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Book releases: Arabic science, Africa after the Cold War, Hairdresser of Harare

Posted on Friday, 11 March 2011 14:17

Pathfinders – The Golden Age of Arabic Science

by Jim Al-Khalili
Allen Lane?

The Arab scientists and philosophers who collectively helped to shape our understanding of the world are largely unremembered in the West, writes the Iraqi-born British author, broadcaster and physicist Jim Al-Khalili.Among the eminent scholars with an African connection featured in his account that extends to the present day are Tunis-born polymath Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), widely regarded as the founder of economics; Cairo-based Ibn Yunus (950-1009), considered by many as the greatest Muslim astronomer; and Abu Kamil, a mathematician known as “the Egyptian calculator”, whose work on algebra influenced Leonardo of Pisa (Fibonacci).

The author’s thesis is that the scientific revolution in 16th and 17th-century Europe would not have happened without the many advances made in the medieval Islamic world in philosophy, medicine, mathematics, chemistry, physics and astronomy. He is also careful not to dismiss the original scholarship in Europe during this “golden age”. The book then turns a critical eye to what the author views as the relative scientific decline in the Arab world. Although Muslims comprise around a quarter of the world’s population, Muslim countries on average spent less than 0.5% of GDP on research and development in the 1990s. Religious conservatism and anti-scientific attitudes are partly to blame, he says.

Peter Feuilherade

The Curse of Berlin: Africa after the Cold War?

by Adekeye Adebajo

The breadth of Adekeye Adebajo’s vision does not lack for detail, nor does he polemicise. The author takes the seeds of today’s issues from a variety of events, including the Berlin conference – which divided Africa among European nations – and the Cold War period. He places Africa’s future firmly in the hands of regional political and economic institutions. The book dissects the inherent instability of colonial creations such as Nigeria and Sudan, but offers explanations – not excuses – for African states being turned into cash cows by local elites.

Nicholas Norbrook

The Hairdresser of Harare?

by Tendai Huchu
Weaver Press

Liberal life choices meet old prejudice in this confident and brave first novel by Zimbabwean Tendai Huchu. Vimbai watches warily when wonderboy Dumi joins her salon to style the hair of Harare’s elite. As she warms to him, Dumi moves in as her lodger and his rich family take her in as one of their own. Both hairdressers have secrets, but Dumi’s proves the more dangerous. Undaunted by one of Africa’s biggest taboos, Huchu forces no moral on his readers, letting his characters discover it for themselves.

Gemma Ware

This article was first published in the February 2011 edition of The Africa Report