Il ne faut pas entrer dans la rivière sans en connaître la profondeur (Proverbe Bamiléké – Cameroun). – Ne pas agir sans reflexion.
This is what Thomas Sankara uttered on April 21, 1982 in opposition to the regime’s anti-labor drift: “Misfortune to those who gag the people (Malheur à ceux qui baîllonnent le peuple)”. Funny how 33 years later, general Diendéré, one of those complicit of killing Sankara himself, had to face the people’s wrath. Indeed, Diendéré‘s coup and presidency lasted 7 days: 7 days when he took and gagged the people of Burkina Faso. At the beginning of the week when he took over, many ‘international’ newspapers (as usual, supporters of coups against the liberty of the African people) were writing about him, praising him as
one of Compaoré‘s boys, very calm, charismatic, courageous, etc. At the end of the 7 days, after the people of Burkina Faso, backed up by their army, rose up as a single man against the ugly coup, the same newspapers were calling him a ‘stupid’ general. Diendéré thought he could gag the people again and again and again. That time is long gone, because the people of Burkina Faso have decided against it, and have said, like Sankara: “Homeland or death, we shall overcome!” I used to wonder, sadly, why the people of Burkina Faso, who had had the great Sankara, could not rise against Compaoré… well it took them 27 years to overtake the tyrannical system, but they overtook it and now they are rising as a single man! “La patrie ou la mort, nous vaincrons!”
In view of recent events in Burkina Faso, and to continue our fight for democracy, for equal rights, for the right of a nation to choose its leaders without military/external forces dictating it, I live you with a quote by President Thomas Sankara, president of Burkina Faso. It was previously published in a “prayer for Cote d’Ivoire.” As the quote goes:
La patrie ou la mort nous vaincrons!
Telle était la devise de Thomas Sankara, notre grand Che africain, ce grand maitre de la révolution Burkinabé, le president du Faso. Telle est la devise que nous nous devons de garder dans nos coeurs en ce moment pour le Burkina Faso: savoir que nous nous battons pour notre liberté, pour notre patrie, pour la seule terre que le bon Dieu a bien voulu nous donner! Amandla!… Ngawethu!
Homeland or death, we shall overcome!
Such was the motto of Thomas Sankara, our great African Che, this great master of the Burkinabe revolution, the president of Burkina Faso. This is the motto that we must keep in our hearts for Burkina Faso right now: to know that we are fighting for our freedom, for our country, for the only land God ever gave us! Amandla! …Ngawethu! Power to the People!
Patria o muerte, venceremos!
Tal era el lema de Thomas Sankara, nuestro gran Che de África, este gran maestro de la revolución de Burkina Faso, el presidente de Burkina Faso. Este es el lema que debemos tener en nuestros corazones para Burkina Faso en este momento: saber que estamos luchando por nuestra libertad, para nuestro país, por la tierra sólo Dios nunca nos dio! Amandla!… Ngawethu!
Pátria ou morte, venceremos!
Esse foi o lema de Thomas Sankara, o nosso grande Africano Che, este grande mestre da revolução burkinabe, o presidente do Burkina Faso. Este é o lema que devemos ter em nossos corações para Burkina Faso agora: saber que estamos lutando por nossa liberdade, para o nosso país, para a única terra que Deus já nos deu! Amandla!… Ngawethu!
These days, many of my fellow African brothers and sisters sport tattoos of some European or foreign symbols on their skins. These symbols are usually alien to our cultures, traditions, thinking, and history. So I thought about talking about scarification, which could be called an “ancient” African culture of tattoos.
For starters, Africa has a rich culture of scarification. Many cite HIV, and ugliness as being the reason why they would not do scarification and why the practice has been abandoned. I neither agree nor disagree with them, but I would like to give a history of scarification and why, this is something to be cherished as part of our history, even if it is no longer practiced and/or needed today.
In the past, a woman or man would have scarification marks that will distinguish her/him from anyone else, tell her/his rank in society, family, clan, and tribe, and symbolize her beauty or strength. In some African tribes, it was like wearing your identity card on your face. True, some may hate that, but this was a mark of pride, not shame. In most African cultures, it was a major aesthetic and cultural component as can be seen on sculptures in museums around the world. Scarification patterns on sculptures are not only marks of beauty, but marks of one’s lineage as well, and in some cases protection against evil spirits. Lastly, in Africa like in Polynesia, scarification is more visible on darker skinned people than say, tattoos.
What is scarification? Scarification is the practice of incising the skin with a sharp instrument such as a knife, glass, stone, or coconut shell, in such a way as to control the shape of the scar tissue on various parts of the body. Cicatrisation is a special form of scarification where a gash is made in the skin with a sharp instrument, and irritation of the skin caused by applying caustic plant juices forms permanent blisters. Dark pigments such as ground charcoal are sometimes rubbed into the wound for emphasis. These cuts, when healed, form raised scars, known as keloids. The most complicated cicatrisation was probably found in the Congo Basin and neighboring regions, and among the Akan people of West Africa.
Scarification is a long and painful process, and a permanent modification of the body, transmitting complex messages about identity and social status. Permanent body markings emphasize social, political, and religious roles. Beautiful and complex designs depend on the artist’s skills but also on a person’s tolerance to pain. Facial scarification in West Africa was used for identification of ethnic groups, families, individuals but also to express beauty; scars were thought to beautify the body. It was also performed on girls to mark stages of life: puberty, marriage, etc. These marks assisted in making women more attractive to men, as the scars were regarded as appealing to touch as well as to look at, but also as testimony that women could withstand the pain of childbirth. Princesses in many places, including West Cameroon, used to sport amazingly beautiful and intricate marks. The sculpted face of Queen Idia of Benin Kingdom sports two marks on her forehead. For the Karo people of Ethiopia, men scar their chests to represent killing enemies from other tribes; women with scarred torsos and chests are considered particularly sensual and attractive.
