Toggling with African Culture and Civilization: Rudimentary Notes on Antiquity To African Modern History
New is Old - Change Remains the Same.
A serious study of african Antiquity or elsewhere is indispensable to any understanding if the general condition of humanity, whether Africa or not could be ameliorated. One of the most interesting aspect of past history is that it was written by adventurers, sailors, merchants, priests, Asiatic, Arabs and Western records and writers.
Some had their biases embedded in their observations, but others revealed in their writing, the deeper truths of many aspects of African history. Within this history lies every aspect of human life as we see and live it. It is not that it is not there or is sparse, but in its limited form, it has the ability of empowering us with a better understanding of the present and the future.
It is a valid part in the wider story of human development the world over; it is also distinct from the rest of history, and will make possible for man to shadow the limits of prejudice and knowledge within which the old writers wrote. Documentary history will help us, but more specifically, it will enhance our understanding of Africa south of the Sahara.
There was speculation that there is paucity of written sources about this part of the land. There is in fact more written about it than people have realized. Most of it has been studied form the historical point of view by scholars, and a very small number has been printed recently. The synthesis and synergy of this writing will be presented here in order to give a fresh and different look at antiquated history.
Historians, archeologists exposed and opened the historical truth about great civilizations of the Fertile crescent, of Sumer, Akkad and Babylon. They unearthed and detailed the magnificence of Egypt of the Pharaohs, gave us a clarified account about the Phoenicians, dug up and revealed the ruins of Minos and Mycenae.
They helped us understand Greece and Rome in a more in-depth knowledge, and some archeologists went into China and India, and their attention was drawn towards the advances that these cultures achieved, which has helped put the present societies into perspective. This Hub will be delving more into those issues that affected Africa.
The social revolution that took place as these cultures evolved decisively into prominent civilizations did not come quickly and suddenly. This followed a centuries of farming in a part time manner and was evolving into large scale agriculture in different places and civilizations.
Today we are able to understand where did this cultures, Empires and civilizations emerge from and this is from their thorough study of linguistics and evolution of languages, material cultures, which helps shed a light on the unknown past. We have to look into the past in order to understand and make sense of the present, which in the end will help us form depict/predict a better the future.
The Patchwork of Civilized History
It is important to browse a bit on how these civilization were formed form the writings of the ancients. Harkuf, in his writings: "Four Journeys to the Unknown South, around c. 2300 B.C gave this account on his third journey: "His majesty now sent me a third time to Yam; I went forth from-upon the-road, and I found the chief of Yam going to the land of Temeh to smite Temeh as far as the western corner of heaven.
"I went forth after him to the land of Temeh, and I pacified him, until he praised all the gods for the king's sake.... Now when O had pacified that chief of Yam.... I found the chief of Irthet, Sethu and Wawat... I descended with three hundred asses laden with incense, ebony, heknu, grain(panthers), ivory(throw-sticks), and every good product.
"Now, when the chief of Irthet, Sethu and Wawat saw how strong and numerous was the troop of Yam, which descended with me to the court, and the soldiers who had been sent with me, (then) this (chief) brought and gave me the bulls and small cattle, and conducted me to the roads of the highlands of Irthet, because I was more excellent, vigilant, than any count, companion or caravan-conductor who had been sent to Yam before. Now when the servant there [i.e., himself] was descending to the court (of the Pharaoh), one [i.e. the Pharaoh] sent the... master of the bath, Khuni, upstream with a vessel laden with date wine, cakes, bread and Beer..."
This kind of writing and information helps us get a glimpse into how the early civilization operated and built their empires. Records form antiquity help us understand why we are behaving the way as we are busy building different types of Empires over the eons, to the present one. On Empire building Pepi-Nakt in the third millennium posited this excerpt:
"The nobleman of Aswan on the Middle Nile was sent by Pepi II on the third Millennium BC-on two imperial expeditions southward into the southern lands of Wawat and Irthet, thus preparing the way for later conquests. ... Now, the majesty of my lord sent me to pacify these countries. I did so that my lord praised me exceedingly, above everything. I brought the two chiefs of these countries to the court in safety, bulls and live goats... together with the chief's children, and the two commanders, who were with them"... There is a lot we do not know about those captives and their people, history and so forth.
These Civilizations extracted tribute from their trade with other people south of Egypt. We can see this in Egypt's trade with Punt(Modern-day Eritrea, along the coast of modern Somalia), when Queen Hatshepsut ordered an expedition, who came back with wonders of Punt. Hatshepshut's coeval, Thutmosis III, (1490-1436) continued this trade:
"Marvels brought to his majesty in the land of Punt in this year: dried myrrh, q685 heket, gold -, 155 deben, 2 kidet; 134 slaves, male and female; 114 oxen, and calves; 305 bulls. total 419 cattle; beside vessels laden with ivory, ebony.(skins) of southern panther; every good thing of this country-(Tribute of conquered Wawat in Nubia)-13 male(negro slaves); total 20; 44 oxen and calves; 60 Bulls; total 104; and, the harvest of this country was also included."
Africa's Influence on Greece
According to de Selincourt, one of the most interesting account was related and told by Herodotus concerning the Greek Historians of around the first half of the eighth century wherein he states: "When classical Greek civilization began to take shape, not long before the middle of the last millennium BC, it owed much to the influence of the Pharaonic Egypt, then more than 2000 years old and of immense prestige especially to the Phoenicians of the Eastern Mediterranean.
There was therefore nothing in the least surprising about the scholarly practice of the Classical Greeks in looking for higher education to the Egyptians. Not only that: there had been Egyptian and Phoenician settlements in Greece itself. The much later (nineteenth century) racism of Europe might prefer to forget such facts. Heroduts ,writing in about 450 BC simply took it for granted that his readers would know them.
"How it happened that Egyptians came to the Peloponnese [southern Greece]." He wrote, "... And what they did to make themselves kings in that part of Greece, has been chronicled by other writers, unfortunately for us these other writers have been lost to us. But we know that Classical Greeks often, for period of many years understood that Egyptian philosophy and science had prepared the way for their own." These are the links we need to remember and recall as we trudge into the present morass reconstructing African history.
