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HISTORY & CULTURE

THE MOST FEARED WOMEN IN HISTORY:THE DAHOMEAN AMAZONS

24 May 2021

In African history, the story of these brave female warriors can never be forgotten. It is important to tell the African story about a nation that took pride in the strength of women and exploited it to birth a formidable army- The Dahomean Amazons! They were a team of feared warriors initiated by King Houegbadja in the Dahomean kingdom, located in the Present-day Benin Republic. It was an army of only women and they instilled terror wherever they went because they were brave and deadly. They were not allowed to marry and have children but were influential, commanding great respect.
In African history, the story of the brave female warriors can never be forgotten. In a time where women are seemingly fighting for prominence in government, politics, and recognition in other areas it is important to tell the African story and about a nation that took pride in the strength of women and exploited it to birth a formidable army- The Dahomean Amazons! This was an all-female army of the Dahomean kingdom.     The Dahomean kingdom (located in the present-day Benin republic)came into dominance from the 17th century after conquering the cities of Allada and whydah. It was founded by the Fon people in 1625 and ruled by King Houegbadja as one of its earliest kings. King Houegbadja is said to have created the fighting group as a corps of elephant hunters and his daughter Queen Hangbe subsequently established it as royal female bodyguard infantry. The women were called Mino or Minon by the Fon people meaning "our mothers". They were called Dahomean Amazons by the Europeans due to their warrior –prowess in much the same fashion as the greek mythological Amazons. The Dahomean women called themselves ahosi (king's wives) or Mino as they were all legally married to the king giving up the pleasures of normal married life and having children. They were dedicated to the cause of war. Recruitment into the Dahomean ranks began from the early age of 8. Free-born girls and women of the Dahomean kingdom who wanted to become a part of the warriors as well as female slaves from conquered cities were drafted into the army. Fathers and husbands who noticed stubborn traits amongst their females usually complained to the king and the females were involuntarily drafted into the army so that such traits could be horned for war. The training for the women included series of intense physical combats and exercises till they were highly efficient and could kill the enemy with their bare hands. Seh-Dong-Hong-Beh, a leader of the Amazons, rumored to be the wife of one of the Dahomean kings was said to have killed a French soldier by ripping out his throat with her teeth when she ran out of arms. The women grew indifferent to pain and could survive under extreme physical conditions. The fame of the deadly and brave Dahomean Amazons spread across Western- Africa and beyond, thus they were greatly feared. The army had a semi-sacred status, which was entangled with the Fon belief in Vodun, these made the women to be held in high esteem. They were high ranking in society having command, influence, and great wealth. Their inputs in the politics and strategies of the kingdom were constantly sought.   As the kingdom’s fame rose in military and trade so did the number of the Dahomean Amazons.  Great importance was accorded it and It grew into a 6000 strong army unit of all women. It made for one-third of the Dahomean army. Increasing European intrusion into West Africa and the first and second Franco- Dahomean war under king Benhazine led to the diminishing number of Amazon women. The conquering of the Dahomean kingdom in Jan 1984 after a decisive battle at Adegun under King Benhazin the last independent ruler of the kingdom further led to the disbandment of the Amazon women as the kingdom became a French protectorate. There were many written records by French Soldiers citing the courage and audacity of the Dahomean amazons who fought gallantly till the end.   Moving on with life as is the African way of having a resilient and undefeated spirit, some of the women married and had children, while others remained single. Re-adjusting to civil life was no easy adaptation for the women as they were recorded as having difficulties living as normal people. There were many reports of encounters with the former fighters in the mid-nineteenth century who were now old but carrying on with traditional roles of women in their societies such as farming, cotton spinning, etc. Around 2019, Lupita Nyong’o was said to have interviewed one of them who was still alive.  A woman identified as Nawi was said to be the last survivor of the Dahomey Amazons with several movies and documentaries (2018) of the great Dahomean Amazons centered on her story. Today the story is the epitome of Strength and female power for African women and the continent.  

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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