Proverbe sur s’exposer au danger / Proverb on exposing oneself to danger

SpittingNe crachez pas en l’air, sinon la salive retombera sur vous (Proverbe Bakusu – République Démocratique du Congo). – Ne vous exposez pas au danger.

Do not spit up in the air, otherwise, the saliva will fall back on you (Bakusu Proverb – Democratic Republic of Congo). – Do not expose yourself to danger.

Ugandan Doctor helps Give Newborns a Breath of Fresh AIR

Dr. Santorino Data demonstrating the device in Uganda (AIR Project)
Dr. Santorino Data demonstrating the device in Uganda (AIR Project)

What is the wish of any mother who has just given birth to a baby, after lengthy hours of labor? To hear that child cry while taking his/her first breath of air. Any parent, and medical staff present, anxiously awaits for that child’s first cry, and sometimes the child needs help with that.  It is said that 10 million babies per year do not breathe immediately, while 6 million babies require basic neonatal resuscitation, and 3 million do not survive past their first day of life, and at least 1 million die each year due to breathing issues. Well, a doctor in Uganda, Dr. Santorino Data, has created the Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR), an inexpensive add-on device used to improve emergency ventilation, to help newborn babies who are having difficulty taking their first breath. The device monitors manual ventilation to provide real-time feedback on ventilation technique/quality and common errors such as leakage between the face and mask, airway blockage and incorrect pace or volume. This will give instant feedback to the health workers who are helping the child breathe, and will allow them to correct any mistakes instantly.

The Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR) - (AIR Project)
The Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR) – (AIR Project/ MIT D-Lab)

Well, check out this article on BBC which highlights Dr. Data’s work, and his partnership with a team of medical doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital to improve the chances for more newborns around the globe to take their first breath of fresh AIR.

Looted Ancient Egyptian Artifacts are Returning Home

Coffin of Shesepamuntayesher, mummified 2600 years ago (National Geographic)
Coffin of Shesepamuntayesher, mummified 2600 years ago (Source: National Geographic)

It is true: some ancient Egyptian artifacts smuggled into the US are returning home. For many years, people looted the graves of pharaohs in Egypt and smuggled their finds by express shipping to the US (and other countries – particularly in Europe). Excerpt of an article in National Geographic reads:

Some 2,600 years ago, an Egyptian woman named Shesepamuntayesher was mummified and laid to rest in an elaborate three-part coffin to ensure the continuation of her life force and the beginning of an eternal afterlife.

Stylized face of Shesepamuntayesher depicted on her coffin (Source: National Geographic)
Stylized face of Shesepamuntayesher depicted on her coffin (Source: National Geographic)

Shesepamuntayesher’s afterlife has unfortunately included a trip to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, and an ignominious stop in a garage in Brooklyn, New York. On Wednesday, thanks to a five-year investigation by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the empty sarcophagus that once cradled her mummy is being returned to Egypt, where it will be housed in the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo.”

The damages done to Egyptian culture, and many African cultures, by art smugglers and looters cannot be quantified. It is important to fight to preserve these ancient cultures which tell us so much more about some of the world’s greatest civilizations, and about humanity in general. So it feels good to see art going back to their land of origin: like the looted art from Benin Kingdom which was returned to its people, or the great Obelisk of Axum, which was stolen by the Italians in 1935, and later returned after countless demands from the Ethiopian government in 2005. Please do check out the rest of the article on National Geographic.

Proverbe sur jouer avec le feu / Proverb on playing with fire

Poivre / pepper
Poivre / pepper
Fire
Fire

Celui qui mange du poivre doit s’attendre à avoir la bouche en feu (Proverbe Bantandu – République Démocratique du Congo).- Ne jouez pas avec le feu.

Whoever eats pepper should expect to have his mouth on fire (Bantandu Proverb – Democratic Republic of Congo).- Do not play with fire.

