Already at a young age I read books on foreign people and faraway cultures. Later on I went to have a look in that other world, the world of Africa. For ten years I lived and worked in different places, in different countries, in different parts of the continent. And I kept on reading.
I have moved to The Netherlands. But even then, I still made some trips to Africa. And I kept on reading.
A few years ago I noted down what I had read. In 2013 I decided to share what I had read and I am reading.
And what about the title of this weblog?
“Africa always brings forth something new.” The title that I use for my blog has several variations: e.g. “Ex Africa semper aliquid novi.”
The Dutch humanist Erasmus wrote a book titled ‘Adagia’, it was a collection of over 4000 sayings from Latin. One of them was ‘semper Africa novi aliquid apportat’ (Africa offers always something new).
It might be that Erasmus went back to the Roman author Plinius sr. (23-79 A.D.), who wrote a 37 volume work with the title Naturalis Historia, in it he described the whole natural world. After his death this work was published. One of the many hundreds of sources he used was the Greek philosopher Aristotle.
In chapter 17 of Book 8 Plinius writes an extensive (but wrong) description of the matinghabits of the African lion. In this description he uses a famous Greek saying of his days (“unde etian vulgare Graciae dictum semper aliquid novi Africam adferre”.) It seems that Plinius quoted an old source, i.e. Aristotle (384-322 BC) from his work Historia Animalium. Aristotle wrote that the wild animals of Asia are the wildest, those of Europe the bravest, and those of Libiya are the most varied. In connection with this variation Aristotle wrote: all the time something new comes from Libiya. It appears that the Greek did not know the word ‘Africa’, but used ‘Libiya’ and all black people were called ‘Ethiopians’. But the Romans, and Plinius was one of them, did use ‘Africa’, meaning the northern part of the continent.
And so Africa brings forth something new, even in the field of books.