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HISTORY & CULTURE

5 Most Fascinating Pre-colonial Kings

31 May 2021

Meet some of Africa's most fascinating pre-colonial kings: Sunjata Keita was born in the 11th Century to a Maghan (chief) and defeated King Sumaworo of Soso . Ewuare the Great was born in the 15th Century to Oba Ohen and named Ogun at birth. Although he was banished by the king, years later he returned and ceased the throne in a coup. Sunni Ali was born into the Sonyi Dynasty that ruled the kingdom of Gao. In 1464 he became the Sii (king) of Gao. He created the Songhai Empire. Toure was a general in Sunni Ali’s army. When Ali died, Toure overthrew Sunni Baru in a bloody battle, earning himself the title “Askia”. Burja who was a merchant became the Sarki (king) of Kano in 1438, and the most powerful king in the Hausa Kingdom.
Centuries ago, long before the Western world ever knew that there was more to the planet than what they had seen, in a time when Europeans still believed the world was flat and were scared to venture too far for fear of falling over the edge, kingdoms and empires dominated the African continent. Kings reigned supreme and the African people flourished. The pre-colonial kings of Africa ruled over vast areas that sometimes, numbered hundreds of thousands of square miles, and were perceived as gods by their thousands of subjects. Their kingdoms may be gone but their history remains.   THE GREAT SUNJATA KEITA: THE LION KING OF THE MALI EMPIRE Keita was a king whose birth was foretold by diviners and whose extraordinary reign caused a poem to be written about him. Sunjata was born in the 11th Century to the chief of a village in the Mande tribe named Maghan Konfara (maghan means chief). Konfara, a polygamist was told by his fortune-tellers that he would one day father a great hero. When Sunjata was born, he was crippled, but he taught himself to walk over many years, becoming a hunter and a leader of his peers. After the death of Konfora, threats from her co-wives and their children caused Sunjata’s mother, to flee the palace with her children, to the kingdom of Mema, where Sunjata’s bravery and determination made him a favorite of the King. When the chiefdoms of the Mande tribe were conquered by Sumaworo Kante of the Soso kingdom, the Mande people remembered the prophecy and begged Sunjata to return and save them. When Sunjata left Mema, the king gave him an army which he joined with the Mande forces. After series of battles, Sunjata and his army defeated Sumaworo and his allies at the Battle of Kirina. Sunjata then unified all the Mande chiefdoms, and the newly formed kingdom was called the Mali Empire. Sunjata became the first Mansa (king) of the Mali Empire and he went on to conquer neighboring kingdoms, expanding the empire, which at its zenith covered the entire area occupied by the modern-day countries of Mali, Senegal, Niger, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, and The Gambia.   EWUARE THE GREAT - KING OF THE BENIN EMPIRE In the 15th Century, in the place, today known as Edo State, Nigeria, a third son named Ogun was born to Oba Ohen. At the time of his birth, the authority of the Oba was limited by a council of chiefs known as the Uzama who were responsible for appointing the Oba of Benin. When Oba Ohen died, there arose a terrible dispute on the issue of who will become the next Oba. The Oba’s second son Orobiru won the favor of the Uzama and on being appointed Oba, he banished his brothers. Ogun returned several years after the death of Oba Orobiru to find that another of his brothers Prince Uwaifaikun had ascended the throne. Ogun staged a coup against his brother and in the course of the coup, Uwaifaikun was accidentally killed by his supporters. Ogun ascended the throne and renamed himself Ewuare, meaning “trouble has ceased”. During his reign, Ewuare rebuilt the city and conquered over 200 neighbouring cities. He reduced the powers of the Uzama by removing their role as kingmakers. Instead, he established a system of succession whereby the first son of the Oba would inherit the throne. He also established several communal festivals and ceremonies and promoted Benin art. Before his death, he renamed the city Edo and was given the honorary title of Ogidigan (the Great)   SUNNI ALI BER - FIRST KING OF THE SONGHAI EMPIRE Sunni Ali was born into a line of rulers known as the Sonyi Dynasty who ruled the kingdom of Gao, and in 1464 he became the Sii of Gao after the death of Sii Sulayman Dama. Sunni was a military leader and under his command, the Gao troops defeated invaders and conquered new territories. His army included foot soldiers and horsemen and he attacked his opponents by land and water. As Sii, Sunni absorbed the territories of the Mali Empire becoming ruler of the largest West African Empire to ever exist. He named his vast kingdom the Songhai Empire and ascended the throne as its first king.   MUHAMMAD TOURE aka ASKIA THE GREAT - THE FORCEFUL KING OF SONGHAI Muhammad Toure was a general in the army of Sunni Ali, and his military might made him a favorite of Ali's, who made him governor of one of the conquered territories. When Ali died, Toure challenged Ali’s son and successor Sunni Baru for the throne claiming that Baru was not a devout Muslim and that he, Toure was entitled to the throne because of his achievements. Toure overthrew Baru in a bloody battle, earning himself the title “Askia” which means “forceful one.” Askia expanded the Songhai Empire to the north, east, and west, conquering several kingdoms. He set up a stronger government and introduced new trade policies and a system of taxation. In 1946, Askia went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and there, he met the Caliph of Egypt and was appointed Caliph of Western Sudan by him. In 1528, Askia became blind and was deposed and exiled by his son.   ABDULLAHI DAN KANAJEJI aka ABDULLAHI BURJA - THE 18TH SARKI OF KANO Abdullahi Burja was a merchant and military commander who became the Sarki (king) of the Hausa state of Kano in 1438. By making alliances with powerful kingdoms and establishing new trade routes for the merchants in his city, Burjah made Kano the most prosperous kingdom in the region of present-day Northern Nigeria, becoming the most powerful king in the Hausa Kingdom. He introduced the use of camels by Kano merchants, and led his army to the south of his kingdom, establishing trade routes and capturing thousands of prisoners. He equipped his army with iron helmets and amour. Burjah's policies enhanced trade, making Kano one of the richest kingdoms in the region and helped spread the Hausa culture and language. The kings of pre-colonial Africa commanded great armies and exercised influence over many. They remain a symbol of Africa’s greatness and potential.