Ancient Civilizations of Southern Africa: The Kingdom of Mapungubwe

Map of Mapungubwe
Map of the area including the Kingdom of Mapungubwe and Great Zimbabwe to the north- and the whole Kingdom of Zimbabwe (sahistory.org.za)

After talking about the origin of the name of the country Zimbabwe, named after Great Zimbabwe, the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe which flourished in southern Africa from the 13th to 17th century, I thought it only wise to talk about some of the kingdoms that flourished in that area, starting with the Kingdom of Mapungubwe, a predecessor to the Kingdom of Zimbabwe. The Kingdom of Mapungubwe was a rich iron age civilization that flourished in the area of modern-day Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa, from the 10th to the 13th century AD. It was a pre-colonial state located at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers. The kingdom’s development culminated in the creation of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe in the 13th century, as a normal evolution of itself, and with gold trading links to Rhapta and Kilwa Kisiwani on the African east coast.

Mapungubwe Hill (Wikipedia)
Mapungubwe Hill (Wikipedia)

From archaeological searches, the people of Mapungubwe were of the Khoi/San people ancestry, and were attracted to the Shashe-Limpopo area because of its fertile soils for agriculture, and also because it was an area rich with elephants, thus rich with ivory. The area of Mapungubwe was also rich in gold, and the people traded in gold and ivory, snail shells, pottery, wood, and ostriches’ eggs (eggshells), with places as far as Egypt, Persia, India, and China.

An artist impression of Mapungubwe (Source: newhistory.co.za)
An artist impression of Mapungubwe (Source: newhistory.co.za)

Stone walls were used to demarcate important areas, and important residences were built with stone and wood. Life in Mapungubwe was centered around family and farming. The kingdom, as well as the way people lived, was divided into a three-tiered hierarchy, with the commoners inhabiting low-lying sites, district leaders occupying small hilltops, and the kingdom’s elites residing at the capital at Mapungubwe hill as the supreme authority. Important men maintained prestigious homes on the outskirts of the capital.

Bateleur Eagle on the flag of Zimbabwe
Bateleur Eagle on the flag of Zimbabwe

The kingdom was named after its capital city, the city of Mapungubwe. Several theories have been put forward for the meaning of the name itself. For some, Mapungubwe means “place of Jackals,” or “place where jackals eat,” or “hill of jackals.” In Shona, the language spoken by the majority of people in Zimbabwe, Mapungubwe means “rocks of the Bateleur eagle,” a bird which has deep spiritual connotations in the Shona culture (ma = many; pungu =suffix for chapungu = bateleur eagle, the massive bird which once graced the entrance of the royal complex of Great Zimbabwe; bwe = diminutive for ibwe = stone).

Mapungubwe's famous gold foil rhinoceros (Source: Univ. of Pretoria)
Mapungubwe’s famous gold foil rhinoceros (Source: Univ. of Pretoria)

The site was rediscovered in 1932. At the top of Mapungubwe, they found many golden objects: bangles, beads, nails, miniature buffalo, rhino, a skeleton, and gold anklets, about 2.2 kg of gold and many other clay and glass artifacts. Between 1933 and 1998, the remains of about 147 individuals were excavated from the Mapungubwe Cultural LandscapeThese findings were kept quiet for a long time, as they provided contrary evidence to the racist ideology of black inferiority underpinning apartheid.

Golden bowl found at Mapungubwe (golimpopo.com)
Golden bowl found at Mapungubwe (golimpopo.com)

So any time you think about southern Africa only being populated by pastoralists, nomadic peoples, think again. There were very rich, and strong empires, such as the kingdom of Mapungubwe which was the first major iron age kingdom in Southern African, and traded with places as far as Egypt, Persia, India and China. For more information, check out the very rich Mapungubwe National Park website, South Africa.info, the Metropolitan Museum (MET) article, South African History Online, the Mapungubwe Kingdom website, and the UNESCO World Heritage website as Mapungubwe is listed. Enjoy the video below!

