French Colonial Treaties: In Dahomey 03 Oct 1890 between France and Behanzin

Statue of Behanzin in Abomey, Benin
Statue of King Behanzin in Abomey, Benin

Below is one of the treaties signed between the French and the King of Dahomey, Béhanzin. This treaty was signed a few months after one of Béhanzin‘s unanswered letters to the French president , and two (2) years prior to King Béhanzin‘s defeat by the French, whose kingdom then came under Protectorate of the French Republic on 3 December 1892. Translated to English by Dr. Y. on http://www.afrolegends.com

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3 October 1890

Agreement between France and the Dahomey

In order to prevent the return of misunderstandings which have brought between France and the Dahomey a state of hostility prejudicial to the two countries’ interests, –

Us, undersigned

Dahomey_Bertrand_de_Montesquiou-Fézensac_(1837-1902)_10
Bertrand de Montesquiou-Fézensac

The king’s messengers

Aladaka

Do-De-Djé

Assisted by:

Cussugan – acting as Yeroghan* 

Zizidoque – cabécère† 

Zououhoucon – cabecere†

Aïnadou – Treasurer of Gore

Designated by his Majesty the King Béhanzin Ahy Djéré

And

Ship Captain de Montesquiou Fezensac [Bertrand de Montesquiou-Fézensac] commanding the cruiser Le Roland – artillery Captain Decoeur, designated by Rear Admiral Cavelier de Cuverville [>Jules de Cuverville] Commander-in-chief of the land and sea forces acting as governor of the gulf of Benin, acting on behalf of the French government.

                Have jointly agreed on the following arrangement which leaves intact all past treaties or conventions agreed upon between France and the Dahomey.

I

The King of Dahomey agrees to respect the French Protectorate of the Kingdom of Porto Novo, and to abstain from all incursions on the territories forming part of that Protectorate.

Dahomey_Jules Marie Armand de Cavelier de Cuverville
Jules de Cuverville

He recognizes the right of France to occupy Kotonou indefinitely.

II

France engages to take such action, on the King of Porto Novo, as to prevent any legitimate cause of complaint being made in future by the King of Dahomey.

By way of compensation for the occupation of Kotonou, France will pay an annual sum, which will in no case exceed 20,000 francs (in gold or silver).

The blockade will be lifted and the present arrangement will take effect from the day of the exchange of signatures. However this arrangement will become final only after it has been submitted for ratification to the French government.

Made in Whydah on the third of October eighteen hundred and ninety.

*someone who governs a city on behalf of the King – a governor

† a sort of nobleman from court

Description of King Behanzin’s Army on 13 March 1890

Behanzin, king of Dahomey
Behanzin, king of Dahomey

Below is a description of the army of King Béhanzin by a French prisoner made on 13 March 1890. This Frenchman is stunned by the number of warriors in Behanzin’s army, by their discipline, strength and muscular stature. More importantly, he also describes the Dahomey Amazons (locally known as Mino), the Fon all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey (in present-day Republic of Benin) who formed the king’s special bodyguard unit, and his secret weapon! Remember that in Behanzin’s Farewell Speech in Dahomey, the king had sung praises of his beloved Mino. Here the narriator is amazed by their sight and confirms, “Old or young, ugly or beautiful, they are wonderful to contemplate. Just as muscular as the Black warriors, their attitude is just as disciplined and correct, …”  Translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com.

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Dahomey_Amazones a 1890
Dahomey Amazons ca 1890

We are right in the Dahomean camp!

At least 15000 men are in front of us, arranged in order of battle in front of their tents made up of palm leaves, immobile, in such a deep silence that at 100 meters from our prison, in the same courtyard, separated by a simple wall, we could not have imagined their existence.

It is really a painting of a sublime horror and which painfully squeezes our heart. Fifteen thousand men, armed with guns and machetes! There is nothing to say, they are beautiful robust and muscular warriors under their white loincloths, which brings out the ebony of their stature even more. Not a cry, not a single movement, not a noise.

Quiet ourselves and deeply moved, we cross the hay that they form, lined up like the long rows of ears on a wheat field. Black and human harvest of which the one who is there can freely pick or mow heads.

Seh-Dong Hong-Beh, leader of Dahomey Amazons (painted by Frederick Forbes in 1851)
Seh-Dong Hong-Beh, leader of Dahomey Amazons (painted by Frederick Forbes in 1851)

The main officers of the army came to surround us. Our group starts to walk, it takes us more than a quarter of an hour to cross the first rows, given that their battle ranks are so deep. Then we cross an empty space, on the other side of which the Black army continues. Here it is no longer just warriors. The second line, in fact, consists of amazons in three tight ranks, surrounding in a huge circle the very throne of the king whom we cannot yet see.

They are there the four thousand female warriors, the four thousand Black virgins of Dahomey, bodyguards of the monarch, immobile under their war shirts, gun and knife in the fist, ready to pounce on a signal from the master.

Old or young, ugly or beautiful, they are wonderful to contemplate. Just as muscular as the Black warriors, their attitude is just as disciplined and correct, lined up like them in ranks.

