You all know how much I loved the book “Hear the Voice of the Griot! A Guide to African Geography, History, and Culture,” by the very wonderful Betty Staley. Well, imagine my enthusiasm for an updated version of this book that just came out from Rudolf Steiner College Press called simply, “Africa: A Teacher’s Guide: Ethnology, Geography, History, Culture, Stories, Art.”
In comparing these old and new editions side by side, the older edition is 390 pages of material not including the pages of notes, bibliography, and index. The new version is 446 pages, not including notes, bibliography and index. So what material has been added?
Both books are divided into African Geography; African History; Regions of Africa; the Inner Africa; Fairy Tales; Fables, Myths and Poems; Saints and Other Holy Figures; and Other Aspects of African culture.
In the first section, African Geography, the maps have been updated. South Sudan is included now, Zaire is now labeled as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia is included, other countries such as Cote d’Ivorie and Equitorial Guinea are labeled with their updated names. More information has been added about the Mountains, Rivers, and the Great Rift Valley in the new edition. The chapter on “The Animals of Africa” has changed quite a bit. The old edition included the cheetah, the hippo, the chimpanzee, adn the ostrich. The new edition includes an introduction and insight into the African safari experience, elephants, the cheetah, the hippopotamus with more information than previously, the lion, and then the chimpanzee and the ostrich. There are also many more teacher suggestions for working with the animals. There is a separate chapter called, “Careers with Animals” that highlights biographies of some of the researchers of animal behavior, including Cynthia Moss, Joyce Pool, David Sheldrick, Daphne Sheldrick, and Jane Goodall. These would be good stepping-off points for fourth graders to hear and could be worked with through high school as well.
Section Two on African History, particularly the part regarding Egypt, has been substantially re-worked to also include the rise of the Coptic Church, the role of Islam in Egypt, the biography of Anwar El Sadat, the Arab Spring of 2011-2014. Then there is the section on Ethiopia that was in the previous edition. The list of teacher activities is the same. The sections on ” Great Kingdoms of West Africa” looks to be about the same as the old edition, but the section on” Islam” in North and West Africa has been updated. The chapter regarding “Europeans in Africa” has been updated and reworked and includes more teacher suggestions. It truly presents slavery as the horror that it was. Chapter Ten, “The Awakening of National Consciousnes In The Twentieth Century” has been updated to include more about the end of the Second World War to movements of independence, the situation of the African states in the post- WWII period, the status of the colonies, the influence of the Cold War, and more. More biographical sketches are included, and a look at different countries and their roads after independence was acheived. A new biography of Wangari Maathai is included as well.
Section Three of the book is “Regions of Africa.” Note that in the new edition, this section begins on page 149 and in the old edition this begins on page 109, so that gives you an idea of the amount of material added. The font between edition is slightly different, so that may account for some of the page difference, but overall there is new material. There is an update to West Africa’s section with an update regarding the story of Jim Staley and his story of being a teacher in a newly-independent Nigeria and his return in 2008. There are a few new suggestion under the teacher section for West Africa as well. The East Africa section has a new biography added of Kimani Nganga Maruge, and new reflections on East Africa that covers an additional 12 pages from the previous edition. There are also more suggestions for the teacher. The Central Africa chapter remains the same, including references to Zaire, which is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I am unsure why that was not updated since it was updated in the map section in the beginning of the book. The Chapter on Southern Africa has also been updated with thoughts from 2012 and a new biography on Jabulani Banda.
Section Four is on “The Inner Africa,” and covers the San spiritual view of life (unchanged), the Bantu spiritual view (unchanged), and added teachers suggestions (these stories are for grades 4 and up). Chapter Eighteen in the new edition is about Ethiopia also appears unchanged. Section Five is “Fairy Tales, Fables, Myths, and Poems.” The new edition adds “Akimba and the Magic Cow” to the folk tales section. Section Six on “Saints and Other Holy Figures” appears unchanged. Section Seven, “Other Aspects of African Culture,” which includes art, music, songs, and foods (the recipes are in a mix of English and metric, just to be forwarned!) The Epilogue is different.
So, I think it is worth it to have the newest edition. This book was obviously years of research in the making, and I feel it can be a wonderful resource for grades early years through grade 12 in Waldorf Schools, and also for mainstream teachers.