Friday, 24 June 2011

Frantz Fanon: Our Contemporary Zeitgeist

by Ntongela Masilela, Berlin, 1986

The death of Frantz Fanon on December 6th, 1961, at the relatively young age of 36, which today here in Berlin gives us the occasion to commemorate its passage 25 years ago, was felt in many European, American and African intellectual and progressive circles to have been an event of great importance in African intellectual history. In a Presence Africaine issue of 1962, in a section devoted to homages concerning Fanon, Aime Cesaire, the great Martiniquan poet and Fanon's mentor, eulogised him as the theoretician of revolutionary action and of the process of decolonisation. Kwame Nkrumah, then the President of Ghana and the living embodiment of the Pan-Africanist philosophy, in the same review, characterised Fanon as the liberator and emancipator of Africa, whose ultimate aim was to bring about the unification of Africa. Jean-Paul Sartre, the French exponent of Existentialist philosophy, then in the process of attempting to forge a synthesis between Existentialism and Marxism in his colossal but digressive book, Critique of Dialectical Reason, published in 1960, in a preface to Cesaire's play of 1966 Une saison au Congo about the tragic Congo events of 1960, wrote that both Lumumba and Fanon were great men who died at the same age and in the same year; their different historical visions and political praxes represented that which was pre-eminently the best in human culture and civilization.

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