The African Sheep Trading Story

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“Stories are the accounts of past events in someone’s life or in the evolution of something.”

Counting is defined as the process of reciting or indicating numbers in order by units or group. Does this definition imply counting is understood the same way culturally across races and globally?  Are our mechanisms/and or methods for counting the same. If we interact with someone who may think of counting differently than us, do we perceive them to not know how to count because their way of understanding is different than ours ? In our minds this perception is formulated that begins to create a narrative.

The sheep trading story is one narrative that has shaped the perception about Africans ability to count.

“Once upon a time a British explorer by the name of Sir Francis Galton engaged in negotiations  bartering two sticks of tobacco fore one sheep at the rate of exchange. The trader wanted two sheep and offered four tobacco sticks at once. The Damara people were skeptical and suspected fraud. They wanted to conduct the trade more slowly. First two tobacco sticks were exchanged, and one sheep was driven away. Then two more tobacco sticks were given and the second sheep was driven away. Now the result came out the same as the first proposal the way it was presented was different than what the Damara people were accustomed to.  In his book Narrative of an Explorer in Tropical South Africa published in 1889, Sir Francis writes about this account and this story created the perception of Africans not being able to do simple arithmetic.

In every story there are lessons and morals of the story. The African sheep trading story teaches us the following:

  • Experiencing the diversity of other cultures requires one to seek to understand rather than be understood.
  • One should never label an entire population of people based upon an experience with a group of people from that population.
  • Labeling of Africans intellectual abilities has created stereotypes that have been destructive in diminishing the accomplishments and contributions in the role the race has played in helping to develop civilization in ancient and modern times.

While we cannot turn the pages back to edit what has already been written. We can write a new chapter of history defining black excellence, while exploring new dimensions of African history. A different black history is focused on unveiling the application of mathematics in the lives of African people through the lens of our culture, customs, and knowledge.

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Africa Counts, african history, African story telling, african tribes, African-American History, black culture, Black History, Sir Francis Galton

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