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Haunted Places in South Africa

Haunted Places in South Africa Do strange things ever happen to you at night or even during the day? Ever thought about ghosts and all they do? When the word haunted is said, all one thinks about is movies. Thinking that being haunted or haunted places only ends in movies is not true. Are you one who loves thrills and scary goosebumps creeping all over you? Or are you searching for a place that will get your adrenaline pump up? Then these haunted places in South Africa should be your next stop. From ghost stories to haunted houses where you hear screams even during the day to hotels, castles, hospitals, and museums are experiences you will never forget in a hurry when you visit any of these places. The CAPE OF GOOD HOPE is said to be one of the most haunted places in South Africa and the most talked about ghost stories. Oral legend has it that sometime in 1941 a Dutch ship called “The Flying Dutchman” used for trading capsized off the coast of the Cape of Good Hope after surrendering to the storm. According to the legend, The Flying Dutchman is doomed to keep sailing the stormy seas forever and it is said to be a very terrible omen to see The Flying Dutchman while at sea. The ghost nurse at the Somerset Hospital is on to look out for whenever one visits Cape Town. This nurse is said to mysterious with her white eyes and loves assisting patients and then disappear afterward. If you like a ghost pulling your toes while you sleep, if you love that kind of thrill then the Nottingham Road Hotel is for you. The ghost of the hotel is called Charlotte and she is said to be fond of tidying and rearranging flowers and objects in your room. So, whenever you visit this South African hotel and pay for a room, have it at the back of your mind that you automatically signed up to have a roommate that does the cleaning. Interestingly scary right? Residents in Erasmuskloof, Pretoria reports having heard strange noises and often seen ghosts in and around the Erasmus castle. Out of the normal things like moaning at night and lit windows in the abandoned mansion has always been reported too. Shoulder tapping is a thing when you visit Rust en Vreugd (an Iziko Museum) in Cape Town. The shoulder-tapping ghost is said to dwell in the museum.

