I had to share with you this video of Akon at the YouthConnekt in Kigali, Rwanda, this past July. I am not a fan of Akon, but what he says about rebranding Africa is so true. It is just the reason I started this blog, to talk about Africa, the part that we should know: our history, our lives, our realities! The fact that Africa is being represented by wars, when there is only war in maybe 4 countries out of 54, makes me mad. I remember talking to Americans, and they thought I lived on trees in the jungle; when I told them that we had real cities, and that their city in America looked worst than where I came from, they couldn’t believe me. Rebranding Africa is so important… we have to tell OUR own story, and stop letting others tell it! This is also similar to Chimamanda Adichie’s talk: The Danger of a Single Story.
Eagle and Tortoise were the very best of friends – so much so that every single day, the eagle flew down from the high mountain where he had his eerie, across the steep cliffs, down past the stony slopes, over the trees, across the river, and past the meadows until he came the scrubby wilderness where tortoise made his home.
Tortoise was always there to meet him and make him welcome, and the two friends would have lunch together.
This went day after day, year after year, and the friendship between the two never wavered, until one day, Tortoise noticed that his friend was quieter than usual. He asked him why.
“Have you ever noticed that it’s always me who comes to visit you?” Eagle said. “In all these years, I don’t think you’ve ever come to my house even once.”
“But you live so far away!” replied Tortoise. “There are mountains to climb, ravines to get over, rivers to cross. The forest is full of tangled roots, the way is littered with boulders and stones. It would take me forever, if I got there at all.”
“Still,” said Eagle. “ I think you might have managed it just once, if you cared for me as much as I care for you.”
Tortoise was hurt and shocked that his friend felt this way, but the journey was far, too difficult and dangerous for a stumpy legged little thing like him to ever attempt.
“Don’t be like that,” he begged. “I’m sorry you feel let down. Give me time. Let me try find some other way of proving my loyalty to you.”
Months passed and Eagle sadly thought that Tortoise had forgotten his promise. But then came his birthday, and he forgot about his doubts, looking forward to the big day. Every year, Tortoise prepared a special lunch for his friend and always began the meal with a splendid present.
On the day, Eagle excitedly made the flight down from the mountain to the desert in double quick time, he was so excited. But when he got there – what’s this? No table spread with goodies, no group of friends – no Tortoise. All there was, was a package and a card.
Eagle opened the card and read. “My friend, I’ve tried for months to think of a way to repay you for all the visits you’ve made to me over the years, but I’ve failed. So today, on your birthday, I’ve decided to come to visit you at your house. It’s a long journey for me, so I’ve decided to take several days to get there, to make sure I’m on time. As you can see, I was unable to carry your present as well. I hope you won’t object to carrying it yourself to your house – where I shall be ready to greet you and help you celebrate this special day!”
“Wow,” thought Eagle. “Finally – he’s actually doing it!” He took the present in his talons and set off – over the desert, across the meadow, over the river, which he noticed today was very full and strong … Above the forest that was as Tortoise had said, full of tangled roots breaking up the ground, as well as sharp thorns in the twigs and branches. Then up, up he soared, up the slopes of the mountain, beyond the stony slopes and towering cliffs back to his eerie home.
Tortoise wasn’t there.
“Never mind,” said Eagle. “It IS a long way for someone who can’t fly. He’s probably still walking. I can wait”
Eagle waited … and waited … and waited.
After a bit he began to worry. The mountain certainly was very steep. Tortoise had such tiny legs – there were a million places where he could slip and fall to his death.
“I’ll find him and give him a lift,” Eagle thought. He flew off over the mountain, up and down, up and down. But there was no sign of Tortoise. He asked his friends the other eagles to help, and they all flew to and fro, but none of them saw anything.
“Maybe he fell into a ravine,” one of the other eagles said.
“Unless he’s crept past us and is waiting for you at your place, ” said someone else. Eagle dashed home, full of hope, but the tortoise still wasn’t there.
“Maybe he’s still at the river. But that’s ludicrous – he can’t swim with that shell. He’ll drown! How stupid I’ve been! I must stop him,” thought Eagle.
He flew off down the mountain side to to river and searched and searched – he even got one of the crocs that lived there to help him … But no one found anything
“Maybe one of my cousins found him first,” suggested Crocodile.
