Domestic violence2Le chien ne retourne jamais là où on l’a frappé (Proverbe Ruandais – Ruanda).- Ne frappez jamais votre femme.

The dog never returns where it was beaten (Rwandan Proverb – Rwanda).- Never beat your wife.

Posted by: Dr. Y. | February 8, 2016

Kiro’o Games: Central Africa’s First Gaming Studio


A game scene from ‘AURION: Legacy of Kori-Odan’ (source:

Video game players, and in particular African video game players will be excited by the latest, the first Gaming studio to see the light in Central Africa, and particularly in Cameroon. The games produced by this company embody African myths and culture. According to its founder, Olivier Madiba, the content of their games combine African characters and folklore. Kiro’o Games, Central Africa’s first video studio, latest project Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan is an action-RPG (Role Playing Game) with which the studio intends to unify and transmit African culture by combining various myths, tales and traditional values into the gaming experience.


A game scene from AURION: Legacy of Kori-Odan (source:

“The history of our continent is rich … we took inspiration from local Cameroonian traditions, like the Ngondo Festival celebrated by the Sawa people, and we also incorporated symbolism adapted from that of the Akan people of Ghana, specifically the Adinkra writing style,” said Olivier. Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan is set in a world of elemental energies and ancestral powers, where players assume the role of a traditional ruler, Enzo Kori-Odan, rightful ruler of the Zama kingdom, who uses the Aurion power granted him by his ancestors to regain control of his kingdom. To learn more, go to VenturesAfrica and TheNewAfrica. Kudos to Olivier Madiba and his team, all the best in their endeavor! Africa needs more of you.


Ecureuil / Squirrel


L’écureuil est petit, mais il n’est pas l’esclave de l’éléphant (Proverbe Bornu – Tchad). Je ne vaux pas grand-chose, mais je ne suis pas ton sous-fifre.



The squirrel is small, but it is not the elephant’s slave (Bornu proverb – Chad). I may not be worth much, but I am not your side-kick.

Posted by: Dr. Y. | February 2, 2016

Idris Alooma: Warrior King of the Bornu Empire

Idris Alooma

Idris Alooma

Today, I will be talking about Idris Alooma (also Idris Alaoma, or Idris Alauma), the only Bornu King whose name has survived the test of time. This article is long overdue, as it focuses on the Bornu and Kanem-Bornu empires.

Idris Alooma’s reign belonged to the great Sayfawa or Sefuwa dynasty which ruled the Bornu empire from the 16th and 17th centuries. According to the Diwan al-salatin Bornu, Idris Alaoma was the 54th King of the Sefawa dynasty, and ruled the Kanem-Bornu empire located in modern-day Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria. In many works, he is known by his mother’s name, Idris Amsami, i.e. Idris, son of Amsa. The name Alooma is a posthumous qualificative, named after a place, Alo or Alao, where he was buried. He was crowned king at the age of 25-26. According to the Diwan, he ruled from 1564 to 1596. He died during a battle in the Baguirmi where he was mortally wounded; he was later buried in Lake Alo, south of the actual Maiduguri, thus the name Alooma.

Group of Kanem-Bu warriors in the 1800s

Group of Kanem-Bu warriors in the 1800s

Idris was an outstanding statesman, and under his rule, the Kanem-Bornu touched the zenith of its power. He is remembered for his military skills, administrative reforms and Islamic piety. His feats are mainly known through his chronicler Ahmad bin Fartuwa. During his reign, Idris avoided the capital Ngazargamu, preferring to set his palace 5 km away, near the Yo river (Komadugu Yobe), in a place named Gambaru. The walls of the city were red, leading to a new architecture using red bricks characteristic of his reign. To this day, some murals still exist in Gambaru and are over 3m tall. These are vestiges of a flourishing empire. Idris Alooma was known by the Kanuri title of Mai for king.

Kanem-Bornu court in the 1700s

Kanem-Bornu court in the 1700s

His main adversaries were the Hausa to the west, the Tuareg and Toubou to the north, the Bulala to the east, and the Sao who were strongly implanted in the Bornu region (and will be decimated by Alooma’s military campaigns). One epic poem extols his victories in 330 wars and more than 1,000 battles. His innovations included the employment of fixed military camps with walls, permanent sieges and scorched earth tactics where soldiers burned everything in their path, armored horses and riders as well as the use of Berber camels, Kotoko boatmen, and iron-helmeted musketeers trained by Ottoman military advisers. His active diplomacy featured relations with Tripoli, Egypt, and the Ottoman Empire, which sent a 200-member ambassadorial party across the desert to Alooma’s court at Ngazargamu. Alooma also signed what was probably the first written treaty or ceasefire in Chadian history.

