Description of African Dressing in 1400s

Van Sertima_They came before Columbus
‘They Came Before Columbus, The African Presence in Ancient America’ by Ivan Van Sertima

As I have always said in the past, I truly despise the claim of  The New York Times that Africa’s fabric is Dutch. This is simply a case of falsification of history. As I have proven before, African Fabrics and Textiles traditions is large, existent, and real; it is not just VLISCO-based. Below is an account by a European of African dressing in the 1400s! And yes… the Africans he met wore garments.

They numbered seventeen, of considerable size. Checking their course and lifting up their oars, their crews lay gazing. … We estimated on examination that there might be about one hundred and fifty at the most; they appeared very well-built, exceedingly black, and all clothed in white cotton shirts: some of them wore small white caps on their heads, very like the German style, except that on each side they had a white wing with a feather in the middle of the cap, as though to distinguish the fighting men.

“A Negro stood in the prow of each boat, with a round shield, apparently of leather, on his arm. They made no movement towards us, nor we to them. Then they perceived the other two vessels coming up behind me and advanced towards them. On reaching them, without any other salute, they threw down their oars, and began to shoot off their arrows.

A piece of Bogolan

This encounter between the Portuguese and the boatmen on the Gambia occurred in 1455. It is the only account of West African riverboats documented by Europeans before the coming of Columbus.

G.R. Crone, The Voyages of Cadamosto, London, the Hakluyt Society, 1937, pp. 57-59

Ivan Van Sertima, They Came Before Columbus, The African Presence in Ancient America, Random House, 1976, p.54

‘I am Black Mamba’ : Arrivederci Kobe Bryant

Lakers at Wizards 12/2/15
Kobe Bryant in 2015 (Source: Wikipedia)

I was too young to be in awe by the likes of Michael Jordan  or Magic Johnson. To me basketball was revealed through Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and all their pairs.

Yes… I am the generation of the Black Mamba. It is with sadness that I learnt of his passing yesterday. I became an amateur basketball lover and player thanks to the ‘Black Mamba’. As an African, I always liked his nickname ‘The Black Mamba‘ because his speed on the court was so similar to that of the animal itself which I was familiar with, and he was especially lethal to his adversaries who never saw him coming. His aura and awesomeness seemed to pervade his life, especially with that big grin of his… always ready to smile and seemingly make others comfortable. Moreover, I was sold when I learnt that he was an American who was tri-lingual, and loved soccer, and just like me was a huge fan of Barcelona and A.C. Milan. Could I ask for more? I was hooked on Basketball then! To me Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest Basketball players the game ever saw!

Kobe Bryant handling ball in 2014
Kobe Bryant handling a ball on court in 2014 (Source: Wikipedia)

Being on the world stage like Kobe, you become somewhat super-human and everyone gets an opinion of you; it is tough not to fall under the pressure. What I liked the most about Kobe Bryant, was his determination, and his drive for perfection. To me, that epitomizes what all of us should strive for: awesome work ethics, tenacity, perfection, and desire to be great. Once you have found a passion in life, you should strive to be a Black Mamba, be like Kobe Bryant: perfect your craft, and go all the way out. Arrivederci Kobe… You have inspired so many of us, given us great memories,… You have made us all ‘Black Mambas’!

Why the Name: Dodoma ?

Tanzania_Dodoma city center
Dodoma city center (Source: The East African)

I always loved the sound of the name Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania: the way it rolls off your tongue like a dearly beloved, like something or someone so sweet and precious… DO-DO-MA, almost like musical notes! So what do you think Dodoma means?

Well, the name Dodoma is derived from Idodomya, a word in the Chigogo (Gogo) language, which means, “it has sunk.” Tradition says that, an elephant once came to drink at a nearby creek, and got stuck in the mud, and gradually sank. It was then that the villagers exclaimed in amazement, “idodomya!” And from that moment, the place was known as Idodomya, the place where the elephant “has sunk.” It later became Dodoma in 1907 when the Germans colonists, who were probably struggling to pronounce Idodomya, came for the construction of the Tanzanian central railway. The layout followed the typical colonial planning of the time with a European quarter segregated from a native village (European-Only Neighborhoods in African Cities before Independence).

