Improving African Futures Using Lessons from the Past

Learning about--and from--the Past

We Can Learn about the Past in Many Different Ways

In Banda we have learned about the region's past through oral histories and stories shared by elders. We have studied written documents that describe historical events. And we have also learned by studying things that were made, used and left behind by people in the past and recovered through careful archaeological excavations. Each type of source—oral history, text and artifact—helps us to understand different things about the past.

Using insights from more than one source deepens knowledge of how people living in the Banda area learned from one another and from people outside the area. It helps us to see how they coped with challenges and responded to opportunities, and how they carried forward traditions from the past while also modifying them to suit new circumstances.

Sankofa Bird Figure

Studying past life-ways can help us learn for the future.

Sankofa is an Adinkra symbol widely recognized in Ghana. It reminds us that the past can hold lessons for the future. Symbolized by a backward-looking bird, Sankofa encourages people to learn from the past.

As examples, we can learn about the skills that helped ancestral people address the challenges and opportunities of their times. The past can be an important source of knowledge in times of need, for example in confronting changing environments by learning about the crops that people grew in the past and the wild resources they harvested.

Banda Heritage Community Event, 2011

Learning about the ancestral past provides a source of pride as well as an understanding of how an area’s history has shaped the present. It provides a source of knowledge for the future that will be lost if it does not continue to be shared.

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