It remains to be seen if are beyond typical historical responses to challenging ideas and first hand original documentation. We must recall here the burning of the Egyptian-Ethiopian Library at Alexandria. The Inquisition, and the many book burnings in history. What was in the books which were burned ? What were the secrets that were being hidden? Does it matter, contrary to the contemporaneous teaching:
1. Than "Man know thyself" was not original with Socrates, but was common amongst the Egyptian teachers
2. That Plato's four cardinal virtues ere copied from the Egyptian Mysteries.
3. That grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, music, astronomy were Egyptian "Liberal Arts" copied by the Greeks.
4. That whole Greek faculties and student bodies moved to Egypt to be taught by Egyptians and to learn from their libraries.
5. That Greek philosophers went to Egypt for education around 525 BC.
7. That some of Plato's material comes from the 5,000 year old Egyptian Book of the Dead.
8. That 4,000 year old Memphite Theology is the source of much Greek thought
Herodotus and Antique History
This is what Herodotus had to say about "The Gift of the Nile": "It is at Heliopolis that the most learned of the Egyptian antiquaries are said to be found.... As to practical matters, they all agreed in saying that the Egyptians by their study of astronomy discovered the solar year and were the first to divide it into twelve parts....
"They also told me that the Egyptians first brought into use the names of her twelve gods, which the Greeks took over from them and were the first to assign altars to images and temples to the gods, and to carve figures of stone. They proved the truth of most of these assertions, and went on to tell me that the first man to rule Egypt was Min, in whose time the whole country, except the district around Thebes, was marsh, none of the land below Lake Moeris-seven days' voyage upriver from the sea, then showing above water.
"I have little doubt that they were right in this; for it is clear to any intelligent observer, even if he has no previous information on the subject, that Egypt to which we sail nowadays is, as it were, the gift of the river and has come only recently into the possession of its inhabitants." Herodotus has this to say about the "Gods from Egypt: "The names of nearly all the gods came to Greece from Egypt.
"I know from inquiries I have made that they came from abroad; and it seems most likely that it was from Egypt, for the names of all the gods have been known in Egypt from the beginning of time... These practices, then, and others I will speak of later, were borrowed by the Greeks from Egypt."
Whenever we begin to trace the way things originated and were, we begin to rearrange our present ideas as to how things ought to be like, and we begin to see the biases and misinformation that creates so much confusion and distorted knowledge.
This fact is well encapsulated by Edward Wilmot Blyden in 1880 thus: "Africa is no vast Island by an immense ocean from other portions of the globe, and cut off through the ages from the men who have influenced the destinies of mankind. She is closely connected, both as a source and nourisher, with some of the most potent influences which have affected for good the history of the world." African people anywhere in the world and in African are not dumb nor backward. There is too much in their history to take that lying down
West Africa in Short Focus
The Nok Culture of the Niger-Benue confluence of lands is a proper starting point for African history because it is from it we begin to see and become aware of the depth of African history. It is speculated that the founders of the Yoruba of Western Nigeria might have ancestors who came from the Nile and brought the heritage of Meroe.
Arabs and African scholars provided us with some good records that Ibn Battuta left the stories of the court of Mali and Omaris story about Mansa Musa, who collapsed the value of money in Egypt when he gave the citizens of Cairo too much golf Mali and about the story of Mansa Kankan Musa. This type of information helps us to make a link with European records, and offer us a better understanding of this part of African history.
The material culture of the Nok civilization has not been found in its entirety. This culture flourished during the latter half of the first millennium BC to around the second century in the christian era. B. Fag says about this time period: "There is now every reason to hope that further finds both in the area of Nok culture and in more or less dateable deposits in Yorubaland, Benin and all around the West coast.
"This confirms that there was basic homogeneity deriving from a traditional complex going back at least two thousand years, and at the same time will dispose of the widely held hypothesis that the Ife-Benin complex owes its style and inspiration to origins outside West Africa."
Africans have been creating all types of different civilizations over the course if Human history, that this aspect of history needs to be fully written and collated for All Africans to read and know of and about themselves.
Saburi Biobaku says that: "The modern Yoruba themselves usually confused the Near Wast with Arabia and owing to the prestige of Islam, locate their origin in Mecca. The probable place is Upper Egypt rather than Yemen. .. It is almost certain that Yoruba migrations from the Near East occurred between 600 and 1000 AD The Yoruba did not emigrate from their original homes in one mass exodus[but] in successive waves which may be grouped into two major waves with an interval of about three hundred years in between..."
Emerging Empires of the West-Ghana in 1067 AD
According to Niane and Suret-Canale, from the third century the Sarakolle(Soninke) kingdom of Wagadu was in full development. The king of Kumbi [its capital] was called Ghana, meaning "War Chief" or Kay Maghan, meaning "King of the Gold"... The king of Wagadu early imposed himself on other kings. The kingdoms of Tekrur [in Senegal], Manding[Mali] and Gao, recognized his authority; the Berbers of the town of Aouda-ghost did the same.
The kingdom of Wagadu became a large Empire extending from the Atlantic to the Niger. From the seventh century the Arabs penetrated Black Africa, passing either by way of Egypt or North Africa. Attracted by the gold of Wagadu, the Arabs and Berbers came with many caravans of camels to trade in the towns of Wagadu. Some of these traders settled at Kumbi where they formed a big residential quarter apart from the royal palace. The Arabs were Muslims, but the Emperor and people of Wagadu were not.
By 1067 Al Bekri says that The King was called Tenkaminen and had ascended the throne around 455. Al Bekri says that the king could field two hundred thousand warriors , and more than forty thousand of these armed with Bow and Arrow...
"When he gives audience to his people, to listen to their complaints and set them to rights, he sits in a pavilion around which stand ten pages holding shields and gold minted swords: and on his right hand are the sons of the princes of his empires and with gold plaited into their hair... the gate of the chamber was guarded by dogs of an excellent breed, who never leave the kings seat; they wear collars of gold and silver, ornamented with the same metals."
When the beating of a kind of drum commences, the people gather when they hear this sound. The best gold in the country comes from Ghiaru, and all the gold found in the mines belongs to the king, and he makes a public event where he distributes the gold dust; this action by the king is to avoid having gold accumulate and end up losing its value; and the Africans, known as the Nougharmarta carry the gold dust from Iresni to all over the world. This was a world, civilization and time and space that has existed in Africa. This does not tie-in with the notion that Africans are backward at any point.
