“Les Immortels” is a song written and composed by Franklin Boukaka, the great Congolese singer, to honor the great Moroccan leader Mehdi Ben Barka, African resistants, and world revolutionaries. Franklin Boukaka was a singer ahead of his time who loved his country, and had a passion for liberty. Franklin Boukaka was a freedom fighter, poet, composer, activist, and fought for African independence both politically, but above all by his great songs which today are still sung across Africa (you all have probably heard of “Aye Africa“). Born into music on 10 October 1940, with musician parents, he was murdered during the coup that deposed Ange Diawara during the night of 23-24 February1972. His greatest album was “Le Bucheron” realized with Manu Dibango, which contains “Les Immortels.” With all that is happening in Africa, with the coup against Laurent Gbagbo in Côte d’Ivoire, the crush of Libya and the guide of the revolution Mouammar Khadafi, and with the destruction of Mali, “Les Immortels” is still of actuality. Enjoy!
Today’s post will be dedicated to a great resistant and leader of Africa, the great Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer (also known as Lalla Fatma N’Soumer), an important figure of resistance against French invasion in Algeria. Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer has been seen as the embodiment of the Algerian struggle. The war of colonization in Algeria was one of the most brutal and repressive in Africa; it is said that Algeria lost 1/3 of its population between 1830 and 1872. The war was quite atrocious, and very often we are told of the courage and charisma of leaders such as the emir Abdel Kader, but often in history books, the names of heroines like Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer are forgotten or simply erased.
Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer was born in Werja, a village near Ain El Hammam in 1830, the year French occupation started in Algeria. She was from Kabylie. Lalla, the female equivalent of sidi, is an honorific reserved for women of high rank, or who are venerated as saints. Her real name was Fadhma Nat Si Hmed. The title, N’Soumer, was given to her because of her piety and strength and because she lived in the village of Soumer. Fadhma was the daughter of cheikh Ali Ben Aissi, who headed a Qur’anic school, which was linked with the Zawyia Rahmaniya of Sidi Mohamed Ibn Abderrahmane Abu Qabrein. Young Fadhma was extremely gifted, and memorized the Qur’an simply by listening to her father’s disciples when they chanted the various surats. After her father’s death, Fadhma directed the Qur’anic school with her brother Si Mohand Tayeb. She took special care of the children and the poor. She was known for her great piety, notable wisdom, piercing intelligence, and had an excellent reputation throughout the Kabylie region.
Fadhma was only 16 when the French occupied Kabylie. In 1847, she joined the resistance leaders of the region: Si Mohamed El-Hachemi and Mohamed El Amdjed Ibn Abdelmalek (nicknamed Bou-Baghla). Bou-Baghla was probably an ex-lieutenant in the army of Emir Abdelkader, defeated for the last time by the French in 1847. Refusing to surrender, Bou Baghla retreated to Kabylie. From there, he began a war against the French armies and their allies, often employing guerilla tactics. He was a relentless fighter, very eloquent, and very religious. Fadhma and Bou-Baghla were kindred spirits fighting for the freedom of their people. After Bou-Baghla’s death in 1854, Fadhma was given command of combat by the great council of combatants and important figures of the Kabylie’s tribes.
She led a strong resistance against Marshal Jacques Louis Randon’s 13,000-strong French army. She gave them a lesson of courage, and determination. Armed with an unshakable faith, Fadhma threw herself in bloody battles to push back the enemy. During the battle of Tachekkirt, led by Bou-Baghla at the time, Randon was captured, but managed to escape later. During the famous battle of Oued Sebaou, Fadhma was only 24 years old, and headed an army of men and women; she took control, and led her people to victory, a victory heralded throughouth Kabylie. The mosques, zawiyas, and Qur’anic schools sang praises in honor of the heroine of the Djurdjura.
Not willing to accept defeat, Randon asked for reinforcements, with his forces reaching 35,000 men. He asked the people of Azazga to help him reach Fadhma N’Soumer’s quarters, to end “her legend, and misdeeds.” The response to his emissary was “Go to the one who sent you, and tell him our ears cannot hear the language of him who asks us to betray.” Such was the loyalty and respect of the people for Fadhma. In response, Randon promised the people of Azazga constant exposure to his cannons. One can only imagine the brutality of the French against the Azazga people, which were later defeated. Fadhma did not give up, and mobilized her people to “fight for Islam, the land, and liberty. They are our constant, and they are sacred. They can neither be the object of concessions nor haggling.” Her strong personality and inspirational speeches had a strong influence in all of Kabylie, as shown by the sacrifice and determination of the people during all the battles, especially those of Icherridene and Tachkrit,where the enemy troops were greatly defeated. The latter took place on July 18 – 19, 1854, and resulted in a heavy death toll (over 800 dead) for the French troops.
Defeated, Randon finally asked for a ceasefire, which Fadhma N’Soumer agreed to. She was planning to use the ceasefire period to improve her organization and reinforce her troops. Fields were plowed and sowed, and arms factories were installed in all corners of the region. However, just like with Samori Toure, or Behanzin, the French did not respect the ceasefire. In 1857, after only three years, they broke their word (as always) and launched offensives in all large cities which had been hard to overtake until then. History will record that the French were always people of no word during the colonization (and even today); they used every sneaky technique they could find to eliminate others… and even with all their ‘superior’ gunpower, and manpower, they could not have won against our great African leaders without using treachery, and treason.
