavery was indeed practiced in pre-colonial Africa and the transatlantic slave trade was a logical next step aided by the might of colonial power? What implications would this inquiry have on our understanding of pre-colonial Africa and colonial strategies of control?