In about 1240 Sundiata fought a crucial battle the Sosso(Fula) King Sumanguru and won. This was the beginning of the Mali Empire. Afterwards, Sundiata became the ruler of a huge Empire of Mali. According to Al Omari:
"In 1324 the renowned emperor of Mali, Mansa Kankan Musa left his capital on the Upper Niger for a pilgrimage to Mecca, taking with him, it was said, five hundred slaves each bearing a staff weighing five hundred mitgals of gold" [ a mitgal being then about one-eighth of an ounce].
"His passage through Cairo long echoed in memory. The people of Cairo earned incalculable sums from him,whether by buying and selling or by gifts. So much gold was current in Cairo that it ruined the value of money. Up to that time, gold in Egypt enjoyed a high rate of exchange up to the moment of the arrival of Musa.
"The gold mitgal that year had not fallen below twenty-five drachmas. But from that day, its value dwindled,according to Al Omari.; the exchange was ruined, and even now it has not recovered. That is how it has been for twelve years from that time,this was because of the amounts of Gold Mansa Musa brought to Egypt and spent there."
Kingdoms of Monomotapa and Zimbabwe
Joao dos Santos informs us that the Kingdom of Monomotapa was situated in Mocaranga, and it was known during those times as Manamotapan Empire and was divided into Monomotapa proper, Quiteve, Sedands and Checanga. the Kingdom of Monomotapa was larger than the other three. It was three hundred miles long and three hundred miles wide, and this stretched again, the whole empire, form Sofala in the East cost of Africa, all the way to the West coast of Africa in Angola.
The Portuguese and the Shona people started trading with each other officially from 1504. This was done through the establishment of a Portuguese diplomatic-cum-trade mission at the Mutapa royal court. Relations between the Portuguese community and the Mutapa rulers were essentially tributary with the Portuguese paying a tribute called curva.
Joao dos Santos says: "... under obligation to pay to Monomotapa the value of three thousand cruzados in cloth and beads for three years of his office, that he may during this term open lands to all merchants, both christians and Moors, as all of them trade with cloth obtained from the said Captain; and the greater part of gold exported from these rivers goes into the hands of the captain of Mozambique."
Duarte Barbosa writes:
"On entering within this country of Sofala, there is the kingdom of Benamatapa, which is very large and peopled by 'Gentiles', whom the Moors(Africans Muslims) call Cafers (In South Africa Africans are called "Kaffirs"). these are brown men, who go bare, but covered from waist downwards with colored stuffs, or skins of wild animals; and persons most in honor among them wear some of these tails of the skin behind them.
"They carry swords in scabbards of wood bound with gold or other metals, and they wear them on the left hand side as we do, in sashes colored stuffs, which they make for this purpose with four or five knots, and their tassels hanging down, like gentlemen; and in their hands assegais, and others carry bow and arrows; it must be mentioned that the bows are of middle size, and the iron points of the arrows are very large and well brought.
"They are men of war, and some of them are merchants; their women go naked as long as they are girls, only covering their middles with cotton cloths, and they are married and have children, they wear other cloths over their breasts."
On Zinbaoch [Zimbabwe], Barbosa wrtites the following:
"Leaving Sofala for the interior of the country, at xv days journey from it, there is a large town of 'Gentiles', which is called Zinbaoch[Zimbzbwe]; and it has houses of wood and straw, in which town the King of Benamatapa, which is a very large town, the King is used to make his longest residence; and it is thence that the merchants bring to Sofala the gold which they sell to the Moors without weighing it, for colored stuffs and beads of Cambay, which are much valued amongst them.
"The people of this city of Benamatapa say that this gold comes from still further off towards the Cape of Good Hope, from another kingdom subject to this King of Benamatapa, who is great lord, and holds many other kings as his subjects, and many other lands, which extend far inland, both towards the Cape of Good Hope and towards Mozambich(Mozambique).
"And in this town he is each day served with large presents, which the kinds and lords,his subjects, send him; and when they bring them, they carry them bareheaded through all the city, until they arrive at the palace, from whence the King sees them come from a window, and he orders them to be taken from them, and the bearers do not see him, but only hear his words; and afterwards, he bids them call the persons who have brought these presents, and he dismisses them.
The King constantly takes with him into the field a captain, whom they call Sono, with a great quantity of men-at-arms, and amongst them they bring six thousand women, who also bear arms and fight With these forces he goes about sub, duing and pacifying whatever kings rise up or desire to revolt.
The said King of Benamatapa sends, each year, many honorable persons throughout his kingdoms to all the towns and lordships, to give them new regulations, so that all may do them obeisance, which , which is in this manner: each one of the envoys coms to a town, and bids the people extinguish all fires that there are in it; and after they have been put out, all the inhabitants go to this man who has been sent as commissary, to get fresh fire from him in sign of subjection and obedience, and, whoever should not do this is heralded as a rebel, and the king immediately send the number of people that are necessary to destroy him, and these pass through all the towns at their expense: the rations are meat, rice, and oil of sesame.
In the end, Monomotapa was destroyed and the Portuguese, by 1630, two hundred and fifty Portuguese, with help form thirty-thousand Africans, decimated the army of Monomotapa and they inserted a Christian King called Manura. The Portuguese had used their early alliances as the door to large-scale intervention by force. In the end, the independence of Monomotapa was destroyed.
Barbosa further informs us that:
"Leaving Sofala for Mozambich, at forty leagues from it, there is aa very large river, which is called the Zuama; and it is said that it goes towards Benamatpa, and it extends more than 160 leagues. In the mouth of this river there is a town of the Moors, which has a king, and it is called Mongalo. Much gold comes from Benematapa to this town of the Moors, by this river, which makes another branch which falls at Angos, where the Moor(Africans) make use of boats (almadias), which are boats hallowed out from a single trunk, to bring the cloths and other merchandize from Angos, and to transport much gold and ivory."
Barbosa had this to say about the flourishing lifestyles of Africans of the East Coast of Africa:
The Island of Mombasa
Passing Quiloa(Kilwa), and going along the coast of the said Arabia felix towards India,close to the mainland there is another Island, in which there is a city of the Moors, called Mombaza very large and beautiful, and built of high handsome houses of stone and whitewashed, and with very good streets,in the manner of those of Quloa(Kilwa). And it also had a King over it. The people are of dusky white, and brown complexions, and likewise the women, who are much adorned with silk, and gold stuffs. It is a town of great trade in goods, and has a good port, where there are always many ships, both of those that sail for Sofala and those that come from Cambay, and Meline(Malindi), and others which sail to the Islands of Zanzibar, Mafia, and Penda.