Fadhma N’Soumer, whose influence motivated the freedom fighters, appealed to the people for a last and supreme effort. Surrounded by women of the region, Lalla Fadhma directed the fight and encouraged remaining volunteers. However, they lost the battle, and Fadhma was arrested on 27 July 1857, in the village of Takhlijt Ath Atsou, near Tirourda. The French soldiers destroyed her rich library, which contained a rich source of scientific and religious works from the region. They also spent her fortune, which had been used toward caring for the disciples of her father’s zawiya. Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer died in 1863, from the hardship of incarceration in Béni Slimane, from the news of her brother’s passing, and the frustration from her inability to act against French aggression on her people. She was only 33 years old. The enemy (the French) nicknamed her, the Joan of Ark of theDjurdjura, a comparison that the religious Fadhma never accepted.
To read more about French invasion of Algeria, check out Mediapart. Watch the video below to learn more about Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer (It has 5 parts, and is very instructive). Whenever you think of resistance in Africa, please do remember Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer who by her courage, piety, strength, and charisma was able to defeat the mighty French army, and capture a French marshal/general. Remember that there was a woman who held a rich library of scientific and religious works which was destroyed by the French army (it must have been full of treasures for them to destroy). Remember that this woman served the people, and love them dearly to sacrifice her life for their freedom. Remember, yes, that a woman led men and women to battles, and actually won!
I always thought the name of the country Sierra Leone was rather strange: how could a predominantly Muslim, English-speaking, African country have an Italian name? There was never an Italian presence in that region of Africa. So why in the world, is an ex-British colony with slaves returning from America, slaves who had fought on the British side during the American revolutionary war from 1775 to 1783, carrying an Italian name, and what does it mean?
Well, in 1462, the Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra sailing down the West African coast, saw the tall mountains rising from what is now Freetown peninsula or harbor, and named the area ‘Serra de Leão,’ which means ‘mountains of the lion’, or ‘hills of the lion,’ because of the shape formed by the hills surrounding the harbor. The rendering of this geographic formation is Sierra Leone, Leone being the Italian for Lion, while Sierra is Spanish for hills or mountain, thus the name. In reality, it is said that it was leona in Spanish which was accidentally changed to Leone; so the origin should be Spanish. Sierra Leone has the third largest natural harbor in the world. Archaeologically, that area has been inhabited continuously for the past 2500 years, from successive movements from other parts of Africa. In 1495, the Portuguese established a port there, and were later joined by the Dutch and French, who used the area as a slave trading point. In 1787, a first settlement of those called Black poors was founded in the Province of Freedom. They were later decimated by the indigenous population. A second settlement came in composed of Nova Scotian settlers, and Jamaican Maroons. Sometime, at the beginning of the 19th century, Sierra Leone became a British colony. Sierra Leone today is a true melting pot of Temne, Mende, Limba, Fula, Mandingo, Kono, and Krio (descendants of African American, West Indies slaves, etc) people. In 2006, the country was featured in the movie Blood Diamond with Leonardo DiCaprio.
So there goes the story of a British colony, English-speaking country, predominantly Muslim, with an Italian name in an area where no Italian explorer had set foot. Enjoy this video on Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.
Il était une fois un homme et une femme qui, malgré de longues années de mariage, n’avaient pas d’enfants. L’épouse s’en désolait et se désespérait. Un matin, elle parti puiser de l’eau au marigot. Tout le long du chemin, elle avait pensé au bébé qu’elle n’aurait jamais et son visage était couvert de larmes. Seigneur Crocodile l’entend pleurer et s’approche : Femme, qu’as-tu ? Pourquoi sanglotes-tu si fort que tu troubles la paix de ma retraite ?
En tremblant, elle lui répond : Seigneur crocodile, je suis mariée depuis seize ans et je n’ai jamais pu donner d’enfant à mon époux. Quand je vois les bébés des autres femmes, je sens mon cœur se briser et mes entrailles se déchirer. Epris de compassion, Seigneur Crocodile déclare : Femme, si tu désires vraiment un enfant, je puis t’aider ! Mais tu dois d’abord me jurer que tu exécuteras tous mes ordres.
Pleine d’espoir, la pauvre créature essuie ses larmes et donne sa promesse qu’elle obéira en tout à son bienfaiteur. Parlez ! Je ferai tout ce que vous direz. Alors seigneur crocodile lui dit : Retourne chez toi. Prends trois œufs et apporte-les-moi.
La femme part aussitôt. Quelques instants plus tard, elle est de retour avec les œufs et les offre au seigneur crocodile. Celui-ci les prend gravement et continue : Ecoute-moi bien maintenant! dans neuf lunes, ton enfant naîtra. Si c’est un garçon, élève-le dans le respect de ceux de mon espèce. Il faut qu’il devienne notre ami, et ne nous fasse jamais la guerre en souvenir de moi. Si c’est une fille, alors, prépare-la à devenir mon épouse dès qu’elle aura éteint l’âge oublie.
Archaeologists have unearthed the 4,500 year old tomb of a pharaonic princess, just south of Cairo. This discovery may lead to the discovery of other ancient tombs from before 2,500BC. Princess Shert Nebti‘s burial site is surrounded by the tombs of four high officials from the Fifth Dynasty dating to around 2,500 BC in the Abusir complex near the famed step pyramid of Saqqara. Inscriptions on the four limestone pillars of the Princess’ tomb indicate that she is the daughter of King Men Salbo. Only her tomb has been unearthed; her father, the king, or her mother, are yet to be found. The antechamber to the princess’ tomb includes four limestone columns and hieroglyphic inscriptions. The current excavation has also unearthed an antechamber containing the sarcophagi of the four officials and statues of men, women, and a child.