 

Proverbe sur le Riche / Proverb on the Rich

African tree at dusk
African tree at dusk

On jette des pierres dans l’arbre s’il porte des fruits (Proverbe Bakongo – République du Congo, République Démocratique du Congo, Angola). – Plus on est riche ou au pouvoir, plus on est importuné et critiqué.

We throw stones in the tree if it bears fruits (Bakongo proverb – Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola). – The richer or more powerful one is, the more one is bothered and criticized.

Why the name: Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe2One of my very first articles on this blog was on Great Zimbabwe, the capital city of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, a kingdom which flourished from approximately 1220 to about 1420 in Southern Africa. The modern-day country of Zimbabwe is named after this great kingdom, and it is only befitting that we explore together the origin of its name. Why would a country which was named Southern Rhodesia change its name to Zimbabwe? Why bother changing names?

Flag of Zimbabwe
Flag of Zimbabwe

Well, for starters, I find it a bit sad for a country to only be known as ‘Southern something’ without no real name of its own… I know, … things happen (like countries splitting apart). Secondly, Rhodesia was named after Cecil Rhodes, the British man who committed the greatest atrocities in Southern Africa, while establishing British rule over the different African countries in the late 19th century. Therefore, once the people of Southern Rhodesia became independent from British rule, it was only normal to claim a name that was theirs, and not the name of some foreign oppressor who committed the worst atrocities in their country. It’s like seeing yourself through someone else’s lens; you only become free once you can look through your own lens, and appreciate and value yourself.

Great Zimbabwe ruins
Great Zimbabwe ruins

Thus the name Zimbabwe was chosen. The name “Zimbabwe” is a Shona term for Great Zimbabwe, an ancient ruined city in the country’s south-east whose remains are now a protected site, in the modern-day province of Masvingo. There are two theories on the origin of the word. The first theory holds that the word is derived from dzimbadzamabwe, translated from the Karanga dialect of Shona as “large houses of stone” (dzimba = plural of imba, “house“; mabwe = plural of bwe, “stone“).  The second theory claims that “Zimbabwe” is a contracted form of dzimba-hwe which means “venerated houses” in the Zezuru dialect of Shona, and is usually applied to chiefs’ houses or graves. In your opinion, which of these two theories is closer to the truth?

A Conical tower
A Conical tower

Zimbabwe was formerly known as Southern Rhodesia (1898), Rhodesia (1965), and Zimbabwe Rhodesia (1979). The first recorded use of the name “Zimbabwe” as a term of national reference was in 1960, when it was coined by the black nationalist Michael Mawema, whose Zimbabwe National Party became the first to officially use the name in 1961. According to Mawema, black nationalists held a meeting in 1960 to choose an alternative name for the country, and the names Machobana and Monomotapa were proposed before his suggestion, Zimbabwe, prevailed. I am so glad the name Zimbabwe was chosen. Enjoy this video about Zimbabwe, the country which held the great civilization of stones. I will talk about the different great kingdoms and civilizations that flourished in the area in later posts.

Proverbe sur le Cycle de la Vie / Proverb on the Cycle of Life

Elephant
Elephant

L’éléphant meurt, mais ses défenses demeurent (Proverbe Bamfinu – Republique Démocratique du Congo (RDC)). – Les parents meurent, mais leurs enfants restent.

The elephant dies, but its tusks remain (Bamfinu Proverb – Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)).- Parents pass away, but their children remain.

Hibiscus Flower – To a Peaceful Day

Not too long ago, I took a picture of a white hibiscus flower. It reminded me so much of the concept of purity, and peace. Like the white doves often sent away to symbolize peace, I wanted to send you this white hibiscus as a reminder to have a peaceful day. This made me wonder about the many time the word ‘peace’ is used in languages around the world, like the Arabic greeting As-salamu alaykum which means peace be upon you. Or the name of the Tanzanian city Dar es Salaam which means ‘the abode of peace’ or ‘the house of peace’To all of you out there, I send you my dove of peace, in the form of a white hibiscus flower. May your day be peaceful!

20150402_hibiscus