TRUE AFRICA

NICOLE KALI

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TRUE AFRICA

Africa is the birthplace of mankind. Nature holds magnificent wonder and power that permeates every moment in Africa's past, present and future. Once-thriving empires fell to conquest.

Now, Eurocentric misinterpretations observe the mother continent with a "primitive" bias. European historians invent lies that erase African people's known ingenuity, and their brutally destructive role in colonialism.

White imperialism tried incessantly to control narratives about African history.

An old revolution's due.


PRE-RECORDED HISTORY


South Africa, Port Maputo



Ancient Saharan cave art, 8000-3000 B.C.E.


Dogon ideograms from 10th century B.C.E., present-day Mali (Songo Village)


ANCIENT AFRICAN CIVILIZATION

"Everywhere in Africa that one scrapes the surface, one finds ethno-historical data on the authority once shared by women."

10,000 B.C.E. - African women created an organized crop and livestock system, therefore establishing a societal landmark: food security. This development sparked the foundations for civilization as we know.

A highly controversial point could be made that the oldest written languages are African. Proto-Saharan script predates Greek by 2,000 or more years..

Proto-Saharan script originated in Sudan ca. 5000 B.C.E. The Iklaina tablet is Europe's oldest written record, dated 1400-1350 B.C.E. (National Geographic).

Ancient accomplishments cover the powerful continent. Nabta Playa sits slightly north of the Egyptian-Sudanese border, spanning a two-mile radius (NASA). It is Africa's only megalithic circle.

Nabta is thought to have been made 6200 B.C.E, 1000 years before Stonehenge.

Nabta Playa tracks solar movement as well. In tropical cultures, zenith suns were very important. Nabta's "calendar circle" arranges stones that correspond to summer solstice.

A cosmologically educated people lived in Africa during ancient times, a portrait not often seen.


Pyramids in Meroe, Sudan



A Nubian Princess in her ox-chariot, from the Egyptian tomb Huy, 1320 B.C.E.


NATURAL SYMBIOSIS 

Africa is home to the second largest rain forests on Earth: 30% of global rain forest cover altogether.

This complex, biodiverse world is a multi-purpose cleanser for our planet. Jungles store and attract carbon-a key element to present climate change. How does nature heal itself?

African rain forests are natural humidifiers. African deltas are refillable aquifers that deplete per year.


Okavongo Delta, Botswana



Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. This 100-mile area is Earth's biggest caldera


Lake Volta is the world's largest reservoir in southeastern Ghana, providing regional hydroelectricity



Mount Kenya, Africa's second tallest mountain peaking over 17,000 feet





Rwenzori Mountain range in eastern Uganda




COLONIZATION AND SLAVERY

There were several slave trades in the African continent. Two were concurrent until the Arab slave trade ended during 1960.


French colonial troops and African victims' heads.
These skulls eventually filled the
Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in Paris with 18,000 others.


This was taken after the British punitive expedition in Benin, 1897. Below, hundreds of ivory tusks.


Oba Ovonramwen in exile, Old Calabar, Nigeria. This is a colonial postcard.





Wholesale destruction of Africa's environment has permeated the world's consciousness. A 500-Year-War becomes clearer than ever.

Fabrice Monteiro's 'Prophecy' series documents the photographer's eerie narrative on Senegalese eco-death and an African dystopic future.

Each figure represents a jinn (pre-Christian animist spirit in West African belief), an ancient genie looking out upon the wasteland. They warn against the dangers in commodifying nature.

"The mistake of a lot of NGOs that try to make Africans aware, they don’t consider the culture...using animism, the whole of West Africa believes in the spirits. And the idea was to use those spirits to deliver a message."


Africa loses 10 million acres of trees and foliage yearly to illegal logging, mining and other manmade means. That's the size of Switzerland.

10,000 species of tropical plants are in the Congo Basin. 30% of those are found nowhere else.


AFRICAN GRANDEUR

The Great Zimbabwe Ruins' high towers and walls were constructed without mortar. They tower hundreds of feet tall at a time such building was laborious and quite underdeveloped.

The Valley, Hill Ruins and Great Enclosure stand centuries later as a testament to time.


Hill Ruins


Great Enclosure in Masvingo



Sultan Njoya's Bamoun palace in Foumban, Cameroon 1907. Bamum Kingdom thrived since 1394.



MARITIME CAPABILITIES

Africa's ancient maritime endeavors put later European travelers to shame.

An Egyptian boat has been dated back as early as 3000 B.C. Pharaoh Khasekhemwy's burial tomb contained a vessel 75 feet, and he died in the Second Dynasty.

