It has often been said that when an Igbo man’s wife makes a request of him, he will move mountains to achieve it. Thus it was that when my mother, who lost her father, and some of her brothers, on the same, rainy day, in October 1967, asked my dad to do a memorial to them, he obliged, and did the memorial on his fence. The pix you’ll see next are the result, and I’ll do a sort of story guide…
Ars Technica: "Humans began making paint and glue at roughly the same time with the same tools. Evidence from a cave in eastern Ethiopia has revealed something extraordinary about the origins of symbolic thought among humans." [more inside]
I hardly ever heard about the Nagô, the Afro-Brazilians, and the Lukumí, the Afro-Cubans, who returned back to West Africa. The idea that the Yorùbá people share one identity is strongly related to the transatlantic experience of the slave trade and the returnees’ influence in the homeland. This story contributes a lot to the classical discussions of what is ‘Original-Yorùbá’ and what a diaspora invention - as not even the word ‘Yorùbá’ is of ‘Yorùbá’ origin itself. I summed up the basic facts.
A century in the making, and now completed by Britain’s David Adjaye, the Smithsonian’s gleeful, gleaming upturned pagoda more than holds its own against the sombre Goliaths of America’s monument heartland.Preparations are in full swing for a historic opening on 24th September 2016 when America's first president of African heritage will ring an equally historic bell. Related.
While the International Court of Justice in The Hague takes up a dispute between Kenya and Somalia over maritime oil and gas reserves this week, Human Rights Watch alleges that Kenya's plan to close the Dadaab refugee camp complex, amidst protest from Somalia, violates the UN's 1951 Refugee Convention, which requires that repatriation of refugees must be voluntary. Earlier this year Kenya's Interior Ministry announced that the camp, covering 50 km² (20 mi²) and home to nearly 300,000 people, would be closed by November. Ground was broken to construct the earliest portions of Dadaab in October 1991 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as a temporary measure to aid Somalis fleeing from their country's civil war, but as the years passed the site became home to refugees from other conflicts and to refugees from drought and famine, at its height holding more than half a million people. [more inside]
“These people performed a critique of a brutal capitalistic enslavement system, and they rejected it completely. They risked everything to live in a more just and equitable way, and they were successful for ten generations."The Great Dismal Swamp straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border. From the 1600s to about the American Civil War it was a place of refuge, largely for escaped African and African-American slaves, and an important link in the underground railway. [more inside]
Mapping the Mercantilist World Economy Our current globalized capitalist world economy was built on Mercantilist foundations, put in place in the first phase of global European expansion, the second phase being that of the formal European empires of the industrial age. In the case of the “New World” in the Americas, Europe’s Mercantilists were creating entirely new trade networks and hinterlands. In the Old World of Afro-Eurasia however, Europe was rearranging the existing, much older, world economy it had been part of since the Middle Ages. I wanted to illustrate this first phase of global capitalism with thematic maps.
In 2005, junior Harvard historian Caroline Elkins's controversial first book, Imperial Reckoning: Britain's First Gulag, resurfaced the history of Britain's brutal internment camps for the ethnic group the Kikuyu, believed to be supporters of the 1950s Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya. She then found herself working for survivors of the camps in a landmark case seeking reparations from the British government. The plaintiffs were aided by the stunning discovery at the time of their case of massive archives--1.2 million files worth--held in illegal secrecy by the Foreign Office which included files systematically removed from former colonies as the British withdrew. (Note: many of these links contain descriptions of violence against civilians.) [more inside]
European refugees in India, Africa and the Middle East
During World War II in Europe over 40 million refugees sought shelter away from the catastrophic bloodshed that engulfed the continent for over six years.