Off Eagle flew, in a panic now .. back home , then to the forest, then to the desert, then to mountain again, then back home, then off again … back and forth and to and fro, until his wings ached. But of the tortoise, there was no trace …
It was getting late now. Eagle realized that what for him was a simple journey on the wings of the wind, was a terrible ordeal for his little friend – an ordeal that had surely killed him. He flew wearily back home, full of guilt. He had lost the best friend in the world, and it was no one’s fault but his own.
He got back and – who should be there to greet him, but Tortoise himself, looking comfortable and rested as he raised a glass to his friend.
Eagle took one look and said…
“Can’t you guess?” said the Tortoise. “You gave me a lift! I was hiding … inside the parcel you so kindly carried here for me. I AM your birthday present!”
When he realized he had been tricked, Eagle was at first angry … then relieved … then angry again … and then at last he began to see the funny side and started to laugh … and laugh … and laugh.
Finally, they had their party. At the end of the day, Eagle carried Tortoise safely back home and dropped him gently at his front door.
“Just promise me one thing,” he said.
“Don’t EVER come to visit me again! I don’t think I could stand the stress!”
I have long wanted to talk about Sarah Baartman, known as the Hottentot Venus or the Black Venus. This Black woman was promised a life of fortune, taken to Europe as a slave to be exhibited naked to men and women around Europe just because of her physique, the physique of a Black woman. Her life was that of humiliation, prostitution, and slavery of another name. Her story is a very hard one to hear when you are a Black woman, when you love Black women, or when you love women in general.Her life was not that of a Venus, but rather that of a sex slave and zoo animal being exposed naked all the time, and raped by men who dreamt of “trying” this Black Venus. She was displayed as a freak because of her unusual physical features, studied, dissected after death and will only finally be put to rest 187 years after her death.
Sawtche, from her real name, was born in 1789 in the Eastern Cape, of modern-day South Africa. Her father was from the Khoikhoi tribe, and her mother came from the Bushmen or San tribe, the oldest tribe in Southern Africa. Women from that tribe are known to have a lighter skin tone, with very developed hips. In the Khoi tribe, it is a sign of beauty, but to Europeans who had never seen it, it was considered a physical deformation or a sign of racial inferiority (not sure how having a flat bum-bum can attest of a race superiority). As a teen, Sawtche was a typical Khoi woman of medium build and light skin tone, and as will be said today, with a big bootie. Even if she was beautiful, no one in her tribe was shocked by her physique given that thousands of women were just as Sawtche.
She was captured and moved to the Gamtoos River as the slave of a rich Afrikaner farmer for whom she worked several months. A Dutch doctor working for the Royal Navy, William Dunlop, met the farmer, and noticed Sawtche and was not indifferent to her physique. She seemed to meet all his sexual fantasies, and so he decided to buy her. He made her his slave and sexual servant, and took her back to Cape Town, and from there taken onboard a boat to London where he gave her the name Sarah or Saartjie (little Sarah in dutch).
In 1810 in London, Sarah was only 16, and Dunlop was very manipulative. He constantly had sexual relations with her, and the young woman thought he loved her. He made her believe that in London, and throughout Europe, she could become rich just by exposing her body. He told her that white women didn’t have the same physique and will be willing to see her in exchange for some money. White Men will be crazy to touch and get the power to touch a Black woman, object of their wildest most secret fantasies, in exchange for money.
Sarah accepted without hesitation, and was quickly exposed in cities in England and in the Netherlands, exhibiting her body under all orders given her. As an animal, she walked, stood up or sat obediently. The public was mixed with astonishment, amusement, disgust, and stupefaction. Those men and women who wanted to approach her, those who wanted to touch her did. People told her all sorts of words, sweet as well as disdainful. Doctors and scientists came up with all sorts of theories to explain her anatomy. It was clear to them that Sarah was the proof of the Black race’s inferiority! To them, she was victim of a sickness that was the lot of all people of her race. Her sickness was called steatopygy, and since her sexual organs were abnormally developed she was said to be suffering from macronymphy (even though this is a normal characteristic found only in Black women).
A young Jamaican, Robert Wedderburn, activist against racism and slavery watched those disgusting scenes and decided to act. He formed a support group for Sarah and started a series of judiciary pressures against the British government to stop this sort of horrible spectacles. Because of all these pressures, Sarah was taken to Paris, where she was exposed publicly between two circus spectacles, in music halls, and in the halls of the Haute Bourgeoisie. They called her the Hottentot Venus. She ended up being forced to prostitute herself at private soirees where she became a true sex object, believing that in due time she will be given the money she had made up to then.