An Amazon warrior ca 1890
An Amazon warrior ca 1890

The chiefs are in rows, at the head of the columns, recognizable by the richness of their shirts, by their proud and resolute air. Such are the amazons at rest with their arms. There is a long way from this discipline, this order, to the savage and barbaric hordes that we imagine. His Majesty Behanzin can be calm, these viragos will not let him be taken away easily. The triple circle that they form is immense, without a void, gap, or hole.

E. Chaudoin, extract from the Illustration of 26 July 1890, Les Africains Tome X, Editions J.A., 1978, P. 250

 

 

 

Experts crack mystery of ancient Egypt’s sacred bird mummies

Ibis
Ibises near a lake on the African continent

Did you know that ancient Egyptians did not only mummify humans, but animals also? Animals such as cats, crocodiles, mongooses, and ibises have been found in Egyptian pyramids. In ancient Egypt, the ibis was a special bird who represented the god Thoth, god of wisdom, magic,  writing, hieroglyphs, science, art, judgment, and the dead. For the longest times, scientists could not understand where millions of ibises which had been mummified came from. Now, they seemingly have cracked this mystery.

Excerpts below are from the The Guardian.

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DNA analysis helps work out origin of nearly 6 million mummified ibises

An ancient Egyptian mystery has been solved, according to researchers, who say they have cracked the conundrum of where millions of mummified birds came from.

Pharaohs and members of the nobility were often mummified, but the practice was not reserved for humans – cats, crocodiles, mice and mongooses are among the mummified animals that have been found.

While some have been discovered alongside human burials, others – most notably the sacred ibis bird – were mummified as part of rituals designed to curry favour with the gods.

More than 4 million sacred ibis mummies have been found in the catacombs of Tuna el-Gebel and 1.75 million have been discovered in the ancient burial ground of Saqqara. The vast majority were votive offerings to the god Thoth, a practice that had its heyday between 450BC and 250BC.

The ibis was considered [to represent] the god Thoth, the god of wisdom, the god of magic, the god of judgment, writing all sorts of things,” said Sally Wasef, a research fellow at Griffith University in Australia and first author of the research.

If you had a boss that annoys you and you don’t feel like you are getting a good judgment from him or you want fairness and justice, you go and ask Thoth to interfere and in return you promise to offer him an ibis, a mummified ibis, in his annual feast.

But the sheer quantity of mummified ibises left experts scratching their heads – where did all these birds come from?

One suggestion is that they were reared on an industrial scale in hatcheries. That idea appears to have some support in ancient texts, such as the writings of Hor of Sebennytos, a priest and scribe in the second century BC, who wrote about feeding tens of thousands of sacred ibis with bread and clover.

Ibis_The god Thoth
The god Thoth

To explore the possibility, Wasef and colleagues analysed DNA from 14 mummified sacred ibises found in ancient Egypt and 26 modern samples from across Africa.

… The results, published in the journal Plos One, reveal the level of diversity in the mitochondrial DNA among the ancient birds is similar to that among modern wild birds, and have similar levels of potentially harmful mutations. However, the team says if the ancient Egyptians farmed sacred ibises, the genetic diversity in ancient birds would probably be lower due to high levels of inbreeding.

Wasef said this suggested that, rather than being bred in a mass-farming situation, sacred ibises were tempted to local areas and kept in a natural habitat – or perhaps captured and kept in farms for a short time, ready for sacrifice.
[The most likely thing is ] next to each temple there was like a lake or a wetland – it is a natural habitat for the ibis to live in and if you are giving them food they will keep coming,” she said. Indeed, she notes, there was a swamp near Tuna el-Gebel and the Lake of the Pharaoh near Saqqara. …

“A ma Patrie / To my Homeland” by Huda Sha’arawi

HudaShaarawi1
Huda Sha’arawi

Today I am sharing a poem by the great Egyptian feminist Huda Sha’arawi. As we saw earlier, Sha’arawi’s work was immense in redefining the place of the woman in Egyptian society, and led to a new dawn for Egyptian women. This woman who influenced millions of Egyptian and Arabic women was also a poet with a great love for her country and its people. She dedicated her life for the betterment of women in the Egyptian society, and immensely loved the land of her forefathers.

The poem “A ma Patrie” was published in  L’Égyptienne number 69, Mai 1931. Translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com.

 

A ma Patrie

J’ai fait voeu de t’offrir tout ce qui m’appartient

                O ma belle Patrie,

Mon bras, mon coeur, mon âme ainsi que tous mes biens

                Sans excepter ma vie.

J’ai fait voeu de peiner, de lutter, de souffrir,

                De braver l’infamie.

Sans froncer le sourcil, sans poser au martyre,

                Sans même une aide amie.

J’ai juré de franchir les frontières des mers

                Si ton honneur l’exige,

Afin de rehausser, aux yeux de l’univers,

                Ton nom et ton prestige.

J’ai juré d’oublier les affronts des déments

                Et la haine et l’insulte

Que l’envie incita, contre mon dévouement

                A ta cause et ton culte.

Peu m’importe l’exil, leur courroux, la prison,

                J’accepte la mort même.