Alooma introduced a number of legal and administrative reforms based on his religious beliefs and Islamic law. He sponsored the construction of numerous mosques and made a pilgrimage to Mecca, where he arranged for the establishment of a hostel to be used by pilgrims from his empire. As with other dynamic politicians, Alooma’s reformist goals led him to seek loyal and competent advisers and allies, and he frequently relied on eunuchs and slaves who had been educated in noble homes. Alooma regularly sought advice from a council composed of heads of the most important clans. He required major political figures to live at the court, and he reinforced political alliances through appropriate marriages (Alooma himself was the son of a Kanuri father and a Bulala mother).

Map of the Kanem and Kanem-Bornu empires

Map of the Kanem and Kanem-Bornu empires

Kanem-Bornu under Alooma was strong and wealthy. Government revenue came from tribute (or booty if the recalcitrant people had to be conquered) and duties on and participation in trade. His kingdom was central to one of the most convenient routes across the Sahara desert. Many products were sent north, including natron (sodium carbonate), cotton, kola nuts, ivory, ostrich feathers, perfume, wax, and hides, but the most profitable trade was in slaves. Imports included salt, horses, silk, glass, muskets, and copper.

Alooma took a keen interest in trade and other economic matters. He is credited with having cleared the roads, designed better boats for Lake Chad, introduced standard units of measure for grain, and moving farmers into new lands. In addition, he improved the ease and security of transit through the empire with the goal of making it so safe that “a lone woman clad in gold might walk with none to fear but God.” To learn more, check out the books: History of the first twelve years of the reign of Mai Idris Alooma of Bornu (1571-1533) by his Imam: Ahmed ibn Fartua; together with the “Diwan of the sultans of Bornu” and “Girgam” of the Magumi; and The Africans, ed. J.A. Tome 3, 1977.


Posted by: Dr. Y. | January 28, 2016

J.D. Okhai Ojeikere: Capturing Afro Hair for History


J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere – Agaracha hairstyle (A. Magnin/ J.D.O.Ojeikere Photographs)

The following words are from Nigerian photographer J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere who decided to take pictures of Nigerian Afro Hairstyles as a way of preserving history. The pictures were taken from 1950 – 1970s. You will see that some of the styles are no longer made today. The text below and the pictures can be found in André Magnin: J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere/ Photographs, First Scalo Edition 2000.


… I never stopped taking photographs as both a memory of the past and a witness to a culture in constant evolution.

Hairstyling is a practice to increase beauty. It is not specific to Nigeria. It is found throughout… the continent. There are hundreds of ethnic groups in Nigeria, each with its own language, traditions and as many different hairstyles. … The hairstyles are never exactly the same; each one has its own beauty. … Most of my pictures are of quotidian hairstyles, but there are also ceremonial hairstyles. …


J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere – Roundabout style (Source: A. Magnin/ J.D.O. Ojeikere Photographs)

The styles are determined by the type of ceremony, the social position of the family or of the woman and the artistic talent of the hairstylist. Some have lost their original meaning to new meanings assigned to them. You can easily identify a woman by her hairstyle: a woman who has become an adult; a woman who is preparing for marriage… It is difficult today to know the origins of some hairstyles because different groups mix and adapt to modern culture. … There are many new hairstyles everywhere, but many of them are inspired by older models.

Hairstyling is a form of art. When you see a hairstylist do this or that, every single movement is precise and  rapid. She creates a hairstyle the way a sculptor would work – from nothing. It’s fascinating. These hairstyles pass from one woman to another; from one style to another without every repeating. It’s like a school, but some have a real talent that makes them stand out.


