ex Africa semper aliquid novi

“From Africa always something new” the Romans used to say acknowledging the resources of Africa in a way which seems strange to Modern ears. The current (re)version of the Modern Project’s treatment of Africa does not figure Africa as a place of abundance or innovation, occluding how the resources of Africa are appropriated by reifying them as ‘raw materials’.
Africa is a place of astonishing creativity and ingenuity, with our own systems. This blog is about how that creativity and ingenuity but also about how its limited by hegemonic systems.

3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Martin Wyatt says:

    I came across this website because I was writing a short story which involved a charity operating in Africa called Aliquid Novi. And I thought I had better check that no such charity existed. Well, since I have found that this website belongs to someone specialising in intellectual property rights, I have realised I need to find another name. However, I am very glad to have come across your statement about Africa as a continent of creativity and ingenuity.

  2. Chris Szabo says:

    Unfortunately the fact is the sentence was negative. The idea was that there was an abundance of weird animals and these “new” animals were mutations and rather negative.
    I also heard that Pliny the Elder referred to this originally Greek statements by referring to the Punic Wars which were indeed an attack on Rome and hence negative. See also the http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/02/0219_030219_outofafrica.htmlarticle on this.
    Let’s hope that things “Out of Africa” will be more positive in the future!!

    • Andrew Rens says:

      Thank you for your comment Chris.
      I reas the history of the phrase “ex africa semper aliquid novi” as more complex. You are right that it was sometimes used in a negative sense but more as describing the bizzare or outlandish.

      Pliny the Elder states in Naturalis Historia, VIII. xviii “ magna his libido coitus et ob hoc maribus ira Africa haec maxime spectat, inopia aquarum ad paucos amnes congregantibus se feris. ideo multiformes ibi animalium partus, varie feminis cuiusque generis mares aut vi aut voluptate miscente: unde etiam vulgare Graeciae dictum semper aliquid novi Africam adferre. “. Reading this in the original Latin I understand the connection to the bizzare to be Pliny’s, whereas the saying as he reports it has seems to have had connotations more of bemusement, the equivalent of when people in the United States exclaim about innovation from Silicon Valley “what will those crazy Californians come up with next”.

      I fully intend to make ex africa more positive in future.

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