Why the Name : Banjul ?

Map and Flag of The Gambia

Have you ever wondered what the name of the capital of The Gambia, Banjul, could mean? To me, the name sounds like it has some strength into it… try it: “BANGJUL.” Well, it turns out that Banjul takes its name from the Mandé people who gathered specific fibers on the island, which were used in the making of ropes. Bang julo is the Mandinka (Mande) word for rope fiber. The mispronunciation of this word led to the name Banjul.

Bathurst (modern-day Banjul) in 1824

As we learned earlier in the week (A Polish-Lithuanian or Latvian Colony in Africa?), the King of Kombo leased the area encompassing modern-day Banjul to the Duke of Courland in 1651. One could say that Banjul was a vassal possession of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth or Latvian colony in Africa. Prior to 1816, Portuguese referred to the area as Banjulo, while the British called it Banjola. In 1816, the then king (Mansa) of Kombo, Tomani Bojang, ceded the area to Alexander Grant, a British commander, who turned it into a trading post and base to control the entrance to the Gambia estuary, enforce the Slavery Abolition Act, and protect British commercial interests in the region. The British first named the area St Mary’s Island (then known as Banjulo by the Portuguese), and later renamed it Bathurst after the 3rd Earl of Bathurst, Secretary of State for War and the colonies. It became the center of British activity in the Gambia Colony and Protectorate. The town kept the name Bathurst, until independence when it was changed to Banjul in 1973.

A marketplace in Bathurst in 1910

As you look at the painting of Bathurst in 1824, you can clearly see that Gambians were fully dressed, thus once again destroying the idea repeated by Europeans that Africans were roaming naked (Description of African Dressing in 1400s) throughout the continent, or that they did not have a textile industry (History of African Fabrics and Textiles).

Banjul is the capital and fourth largest city of The Gambia. It is located on St Mary’s Island (Banjul Island) where the Gambia River enters into the Atlantic Ocean. It is The Gambia’s largest and most densely populated metropolitan area. It is a vibrant city, with great hospitality. So, as you visit Banjul, remember to look for the fiber that gave its name, and most importantly look to the spirit of the people which is strong, warm, and welcoming. Enjoy!

A Polish-Lithuanian or Latvian Colony in Africa?

Le partage de l'Afrique a la Conference de Berlin de 1884
Le partage de l’Afrique a la Conference de Berlin de 1884

Have you ever heard of the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia? Did you know that this somewhat unknown place in Europe had colonies and slave forts in Africa? And played a part in the slave trade? Did you know that it owned St James Island, modern-day Banjul, the capital of the Gambia? See… when I tell you that the plundering of Africa of her resources, both human and minerals, was perpetrated by the united nations of thieves, and that so many countries in Europe took part in it, you have a hard time understanding it right? It was not just the usual suspects: France, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, who took part in the Atlantic slave trade and beyond, but even Denmark, Brandenbug-Prussia (part of modern Germany), Holland, Sweden, Norway, and the Duchy of Courland. Let me tell you more about it.

The Duchy of Courland & Semigallia in 1740 (Source: Wikipedia)

Well, the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was a duchy in the Baltic region, in what was then known as Livonia, which existed from 1561 to 1569 as a vassal state of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and subsequently part of the Crown of the Polish Kingdom from 1569 to 1726 and incorporated into the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1726. On 28 March 1795, it was annexed by the Russian Empire in the Third Partition of Poland. There was also a short-lived wartime state existing from 8 March to 22 September 1918 with the same name. The area became a part of Latvia at the end of World War I. At some point it was also part of Sweden.

Although small, the Duchy was wealthy and took a “modest” part in the European colonization settlement attempts of West Africa and the Caribbean. Like Brandenburg, that had far larger German colonizing power before the formation of the German Empire, the Polish-Lithuanian fief of Courland had a European expansionist past. Its colonies were established under Jakob, Duke of Courland and Semigallia, and were indirect colonies of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. During Jakob’s reign which lasted from 1642 to 1682, the Duchy established trading relations with all of the major European powers.

Duchy of Courland & Semigallia colonial possessions in Africa (Source: Wikipedia)

In 1651, the Duchy gained a colony in Africa on St. Andrew’s Island (modern-day Kunta Kinteh Island, renamed after the hero of the movie and book ‘Roots: The Saga of An American Family’ by Alex Haley) in the Gambia River and went on to build Fort Jakob on the island. The Duchy also gained control of additional land, which happened to include St. Mary Island (modern day Banjul) and Fort Jillifree. The Duchy’s colonies exported sugartobaccocoffeecottongingerindigorumcocoatortoise shells, as well as tropical birds and their much sought after feathers. They also established a colony in the Caribbean in Tobago. In the end, the Duchy would manage to retain control of these lands for less than a decade and the colonies were formally ceded to England in 1664.

