Notebook

Who We Are

An artefact on display in a fine exhibition in Hildesheim’s Dommuseum is a candlestick made in the Meuse Delta around 1180. It represents the three continents known at that time – Europe, Africa, and Asia – as female figures. How interesting to note the attributes ascribed to them.

Asia holds a filled vessel and bears the inscription DIVITIE (wealth). Europe, bearing sword and shield, is characterised by the word BELLUM (war). Africa, meanwhile, is portrayed contemplatively, holding an open book on which is inscribed the word SCIENTIA (knowledge).

We find, here, a correction of perspective useful in the context of claims made in the European sphere, in a certain kind of political discourse, to perennial cultural supremacy, as if such a thing belonged to our continent by some sort of monopoly.