What is it about?

A Tanzanian healer, artist and filmmaker re-interprets the history of martial arts in Africa reversing the assumptions that Africans are just recipients but makers of martial art forms.

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Why is it important?

Both everyday and scholarly understanding of martial arts in Africa seem to see it as something external to Africa as copying. Sempai Ali challenges this narrative by showing the complicated origins, understanding, and movement of martial arts in the Indian Ocean area. He challenges the understanding that China is the source of martial arts.


I hope this article will expand the discussion of African homegrown historians as they comment on and interpret global cultural forms like Kung Fu and karate. It was a pleasure to work with my colleague Derek Sheridan, who was also a student of Sempai Ali. We bring our perspectives together to interpret Sempai Ali's history and vision of martial arts and Afro-Islamic connections.

Mohamed Rafiq
New York University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: “Even if the Chinese Grow Wings and Fly”: Recasting Martial Arts in a Tanzanian Karate Dojo, Anthropology & Humanism, September 2021, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/anhu.12355.
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