Can you imagine that I, an African child, just learnt this recently? We should definitely throw away all these history books, which choose to “forget” to mention that slavery and later the scramble for Africa was like a gold rush, led by an ensemble of nations which resemble the NATO of today, where almost every European country took part in it! One may argue, what is the need of knowing this? Don’t you see that what Africa is living through today is a repeat of yesterday? Can you count the number of joint European forces in Mali? in Libya? in the DRC? Today it is called the United Nations. It is about time that Africans write their own history! Enough is enough! We need to know what happened yesterday to be better prepared for today and tomorrow.

Happy Mother’s Day 2021

Papa Wemba
Papa Wemba

To celebrate all the mothers out there… I thought of sharing this beautiful song by the legendary Papa Wemba “Mama,” from his album Nouvelle Ecriture 1997 dedicated to his mother. I dedicate it to all the mothers out there, and future mothers. Papa Wemba was the King of Rumba and King of La SAPE, and an African Planetary Star. Of his mother who was a professional ‘wailing woman,’ he said: “My mother was my first teacher and my first public. … I grew up with my mother’s melancholic singing. … When I will sing, she will say “my son, block here, and now project your voice“… when I did well, she will clap for me“(source: Tv5 – Africanité). For his mother, he composed Mama and Maria Valencia. Enjoy! Happy Mothers’s Day.

National Museum of Ireland forges plan to return looted Benin bronzes

Queen from Benin kingdom
Queen from Benin kingdom, exposed at the MET

The National Museum of Ireland has now forged plans to return the looted Benin bronzes. I hope their plans actually take form! Wen I hear of all these museums planning to return all these African artifacts, I cannot help but notice that the loot was a general or rather an international concerted affair… remember how we always hear about the international community? As you can see the distribution of the loot, in the case at hand, that of Benin City (Benin City: the Majestic City the British burnt to the ground), was done among all those European countries! This brings shivers! Moreover, when I see this, I cannot help but wonder why these museums are now so conscientious and are all talking about repatriation of these bronzes, particularly when these looted artifacts have generated millions upon millions of euros each year to their museums as part of tourism. Why will they be so happy to forfeit millions of euros in revenues for our poor African souls who not long ago were deemed too backward to take care of our very own artifacts? Also, with 3D printing being so ‘hip’ these days, I wonder if Africans will be getting the original artifacts? How will we know? Enjoy! Excerpts below are from the Sunday Times.

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The National Museum of Ireland (NMI) intends to return 21 historical artefacts looted from Nigeria in the 1890s. The Benin bronzes, which were stolen by British soldiers, have been the subject of renewed focus in recent months, with growing pressure on cultural institutions to return them.

While there is no formal plan for when the Benin bronzes will be returned, the NMI said it was committed to progressing “a restitution process” for the artefacts.

Calls for full inventory of world artefacts held by Church of England

Pendant Ivory mask representing Queen Idia, Iyoba of Benin City (16th Century)
Pendant Ivory mask representing Queen Idia, Iyoba of Benin City (16th Century), exposed at the MET

The call for the repatriation of Benin artifacts, and African artifacts as a whole, has been gaining more attention. As you an imagine, it is news to think of churches being involved in this, or having these looted treasures. Well, as the excerpts below show, the Church of England has been urged to open up its books on all the world artifacts in its possession, after it agreed to return two Benin kingdom artifacts [Benin City: the Majestic City the British burnt to the ground, Europe’s Largest Museums to “Loan” Looted Benin (Nigerian) Artifacts back to Nigeria, Bronze Cockerel from Benin Kingdom to be returned to Nigeria]. Will the Church of England agree to it? Can you imagine the number of artifacts held in the coffers of other churches in Europe or the Vatican? Thousands! Excerpts below are from The Guardian.

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Promise to repatriate Benin bronzes comes as momentum grows at other institutions on returning works

The Church of England has been urged to open up its books on the full range of world artefacts in its possession after promising this week to repatriate two Benin bronzes.

The move came amid a gathering sense of momentum around the issue of the disputed bronzes – most of which were looted by British forces in 1897.

Rooster from Benin Kingdom (18th century)
Rooster from Benin Kingdom (18th century), exposed at the MET

While the British government has said UK institutions should “retain and explain” contested artefacts, the University of Aberdeen announced last month it would repatriate a bust of an Oba, or king of Benin, which it has had since the 1950s. The Horniman Museum in London also confirmed it was taking steps to return artefacts.

It’s clear that this is now a Nigerian-led exercise,” said Dan Hicks, the curator of world archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford and author of The Brutish Museums: the Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution.

Arguments put forward in the past that Nigeria was somehow unready to receive repatriated artefacts no longer held waterafter the formation of Legacy Restoration Trust, a Nigerian organisation facilitating restitution, said Hicks, describing it as a “game changing”.