 

Armadas were commonly spotted by the hundreds: well-equipped and technologically advanced. They travelled along the Atlantic Coast of Africa, but also sailed on to the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.

King Abubakari (Abu Bakr) II of the Malian Empire commanded a fleet of 2,000+ during his reign (BBC), according to the medieval Syrian scholar Al-Umari.

Abubakari, or Mansa Musa, was aptly named 'the Voyager King'the world's richest monarch at that time.

His dream was to find the other 'bank' to the Atlantic Ocean, and supposedly Abubakari set sail for America.

War canoes were a very skilled advantage for indigenous African civilizations, especially in West Africa's many deltas and waterways.

Some canoes could carry 100 people and measured 80 feet long. With this in mind, scholars believe West African seafarers may have reached American coasts before Columbus ever set sail.

BENIN CITY (EDO)


Plaque depicting the Oba Uselu (palace) entranceway

The Portuguese discovered Benin in 1485. They described it as the "Great City": a pre-colonial southern Nigerian empire. Benin was a metropolis within the jungle, renowned for social and technological prestige.

Their influence lasted 700 years. Beninese glory preceded Europe's Renaissance. Their capital's earthenworks quadrupled China's Great Wall. 500 villages circled Edo in interconnected, organized districts (Architecture of Africa).


Benin's innovation is very prevalent in their architecture and art. Beninese fractal designs rely on nature's golden rule -- making mathematically sound patterns. (The Guardian)

Portuguese captain Lourenco Pinto left a famous account of Benin City: "Great Benin, where the king resides, is larger than Lisbon; all the streets run straight and as far as the eye can see."

The Benin Empire declined when intruding European forces and slavery encroached on its borders. Ironically, finding Benin City's history often leads you to colonial countries that looted Africa.

900 royal plaques occupy American and European museum exhibits. These are at the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum in New York City and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.


Brass plaques found upon the Oba's palatial twin pillars


Juju altar in king's compound, Benin 1891, the last prior to British invasion (Smithsonian)


Plaque: Titleholder with Calabash Rattle, 1600's or 1700's, Benin (Met Museum)


Equestrian Oba and Attendants,
Benin Kingdom 16th or 17th century (Met Museum)

ZULU


Shaka Zulu (played by Henry Cele)

AFRICAN SPIRITUALITY


Komokunw chi wara (antelope) headdress of the Bamana, Mali or Guinea


A Group of Komo Dancers.

Komokunw are spiritual helmet masks that marry human knowledge with the super/natural world. For more Komo references, visitt heree.

Fon daily customs link ritual with personal well-being and status. Their nda nyiet, drinking horns, are found from Cameroon to Benin (ÌMỌ̀ DÁRA).


This weaves a belief system in which powerful spirits and known natural forces can coexist. Humans are the sorcerors of this world.

Creators of Light and Darkness Mawu-Lisa guide the Earth.


Osun-Osogbo Grove is a breathtaking tribute to the Yoruba river goddess Oshun and other Yoruba deities: Elegua, Chango, Ochossi and more.

Osun-Osogbo Grove is a breathtaking tribute to the Yoruba river goddess Oshun and other Yoruba deities: Elegua, Chango, Ochossi and more.

Thousands visit Nigeria's last, ancient southern forest every year.



WOMEN LEADERS AND WARRIORS

Women and their power are undeniable nexuses of Africa's layered cosmogony. They have significantly shaped AND preserved history.


From the film Moolaadé.

African women have headed spiritual structures, empires, cultural golden ages. Throughout time, their victories shine like beacons.


Abomey women wearing horns of office, a political and spiritual symbol
that displays Vodun's role in Beninese authority

The Asona and Tena (Akan) tribes base their creation stories around a Mother Gaia divinity, often tracing family lines to them (Documentation of Queen Mothers' Regalia).

Igbo society reveals several complex matrilineal descent systems in contrast to traditional patrilineal ones (Igbo Women and Economic Transformation in Southeastern Nigeria, pg. 8). Their social structure allowed anyone to advance, whether some villages followed patriarchal laws or not.

Persuasive speech, good sense and strong independence afforded a citizen more of an advantage than differentiating male from female. Social mobility for women was prominent in ancient African cultures.


Brass ancestral altar (urhoto). Altar Tableau: Queen Mother and Attendants, 1700's (Met Museum)

After an iyoba (queen mother) passed on, Nigeria's Court of Benin cast bronze or brass altars. They accompany a greater altar as tribute and a spiritual tether.


Maiden spirit Igbo mask


Queen Mother Pendant Mask, mid-1600's Nigerian Court of Benin

King Esigie commissioned this from the Beninese royal ivory-carving guild. Osawe (personal name) greatly respected his mother, Idia.