28 Apr 2021

Rwanda, so Interesting

Interesting Places to Visit in Rwanda When we think Rwanda, most times the first word to come to mind is a dark period in the country’s history. However, there’s more to see in this city than its dark history. Let’s take a look at some interesting places you should visit in Rwanda and why this East African city should be on your travel list. 1.VOLCANOS NATIONAL PARK This location is a top favorite among tourists. It is a conservation area located in North-western Rwanda. Fun things you can do at this park include Gorilla trekking or gorilla safaris. This conservation houses a large number of mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, a variety of birds, elephants, bushbucks, reptiles etc. It is a complete safari experience and has absolutely breath-taking scenery with hills and lush grass adding to the distinct bright natural colors in its surroundings. 2.LAKE KIVU Lake Kivu is also known as the exploding lake and is located at the Congo-Rwandan border. It is described as one of the strangest lakes in Africa. Beneath lake kivu are hot springs that feed hot water, carbon dioxide and methane into the bottom of the lake. Scientists have dubbed it a disaster waiting to happen if for any reason the gas beneath the water is ignited. However, it is believed that if the gas is harnessed, it would be a great source of energy. Away from science, lake kivu is beautiful! It is 722 feet deep and contains numerous islands.   3. KIGALI GENOCIDE MEMORIAL This memorial was built to honor the about 250,000 people buried there in mass graves after being butchered by the Interhamwe army during the Rwandan genocide which lasted for 100days. Walking through the premises you are led on a journey to understand the events of that war and how the world watched as the genocide unfolded. It is a powerful and emotional experience as you are exposed to personal details of the individuals and children who were killed and the manner they died. The memorial is located in the northern Kisozi district of the capital. 4.KING’S PALACE MUSEUM Also known as the Royal palace of Nyanza, this museum takes you on a journey to understand the lifestyle of the Rwandan people and Rwandan royalty before the Rwandan kingdom was colonized. Set in a thatched dome replica of a king’s palace in the 15th century, the museum houses relics of the nation’s kings. The star attraction is the sacred cows known as inyambo. These cows have very large horns and are quite massive. All day, the traditional singers sing softly to the cows in amazing poetry which lulls the cows into a mellow state. This is a unique ritual of the Rwanda people. AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK If you would like to catch a glimpse of zebras, hippos, Nile crocodiles, elephants and giraffes, the Akagera national park is your best spot in Rwanda. You can have a drive through the beautiful landscape and spot the animals roaming in their natural habitat. If you are lucky, you may see a Lion or a Rhino.

28 Apr 2021

African Dance STyles

The Evolution of African Dance Styles Since time immemorial, Africans have used various dance styles to express emotions, ritual rites, communication, entertainment, and freedom. In 1500, dance styles were unique to every tribe and connoted deep spirituality. Many African tribes had a dance teacher to pass the traditional dance style to younger generations. It was the dance teacher’s duty to ensure that every group in the community knew their movements naturally. Due to the meanings and expressions behind the styles, it was inherent that no step was missed. A little insight into the dance style of the Ijaw people of Nigeria, West Africa. They had both dry land and wet swampy lands which affected their dance styles. The farmers on the dry savanna placed their feet firmly on the grounds, following their dance leader in a circular motion, swaying their bodies steadily in rhythm. In the mangrove swamps were fishermen whose dance style is called ‘waist dance’. When they danced, their backs leaned forward from their hips, their torsos positioned like they had a dog’s posture except they were not kneeling. They moved lightly, moving their body weight from foot to foot in rhythm to songs they sang as they fish by the swamps.  It is impossible to talk about African dance without mentioning drums. It was very essential for dance because of its rhythm and tune to emotions and spirituality. Drums were known as the tribe’s heartbeat. Drums had the power of staging the mood and connecting positive energies and uniting the people. Another essential accessory for dance was clapping hands and stomping feet in collective rhythm to the drum, singing, and body movements while dancing. With time, dance got complicated as it widely developed. Many dances had what we called isolated and polycentric movements. With this style, each body part moved differently from the other. Bear in mind that these times, Africans were being sold into slavery to Europeans, Caribbean's, and South and North Americans. The slave masters gave them the freedom to practice their traditions which included dance. It was with these dance styles Africans had a passage to be free in their minds. Yet, in North America, slaves were subjected to harsh laws that prohibited them from dancing but Africans devised ways to continue dancing despite the conditions. Due to the dispersion and separation of ethnic groups and tribes, dance styles began to merge and evolve into a broad new African dance style. The Caribbean island was a major influence on this evolution. Inspirations also came from Spain, France, Dutch, and Britain. The African dances we know today were all rooted in the 1500 dance styles. The lasting African dance styles are; Agahu, Agbekor, Adamu, Yankadi, Munchongoyo, Kpanlogo, and Mohobelo.  Even in new lands, these dance styles stayed with Africans and are now popular dance styles in modern-day such as; tap Dancing, Twist, Charleston, Jazz dance, lindy hop, twerking, hip hop, zouk, Capoeira, the jitterbug, etc.