It’s also no longer just about the British Museum, which holds only a fraction of these artefacts. They are increasingly marginal to this conversation, which is more and more about regional and international museums.”

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African Joke: The Beggar

A street beggar (Source: https://www.ncertbooks.guru/)

A beggar goes to complain to his donor in these terms:

My brother, 2 years ago, you were giving me 1000 F. Last year you gave me 500 F, and this year 300 F. You should tell me, what is causing this? Or did I do something to you?”

The man to respond: “No problem really… simply that 2 years ago, I was single. I got married last year, and this year, my wife gave me a beautiful big healthy baby.”

The beggar, offended, bursts out: “Seriously! So it is my money you are taking to feed your family?”

The original in French is found on Nouchi.com . Translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com

Burkina Faso ex-president Compaoré to face trial over Thomas Sankara murder

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

I know this is like 10 days+ old news… but it is news: the ex-president of Burkina Faso Blaise Compaoré has been indicted for the murder of Thomas Sankara by a military court in the country. We cannot reiterate enough that France through her minion Blaise Compaoré (with the implication/blessing of Felix Houphouet-Boigny) killed Thomas Sankara. When Compaoré was booted out of office in 2014, he sought refuge in neighboring Cote d’Ivoire which is controlled by another one of France’s minions imposed on Ivorians via France’s bombs, Alassane Ouattara (ADO). Not only did he run to Cote d’Ivoire with his tail between his legs, but he even renounced his Burkinabe citizenship for the Ivorian one so as not be extradited. Everything about the man Compaoré screams cowardice: can you imagine a president of a country for 27 years who changes his citizenship? Such a coward! Now, a Burkina Faso military court has indicted Blaise Compaoré for the murder of Thomas Sankara. What power does this court really have? How to implement its findings? Is it just symbolic? Moreover, this is in absentia, given that Compaoré is hiding in Cote d’Ivoire. Excerpts below are from an article on the Al-Jazeera‘s website.

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Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso – A military court in Burkina Faso’s capital has indicted former President Blaise Compaore in connection to the 1987 murder of his charismatic predecessor, Thomas Sankara.

Flag of Burkina Faso

A statement issued by the court on Tuesday cited “complicity in assassination” and an “attack on state security” by Compaore, who ruled the country until 2014, when he was forced to resign in the face of mass demonstrations against an attempt to extend his 27-year rule.

Thirteen others – including Gilbert Diendere, Compaore’s right hand man, and Hyacinthe Kafando, his security chief – were also indicted on charges ranging from “assassination” to “concealment of corpses”.

Benewende Stanislas Sankara, a lawyer representing the relatives of the slain former president, described the indictment as “a victory and a step in the right direction”.

It’s with a sigh of relief the family can now go ahead with all the guarantees that surround Burkinabe justice,” he told Al Jazeera. “We can now calmly go to trial.”

… Following his re-election last year, President Roch Kabore appointed a minister for national reconciliation, Zephirin Diabre, who pledged to address the issue of justice for Sankara.

In 2015, Burkinabe courts had issued an international arrest for Compaore, but Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara has prevented his extradition back to Burkina Faso despite an extradition treaty between the two countries. …

… “The warrant can be executed at any time if Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso implement the existing agreements between the two states properly,” Benewende Sankara said. “I must specify that it can happen very quickly.”…

South African Audiometer Helps NASA Research Aboard the International Space Station

Flag of South Africa

Just saw this article on how an audiometer made in South Africa is helping NASA research hearing aboard the International Space Station, and thought to share with all. As you probably guessed, South Africa has one of the strongest and biggest space programs in Africa, with its South African National Space Agency (SANSA). For the full article go to Africanews.space. Enjoy!

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NASA has recruited the help of South African company eMoyo, in a bid to research the biological effects of noise in space and aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on the astronauts. eMoyo is a South African company that seeks to create a future where medical technology and the care it provides to humanity are merged into a ubiquitous system.

NASA had previously faced challenges in accomplishing this research due to lack of equipment, as it needed a lightweight product which was easy to operate. It is in this respect that eMoyo’s KUDUwave provides the answers to NASA’s plight.

The KUDUwave is a portable high-frequency audiometer featuring booth-free operation and high-frequency hearing testing up to 16 kHz. It has been used to test audio deficiencies, in South Africa as far back as 2009. The KUDUwave Pro combines the sound booth, audiometers, bone conductor, and extended high-frequency headset in a single, lightweight device. It includes the full battery of testing options as well as the ability to test almost anywhere.

NASA recruited the KUDUwave portable boothless audiometer and has transported it to the ISS via a commercial resupply mission known as the Northrop Grumman NG, aboard the CRS-15 Cygnus spacecraft. The audiometer, while innovative in its own right, had to be “slightly modified for self-testing in space”, according to eMoyo executive John Tidy. …