Puisque leurs vils exploits n’auront jamais raison

                De l’humble coeur qui t’aime.

To my Homeland

I made a wish to offer you all that I have

                O my beautiful homeland,

My arm, my heart, my soul, as well as all my belongings

                Not excepting my life.

I vowed to struggle, to fight, to suffer,

                To brave infamy.

Without frowning, without asking for martyrdom,

                Without even a friend’s help.

I have sworn to cross the borders of the seas

                If your honor depends on it,

To enhance, in the eyes of the universe,

                Your name and your prestige.

I have sworn to forget the offenses of the demented

                And the hatred and insult

Which prompted envy, against my dedication

                To your cause and your worship. 

I do not care about exile, their anger, the prison,

                I will accept even death.

Because their vile deeds will never win over

                The humble heart that loves you.

 

Saving the Manatee: A Conservation Mission to save Africa’s Sea Mammals

Manatee_Senegal
African manatees are classed as a vulnerable species and are on the IUCN Red List. Photograph: Lucy Keith-Diagne/African Aquatic Conservation Fund

In many African countries, from Senegal down to Angola, the manatee is known as Mamy-Wata or the Sirena or a water spirit. It is a sea creature which can also be found in lakes, as well as on the ocean. There is a lot of myths surrounding the creature, and how difficult they are to find. There is also a lot of ideas surrounding their use in local medicines, with a high demand coming from Asia, to the point that they have now become endangered. This article on conservation efforts to save the manatee is from The Guardian. Enjoy!

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Once branded ‘rogue animals’, the elusive creatures were on the brink of extinction, but hope is rising for their survival

… For the past 14 years Keith-Diagne has been on a mission to protect the African manatee. There are an estimated 10,000 left, spread across 21 African countries, from the coast of Senegal down to Angola and inland to Chad. …

African manatees are classified as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. They face many threats, including entanglement in fishing nets and entrapment in dams. In some countries they are heavily poached.

… The animals are so elusive that many locals know them only from myths. In countries such as Senegal, where the animals are revered as auspicious water spirits, poaching is rare. But dams still pose a major threat: the cumbersome mammals can get trapped in narrow passageways and drown.

Manatee_Map in Africa
Approximate distribution of the manatee in Africa

Keith-Diagne said local dam authorities have been receptive to her proposed modifications of the structures. Politicians have also come on board. In 2014, her husband, Tomas Diagne, also a biologist, successfully petitioned the government to set aside 275 hectares (679 acres) for an aquatic reserve. The area is now home to an estimated 100 manatees as well as hundreds of Adanson’s mud turtles – a species unique to the local lake. The couple are also helping the surrounding communities to develop an ecotourism industry.

Keith-Diagne’s conservation work has extended into other parts of Africa. With the help of a Pew Marine fellowship, she formed a network of nine biologists in Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo to document every manatee captured or killed over three years. The project has already identified one clear trend: Nigeria is a leader in manatee mortality.

Hunters can make up to $2,000 (£1,626) from a single catch in the country, where manatee meat is said to be beneficial for diabetics and their oil is thought to be cholesterol-free. In addition, their penises are believed to cure impotence, their ear bones to ward off bullets, and eyes believed to possess magical powers. The faeces left over in manatee intestines are dried and used to mend broken bones.

According to Nigerian myth, upon encountering a human, a manatee will tickle them until they laugh so hard they drown.

Rumours of manatees breaking fishing nets and capsizing canoes led to their classification as a “rogue animal” in the 1970s – an official classification for animals that threaten human livelihoods, such as crocodiles and hippopotami.

Manatee
The manatee

… [Edem] Eniang, [a professor of wildlife resource management at the University of Uyo in Nigeria] and his team often go undercover, posing as buyers to keep tabs on poachers and document manatee killings. They visit schools to teach the importance of conservation and they run TV and radio information campaigns. Such campaigns can and have made a difference. In Cameroon, education and awareness initiatives have pushed manatee hunting to its lowest level.

Aristide Takoukam, the director of the African Marine Mammal Conservation Organisation in Cameroon, gives frequent presentations at schools and organises field trips to Lake Ossa, a wildlife reserve created in 1948.

I want to teach them to see nature in a different way than their parents,” he says. “I want to show them that in animals, they can also find beauty.”

He also trains fishermen in how to make a living from bee farming and soap making instead of manatee hunting and with the help of an American ecotourism expert, is developing an industry around manatee sightseeing, complete with lakeside bungalows, kayaking and bird watching.

I want to show them that a manatee is worth more alive than dead,” he says. …

A Flower to Remind You to Smile

In this era of lockdown, one thing is for sure: flowers are blooming! Everywhere you look, flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and now we can actually hear them amidst the silence! Yes… people… birds’ arias have replaced the car horns, and the blasting sounds of traffic and modernity. And now, the flowers display their beauty. They always did… but it was sometimes clouded by unknown fumes or we simply had no time to see it! So today, I will share with you a bright image of a gorgeous flower… This is simply to remind you to smile at the beauty outside, even if you cannot go outside. Enjoy!

Fleur12_20200403