The Arabian Sea has a special place in Indian business history. For centuries the cities and settlements on the Arabian Sea littoral traded with each other, exchanging Indian textiles for horse, armaments, pearls and ivory. In turn, some of the textiles were passed on to the Atlantic slave trade in Africa as a medium of exchange, or sent overland to European markets. Coastal merchants* indigenous to the region bordering the sea engaged in this business and developed sophisticated systems of banking and shipbuilding to support the mercantile enterprise. The Hindu and Muslim traders of Kachchh were examples of such groups of people. text via [more inside]
Africa In The New Century
An essay by the Cameroonian philosopher and post-colonial theorist Achille Mbembe. Entitled “Africa In The New Century”, the essay advances one of the most profound arguments yet for the growing—if still marginalised—hypothesis that the future of humanity is being subsumed by the future of Africa.text via
"T’Challa emerged as the fictional representation of those countless dreams denied; the unbroken manhood that Ossie Davis famously invoked after the assassination of Malcolm X. Wakanda symbolized the dreams of black utopias like Ethiopia and South Africa that had grown as the Black Freedom Struggle grew over the twentieth century. In this moment when superheroes become a way to explore contemporary anxieties about activism and authority, the Black Panther provides an opportunity for global audiences to study the traditions of black nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and the variety of African indigenous cultures. Dr. Walter Greason (Monmouth University) took a few minutes to suggest a collaborative exploration of these influences" in the Wakanda Syllabus.
Having fallen down the rabbit hole of British colonial cinema history, I thought to share some of the wonderful discoveries with you.
Robbie Judkins visits Tanzania to witness first hand the attempt to save a quarter of a century of musical history from oblivion. Listen to an exclusive mix of tracks newly digitized by the Tanzania Heritage Project
As the main supplier of fashion prints to nearly half a continent, the textile company has continued to dominate that fashion scene there for almost 170 years. How’d that happen? Rooted in European colonialism and a testament to African ingenuity, creativity, and cultural pride; it’s a surprising story…
The history of British slave ownership has been buried: now its scale can be revealed The T71 files have been converted into an online database; a free, publicly available resource.
The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts presented cleanly (without advertising or excessive layout) for educational use. The main sourcebooks cover ancient, medieval, and modern history. Subsidiary sourcebooks cover African, East Asian, Global, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Lesbian and Gay, Science, and Women's history.
Sailors and Daughters reveals the expansive maritime societies of Zanzibar, the east African coast, and beyond. From the 1840s, cameras traced the international migrations of traders, sailors, sons, and daughters through Indian Ocean ports, continuing trade that dates back over five millennia.
The biting cold of a March morning did little to dissuade fans of Amelia Edwards, founder of the Egypt Exploration Society, from turning out in force to watch the unveiling of her blue plaque at 19 Wharton Street in London this week. Edwards joins a small list of women writers including Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Shelley and Agatha Christie, chosen to be celebrated by the scheme as its first female Egyptologist.As one dives deeper into Amelia Edwards' contributions to Egyptology, one begins to wonder*, was it she who was the real Amelia Peabody, so well known to us through the words of Elizabeth Peters? [more inside]
119 years ago, today, the unthinkable happened, as far as the Europeans were concerned. The Ethiopian army trounced the Italians in the Battle of Adwa. Headlines such as ‘Abyssinia (Ethiopia) Defeats Invading Italians’; ’80,000 Ethiopians Destroy 20,000 Italians at the Battle of Adwa’; ‘Italian Premier Crispi Resigns’; and ‘Abyssinia and Italy Sign Peace Treaty.’ peppered the European press. Adwa was placed on the world map and remained a historic story because of Ethiopia’s decisive victory against the Italian army on March 1st 1896 (Yekatit 23, 1888 according to the Ethiopian calendar).
'I am a woman. I do not like war. But I would rather die than accepting your deal."attributed to Empress Taitu Bitul*, Wife of Menelik II [more inside]
Africa Might Not Look Like You Think It Does
There is no such thing as an objective map. This was true of cave paintings, Roman tapestries, and colonialists' charts of Africa. It is also true of Google Maps.