Different hairstyles as captured by J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere (Source: A. Magnin: J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere / Photographs)



Posted by: Dr. Y. | January 26, 2016

Afro Hair: Crown Jewel of African Women and Men

Nok sculpture of a woman

Nok sculpture of a woman

Have you ever looked at sculptures of women from the Nok civilization? Then you have probably noticed that Nok women wore their hair braided similar to the Fulani women of today, in beautiful goddess braids, and amazing styles. Ever looked at images of Queen Nzingha? She wore her hair in Afro, fully out.
Queen Nzingha of Angola

Queen Nzingha of Angola

What about the great Amanishakheto of Nubia, well, hieroglyphs at Meroë, show her sporting a gorgeous ‘Fro. And the fierce amazons of King Behanzin wore either braids, or shaved their heads, or sported afros. Today the tradition persists: the Himba women of Namibia and Angola wear dreadlocks decorated with red ochre, while Maasai women shave their heads and Maasai men sport dreadlocks. For their wedding, the Wodaabe women wear amazing braids decorated with cauris, and jewelry. In our culture, there were intricate hairstyles for different occasions: passage of a girl into womanhood, courting, weddings, funerals, etc.
Himba women (

Himba women (

Isn’t it amazing how our crown jewel, our hair, can be worn in so many different ways? Isn’t it amazing that one could change hairstyle every two-three weeks, or even
Fulani woman (Wodaabe)

Fulani woman (Wodaabe)

every month? After all, nature gifted the African race with a lion’s mane, which can be dressed a thousand ways, why not take advantage of it? Nigerian photographer J.D. Okhai Ojeikere captured some of these different hairstyles from women in the 1960-70s. Many African women from the 1960s-70s can be seen wearing tresses; and if you ever dig up pictures of your parents, you will see your mothers wearing those as well. His collections and books are amazing. Enjoy!







Posted by: Dr. Y. | January 22, 2016

Why the name: Memphis?

Memphis_Ramses II_1

Statue of Ramses II in Memphis (Wikipedia)

Ever wondered where the name Memphis came from? No, I am not talking about Memphis the capital of Blues in Tennessee (USA), but rather, about Memphis, Egypt, the reason why Memphis Tennessee got its name.

Well, Memphis in Egypt, was the ancient capital of Aneb-Hetch, the first nome of Lower Egypt. Its ruins are located near the town of Mit Rahina, 20 km (12 mi) south of Giza. It is 20 km (12 mi) south of Cairo, on the west bank of the Nile. The modern cities and towns of Mit Rahina, Dahshur, Abusir, Abu Gorab, and Zawyet el’Aryan, south of Cairo, all lie within the administrative borders of historical Memphis. The city was also the place that marked the boundary between Upper and Lower Egypt (the 22nd nome of Upper Egypt and 1st nome of Lower Egypt).

Memphis and its Necropoles

Memphis and its necropolises


Memphis has had several names throughout its history which spans almost four millennia. Its Ancient Egyptian name was Inbu-Hedj (translated as “the white walls“). Because of its size, the city also came to be known by various other names that were actually the names of neighborhoods or districts that enjoyed considerable prominence at one time or another. For example, according to a text of the First Intermediate Period, it was known as Djed-Sut (“everlasting places“), which is the name of the pyramid of Teti.

Memphis_Men neferThe city was also at one point referred to as Ankh-Tawy (meaning “Life of the Two Lands“), stressing the strategic position of the city between Upper and Lower Egypt. This name appears to date from the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1640 BCE), and is frequently found in ancient Egyptian texts.

At the beginning of the New Kingdom (c. 1550 BCE), the city became known as Men-nefer (meaning “enduring and beautiful“), which became Menfe in Coptic. The name “Memphis” is the Greek adaptation of this name, which was originally the name of the pyramid of Pepi I, located west of the city.

Memphis_Hout ka Ptah


The Egyptian historian Manetho referred to Memphis as Hut-ka-Ptah (meaning “Enclosure of the ka of Ptah“). In the Bible, Memphis is called Moph or Noph. 

Memphis_Great temple of Ptah

Depiction of the western forecourt to the Great Temple of Ptah in Memphis (Wikipedia)

According to legend related by Manetho, an Egyptian priest and historian from the 3rd century BC, the city of Memphis was founded by the pharaoh Menes. It was the capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom, and remained an important city throughout ancient Mediterranean history. It occupied a strategic position at the mouth of the Nile delta, and was home to feverish activity. Its principal port, Peru-nefer, harbored a high density of workshops, factories, and warehouses that distributed food and merchandise throughout the ancient kingdom. During its golden age, Memphis thrived as a regional center for commerce, trade, and religion. Its eventual downfall is believed to be due to the loss of its economic significance in late antiquity, following the rise of coastal Alexandria. Its religious significance also diminished after the abandonment of the ancient religion following the Edict of Thessalonica.