It is at that time that she became the subject of studies by zoologist and surgeon Georges Cuvier, generalist, and surgeon of Napoleon Bonaparte. For him, Sarah was the missing link between the animal and man. The zoology professor and administrator of the National museum of Natural History of France, Etienne Geoffroy de Saint Hilaire, asked for the official authorization to “profit from the circumstances given them to have a Bushman woman in Paris to study, with more precision, the distinct characteristics of a peculiar race.” [« profiter de la circonstance offerte par la présence à Paris d’une femme bochimane pour donner avec plus de précision qu’on ne l’a fait jusqu’à ce jour, les caractères distinctifs de cette race curieuse. » ] de Saint Hilaire concluded his studies by comparing the face of Sarah with that of an orang-utang and her buttocks to those of female mandrills!
Later, the writer Victor Hugo made reference to Sarah in his work “Les Misérables” in 1862, describing the activities of the city of Paris: “Paris is like a good child. He royally accepts everything: it is not difficult in fact of a Venus; Her callipyge is Hottentot; provided he laughs, he amnesties ; ugliness cheers him, difformity delights him, vice distracts him […]: « Paris est bon enfant. Il accepte royalement tout ; il n’est pas difficile en fait de Vénus ; sa callipyge est hottentote ; pourvu qu’il rie, il amnistie ; la laideur l’égaye, la difformité le désopile, le vice le distrait […] »
Sarah died in Paris on 29 December 1815 at the age of 26. She died poor, she who was made to think that she could become rich by exposing her body as an art object.
After her death, Georges Cuvier dissected her body, and displayed her remains. He gathered her brains and genital organs which he conserved in formol. He extracted her skeleton and continued his studies about the missing link between humans and monkey. In 1817, he presented his work at the Academy of Medicine, and concluded, “the races [the niggers] are condemned to eternal inferiority.” [« Les races à crâne déprimé et comprimé [les “ nègres ”] sont condamnées à une éternelle infériorité. »]
Her genitals, skeleton, brain, and a plaster cast of her body were exposed for over 150 years in Paris until 1975. In 1994, when Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, the Khoi people’s first request was for the return of Sarah’s remains. But the French government refused stating that they wanted to conserve their “national collections.” However, after several discussions, on 9 August 2002, Sarah was inhumed near the village of Hankey in Eastern Cape in a ceremony presided by President Thabo Mbeki, several ministers, and traditional chiefs Khoi.
Weird how today, most women around the world wish for a nice bum-bum, and some are willing to pay thousands to have it protruding, while the beautiful Sarah was exploited, humiliated, raped, for simply being beautiful, the way her Creator had made her.
There’s more to the story: Sarah would have been considered highly attractive and desirable to her people. The Dutch told Sarah if she came with them to Paris they would make her a celebrity and she would be treated like a queen. Her humiliation was even greater because she was deceived. If only Sarah had known that nearly 50 years after her death she would inspire the fashion of the times. Women wanted to resemble her shape so they began wearing corsets and ridiculous layers of clothes with a back bump. Her shape became the most coveted and white women would risk death wearing constricting corsets. In fact, many white women died from having their ribs crushed and internal organs like kidneys and the stomach moved up and out of place. Instead Sarah died of shame and disease. At last, in 2002, she was laid back into dignity at home among her ancestors!
“I look at an ant and I see myself: a native South African, endowed by nature with a strength much greater than my size so I might cope with the weight of a racism that crushes my spirit.” Miriam Makeba
It’s been a while since I saw this movie, but I had to share the South African rendition of the Lord’s prayer from the 1992 movie Sarafina!. The movie centered on the Soweto Uprisings of 1976, in opposition to the implementation of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in schools. I loved it then, and I still love it today! Enjoy!
Today, we will talk about Leopold II, the Belgian King, who killed millions of Congolese. Most people know about Hitler. Before Hitler, there was Leopold II. Very few know about this, but Leopold II should be known as a Hitler, or even worse than Hitler, but then again, that is if people consider Congolese (Black people) as people. He forced Congolese into hard labor, so hard that some died from exhaustion, and if they rebelled they were maimed, killed, or enslaved. It is said that he must have executed and maimed over 15 million people! Check out these websites: Leopold II, When you kill 10 million Africans you aren’t called Hitler, and this article from The Guardian.