Tanzania_Dodoma 1912
Dodoma in 1912 (Source: Museum of World Cultures)

In 1967, following independence, the Tanzanian government made plans to reorganize its then capital Dar es Salaam, which was undergoing rapid urbanization and population growth. In 1974, after a nationwide party referendum, the capital was moved from Dar es Salaam to a more central location to create significant social and economic improvements for the central region and to centralize the capital within the country. With an already-established town at a major crossroads, the Dodoma region had an agreeable climate, room for development and was located in the geographic centre of the nation. Its location in a rural environment was seen as the ujamaa (family-hood) heartland. The ujamaa concept was a concept championed by the first president of Tanzania Julius Nyerere as part of his social and economic development policies: it was to serve as the basis for an African model of development, or African socialism.

Tanzania_Dodoma Julius Nyerere Square1
Julius Nyerere Square in Dodoma

However, over the past 40 years, much of the initial design, and intents never came to fruition, and to this day many government offices and embassies have remained in Dar es Salaam, which remains the economic and the de facto capital of Tanzania.

The story of Dodoma and Dar es Salaam is similar to that of Abuja and Lagos in Nigeria, of Brasília and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and even Washington, D.C. and New York City in the United States, to name just a few. In many of these cities, there is always an economic capital which is the lung of the country, which dwarfs the political capital in size and energy. Nonetheless these political capitals are still special and unique.

Well, if you ever visit Dodoma, remember that elephant who sank there, try and visit them in all the national parks of the country, but most importantly remember to take with you the ujamaa spirit!

Birds in African Cities and Beyond: The African Kingfisher

Bird_African Kingfisher_1
African Kingfisher

I had to share with you the image of the magnificent bird whose presence graced my mother’s backyard recently. It is beautiful, colorful, and just amazing. Very often in urban settings we often forget to look at nature, and in many African metropolises, we pass birds everyday without a second thought. I was recently introduced to the kingfisher bird. Not being a ‘bird’ person, I had to search for this colorful bird’s name. Did you know that there are 87 species of kingfishers in the world, and about 17 are found in Africa? I believe my mother’s visitor to be a woodland kingfisher or Halcyon senegalensis. However, it would seem to also look like a mangrove kingfisher. I know that it is definitely not the blue-breasted kingfisher. A question for you all is: If you didn’t know where in Africa this bird was coming from, which species do you think it is?

Lastly, this is a call to preserve our biodiversity, and be mindful of our environment; this calls for the necessity to build parks in African cities, not just pour concrete and cement over everything… I know that land is supposedly scarce, but parks will beautify the cities!


Bird_African Kingfisher

Bird_African Kingfisher_2

Vanillanomics or the Economy surrounding Vanilla


The term Vanillanomics is not from me, but from the article below on Bloomberg. I just wanted to let you in on the Vanilla trade, and more. Sad to note that these very rich regions, i.e. rich in vanilla are always in the most remote, poorest, and inaccessible areas of the country. This is the same throughout Africa, whether you are talking about the cobalt of DRC which is lifted from its mines by special planes bypassing the national airports, or the cocoa of Côte d’Ivoire, or the diamonds of Sierra Leone, or even the coffee of Cameroon… and much more. Enjoy! The full article can be found on Bloomberg Business Week.


First, we needed a 4×4 of some sort, along with a driver willing to chance roads that are sometimes passable, sometimes not. The man we found struck us as the quietly skeptical sort, but after a few hundred rutted kilometers, any hesitations he’d been suppressing hardened into emphatic certainties. “The only people who drive on this road,” he told our photographer and me, via our translator, “are people who want to kill their cars.” Yet he gamely pushed ever deeper into Madagascar’s tropical north, until our mud road descended a hill and was swallowed by a wide river. It was the end of the line for the driver. He seemed relieved.


Somewhere on the other side of that water, dozens of farmers would soon converge upon a regional vanilla market in the village of Tanambao Betsivakiny. Growers would negotiate with buyers working on behalf of exporters and international flavoring companies, and together everyone would hash out a collective, per-kilogram price for the crop. Most buyers would pay cash on the spot, and the farmers would hand over several tons of green, freshly harvested vanilla beans.

Those humble beans, whose essence is associated with all that’s bland and unexciting, have somehow metamorphosed, butterfly-style, into the most flamboyantly mercurial commodity on the planet. In the past two decades, cured vanilla beans have been known to fetch almost $600 per kilogram one week, then $20 or so the next. Northeastern Madagascar is the world’s largest producer of natural vanilla, so every boom and every bust slams this region like a tropical storm. When prices peak, cash floods the villages. When prices fall, it drains away.