This Mombasa is a country well supplied with plenty of provisions,very fine sheep, which have round tails, and may cows, chickens, and very large goats, much rice and millet, and plenty of oranges, sweet and bitter, and lemons, cedrats, pomegranates, Indian figs, and all sorts of vegetables, and very good water. The inhabitants at times are at war with people of the continent, and in other times at peace, and trade with them, and obtain much honey and wax, and ivory.
The King, for his pride and unwillingness to obey the King of Portugal, lost his city, and the Portuguese took it from him by force, and the King fled, and they killed and made captives many of his people, and the country was ravaged, and much plunder was carried off from it of gold and silver, copper,ivory, rich stuffs of gold and silk, and much other valuable merchandize.
This was just a glimpse of the History of Africa in different time, from 2300 BC to around 1630 AD. The events that took place from the formation of civilization, Empires, and kingdoms were touched upon to reset the perspective of history and how these African systems of rule rose , flourished and were destroyed over time. It is a long time to cover, but a couple of more articles which tabulate the history and puts antiquity into perspective will be explored. Juggling historical time line and toggling with civilization is one way of making history live and inform the present generations and civilizations about the Past.
PERIPLUS OF THE ERYTHRAEAN SEA: Azania In Historical Short...
Probably written about 100 CE at Alexandria, the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea was a merchants guide to the Ted Seas and Indian Ocean Ports. It is generally accepted as the earliest firsthand account of the East African ports.
From Tabais after four hundred Stades sail is a promontory towards which the current runs, and the market town of Opone. ...It produces cinnamon, both the aroma and moto varieties
, As well as the better sort of slaves, which are brought to Egypt in increasing numbers, and much tortoise-shell of better quality than elsewhere. Voyages from Egypt to all these further markets-towns are made in the month of July, that is Epiphi. The ships are usually fitted out in the inner [Red Sea] ports of Ariake and Barugaza; and they bring the further market-towns the products of these places: wheat, rice, ghee, sesame oil, cotton cloth (both monache and the sag-matogene), girldles, and honey from the reed called sakchari. Some make voyages directly to these markets-towns, others exchange cargo as they go. The country has no sovereign but each market-town is ruled by its own chief.
After Oppone the coast veers more towards the South. First there are the Small and Great Bluffs of Azania and rivers for anchorages for six days' journey southwestwards. Then come the Little and the Great Beach for another six days' journey, and after that in order the Courses of Azania, first that called Sarapion, the next Nikon, and the several rivers and other anchorages one after the other, separately a half and a day's journey, in all seven, as far as the Pyraae Islands and the island called Diorux [the Channel].
Beyond this, slightly south of southwest after a voyage of two days and nights along the Ausanitic coast, is the island of Menouthesias some 300 stages from the land. It is flat ad wooded. There are many rivers in it, and many kinds of birds and the mountain tortoise. There are no wild animals at all except the crocodile, but they never attack men. In this place there are small sewn boats and dug-outs, which they use for fishing and for catching tortoise. In this island they fish in a peculiar way with wicker baskets, which they fasten across where the tide goes out.
Two days' sail beyond the island lies the last mainland market-town of Azania, which is called Rhapta, a name derived from the small sewn boats. Here there is much ivory and tortoise shell.
Men of the greatest stature, who are pirates, inhabit the whole coast and at each place have set up chiefs. The Chief of the Ma'afr is the suzerain, according to an ancient right which subordinates it to the kingdom which has become the first in Arabia. The people of Mouza hold it in tribute under his sovereignty and send there small ships, mostly with Arab captains and crews who trade and intermarry with the mainlanders of all the places and know their language.
And these, I think are the last market-towns of Azania on the mainland lying to the right of Bernice; for after all these places the ocean curves westward and runs along the regions of Ethiopia, Libya and Africa (GSP Freeman) The life and trade of ancient African has so much to offer and less known about it that it is our duty as present day Africans to begin to tabulate it in earnest in order to move the Historian and cultural narrative to ahead to be abreast with the times
Kilwa in 1331 by Ibn Battuta
Then I set off by Sea from the town of Mogadishu for the land of the Swahili and the town of Kilwa, which is in the land of the Zanj. We arrive at Mombasa, a large Island two days' journey from the land of the Swahili. The island is quite separate from the mainland. It grows bananas, lemons, and oranges. The people also gather fruit which they call jammun (Eugina Jambe) which looks like an olive, it has a nut like an olive but its taste is very sweet. The people do not engage in agriculture, but import grain from the Swahili.
The great part of their diet is bananas and fish. They follow the Shafi'l rite, and are devout, chaste and virtuous. Their mosques are strongly constructed of wood. Beside the door of each mosque are one or two wells, one or two cubits deep. They draw water from them with wooden vessel which is fixed on the end of a thin stick,a cubit long. The earth round the mosque and the well is stamped flat....
We spent a night on the Island [of Mombasa] and then set sail for Kilwa, the principal town on the coast, the greater part of whose inhabitants are Zanj of very Black complexion. Their faces are scarred like the Limiin of Janada. A merchant told me that Sofala is half a month's march from Kilwa, and that between Sofala and Yufi in the country of the Limiin is a months's march Powdered gold is brought from Yufi to Sofala Kilwa is one of the most beautiful and well-constructed towns in the World.
The whole of it is elegantly built. The MS apparently has "built entirely of wood" but this statement as Freedman-greenville says, cannot be correct; he accordingly offers an alternative reading. [The statement that Kilwa mosques were made of wood conflicts with the fourteenth century archeological evidence, which shows beyond doubt that at least the principal mosques were built of stone: that is, of porites coral, save for the doors and their furniture.] The roofs are built with mangrove poles. There is very much rain. The people are engaged in a holy war, for their country lies beside that of 'pagan' Zanj. The Chief qualities are devotion, piety: they follow the Shafi'i rite. (Freedman)
The notion that Africans had no civilization before the Europeans came to colonize them from the darkness they were in is dispelled by the narratives above, most of them by Europeans. It is interesting that Africans have been told in many ways and in literary texts that they were helped by European civilization and Christianity to help bring in them to contemporary time. But it is evident from the stories above that their civilization were functioning well, and on par with European civilizations, if not surpassing them, yet we are now expected to believe the fiction that Africans had nothing and there was nothing for them to prove this point…
Only through superior arms and the Gatling gun. If anything, the excerpts above show that Africa was teeming with different types of civilized states which paid tribute to the strongest ruler in their midst. So, what one can glean from the pillage, murders, genocide, wars and displacement of Africans and theft of their wealth by foreigners went on to make their enemies more powerful than they were.