Today, the art of scarification is changing in Africa, and can mostly be spotted on elders. Mostly because of fears of HIV transmission via blades, and also because of the shame encountered. It is a culture which was once loved and is now despised. Ironically, people in western societies go under the knife to perfect their bodies; they prefer to hide their scars (it is also not on their faces)! Moreover, with the advent of identification cards, the need for scarification has also reduced.
I just wanted us to cherish and not frown upon an ancient culture which had its purpose, and was an integral part of our society, history, and traditions. For more on scarification in African cultures, check out Ezakwantu.com and RandAfricanArt which have amazing images of scarification in Africa, and these articles on the Huffington Post, National Geographic, and Lars Krutak‘s article on the Bétamarribé people of Benin.
Have you ever wondered what the name of the capital city of Somalia, Mogadishu, meant? Somalia has been in the news in recent decades, particularly after the humiliation the American army received with Operation Restore Hope in 1993 at the hand of the local proclaimed president-to-be Mohamed Farrah Aidid, and also because of pirates roaming its coasts in the 2000s. The movie Black Hawk Down shows part of this operation with the ensuing Battle of Mogadishu, while Captain Phillips focuses on pirates.
The city of Mogadishu is located on the Indian Ocean coast of the Horn of Africa, in the Banaadir administrative region (gobol) in southeastern Somalia. The name Mogadishu is said to come from the Persian word Maq’ad-i-Shah, which means “the seat of the Shah.” This is a reflection of the city’s early Persian influence. Locally, it is spelled Muqdisho. To locals, the city is also known as Xamar.
So where does the Persian influence stem from in a city on the horn of Africa? Well, for starters, the city was founded in the 10th century by Arab traders. However, 2500 years old relics and pictographs were found on rocks in northern Somalia attesting to the area’s ancient occupation. Tradition and old records assert that southern Somalia, including the Mogadishu area, was inhabited in early historic times by hunter-gatherers of Khoisan descent who were later either driven out of the region, or assimilated by other migrants in the area.
In 1331, the Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta visited the city when it was at its zenith. He described Mogadishu as “an exceedingly large city” with many rich merchants, which was famous for the high quality fabric that it exported to destinations including Egypt. Batutta added that the city was ruled by a Somali Sultan, Abu Bakr ibn Sayx ‘Umar, who was originally from Berbera in northern Somalia and spoke both Somali (referred to by Battuta as Mogadishan, the Benadir dialect of Somali) and Arabic with equal fluency. The Sultan also had a retinue of wazirs (ministers), legal experts, commanders, royal eunuchs, and other officials at his service.
There appears to have been a strong Persian presence in both Mogadishu and Zeila for a time. A Shi’a influence can still be seen in some areas, as in the southern Somalia veneration of Fatimah, the Prophet Muhammad‘s daughter. Moreover, in the olden days, the city’s textiles were forwarded far and wide throughout the interior of the continent, as well as to the Arabian peninsula and as far as the Persian coast.
The Chinese navigator Zheng He visited the region with his expedition from 1413 to 1415. From the 13th to the 15th centuries, Mogadishu was an important city of the Ajuran Sultanate. The city was governed by the Muzzaffar dynasty. Mogadishu is one of the rare cities on the East coast of Africa which was never conquered by the Portuguese whose attempts to occupy the city failed in the 16th century. However, the Muzzaffar dynasty lost control of the city to the Hawiye Somali when the Ajuran sultanate was defeated in the 17th century.
By 1892, Mogadishu was under the joint control of the Somali Sultanate of the Geledi and the Omani Sultanate of Zanzibar. The Geledi Sultans were at the height of their power. They dominated the southern ivory trade, and also held sway over the Jubba and Shebelle valleys in the hinterland.
In 1905, Italy made Mogadishu the capital of the newly established Italian Somaliland. The Italians subsequently referred to the city as Mogadiscio. After World War I, the surrounding territory came under Italian control with some resistance. Thousands of Italians settled in Mogadishu and founded small manufacturing companies. They also developed some agricultural areas in the south near the capital, such as Janale and the Villaggio duca degli Abruzzi (present-day Jowhar). In the 1930s, new buildings and avenues were built. A 114 km (71 mi) narrow-gauge railway was laid from Mogadishu to Jowhar. An asphalted road, the Strada Imperiale, was also constructed and intended to link Mogadishu to Addis Ababa.
British Somaliland became independent on 26 June 1960 as the State of Somaliland, and the Trust Territory of Somalia (the former Italian Somaliland) followed suit five days later. On 1 July 1960, the two territories united to form the Somali Republic, with Mogadishu serving as the nation’s capital.
In 1990, Mogadishu fell under the control of rebels who forced President Mohamed Siad Barre into exile. The rebels formed rival factions each recognizing different presidents, and civil war broke out. In 1992, the United Nations sent armed forces led by American forces. After deadly combats, the American forces were defeated and forced to run away by Aidid‘s troops.
Today, the amazing sandy beaches of Mogadishu with its vibrant coral reefs are prime land for tourist resorts. Since the city’s pacification on 2011, the city is slowly rebuilding, and establishing international trades with other cities and countries. Mogadishu traditionally served as a commercial and financial centre. Mogadishu’s economy has grown rapidly since then. The Port of Mogadishu is the official seaport of Mogadishu, and the largest harbour in the country. Please enjoy this vibrant, reviving, and historical city. Do check out Somaliagenda.com for amazing pictures of Mogadishu and its people.