Vanilla bean

Madagascar was largely integrated into global trade centuries ago. The island is bigger than France, with cultural traditions that vary by region, unique biological treasures, and a developing tourism economy. The capital, Antananarivo, is full of laborers, lawyers, bureaucrats, bankers, artists, entrepreneurs, intellectuals—everything a 21st century city of 1.5 million needs. Yet Madagascar is also one of the poorest countries on the planet. You see and feel its disparities most sharply in its more remote pockets, including in the vanilla-growing region of the northeast. The extreme isolation of those communities, their dominance over the international supply, the dramatic changes they undergo during price swings—all of it has turned this part of the country into a semicontained observation lab that exposes both the genius and the insanity of globalized commerce. …

Bernard Dadié on African Immigration and the Return

African tears
Dry your tears Africa
Sèche tes pleurs Afrique!
Tes enfants te reviennent
dans l’orage et la tempête des voyages infructueux.

Sèche tes pleurs, Afrique!
Tes enfants te reviennent
Les mains pleines de jouets
Et le coeur plein d’amour.
Ils reviennent te vêtir
De leurs rêves et de leurs espoirs.

Dry your tears, Afrika!
Your Children come back to you
Out of the storm and squalls of fruitless journeys.

Dry your tears, Afrika!
Your children come back to you
Their hand full of playthings
And their heart full of love
They return to clothe you
In their dreams in their hopes


With the end of the ‘year of return‘, I think parts of the poem above by Bernard Binlin Dadié are appropriate and perfect to talk about African immigration and illustrate the return. Africa’s children are coming back, and they are coming to contribute, and also to build her… this applies to those of the diaspora whose ancestors made it to the new world in ships of the Mali emperor’s (Kankan Musa‘s predecessor) or via slave ships, or simply to recent African immigration to other part of the world: Africa needs you, and together, united, we have the potential to usher in a new positive era.  Excerpts above are from the poem titled “Dry your Tears Africa” or “Sèche Tes Pleurs,” published in 1967 by Bernard Dadié“Seche Tes Pleurs” de Bernard Binlin Dadié / “Dry your Tears Afrika” by Bernard B. Dadié

Proverbe Tanzanien sur la myopie intellectuelle/ Tanzanian Proverb on Shortsightedness?

Stars and moon_1
Etoiles et lune / Stars and moon (Source: Universite Paris Diderot)

Je vous ai montré les étoiles et la lune, mais vous n’avez vu que le bout de mon doigt! (proverbe Tanzanien – Tanzanie)

I pointed out the stars and moon to you, but all you saw was the tip of my finger! (Tanzanian proverb – Tanzania)

Did You Know about the 999-year Lease granted to Europeans in Kenya ?

Kenya_999 year leaseDid you know about the 999-year land lease granted to Europeans in Kenya? Did you even know that there was such a thing as a 999-year lease (a.k.a. 1000-year lease)? It’s like “Hello? who will remember such a thing by the time a millenium has gone by? who will be there to fight for the land?” I knew about the 99-year lease of Macau and Hong Kong (by the British) which were returned to China (thanks to the hard work of the Chinese to recover what was rightfully theirs)… but the treachery of this 999-year lease is particularly outrageous! Well, the 999-year lease was granted in the Rift valley region of Kenya by the British colonial administration to their fellow brothers, ‘early’ British settlers in Kenya. This paved the way for the violent seizure of thousands of acres of land from the local communities whose anger and discontent led to the armed struggle (The British Government apologizes for Mau Mau atrocities) which later led to the independence of Kenya from Great Britain. There are probably other countries like that across the continent with such outrageous leases; I am sure that there are such things in Francophone Africa, but with the well-known perfidy of the French government (FCFA), such contracts are probably hidden from the masses (If you uncover any, please share with us).

Luckily, the Kenyan government has recently, in 2010, re-written its constitution to cut down these leases from 999 years to 99 years, retroactive from those dates in 2010. That retroactive date is a pity in my opinion… for it will mean that some lands would have been leased for almost 200 years by the time the date runs up! However, it is a step forward, reducing 1000-year lease down to 200-year! (Question for readers: couldn’t these have been annulled all-together?)

To learn more, I have compiled excerpts from different articles. As you read these, you will remember that Robert Mugabe did indeed say that most of the lands where the Safaris happen in Zimbabwe (probably the same in South Africa, and as you will read below in Kenya as well), do not belong to Africans. Enjoy!


