The African Chronicles – interview with Patrick Gorham Lanfia Toure (23 May 2009)

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patrickgorhamIntroduction

For some time now, I’ve been receiving emails from Patrick. I visited his site many times but never asked if he’d like to be interviewed … until now. It has been very interesting reading his story. Without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing you to Patrick Gorham Lanfia Toure…


Aneeta: Patrick, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Let’s start with you. Tell me a little about where you were born, where you grew up, what do you do for a living and where do you live now?

Patrick: I do tech support for Time Inc. I am also the director of the Non Governmental Organization and research team AfricaWrites.

I was born in Greensboro, NC. I grew up in a small rural town south of Raleigh, NC called Garner. Currently, I live in New Jersey and also in Kankan, Guinea of West Africa.

Aneeta: When did you first venture into storytelling/writing and why?

Patrick: I have always been interested in storytelling but only recently over the past 5 years have I been able to really get back into writing. Growing up, I was glued to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Whenever possible, I read stories from different books and magazines about people and places in distant countries. Eventually, learning about other cultures and places intrigued me to the point of writing about my own life experiences.

Aneeta: You have sent me the link to this website, Africa Writes: http://www.africawrites.com. Please explain what this site is all about? What is your mission and purpose of having this website?

Patrick: : The mission of AfricaWrites is the research, documentation and preservation of African culture. To do this, my colleagues and I set out several years ago to accurately research and preserve the sounds and images of each African ethnic group. Through this work we hope that the descendants of those living today will know the beauty and wealth of Africa’s many cultures.

By having the AfricaWrites website online we are able to showcase the beauty of African culture to the world. Afterall, if National Geographic can do it, why can’t we?

dot Aneeta: I must say that security assistant you have featured on your site, ‘Dot’ has got the most beautiful eyes! You say that your aim is to the complete and total redefinition of African history. Give me one example of this. What was ‘erroneous’ about the history as we know it that it needs redefining?

Patrick: We discovered Dot in a small town called, “Tokounou”. Dot is an African deer from the southern savannah forest region of Guinea, West Africa. He is only a few months old so he’s still pretty small but he gets along well with visitors and the office staff. Dot is a joy to have around.

African history as we know it today is largely an afterthought with a stigma. In the US and Europe for example, African historical practices of traditional medicine, spirituality and ancestor worship such as Voduun and others are often scorned. They are called witchcraft and pagan traditions while non-African traditions like Kabbalah, Chinese homeopathic medicine, Feng Shue, Chi manipulation, or Yoga are celebrated.

colourfulpeopleLikewise, there is an entrenched popular belief that Africans contributed nothing to the foundation of civilization. These erroneous assumptions are not only hurtful but they are wrong. In Timbuktu and elsewhere in Africa there were wide ranging African achievements in the fields of medicine, literature and engineering, which have been largely ignored or disregarded in favor of sensationalized stereotypes. There are the examples of ancient scientific know-how and mastery of the mighty Donzo (traditional hunters of Guinea), the astronomical prowess of the Dogon, the engineering skill of Cushite builders, the military genius of Almamy Samory Toure who fought and defeated the French consistently on battlefields across Guinea and Mali. There are also the examples the many martial arts created by Africans such as the Konye Soli, Hiowoulan, Sibi N’Golon and many others without name or historical footnote in any US or European high school classroom.

There is the African genius Imhotep, Prime Minister to King Djoser of ancient Kemet (Egypt), who designed and built the first pyramid of Kemet between 2630-2611 B.C. Imhotep laid the foundations of modern, method based, medical observation and treatment of physical ailments but is not regarded by historians today as the father of modern medicine. Instead, the later Greek doctor, Hippocrates, who (however skilled) lived nearly 2,300 years later and is given the false distinction as the original father of modern medical practice. One need not be an expert in math to know who came first to understand how and why Imhotep and others have been historically sidelined due to their African origins. What is called for is balance, fairness and greater recognition and understanding of African history and it’s importance to world history as part of a larger whole.

Whether by chance or by choice, people are sometimes called to serve a greater good. It is my choice to lead AfricaWrites on this mission of rediscovery/redefinition of African culture and history. It is our chance as citizens of the world to not accept the outdated, narrow minded colonial definitions that cheapen and diminish us all.

Aneeta: I know, from your email to me that you’ve just completed a recent trip to Sudan. Please share the highlights of your trip.

sudan Patrick: The Sudan expedition was difficult but very rewarding. One thing certain, it is very, very hot in Sudan. People are generally very friendly and we had little trouble moving about to the different locations that we visited. I would have to say that the documentation of the Baranga was the highlight of the trip. Before witnessing the Baranga ritual, a village elder explained the ritual and told stories of great warriors of the past. Moments later, when the Baranga was actually demonstrated, I was completely surprised by the traditional uniforms, skill, complexity of the techniques shown. Plus, setting was really beautiful. It was an incredible shoot!

Aneeta: Clearly, many elements of storytelling feature in your work. What aspect of storytelling would you say is the most important one you use?

Patrick: I’ve never considered myself a storyteller but I try my best to represent the stories and history of the legendary traditional figures that we work with. My job is to string together the various elements and narrate passages in ways that highlight each story. Depending on the type of stories we are telling, characters, points of view and plots are the most important elements in our storytelling.

Aneeta: What advice would you give those who would like to take up storytelling?

Patrick: Keep dreaming and keep writing.

Aneeta: Patrick, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Patrick: I would like to thank you for interviewing me and also thank all visitors to your wonderful site.

Aneeta: Patrick, you’re most welcome. And, thank you.

Patrick: And thanks again for the opportunity.



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