The magnificent African cake Essay

The magnificent African cake


“A Berlin Conference was able to tear Africa into shreds and divide her up between three or four imperial flags” -Fanon.  In 1884, European imperialists met at the Berlin Conference to “carve the African cake”.  These imperialists had an agenda to not only lay the boundaries and rules for the occupation of the African “motherland” but to also bring civilization to the African natives.  This great African cake, as it is metaphorically described, was a delightful taste in the mouths of the colonizer.


The “cake“, with its abundance of natural resources and raw materials, was decisively cut and partitioned to various European nations. The diplomats drew lines on maps relinquishing foreign lands, mountains, and rivers to one another.  The plan was for the colonizers to rule these designated areas as if there were no inhabitants, with no respect for the claims and rights of the native Africans.

“The magnificent African cake” is a documentary about the colonization of the African continent.  Despite the dry, monotonous tone of the narrator, the film has a very informative nature and is detailed in its presentation of information. One of the main themes of this cinema is the relationship between that of the colonizer and the colonized.  Although there were varying ideas on how a white man should deal with the natives, it was largely a history of harsh oppression.

From outright murder and enslavement to unfair economic taxation and exploitative labor situations, the Europeans worked diligently to destroy the spirit of the African peoples.  The inhumane and sadistic treatment towards the native people could only be justified by Europeans perceiving Africans as lazy, barbaric savages, who required an oppressor to “civilize” them.  From this massive attempt to destroy the African spirit sprung various reactionary/revolutionary responses from Black Africa.  One example is the many Africans turning towards Islam in contrast to their Christian colonizers.  Moreover, several Muslim insurrections in countries such as Senegal demonstrated the revolutionary fervor of the African people.

There was also the Ashanti of West Africa who fought painstakingly against the British. Unfortunately, the Ashanti suffered the fate of too many other revolutionaries, defeat due to the technological superiority of Western civilizations weaponry.  On the other hand, not all dealings between the Africans and their colonizers were constantly encompassed in violence.  There was the indirect rule (or puppet government) technique of the British in northern Niger where the natives kept their native king, with respect to the wishes of the colonizer.  The French decided to take the approach of assimilation for their colony’s inhabitants.

While the British philosophy taught that an African could never be an Englishmen, the French welcomed the idea of “molding” of Black Frenchmen.  There were more than 200,000 African troops were inducted into the French armed forces for WWI and WWII.  There was even a Black man, Blaise Diagne, elected to the French Congress in 1914.  However, by the early 20th century, only 48,000 out of 1.5 million Senegalese had become assimilated.   The film also depicted the various economic inequalities suffered by the Africans.  For example, Africans were forced to pay taxes for the occupation of their land.


The taxes were in European currency, hence Africans had to work for a European wage.  European landowners would pay the laborers ridiculously low wages, so the natives would remain enslaved to the will of the white man.  There is also the massive numbers of deaths of Africans laboring on railroads and deep in gold and diamond mines.  “The great African cake” was an informative film that gets a “thumbs up” for its realistic approach to the colonization of the African continent.








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