02 May 2021

Africa Mathematical Games

AFRICAN MATHEMATICAL GAMES Thousands of years ago, Africans were using numbers, algebra, and geometry in daily life activities; such as identifying dates and time for harvesting or reckoning a women’s menstrual cycle. This mechanism influenced the world and has evolved to what is known as Mathematics. The principles of mathematics were introduced into African mathematical games and have been used even before colonization, thousands of years ago. Yes, that's right, for thousands of years! Most African games are either physically drawn on the muddy ground in square board dimensions and multiple squares or “houses” as some would call it. They have a rotational pattern of counting and multiplying with a clap of hand or a jump from one square to another. The games are coupled up with singing from both opponents or cheering from others waiting to participate. Incorporating the style used to play these games on a square board they created actual wooden board games with more complex rules and slightly intense competitions. To get the picture, below is a list of seven mathematical games from Africa and how they originated. SENET This is one of the oldest board games in the world. In the tomb of Nefertari, an Egyptian Queen there is a beautiful painting of her playing Senet in 1295 BC. The original rules were passed along verbally because no written form has been found. The Senet game board is a thirty-square grid, arranged in three rows of ten. The grids are colored in black and white or blue and green. Each player has a set of 5 pawns the chess-shaped dice are moved in 6 paces, one after the other. You can buy Senet on Amazon or download it to your iPhone. BUTTERFLY Butterfly is a skilled board game played in Mozambique. It is similar to checkers but shaped in two triangles that join in the shape of a butterfly. Each player has nine pieces of cubes on each side. You win when you hop over your opponent’s cube, using the 19 intersection points to hop into available empty spaces. FELLI Felli from Morocco is played on a smaller 6x6 board. Games from Everywhere has a lovely board for sale, or you can simply draw the board on a piece of paper and use buttons or coins as pieces. MANCALA Mancala, the “count and capture” game is one of the oldest games in the world. It was improvised in those days by digging up pit holes and picking up pebble stones for the game. There are more than 200 versions in Africa. Ethiopia plays with 3 rows while East and Southern Africa play with four rows. Some games have "stores" at the end of each board, others do not. Currently, you can either make your board, play online, or buy mancala on Amazon. FANARONA Fanarona is a very popular board game in Madagascar. Legends say that in the 1500s, a king's son was so busy playing the game that he missed his chance to inherit land from his father. The board has a 9x5 grid pattern with cube pieces moving both forward and backward. Each player has 22 pieces and the object of the game is to capture all your opponent's pieces. DOKI Doki or Derrah (meaning horse) is an intellectual strategy board game initiated from Hausa, Nigeria in the 19th century. It was also conversant in other African countries like Niger and Burkina Faso. It is very similar to Wali and Dama Tuareg. It is a two-player alignment game related to tic-tac-toe (noughts and crosses) but more complex. On a 5x6 grid square board (sometimes 6x7 grid), each player has 12 stones which they drop into the squares consecutively. A player wins when their opponent cannot form three square stones in a row. SEEGA Seega is played in parts of North and West Africa. It's originated in Egypt in the 1800s but could be much older. The board game is easy to make yourself using pennies and paper. It is for a game designed for two players on a 5x5 board.  Each player has 12 pieces of stones or marbles placed on the board two at a time, consecutively. The capturing begins by "sandwiching" an opponent’s marble. In some African regions, the central square on the board is a safety zone. The African Mathematical games are built to be strategic, pacing the minds of African children, young adults, and the old. It is thrilling and exciting to the extent that many other countries across the globe have introduced these games to their regions and amended them to their taste and trivia!

02 May 2021