The Swahili Coast and its culture in the medieval period (roughly the tenth to fifteenth centuries) is relatively little studied, compared with other cultures of its size and influence, though it represents a key node in the development of global trade before the European Age of Discovery. Its history is known in broad strokes, but less is known about how the medieval Swahili lived and how they incorporated influences—from religion to architecture—from across the Indian Ocean world. Fleisher and his codirector, Stephanie Wynne-Jones of the University of York, looked for a site that would allow them to examine such questions in detail. “We had an inkling Songo Mnara would be that site,” he says, “but it has completely exceeded our expectations. --
How the north ended up on top of the map is an article by Nick Danforth, author/curator of (The/Mid) Afternoon Map blog, detailing how the north-up orientation came to be the default orientation, looking beyond Eurocentrism to Byzantine monks and Majorcan Jews who set the path for modern cartography. If you want more information, you might enjoy the Wikipedia article on the history of cartography, or you can really dig deep with the three-volume text, The History of Cartography, which is available in full from the University of Chicago Press online, split into individual PDFs for each chapter. [more inside]
Nigerian photographer J.D Okhai Ojeikere passed away last weekend, but at the age of 83 he left behind a truly incredible body of work celebrating Nigerian culture. These photos from his Hairstyles series are part of an archive of nearly 1000 pictures showing the intricate hair-dos of African women taken at work, social engagements and in the streets of Lagos. The beautifully composed black and white images draw attention to the sculptural quality of the hair, almost elevating it to an art form in itself. It goes without saying that his work is a unique treasure of historical and anthropological importance.Via
Over the course of nearly 20 centuries, millions of East Africans crossed the Indian Ocean and its several seas and adjoining bodies of water in their journey to distant lands, from Arabia and Iraq to India and Sri Lanka. Called Kaffir, Siddi, Habshi, or Zanji, these men, women and children from Sudan in the north to Mozambique in the south Africanized the Indian Ocean world and helped shape the societies they entered and made their own. Free or enslaved, soldiers, servants, sailors, merchants, mystics, musicians, commanders, nurses, or founders of dynasties, they contributed their cultures, talents, skills and labor to their new world, as millions of their descendants continue to do. Yet, their heroic odyssey remains little known. The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World traces a truly unique and fascinating story of struggles and achievements across a variety of societies, cultures, religions, languages and times.
The Tumblr blog People of Color in European Art History, or medievalpoc for short, has a simple mission: to showcase works of art from European history that feature People of Color. All too often, these works go unseen in museums, Art History classes, online galleries, and other venues because of retroactive whitewashing of Medieval Europe, Scandinavia, and Asia. [more inside]
In 2008 the actor Rupert Everett hosted (seemingly from his apartment) a rather strange documentary: The Victorian Sex Explorer ( 2 3 4 5 ), an attempt to follow in the footsteps of famed Explorer, translator, and author Sir Richard Burton and convince us of Sir Burton's passion for sexual experimentation while laying in lots of bathhouses and visiting brothels. [more inside]
'Feminism' has often been seen as a Western concept, but African women are increasingly redefining it to suit their own purposes. This, in turn, is influencing the rest of the world.
The blog US Slave collects long-form articles on every aspect of the history of slavery, primarily focussing on African slaves in the USA and their descendents. Among the content there is this biography of Ota Benga, the Congolese Pygmy man who was put on display in the monkey house at the Bronx Zoo, and several posts about Sarah "Saartjie" Baartman, the so-called Hottentot Venus. [more inside]
The stereotypes about Africa/Africans are too many to list here. They’re mostly negative, myopic depictions that focus on war, famine, abject poverty, disease, and corruption. In other oversimplifications, Africans are written up as model immigrants, overachieving geniuses, or displaced chiefs moonlighting as gas station attendants. Outside of these caricatures, many Africans are going to work and school, voting in their local elections, and spending way too much time on Facebook. And they’re over the ignorance that has collectively miscast them. In response, a swelling movement of young Africans are launching concerted efforts to wrest the image of Africa from entities and interests that don’t promote a balanced understanding of the continent.