Memphis_Alexandre visitant le temple de Memphis 1898

Alexander visiting the Temple of Apis in Memphis, ca 1898 (Wikipedia)

The ruins of the former capital today offer fragmented evidence of its glorious past. They have been preserved, along with the pyramid complex at Giza, as a World Heritage Site since 1979. The site is open to the public as an open-air museum.

Memphis became the capital of Ancient Egypt for over eight consecutive dynasties during the Old Kingdom. The city reached a peak of prestige under the 6th dynasty as a center for the worship of Ptah, the god of creation and artworks.

Memphis declined briefly after the 18th dynasty with the rise of Thebes and the New Kingdom, and was revived under the Persians before falling firmly into second place following the foundation of Alexandria. Under the Roman Empire, Alexandria remained the most important Egyptian city. Memphis remained the second city of Egypt until the establishment of Fustat in 641 CE. It was then largely abandoned and became a source of stone for the surrounding settlements. It was still an imposing set of ruins in the 12th century but soon became a little more than an expanse of low ruins and scattered stone.

So whenever you think of going to Memphis, Tennessee, or about the birthplace of Blues, remember Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt, the heart of great pharaohs, and the “enduring, and beautiful” place which has now become an important part of world history and stored greatness throughout centuries. No wonder one of its names was “everlasting places”; it has actually been an everlasting place!

Posted by: Dr. Y. | January 20, 2016

Proverbe sur l’essentiel / Proverb on the essential

AfroHair8Si un seul cheveu de votre tête tombe, cela ne gêne pas votre tête (Proverbe Zigula – Tanzanie). – Ne pas s’occuper de détails, mais de l’essentiel.

If one hair of your head falls, it does not bother your head (Zigula proverb – Tanzania).- Do not deal with details, but with the essential.

Posted by: Dr. Y. | January 18, 2016

‘To My Homeland’ by Huda Sha’arawi


Huda Sha’arawi

The poem below ‘To My Homeland’ by Huda Sha’arawi shows her love for her country and the extent to which she is willing to fight for her country’s well-being, for her country’s dignity. Her poem was written at the time when Egypt was under British rule, or had just gained independence. In the poem, one senses Huda’s love for her homeland which she refers to as if it were a woman, a mother. Enjoy! The original in French was published in L’Egyptienne, Number 69 of May 1931. The translation to English is brought to you by Dr. Y. on


A ma Patrie


J’ai fait voeu de t’offrir tout ce qui m’appartient

O ma belle Patrie,

mon bras, mon Coeur, mon âme ainsi que tous mes biens

sans excepter ma vie.

J’ai fait voeu de peiner, de lutter, de souffrir,

de braver l’infamie.

Sans froncer le sourcil, sans poser au martyre,

sans même une aide amie.

J’ai juré de franchir les frontières des mers

si ton honneur l’exige,

afin de rehausser, aux yeux de l’univers,

ton nom et ton prestige.

J’ai juré d’oublier les affronts des déments

Et la haine et l’insulte

que l’envie incita, contre mon dévouement

à ta cause et ton culte.

Peu m’importe l’exil, leur courroux, la prison,

j’accepte la mort même.

Puisque leurs vils exploits n’auront jamais raison

de l’humble coeur qui t’aime.


To my Homeland


I vowed to offer you all that is mine

O my beautiful homeland,

my arm, my heart, my soul, as well as all my belongings

not excepting my life.

I vowed to struggle, to fight, to suffer,

to brave infamy.

Without frowning, without asking for martyrdom,

without even using a friend.

I have sworn to cross the borders of the seas

if your honor depends on it,

to enhance, in the eyes of the universe,

your name and your prestige.

I have sworn to forget the offenses of the demented

and the hatred and insult

Which prompted envy, against my dedication

To your cause and your worship.

I do not care about exile, their anger, the prison,

I will accept even death.

Because their vile deeds will never win over

the humble heart that loves you.



Posted by: Dr. Y. | January 14, 2016

Huda Sha’arawi: Egypt’s Great Feminist

Huda Sha'arawi

Huda Sha’arawi

Today, we will be talking about Huda Sha’arawi (also Hoda Shaarawi, or Hoda Charaaoui), one of Egypt’s top feminists. She was a pioneering Egyptian feminist leader, nationalist, and founder of the Egyptian Feminist Union. Sha’arawi’s work was immense in redefining the place of the woman in Egyptian society, and led to a new dawn for Egyptian women.