The envy and jealousies displayed by their trading partners and up and coming European commercial powers, who, in the Congo used the "Gun-boat" diplomacy to eliminate and displace the African middle-man, who were traders in the opening stages of the meeting of the different cultures. Mercenaries and all sorts armies have been used over many centuries to bring down a budding civilization and culture from Mozambique to Kenya.
The excerpts, although they be few[might be increased over time] bear witness to the fact that the civilization of Africans under the Monomotapa reign was self-sufficient and burgeoning; the civilization of Mapungubwe was one and the same to that of Monomotapa You will read more about Mapungubwe from the soon to be published Hubs on the Historiography of Mapungubwe and its relevance to the people of South Africa.
A Forgotten Civilization: The East Coast World Trade, Civilization and Culture
Prime Time Africa
We will cull this whole section from Basil Davidson:
Four small ships came first, with Vasco da Gama in command. They went eastward around the Cape of Good Hope where Diaz had already led, and pushed bravely to the North. Behind them lay fierce months of solitary Atlantic voyaging; their crews, as near to mutiny as da Gama's strong hand would ever allow, had lost all stomach for going further. But they went further.
Their greatest achievement, had they but known it, was over. For what was navigationally grand about da Gama's first voyage to the East was much less its course across the Ocean, where countless ships had gone before him, than its bold crossing of the South Atlantic and its landfall on the southwestern Africa. Diogo Cao and Diaz followed the long inward-bending arc of the western coast; da Gama sailed straight across it.
But not until they reached the Madagascan channel could the Portuguese understand that their worst trials lay behind them. Then, onwards from Sofala, they passed from one agreeable surprise to another. After those months of gray Atlantic loneliness they were astonished to com upon busy ports and populous costal cities. To their relief and joy they found themselves among sailors who knew the sea ways to India and beyond; who sailed with charts and compasses and quadrants as good as their own, or better; whose knowledge of the world was wider even than theirs. And yet they, in those years of 1488-1489, stood at the farthest point of European discovery.
They anchored in havens that were thick with Ocean shipping. They went ashore to cities as fine as all but a few they could have known in Europe. They watched a flouring maritime trade in gold and iron and ivory and tortoise shell, beads and copper and cotton cloth, slaves and porcelain; and saw that they had stumbled on a world of commerce ever wider, perhaps wealthier, than anything that Europe knew.
To these European sailors of the last years of the fifteenth century the coast of eastern Africa could have seemed no less civilized than their own coast of Portugal. In the matter of wealth and knowledge of a wider world it must have seemed a great deal more civilized. They were repeatedly surprised by the ease and substance of the ports and towns they saw sheltered in and plundered.
They found themselves repeatedly disregarded as strange and uncouth. "When we had been two or three days at this place," says the laconic logbook of da Gama's flagship, the Sao Gabriel, of an encounter at a port that was probably Quilimane, "two senhores of the country came to see us. They were very haughty; and valued nothing which we gave them. One of them wore a cap with a fringe embroidered in silk, and the other a cap of green silk. A young man in their company — so we understood from their signs — had come from a distant country, and had already seen big ships like ours." In truth, of course, he had seen much bigger ships. Compared with Ocean-going vessels of the India Ocean of that time, these ships of da Gama were small indeed.
Wherever they touched, they found that what was thought remarkable about their coming was not that they should have come by sea, a common event, but that they should have come from the South, Marvel succeeded marvel. Even the land of Prester John, legendary in their Europe, was said to be hear this wonderful coast. At Mozambique, "We were told that Prester John resided not far from this place that he held many cities along the coast, and the inhabitants of these cities were great merchants and owned big ships."
This information, says the logbook, "And many other things that we heard, made us so happy that we cried for joy." It is, in fact, a pretty clear reference to that inland empire of the Monomotapa which supplied the costal trade with much of its gold and ivory; and is interesting for its reference to the owning of ships. As this is the only reference of its kind it should be taken, perhaps, as meaning that Monomotapa controlled coastal cities busy with maritime trade; and this conclusion, as it happens, is suggested by other evidence.
They pursued their way northward in leisurely days that seemed a mere promenade after their passage of the South Atlantic. They knew now that would find sailing routes to India, and that the voyage would be relatively easy. They passed Kilwa and Mombasa. At Malindi they were given a rousing welcome as potential allies against Mombasa, and secured, though not without some disagreement, a pilot who could take them to India. It was not quite seventy years since the fleets of the Three Jewel Eunuch had last sojourned these waters.
A southern Monsoon carried them without mishap to India. There they anchored in the Gulf of Cambay, off the city of Calicut, and were met with understandable misgivings. Following their custom at unknown ports, they sent ashore one of the convicts they carried for such occasion; he met with a "Moor of Tunis," says the logbook, who could speak Castilian and Genoese. This Moor of Tunis must have been a man of parts: he at any rate was in no doubt of the meaning of European ships in easter waters. "Devil take thee," he said to have greeted the Portuguese. "What brought you hither?". It was, after all, one of the big moments in history.
Fro nearly a century after that the fortune-seekers of Portugal would seek and find their fortunes. In the first twenty-five years alone they commissioned a total of two hundred forty-seven ships in small fleets that sailed to India nearly every year, a truly challenging effort for a people as poor and few as were the Portuguese. Boldly and ruthlessly they grasped the Indian Ocean trade and bent it to their sole advantage. They cut savagely across those many complex strands of commerce which centuries had woven between these myriad ports and people of the East; and they wrecked the whole fabric of that trade, leaving behind them, when their force was spent, little but ruin and disruption.
Europe Brings Destruction To East Africa
Schooled in the bitter rivalries of Europe, they fell upon these tolerant and easy-going civilizations of the Indian Ocean with a ferocity and violence that were like nothing seen there through many centuries. "Cruelties," says Whiteway, "Were not confined to the baser sort, but were deliberately adopted as a line of terrorizing policy by Vasco da Gama, Almeida, and Albuquerque, to take no means mean examples. Da Gama tortured helpless fishermen; Almeida tore out eye of a Nair who had come in with promise of his life, because he suspected a design on his life; Albuquerque cut off the noses of woman and the hands of men who fell into his power on the Arabian coast."