"To the world of today the men of medieval Christendom already seem remote and unfamiliar. Their names and deeds are recorded in our history-books, their monuments still adorn our cities, but our kinship with them is a thing unreal, which costs an effort of imagination. How much more must this apply to the great Islamic civilization, that stood over against medieval Europe, menacing its existence and yet linked to it by a hundred ties that even war and fear could not sever. Its monuments too abide, for those who may have the fortunate to visit them, but its men and manners are to most of us utterly unknown, or dimly conceived in the romantic image of the Arabian Nights. Even for the specialist it is difficult to reconstruct their lives and see them as they were. Histories and biographies there are in quantity, but the historians for all their picturesque details, seldom show the ability to select the essential and to give their figures that touch of the intimate which makes them live again for the reader. It is in this faculty that Ibn Battuta excels." Thus begins the book, "Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354" published by Routledge and Kegan Paul. Step into the world of "the first tourist" who made his mark as the world's greatest traveler before the age of steam. [more inside]
Perched high up above the Thames in downtown London every month this past year a different writer has spent four days living in a replica of the Roi des Belges, the boat Marlow travels up the Congo in Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness. Each author would write a short text during their stay "which explores London, rivers, the work of Joseph Conrad, or even all three." They would be visited on the last day by a journalist from The Guardian who recorded them reading their essay, poem or short story. Among the poets, historians and novelists were Adonis, Jeanette Winterson, Teju Cole, Michael Ondaatje and Kamila Shamsie. These recordings, each prefaced by a short interview, are all available on the Guardian website, to stream or download. Below the cut there is a link to each recording, with a short description. [more inside]
Who Draws The Borders Of Culture?(NYTimes) Cultural border, as opposed to national borders, are funny things. One country can contain many (Coke vs. Soda. Vs. Pop, previously and previously-er). Cultural borders often appear as food and drink choices, like sweet tea, forms of alcohol, or BBQ sauce. [more inside]
When it comes to railways, the British are famous for their colonial legacy of one of the world's most extensive railway networks built across then British India but their lesser known and far grander vision was the Cape to Cairo railway network intended to stretch across the sea of colonial pink on the African continent. Left incomplete due to politics and geography, most of it is still almost as it was built in its day. [more inside]
The ruins of Gede are the remains of a mysterious lost city on the Swahili Coast of Kenya, located deep within the Arabuko Sokoke forest. The mystery of Gede (Gedi) is that it does not appear in any Swahili, Portuguese, or Arab written records and present day research has not yet been able to fully account for what actually happened to the city. The inhabitants were of the Swahili, an ancient trading civilization that emerged along the eastern coasts of Africa ranging from Somalia to Mozambique. Archaeological excavations carried out between 1948 and 1958 have uncovered porcelain from China, an Indian lamp, Venetian beads, Spanish scissors, and other artefacts from all over the world, demonstrating the occupants were engaged in extensive and sophisticated international trade. Questions still remain as to what caused the downfall of Gede, but by the 17th century, the city was completely abandoned to the forest and forgotten until the 1920s. Today, a National Museum, Gede's sister cities from the period are part of the ethnography based archeological work of Dr Chapurukha M. Kusimba of Chicago's Field Museum, whose lifework has thrown light on the precolonial heritage of the Swahili peoples.
Built by the Shona (1100-1500 AD), the empire of Great Zimbabwe, one of Africa’s greatest civilizations like Egypt and Meroe, stood between present-day Zimbabwe, eastern Botswana and south-east Mozambique. The empire’s highly developed architecture overwhelmed discoverers. And much in the same manner as German anthropologist Doctor Frobenius ignorantly mistook the Kingdom of Ife in Nigeria for the lost kingdom of Atlantis in 1911, some Europeans blatantly refused to believe that Great Zimbabwe was built by Africans. Dawson Munjeri, former director of Great Zimbabwe, a World Heritage site, discusses the history of the exceptional Zimbabwe empire. [more inside]
The African Presence in India: A Photo Essay : The questions we pose here are simply these: Who are the African people of India? What is their significance in the annals of history? Precisely what have they done and what are they doing now? These are extremely serious questions that warrant serious and fundamental answers. This series of articles, "The African Presence in India: An Historical Overview," is designed to provide some of those answers.
