Dear African, Have You Ever Heard of Imhotep?
Dear African, how much do you know about your history? How much do you know about the works of your people? Are you a member of that class of Africans who believe that Africa has no heroes and has contributed nothing to the development of the world? Have you been brainwashed by the media, both foreign and local, that nothing good can ever come out of Africa or ever did? I simply ask that you have the patience to follow me as we head to the cradle of civilization. Dear African, do you know that ALL the foundation of our modern world are from Africa? Do you know that there was a time the black race ruled the world? Do you know that every facet of western civilization once graced the continent to suck from her spring of knowledge? From Mathematics to Science to Philosophy to Engineering. Everything! Have you ever researched on Africa before colonization? Do you care about your origin and can you handle the truth? Have you heard of Imhotep?
Imhotep was a black genius, a philosopher, poet, astronomer, a priest, scribe, astrologer, a vizier and chief minister to Djoser (from 2630-2611 BC), the second king of Egypt’s third dynasty. He is the authentic father of medicine and high priest of the sun God, Ra. He was the chief architect of the step pyramids at Saqara which is, till this day, one of the great wonders of the world. His knowledge reigned supreme over everything he touched and he blessed us with great science. In medicine, he was the first medical doctor ever as his work on cataracts proved. He treated over two hundred diseases and his works can be found in the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus. He was performing high level surgical operations for 2000 years before the man we have come to identify today as the father of Medicine, Hippocrates, was born. You wonder why the first medical doctor is not even recognised as the world’s first medical doctor. You wonder why Africans themselves do not even recognise this first physician or give him relevance.
Imhotep was pharaoh’s zafar and treated every member of the royal palace, the king and also served as the doctor-in-chief of the kingdom. He was the first to cure the cataracts of the eye by surgical means. He played a great role in the high level of scientific awareness in Ancient Egypt. In ancient Egypt, the architecture was on a whole different level. Objects weighing thousands of pounds were lifted on a platform that will cost even our modern tools some problem. The technology was almost extraterrestrial. The art too was at that level and Egypt was home to every intending scholar and scholars. They had the best schools. They had the best architecture and their science was above today’s interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. They were like Gods and Imhotep was the father of them all. He was called: Prince of Peace, First One Under the King, Administrator of The Great Mansion, The Hereditary Noble, High Priest of Heliopolis, Chancellor Of The King Of Lower Egypt, The Chief Sculptor and The Chief Carpenter. He was deified and statues molded to honour him. He was a Black African, remember.
In Hollywood movies, he is often portrayed as an alien and the ancient Egyptians, who changed the world with their advanced science, are not shown to have the real complexion in existence before North Africa was invaded by the Arabs. The Egyptians who did those great exploits were blacks. The Egyptians who built the Pyramids never looked like what you would see today in that country. They were not the fair complexioned people Hollywood is trying to push to us in movies. Egypt was originally inhabited by black people until the Arabs invaded North Africa in the 7th Century. This is not racism but an attempt at setting the records straight. This is an attempt at trying to paint the true history of what happened. Some directors have done well to paint the true picture of what Egypt looked like in that era and who was responsible for the greatness. Some still, on purpose, love to portray Imhotep as an alien, who simply visited and changed the life of the people. Because some directors find it hard to portray a black man as the possessor of that level of intelligence, they make up so many imaginary descriptions. Others honestly do so based on an erroneous history they were fed.
There have been arguments that Imhotep was just a God, a deity, a non corporeal entity, the people worshipped at the time and never actually existed. His face was carved in stones and the people made sculptures of him. His works are found in the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus and theEber’s Papyrus. He had poetry written in his name. There is no basis to reject his existence. The few reasons are not good enough. Like his genius intelligence and the knowledge at the time. They are not good enough. If everything about him is an invention and all stories about him and his deification is not enough, then we shouldn’t accept anything at all. We should reject all stories of the past because of that possibility of falsity. I agree that History is often a Fable Agreed Upon, like Napoleon Bonaparte suggested but we’ve not seen enough to describe this and so many others in that sentence. So why are we not giving honour where honour is due? Why are we not digging deep into our part, correcting the erroneous stories and teaching our people about ourselves and people? Their great exploits and contributions in the world can spur and change mindsets and change our current status.
To be frank with you reader, this story is not about the black genius, Imhotep. It is more. It is about a culture of neglect and disdain for history. It is about the product of neglecting your own history. It is about that thing the Nigerian Author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, called, The Danger Of A Single Story. We have heard a single story of Africa for too long that most of us now think it is the only story. We have had situations where the negative stories are repeated over that we begin to accept it as true. To many Nigerians, the people who inhabited the geographical region known as Nigeria were living a cave life before one Lugard brought them civilization. Every stories of our past were wiped out and now, we help in making sure everyone is implanted with that toxic knowledge. Why do we teach our kids that Mungo Park discovered River Niger? Why do we try to make rape, exploitation and destruction of a people’s identity a thing of pride? Why do we still bear the name Nigeria, when all other countries, who understood the impact of colonial inventions, have changed theirs? Why is Port Harcourt still a name when the legacy of the man who goes by the name is not even hidden?
Imhotep was the first physician but our medical doctors swear a hippocratic oath which recognises Hippocrates, as the first medical doctor. If others won’t describe the true events should we join them in promoting a false narrative? If other people wouldn’t tell our story or tell the truth about us, should we join them in creative stereotypes for our own? The people of what we now call Eastern Nigeria, before the advent of the colonialist, had a writing system called the Nsibidi but how many Igbos or people of the old eastern region have even heard of that or consider their people smart enough to invent a language? The Nok Culture reigned supreme in Northern Nigeria but how many people from that region have heard of that? How many Africans know who Mansa Musa was? Do you know Shaka Zulu? That’s too far. Have you heard of the Lebombo Bone andIshango Bone? Do you know who was Frederick Douglas? Marcus Garvey? Can’t we turn their stories into series and movies of super heroes and work on the psyche of our people in a healthy way? What about the Religion handed to us? When did the religion of our fathers start being demonic and that of our colonizers good? Why should a people who have been emotionally and spiritually tortured and weakened join in torturing themselves?
This is not really about Imhotep but about you who wouldn’t bother to read his-story. About you who disdain the idea of reading your history. This is for those Africans who hate and blame the black skin, rather than the poor use of the human brain, for their misfortune. This is for those Africans who never knew they had a history. For those ones who thought their mothers and fathers were moving around naked, purposeless, before the colonists came in and helped them. This is for those Africans and Nigerians who don’t know art was already in the place called Northern Nigeria today about 1000 years ago. This is for those Nigerians who think we can’t govern ourselves. People who have the best source of information in their hands, a phone that has the ability to search the world, but don’t know that the Oyo Empire in Western Nigeria lasted for over 900 years and the Nri Kingdom in Eastern Nigeria over 1000 years before the colonists came. This is for Africans who can research on their own but keep repeating stereotypes. Africans who think their ways are backward simply because it is their ways and not because they are necessarily backward. This is for Africans who believe, despite exploits from Imhotep,Wole Soyinka, Ben Carson, etc., that their skin colour is responsible for their backwardness and foolishness. How can you have access to all the knowledge of the past, present, and some times future, in your hands, the internet, but refuse to use it?
By Rey Alaetuo,
A conscious Poet and health care professional living in Lagos, Nigeria.