The Portuguese, of course, were inherently no worse than other Europeans of their time, nor Europeans inherently worse than Indians, Africans, Arabs or Chinese. They were men of their day, but their day in Europe was one of violence and brutality. They reached India, as it happened, during a time of dynastic rivalry and religious war, so that their conquest of the coastal cities was made easy for them…
No doubt they would have triumphed in any case… for the rules they fought by were different from the rules they found. Their own records show that they gave no quarter nor expected any. "There is here a power which I may call irresistible,"St. Francis Xavier wold write in 1545 of the Portuguese who came to India, 'to thrust men headlong into the abyss, where besides the seductions of gain, and the easy opportunities of plunder, their appetites for gain will be sharpened by having tasted it, and there will be a whole torrent of low examples and evil customs to sweep them away. Robbery is so public and common that it hurts no one's character and is hardly counted a fault. ..."
Warfare in India, by contrast with this murderous determination, had long become an agreeably conventional affair. "All fighting," records Whiteway, "Was in the daytime when the sum had well risen. The opposing camps pitched near each other and both side slept securely. At sunrise the soldiers of both armies mingled at the tank, put on their armor, ate their rice and chewed their betel, gossiped and chatted together. At beat of the drum either side drew apart and formed their ranks. It was incredible to the first to beat the drum, but no attack was allowed until the other side had beaten theirs."
Europe triumphed over India and grew in length of days into its own leisurely tolerance. In time, as they grew wealthier, Europeans even came to believe that had always enjoyed a higher civilization than Indians or Africans. They forgot the past, which told another story. Yet the civilizations of India could not be effaced. Their monuments were too many, their prestige too great, their praises too loud and widely sung. The Indian Ocean trade might be ruined; there incontestably survived a good deal of the Indian greatness it had served.
But the coastal civilization of East Africa, less imposing, less wealthy, less deeply rooted in its hinterland, met with a different fate. These seaboard cities might seem as find and comfortable as most of the maritime cities of Europe or India - set as they were beside the glittering Ocean in white terraces of tall houses, ringed with strong walls, paved with firm quays, crowned by forts and palaces — and brave enough to stand for eternity. Yet, their fame barely survived; often it vanished altogether. Some of them, today, are entirely lost. Weird creepered ruins in the coastal jungle or bare mounds for the guessing of antiquaries, they are known only to the stray investigator; and he, often enough, can reach them by paying men to cut a path for him through barriers of vegetation.
Europe's Ruining and Enslavement of East Africans
It was at Mozambique, during his first voyage, that da Gama exchanged the first shots. Back again on the coast in 152, this time with a score of ships from home (the largest but one of all the fleets that Portugal would send to the Golden East), da Gama threatens to burn Kilwa unless its rulers will acknowledge the supremacy of the king of Portugal and him yearly tribute in gold. Revasio does the same at Zanzibar and Brava.Meeting resistance, Almeida storms Kilwa and Mombasa, burning and destroying.
Saldanha ravages Berbera, Soares destroys Zeila. D'Acunha attacks Brava. And this last place, comments Barbosa, who went on in one of the earliest fleets and knew the sacking of Brava from the men who were there, "Was destroyed by the Portuguese, who slew many of its peoples and carried them into captivity, and took great spoil of gold and silver and goods."
There survives a letter from the ruler of Mombasa, after Almeida's disastrous invasion, to the ruler of Malindi. Returning to the blackened city after the Portuguese had gone, it says, the Swahili and Arab people of Mombasa found "no living thing in it, neither man nor woman, young nor old, no child however little. All who had failed to escape had been killed and burned."
All this was as easy for the Portuguese, and for much the same reasons, as it was in India whenever they met with resistance to their greed and theft. They were better armed. They were trained to ruthlessness. They wanted more than a simple monopoly of trade, ruinous though that would be for the coastal cities; they wanted loot as well. African warfare, like Indian warfare, was designed to minimize casualties, not maximize them. These invaders had no such care.
Here, again, Europeans would afterwards believe that the Africans they found had lived in savage cruelty and chaos before the gently civilizing hand of Europe had come to stay their murdering conflict; the truth, in fact, was otherwise, just as it was otherwise in India. consider for example, how warfare really was among the Azande, a numerous people of Central Africa whom Europeans have often credited with a lust and interest in killing and in conquest.
"I was told," says Evans-Pritchard, one of those Europeans who have lately done so much to right the balance of fact and judgement, ""hat since the aim was to get the enemy to withdraw so that victory might be claimed with as little loss on your side as possible, you usually avoided complete encirclement (kenge aboro) for if the enemy was unable to withdraw, they would, seeing that there was no hope, sell their lives as dearly as they could…"
The Azande therefore "left a gap near in the rear. Moreover, there was a further convention, that fighting should begin about four p.m., so that those who were getting worse of it could withdraw under cover of darkness." This agreeable convention, he adds, was often not observed. The point, of course, is not that pre-European Africa was a garden of sweetness and light — the point is that its warlike manners were relatively merciful and gentle when compared with the warlike manners of conquering Europe. Not always so, of course — the Wazimba who sacked Kilwa in Portuguese times had a ferocious reputation — but often so.
Erosion of African History and African Continental Memory
What was then destroyed or ruined in Africa, and afterwards forgotten, proved hard to remember in later years. If the early Portuguese thought of Africa as the land of Prester John, of the gold of Ophir and the Queen of Sheba, marvelous and splendid, rich beyond dreams, those who came afterward would return to another extreme. Africa would become by reputation altogether a land of savage torment, moral and mental darkness, childlike or perverse.
In 1518 the Portuguese could celebrate the consecration in Rome of Africa's first Negro Bishop - Henrique of Congo, son of the undoubtedly African king of Congo and his undoubtedly African Queen - and help the tribal feudalism of the Congo states to all the gamut of nobility and its titles of aristocratic mark.This seemed to them, as the Portuguese royal archives show, the right and natural thing to do: these African peoples might be different — they were not therefore to be despised. but opinion changed. Some four hundred years later — years, for the most part, of oversea slaving — the common judgement of the outside world would all too often think of Africans as history-less and helpless in their brutish misery.
Ruin of the Indian trade and eclipse of its African terminals, oversea slaving, colonial conquest and many things besides, would obscure and hide the African past. We can begin to see the picture more clearly now. But is it fair ad just, when tracing African history, to use the evidence of these coastal city-states and kingdoms?