She was a strong spiritual mentor, and a culturally influential advisor too. This expanded the Beninese kingdom to Songhai's innermost trade cities.

Idia also created the famous ukpe okhue (parrot-beak) Iyoba cap, seen above on the ancestral altar and commemorative head sculpture. After her war success and political gains, the iyoba role was solidified by the Benin Royal Court.

In 1977, a Beninese copy of the pendant mask immortalized Idia again. Nigeria's Festec Festival adopted her face as a national symbol and ode to West African pride. African legacies live on..

Woven artwork, ritual talismans, architectural design and oral tradition all give us insight to Africa's forgotten times (Igbo Women...in Southeastern Nigeria, pg. 13).

African women have contributed immensely to this recovery, without their mention from academia.

As white Euro-Christian imperialism swept the continent, their societies asserted 'women should be concerned with household duties'. And this ideology separated African women from ownership and power.

AFRICAN SEXUALITY

Pre-colonized Africa still placed women strictly under male power hierarchies. African women have always had a spiritually and socially aware relationship with sex. Now they are discouraged further from free expression.

Many girls in those societies kept their sexual lives secret, and more than a few African cultures were open to same-sex marriages and lifestyles. Not all were an alternative from male-centered sexuality.

Azande women in the Sudan shared penetrative toys and pleasure with each other. They rarely shared sexual contact with the household patriarch (often not for months).

Since pre-Christianity, they had enjoyed lesbian sex [adandara] (American Anthropologist, Vol. 72, pg. 1431). Azande men believed women-loving-women grew powerful (Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures, pg. 394).

The southwest African Nama tribe displays lesbianism. Sorigus ceremonies celebrate bond friendship, but also could double as a same-sex marriage institution. Women in sorigus may explore sexual practices often (Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures).

Limpopo's (South Africa) Balobedu tribe has a spiritual role model in the Rain Queen, Modjadji. Balobedu matrilineal succession includes her name: 'ba Lobedu ba gaModjadji'. This hereditary monarch controls both rainfall and the storm clouds.

Balobedu culture does allow for Modjadji to marry more than one wife. It is still unclear whether this relationship incorporates sex, but the likelihood seems high. Rain Queens are prominent figures in southern Africa.

Gender fluidity is an ancient African concept, and women embody its many manifestations.

GAY RIGHTS AND RESISTANCE AGAINST CHRISTIAN LAW

78 countries ban homosexuality. 41 are in Africa. Only 21 have legalized same-gender sexual acts (ILGA, pg. 34). Four African nations threaten homosexuality with death by law: Mauritania, southern Somalia, Sudan and northern Nigeria.

European colonists brought to Africa dangerously intolerant homophobia. Angola's penal code comes directly from colonial Portuguese amendments (ILGA, pg. 58).

British colonial law from 1902 and 1950 has impacted Ugandan anti-gay discrimination to the present day (International Business Times). Uganda's 'Kill the Gays' bill is a chilling reflection of earlier legislation against gay African men and women.

This doesn't mean African activists are not actively resisting. At the cost of their lives, they fight to restore peace.


AFRICA TODAY


Bwa nwantantay (plank) masks worn by Gnoumou family in Boni, Burkina Faso (x)

Africa in the present moves between ages: the world's past and future.


This is the Fon king, Ngie Kamga Joseph of Cameroon. The Bandjun palace has been a royal seat for over 100 years.


King Ereduwa of Benin


Touki and Bouki, a 1973 Senegalese drama by Djibril Diop Mambéty

Traditional customs and values meet Western technology and ways of living in Africa's cities, mega-cities and super-cities.


Nairobi Streets by Night. Photograph by Mutua Matheka.

Likumbi Lyamize is a Zambian festival honoring Luvalu customs and ways of life for centuries.

Every year for five days, Luvalu/Lwena people join together in tradition and intricate masquerade.


Further Reading

Cultural War in Africa (World Future Fund)

Origins of the Oppression of African Women (The Herald, 8-28-15)

State-Sponsored Homophobia: A World Survey of Laws (ILGA, 5-15)

Gay Ugandan King Proves Homosexuality Is African (International Business Times, 1-30-14)

Ancient Africa: Women and Inequality (Africa on the Blog, 10-14-14)

African Foreign Policy and Diplomacy from Antiquity to the 21st Century (Daniel Don Nanjira, 10-21-10)

Sexual Inversion among the Azande (E.E. Evans-Pritchard, American Anthropologist, 1970 (online reissue 2009)