Huda Sha'arawi (Wikipedia)

Huda Sha’arawi (Wikipedia)

Sha’arawi was born in a wealthy family in Minya on 23 June 1879. Her father was Muhammad Sultan, the first president of the Egyptian Representative Council, and the first Egyptian to rise through all the ranks of government at the time. Her father passed away when she was 4 years old. She was married at the tender age of 13 (very common in those days) to Ali Sha’arawi, a widower, cousin, and tutor with 4 children. The independent teen could not stand the austere life with her spouse and ran back to her mother where she stayed for the next 7 years. During those years of separation, she got further education and grew more independent. At the end of the 7 years, she returned to her husband with whom she later had 2 children. Her husband, Ali Sha’arawi was a political figure, and he associated his wife to his fight against British rule.

Hatshepsut (Wikipedia - MET Museum)

Hatshepsut (Wikipedia – MET Museum)

At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, women in Egypt were confined to houses or harems, and wore veils… This, in an Egypt which had seen Hatshepsut the female Pharaoh, Queen Cleopatra and Sultana Shajar al-Durr. As seen in all her pictures, Huda is wearing a Hijab. Sha’arawi resented such restrictions on women’s movements, and started organizing lectures for women on topics of interest to them. This brought many women out of their homes and into public places for the first time. Sha’arawi even convinced them to help her establish a women’s welfare society to raise money for the poor women of Egypt. In 1910, Sha’arawi opened a school for girls where she focused on teaching academic subjects rather than practical skills such as midwifery.

After World War I, as Egyptian men started to rise loudly for their rights, many women took part in political actions against the British rule as well. In 1919, Sha’arawi helped organize the largest women’s anti-British demonstration. In defiance of British orders to disperse, the women remained still for three hours in the hot sun. Such a thing had never been heard of in the history of Egypt and even of Islam.

The first 3 Egyptian Ladies to abandon the veil: Nabaireya Moussa, Hoda Chaaraoui, and Ceza Nabaroui

The first 3 Egyptian Ladies to abandon the veil: Nabaireya Moussa, Hoda Chaaraoui, and Ceza Nabaroui

Sha’arawi made a decision to stop wearing her veil in public after her husband’s death in 1922. In March 1923, Sha’arawi founded and became the first president of the Egyptian Feminist Union, after returning from the International Woman Suffrage Alliance Congress in Rome she removed her face veil in public for the first time, a signal event in the history of Egyptian feminism.

She fought for the suppression of precocious marriage for young girls, giving them access to all levels of education. She led Egyptian women pickets at the opening of Parliament in January 1924 and submitted a list of nationalist and feminist demands, which were ignored by the Wafdist government, whereupon she resigned from the Wafdist Women’s Central Committee. The Egyptian Feminist Union campaigned for various reforms to improve women’s lives. Among them were raising the minimum age of marriage for girls to sixteen, increasing women’s educational opportunities and improving health care. Egypt’s first secondary school for girls was founded in 1927 as a result of this pressure. In 1933, a new law is agreed in parliament (through her push) regulating the work of women in industry: making sure a woman could not be made to work more than 9 hours per day, giving her a rest day, one month of maternity leave, and 15 days of leave at half-salary after delivery of a child. This was a victory for the Union.

'Harem Years ...' by Huda Sha'arawi

‘Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist’ by Huda Sha’arawi

She continued to lead the Egyptian Feminist Union until her death, publishing the feminist magazine L’Égyptienne (and el-Masreyya), and representing Egypt at women’s congresses in Graz, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Marseilles, Istanbul, Brussels, Budapest, Copenhagen, Interlaken, and Geneva. She advocated peace and disarmament. Even if only some of her demands were met during her lifetime, she laid the groundwork for later gains by Egyptian women and remains the symbolic standard-bearer for their liberation movement. In 1943, King Farouk decorated Huda Sha’arawi with the Order of  Kamal. Sha’arawi wrote poetry in both Arabic and French. In 1944, she founded the All-Arab Federation of Women. Huda Sha’arawi died in 1947.  Sha’arawi later recounted her early life in her memoir Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, 1879-1924. To learn more about her, check out her memoir, read Casting Off the Veil: The Life of Huda Shaarawi, Egypt’s First Feminist by Sania Sharawi Lanfranchi, this article on Forbes, and this amazing chapter dedicated to her in Les Africains, Tome 10, ed. J.A. 1978, P. 107-141. With her strong personality, unique blend of western-style feminism with her own country’s customs, culture, and Egyptian nationalism, Huda Sha’arawi influenced millions of Egyptian and Arab women and people all around the world.

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