It is important that we stay focused and true to african history and dig out as much as we can, and write all about it in the Web.... Go viral with it.
There is still so much to be written about and talked about in the realm of African historiography. The erosion of the African Historical memory was not a fait accompli, but instead, with the emergence of the Internet and the new gizmos, information has come to be at our beckon and call.
Research will reward any effort we make towards rebuilding and rewriting the history of African people in the many areas that need to be covered. By toggling with these missing historical facets and aspects of African history, we might, in the process, be able to assemble and recreate the lost African historical truth and reality of Africans in Africa and those in the Diaspora.
Nkosinathi Khanyile’s “African Queen 1”, which combines the aesthetics of classical Greek sculpture with that of the ‘amasumpa’, the raised relief patterns used traditionally on Zulu pots and woodcarvings that carry social significance.
"African Queen 1(1998)
Umuntu(Person/human being) from Mzantsi Emerging
A brief look Into the Artists of South Africa
The Reflection of Identity In The Art of African South African Art…
As a theme in art ‘identity’ is a vital concern in a postmodern society such as ours. The interplay between the individual and society has become increasingly complex, leaving room for new theories, research and speculation about the future of humankind. Who am I? Who are we?
Art, as a seismograph of change, can both reflect and be a harbinger of transformation in our personal and communal lives. The artist, as a third presence, mediates between society and the individual through the art that he/she creates. How can we understand these three elements and the dynamic of their interplay?
The best way to do this is to consider the global and local context, to look at the work and words of a few selected artists who illustrate this interplay, and to refer to the critics who comment on their work.
South African art holds a unique position when addressing ‘identity,' as a result of its racially divided past, and international developments reflect on the way in which they affect our local situation.
Art is a mirror and at times forecaster. It tells us about our progress in terms of the South African ‘identity,' and where it could lead to.
Ii is important to project what is different about South African art. Diverse societies are a global phenomenon, and so is the unrest that comes with them. Such societies have pockets of ethnic groups that resist integration and pockets within the original population who oppose the inclusion of strangers.
South Africa is different, because the separation was dictated and is deeply ingrained in the unconscious. It is a fragmented society where integration feels ‘unnatural’ and the option to leave the familiar social context is rather new and takes place predominantly in the city.
However, instead of positively experimenting with a new South African identity, the city environment has unfortunately also become the main playground of crime, which enhances our fear of ‘the other’, and shoves us back into the safe and familiar.(Aparheidized reality, existence and mind-set)
This dynamic is reproduced in much of South African art and is reflected in exhibitions, where the majority of the art can still be divided along apartheid lines, almost as if looking at cultural diversity through a magnifying glass.
Artists who are exposed to and familiar with a more global context seem to have overcome these restrictions and can deal with these issues in a less literal and more playful manner.
The master of turbulent imagery was undoubtedly Dumile Feni, who was known as the Goya of the townships. His apocalyptic vision talks directly of personal experience, indicating the extent to which the political and the personal had become inextricably intertwined.
The violent imagery of Dumile was complemented in the 1960s and 1970s by a different kind of aesthetic: mart that celebrated the beautiful and the mystical. It was an art inspired by music, literature, poetry, and an affirmative view of the political struggle: as a site of hope rather than despair.
Fikile Magadlela, Thamsanqwa Mnyele, Dikobe Martins, Peter Clarke and others reacted against the prevailing township imagery of hopelessness. They were a generation of artists who showed the way out of the aesthetic of distortion, producing images of great beauty and mystery, evolving a symbolism that offered some relief from the degradation and squalor.
A more complex and subtle response to political repression began to manifest in the work of Ezrom Legae. Working with delicate and tense line, Legae used images of birds and eggs as a metaphor for a new awakening of consciousness. Inspired by the story of Steve Biko, he produced a series of graphics using the chicken and egg imagery. Yet in spite of its explicitly political inspiration, he avoided any directly political reference either in the content or in the title of this series (which was chosen to represent South Africa at Chile's Valparaiso Exhibition of 1979).
Some of the art of this period was inspired by surrealist imagery. In an interview with Fikile he alluded to the surrealist influence as well as his desire to make an art that celebrated beauty.
But there's one thing I believe in; if you draw the black man, he must beautiful, handsome; the woman must be heavenly. Drape them with the most beautiful clothes — to wash away this whole shit of self-pity.
Fikile also alludes to the important political debates that were confronting artists at that time. How to address the role of the artist in terms of his or her social responsibility; questions of accountability; and the constant problem of how to overcome the alienation of the black artist from his or her own community.
A Short Message To the Folks in Mzantsi
Restoring Dignity and National Prosperity
No matter how we try to cut it, we will never be anyone else but African. One of the things that our people need to introduced to is traveling World-wide. We need to tour other lands and places, and this experience, on its own, will enable us to grow and be a better Nation. We need to know more and read more. We shall have to study and practice our culture; educate the entire population, and no one must be left behind-no matter what.
So that, what we learn from this piece is that we are now supposed to be picking up the pieces and get about building and constructing a Nation of the Africans of Mzantsi. In regard to changing our lot and lives revolutionarily, we learn from Wilson that paying attention to history of how we got to be where we are is important:
"We owe a lot to those who put their bodies on the line for our present success. If this institution decides to put you out, it will be these same people who will be up here to see that you get in here again! Some of you want to forget that history and then claim you owe them nothing when you make a couple of little bucks in front of a TV camera or some other place. Then, not only does one forget them, you forget the ones coming after you, and don't make sure that they can also get in and their privileges are also maintained.
"You want to act like 'revolution' is something that's temporary and not permanent: It is permanent. You forget your history and forget who you are and lose your obligation to the past, to those who made your success possible and do not fulfill your obligations for those to come — some of whom will be your own sons and daughters!
"When we suffer from social amnesia, we identify with abstractions: "I am not Black; I am not African; I am a human being. I am an American." Sterile, abstract identity... The closer we get to it, the less we see of it, and the more we recognize that it has no meaning. "What is that? Who is that? What does that stand for" What does it mean?"
"It's empty, and people who identify themselves with these abstractions are also empty and experience their lives as empty, as people who have no feelings. They identify with the abstraction so as to escape feelings. Therefore, we see them detached and cut-off from themselves as persons, as well as from their people. In fact, they use their abstract identity to escape their responsibilities to their own people and to escape the pain and struggle that happens today to be a part of our situation."