Ewart Scott Grogan was a British-born figure of controversial sorts, the kind of fellow who would either end up buried in Westminster Abbey-or hanging from a yard-arm. After he survived as soldier in the Second Matabele War, he went on to be the first European to traverse the distance of the African continent from the South in Cape Town to Cairo in the North to win the hand of his bride-to-be from a skeptical father. He started the trek with the uncle of his bride-to-be in February 1898. Two years later, Grogan returned to London, a lone hero (the uncle turned back part way through). In 2007, MeFite Julian Smith retraced Grogan's path, "in part to dispel [his] own pre-wedding jitters," and wrote a book about Grogan's journey, and his own. [via mefi projects] [more inside]
Ancient books inherited in private family libraries could change our knowledge of late mediaeval arab culture, but most are hidden in private libraries. Gripping article about the unknown treasures that may be lurking in Mauritanian family libraries, considering the little that has already been found, resistance to cataloguing and problematic future if the region continues to be destabilised. How the manuscripts are famous in the muslim world.More on the open libraries and archive efforts. Some years back on bbc i saw an explorer track down some ancient ethiopian christian manuscripts to an ethiopian monastery, only to be shown some burnt remains from a fire a few months back. What treasures must lurk in this continent, and with digital cameras, how easy to document them without damage or intruding on their owners! Being christians, there are pictures and some history.
In 2010, Obama will have a miserable year, NATO may lose in Afghanistan, the UK gets a regime change, China needs to chill, India's factories will overtake its farms, Europe risks becoming an irrelevant museum, the stimulus will need an exit strategy, the G20 will see a challenge from the "G2", African football will unite Korea, conflict over natural resources will grow, Sarkozy will be unloved and unrivalled, the kids will come together to solve the world's problems (because their elders are unable), technology will grow ever more ubiquitous, we'll all charge our phones via USB, MBAs will be uncool, the Space Shuttle will be put to rest, and Somalia will be the worst country in the world. And so the Tens begin.
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
Trees Never Meet is the thoughtful blog of David, a historian of Africa. Though posting has slowed recently, the archives are fascinating. On fitting in; on killing animals as an ex-vegetarian; on Namibian legal history; on "anti-conquests"; on the types of people who have inhabited Namibia since the conquest; on Namibian politics. David also has a fantastic, well-written dream blog.
Clips from the BBC documentary, The African Rock n' Roll Years - Part 1 l Part 2 l Part 3 l Part 4 l Part 5 l Part 6 - a six-part series mixing interviews with key artists, concert footage and news archives, the series examines and explains the "styles that make up the continent's music, and the political and social pressures that led to their development." BBC documentary details. Found in YouTube member, Duncanzibar's, good collection of mostly African music videos. [more inside]
The Mau Mau rebellion against British rule in Kenya lasted from 1952 to 1960. Although there were atrocities on both sides, there has been a movement in Kenya to claim compensation from the British government for their actions. Obama's grandfather took part in the uprising (some have labelled him an "insurgent") and was captured and brutally tortured by the British. [more inside]
witness the strangest customs of the red, white, brown, black and yellow races ... attend their startling rites, their mysterious practices ... all assembled for you
The Secret Museum of Mankind :: "Published in 1935, the Secret Museum is a mystery book. It has no author or credits, no copyright, no date, no page numbers, no index ... The tone of the commentary is dated, and uniformly racist in the extreme, often hilariously so. It reads like the patter of a carnival sideshow barker, from a time when the world was divided between "modern" Europeans and "savages" ... Presented here is the Secret Museum in its entirety, all 564 pages scanned and transcribed-- nothing is omitted or censored ... Treat it as entertainment instead of education (don't take it seriously and don't believe a word it says!), adjust for the blatant racial bias of the time, and enjoy."
Northwestern University hosts a fine collection of historic East African photographs, viewable as sample sets or in their original photo-albums (requires flash). But the real prize is their wonderful collection of 113 historic maps of Africa, which are zoomable to incredible detail, also 1, 2, 3. via
Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security "By far the most ambitious and integral project in the burgeoning field of cold war history"
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