Cutting 999-year Lease Terms” – Daily Nation (14 Nov 2009) 

Kenya_Land leaseOne of the most contentious clauses in the new land policy is a proposal to scrap 999-year leases. The draft proposes to cap leasehold terms at 99 years.

This proposal has drawn protests from landowners, mostly of them of European origin, who hold titles to large farms under leases of 999 years granted in 1915 after sustained pressure from white settlers on the British colonial administration.

The seizure of thousands of acres of land from local communities created discontent among the African population. This anger would later boil over into the armed struggle for independence.

Early settlers, who were initially granted 99-year leases beginning 1902, applied pressure on the British government to extend the leasehold terms to 999 years.

The move succeeded, and the Britain allowed the passage of the Crown Lands Ordinance of 1915, which extended the leases. If the draft policy is adopted, all the existing 999-year leases will be shortened to 99-year holdings.

New Law on Land a Double-Edged Sword” – Business Daily Africa (7 Sept 2010)

Kenya_mapIn Kenya, those with registered private land hold either freehold or leasehold interests. A freehold interest is for an unlimited period and is the kind held by Kenyans in most rural areas. They are easily managed and inherited.

A leasehold interest is held for a defined period after which the land reverts to the person who granted the lease. Most leasehold interests are found in urban areas. But many leases were granted by the colonial government to promote Kenya’s agriculture and for religious purposes in various counties. Many of these have since been passed on to local people and companies.

Leases in Kenya have been routinely issued for 33, 66, 99, 999 and 9,999 years. All leases of terms greater than 99 years held by non-citizens were, however, automatically converted to 99 years on the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution.

Are leases in Laikipia about to start expiring?” – The Star Reporter of Kenya (27 Nov 2017)

Kenya_Great Rift Valley
Great Rift Valley in Kenya

Draft land regulations from the Ministry of Lands state that the effective starting date for the new 99 year leases is 27 August 2010. Therefore freehold titles formerly held by foreigners and now converted to leasehold titles will not expire until 2109.

Most of the ranches in Northern Kenya are owned by Kenyan citizens, including those of European extraction, and they are therefore unaffected by the 2010 Land Registration Act. If they hold Freehold title deeds or 999 year leases, those were both preserved by the Constitution. Therefore no freehold title or lease will expire on most of the ranches in Laikipia or northern Kenya in the foreseeable future..

The conservancies in Laikipia formerly held 999 year leases but these are now being reduced to 99 year leases, if they are not Kenyan owned, and they will expire in 2109.

There is another small batch of 99-year leases issues by the colonial government in the 1950s called Temporary Occupation Licences (TOLS), a government system that applied in remote parts of Kenya. These 99 year leases will only expire after 2050. If Kenyans own those leases, they will be automatically renewed by government.

The Land Laws of Kenya” – A Summary of the changes compiled by Mona Doshi (Oct 2012)

Pursuant to the Constitution of Kenya, three Acts of Parliament have been enacted and came into
force on 2nd May, 2012:
 Land Act, 2012
 Land Registration Act, 2012
 National Land Commission Act, 2012
The following Acts have been repealed:
 The Indian Transfer of Property Act, 1882
 The Government Lands Act
 The Registration of Titles Act
 The Land Titles Act
 The Registered Land Act
 The Wayleaves Act; and
 The Land Acquisition Act

Flag of Kenya

A significant change under the new laws is that:
 freehold land cannot be owned by a non-Kenyan citizen; and
 a leasehold interest of over 99 years cannot be held by a non-Kenyan citizen.
Therefore any freehold land owned by a non-Kenyan citizen is deemed to have been converted into a 99 year leasehold interest commencing from 27/8/2010 and any leasehold interest with an unexpired term of over 99 years is deemed to be converted into a 99 year leasehold interest commencing from 27/8/2010.
As yet there is no procedure in place for conversion of freehold title to leasehold so, for example, if prior to the coming into effect of the new Constitution a non-Kenyan citizen owned freehold land and you conduct a land registry search today the result will still show the non-Kenyan citizen as owning the land on freehold tenure.
The Constitution states that a body corporate/company is deemed to be a Kenyan citizen only if it is 100% owned by Kenyan citizens. Therefore a company with even one shareholder who is a non-Kenyan citizen would only be entitled to own a leasehold interest of 99 years or less.
It is unclear whether a freehold title or title with an unexpired term of over 99 years that is owned jointly by a Kenyan citizen and a non-Kenyan citizen would be converted to a lease of 99 years or whether the tenure would remain intact.