Therefore, when we discuss the naming of our environment, children land and whatever, we are empowering a whole nation. We should never shy away from our ignorance and begin to learn anew the things that are relevant for us and to the whole nation. We need to begin to wrap our heads around the Notion of an African Nation of Mzantsi, not 'tribes'. We grow when we revolutionize our perceptions and actions. We are much better than this...
Our Symbols Are our our Cultural Foundations
Dumile Feni's Short Bio
The Dumile Feni Family Trust Dumile Feni is one of South Africa's enigmatic artists who played an important role cultivating a unique form of expression that piercingly articulated the repressive social, economic and political conditions of his time.
Regarded as the master of turbulent imagery and the Goya of the townships, his artworks speak directly of personal experience, indicating the extent to which the political and personal had become inextricably intertwined in South Africa.
The draconian system's disregard for black people led the artist into a 23 year period of self imposed exile. Dumile Feni arrived in the USA in 1978 and settled in Los Angeles in the midst of the Black Arts Movement.
He was exposed to the critics of the movement who sought what they called a Black Aesthetic (separate symbolism, mythology, critique and iconology), resulting in his style transforming, with most of his drawings completed in LA serving as compositions for his sculpture.
Applause is a powerful piece and is dominated by the severe expression of the figure. Dumile's strong use of line in his sculpture creates an atmosphere of devastating intensity. It's impossible for the viewer not to absorb the message in this piece. Of his work Dumile said: 'my meaning or message is universal, human suffering and the state of humanity is universal; only the locations are specific.'
African Woman's Bust in Bronze
The View of Historical/Cultural Amnesia
"Historical and experiential amnesia" is when an individual or a group is compelled various circumstances to repress important segments of his or its formative history he/she or it at the same time loses access to crucially important social, intellectual and technical skills associated with the history which could be used to resolve current problems. Consequently, to some lesser or greater degree, the individual or group may be handicapped or disadvantaged by the resulting amnesia.
"Finally, individual and group psychology are in part constructed from the perception he/she or it has of his/her or its history, the inferences drawn from that history about the kind of person of group he/she or it may be, what other persons or groups think of him/her or it, and the destiny that awaits him/her or it.
"The study of history cannot be a mere celebration of those who struggled on our behalf. We must be instructed by history and should transform history into concrete reality and planning and development, into construction of power and the ability to ensure our survival as a people.
"...If we are not studying it in a way that it is a threat to their power then we are studying it in a way that it is not a threat to their power then we are studying it incorrectly, and our celebration of it is helping to maintain us in a state of deception [and perpetual bondage].
"So let us make sure that we look at and study history in a light such that it advances our interests, not inflates our egos and blinds us to reality." (Wilson)
"History is projected in this culture as being irrelevant, I don't think by accident. Again, if it is made to look irrelevant, if it is made to look unprofitable, then making it appear so must serve some purpose. When courses in college or university are apparently presented "nonpolitically," "objectively," "neutrally," they are actually presented in the most political way.
We must understand that it is in the nature of this racist culture to hide its political agenda. Therefore, it presents so-called facts and information as if they have no political connection or implications. Let us mediate on these issues and I think we'll come to realize that there is a direct relationship between history and economics, political and social development.
So when history is projected as irrelevant, as unprofitable, as a system of dates and events, as a system of rarified causes and effects, it is projected that way, I think, because it helps to maintain the political and social status quo, and because it serves a politico-economic function.
People who are ahistorical, who have little knowledge of history, are people who are more gullible, more easily adapted to the capitalist machine than people who are historically knowledgeable. History can become a basis for self-criticism, a basis for self-understanding, and more importantly, the basis for the understanding of the motives and the psychology of others.
When History is not taught appropriately, we are left to jut follow orders, and to just trudge to our work, our jobs,without knowing the reasons why. Yet trudging to our job has not secured our futures at all. We must recognize that merely going to work, merely studying computer science, merely going to the office, is not enough.
We are going to have to understand they psychology of the people who run this world. We can only understand our oppressors' psychology by understanding their history. They rob us of a knowledge of history and want us to think that history is irrelevant and unimportant so that we cannot see through their deadly games. We must recognize that history is the very center of life."(Wilson)
Erich Fromm writes the following in order to put a better perspective about culture and knowing other peoples culture and so forth,which I had partially addressed in the preceding Hub. Fromm states:
"Discovering other people, discovering a different world , with different things, different gestures, different hands, different bodies, is where most of us ought to begin.
"And, since different languages have left their imprint on us, and we are used to different gestures, different styles of relationships, this new learning process of discovering, or relating to the world in a new way, takes a long time. And yet the differences are the starting points for this learning process.
"You discover people who are different and, linked, with the discovery of other people, the need to be tolerant o. This means that through the differences between us we must learn to be tolerant of those who are different, not to judge them according to our own values, but according to their own values, which are different from ours. And here it seems to me to be fundamental to link the concept of culture with the concepts of difference and tolerance."
"Culture is not only artistic or intellectual phenomena expressed through thought: culture is to be seen above all in the simplest actions of everyday life-culture as eating in a different way, shaking hands in a different way, relating to people in a different way.
"So it seems to me that these three concepts-culture, differences and tolerance-are old concepts being used in a new way. Culture for us, I would insist, includes the whole range of human activity, including everyday life; and it is basically in everyday life that we make the discovery of what is different, what is essential.
"And this understanding of what is essential is different rom the traditional one, which views essential as those features which are held in common ... the essential is what is different, what makes us different people. When the people do not reflect on their everyday lives, they do not become aware that there is a deep gap between these ideas and values and the acts we perform in our daily lives.
"While we affirm certain values at the intellectual level, these values re empty if they are removed from our everyday life, from our relations with our wives, children, our friends and the people we meet in the street, whom we do not know, but with whom we have a relationship.
"All these ideas of personal, communal and moral values which should govern our relations with things and persons are no doubt very beautiful ideas; but, to the extent that we do not reflect on them and try to ensure that they and our actions coincide, there continues to be a gap between what we think and the values we affirm and the at we perform with regard to things and persons.
"And this is equally applicable to the field of religion, in which there is a gap between what is affirmed and practiced day-by-day, and to the political plane, where there is a gap between what is affirmed and the day-to-day struggle."