‘On Top of Africa’ by B. Tejani

Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Have you ever dreamed of climbing Africa’s tallest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro? Of watching its snow-capped peaks under the tropics, near the equator? Mount Kilimanjaro rises to an elevation of 5,895 m above sea level and about 4,900 m above its plateau base in Tanzania; it is the largest and tallest free-standing mountain rise in the world, meaning that it is not part of a mountain range. The majestic Mount Kilimanjaro is an inactive snow-capped stratovolcano that extends for about 80 km from east-west and is made up of three principal volcanic cones namely Mawenzi, Kibo, and Shira. The highest summit of Kilimanjaro is located on the crater rim of Kibo volcano and has been named the Uhuru Peak, where ‘Uhuru’ means ‘freedom’ in the native Swahili language. Scientists estimate the glaciers may be completely gone in 50 years. Mount Kilimanjaro is often referred to as the “Roof of Africa”. Thus one can imagine what poet B. Tejani, and anyone who reaches the 4th tallest peak in the world, must have felt after ascending the mountain… on top of Africa, which is the title of Tejani’s poem about the joy of ascending Mt Kilimanjaro. Bahadur Tejani is a Kenyan author and poet, born of Gujarati parents in Kenya. He studied at the Makerere University in Uganda, Cambridge University, and the University of Nairobi. He later taught at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, as well as the University of Sokoto in Nigeria. As you read the poem, you are really transported to the slopes of the majestic mountain. As you watch the snow, ‘an ageless majesty‘ fills you. As you reach the summit, there is definitely at that moment ‘no great triumph in the soul‘, after the ‘agonied 20,000 steps upwards and onwards‘. Truly, only when the ordeal is finished ‘I shall remember the dogged voice of conscience self-pity warring with will‘. This poem is part of Poems from East Africa, ed. by D. Cook and D. Rubadiri (1971), p. 176. Enjoy!,

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Mt Kilimanjaro in 1911

On Top of Africa‘ by B. Tejani

Nothing but the stillness

of the snow

and an ageless majesty

matched

by those enduring horizons that bridge the heights of you and me.

The phosphorescent sun gliding from the dark cloud under us

shone a brief once while we lay

retching in the rarefied air.

No great triumph in the soul of those

twenty thousand agonied steps upwards, always onward.

Only anguish of an ending -the vacuumed intestines shivering at

another onslaught of mountain sickness.

An ice-axe prod in the back and with it the terrible thought of the

awful retreat down the cold slopes of possible deaths; dumb eyes and

feet

lit by a single tireless search for slumber

which is as far away from us as we from the plains.

Only when the nightmare is over I shall remember the dogged voice of

conscience

self-pity warring with will

of the brown body

to keep up

with the black flesh

forging ahead

on the way

to Kilimanjaro.

Ivorian Researcher, Adjata Kamara, recognized for her work on Yam Preservation

Yams
Yams

Yam is a staple food in many countries of Africa, particularly in West Africa. So it comes with a bit of surprise to those not versed in agriculture, that there will is work to protect yam. Why would yam need protection? and from what? Ivorian researcher Adjata Kamara is one of this year’s 20 L’Oreal Foundation laureates from sub-Saharan Africa; she won for her project on the development of post-harvest biopesticides for the protection of yam crops. At the Biopesticides unit of the University of Bingerville where she is a doctoral student, her research has determined that “soil-depleting” chemical pesticides and the harvesting methods of farmers who “injure the yam”, favored the rapid appearance of fungi that rot the plant and eventually make it unfit for consumption. Thus the urgency of developing natural pesticides. Kamara will receive 10,000 Euros for her work. Excerpts below are from AfricaNews. Enjoy!

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L'igname (yam)
L’igname (yam)

Adjata Kamara is one of the 20 winners of the For women in science initiative of the L’Oréal Foundation and UNESCO, which aims to give visibility to women researchers worldwide.

The 25-year-old Ivorian was chosen for her work on biopesticides to protect yam crops, a root that is highly prized in sub-Saharan Africa.

Her passion for research stems from her childhood when her father’s mango crops were ravaged by fungi.

“It allows me to show my research to other women, to other countries and it puts a little pressure on me because I tell myself that now, I have to be a role model for young girls in science,” said Adjata.

Adjata explains that her goal is to develop “biopesticides based on plant extracts, fungi and beneficial bacteria,” in order to treat without chemicals this anomaly that disrupts the production of a plant that is the basis of staple food in several regions of Africa.

“I work on the development of biopesticides based on plant extracts, bacteria and also fungi. But these bacteria and fungi are said to be beneficial and so I’m trying to find methods to control the fungi that attack post-harvest yams,” …

… “From an early age, my father had a mango plantation. And this plantation was attacked by mushrooms, but at that time we did not know it. And as the years passed, there was a drop in production. And from then on, I wanted to know why these mangoes were being attacked (by fungi), and why production was falling. And it’s since then that I devoted myself to it and that I loved science,” said Adjata.

Charles Blé Goudé Returns Home at Last

Charles Blé Goudé (Source: Dailymail.co.uk)

Joy fills my heart… Charles Blé Goudé is home at last! How long has it been? How long has it taken? The battle has been long, but Truth has prevailed! As a reminder, Charles Blé Goudé, Youth minister under Laurent Gbagbo, had been captured in 2013 in Ghana after the foreign attacks on Cote d’Ivoire by France that forced him to find refuge there [How long shall they kill our prophets…?]. He has spent almost a decade in captivity at the Hague at the International Criminal Court justice with Laurent Gbagbo, like many of our leaders who were deported for standing for their people [Deportation of African Heads of States]. They were both acquitted in January 2019, but the prosecution stalled, keeping them in Europe, trying to find ways to overturn the decision, and blocking all their movements. Two years later in 2021, Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Ble Goude were totally acquitted and free at Last, however, only Laurent Gbagbo was allowed to return home which he did in June of last year [Laurent Gbagbo is Back in Cote d’Ivoire].  Blé Goudé has had to beg for many years to get an Ivorian passport from the Ivorian government (Unbelievable right?).

Did the ICC apologize for all the years of hurt? the tarnished image? the ruined life? And of course mainstream media, which yesterday eagerly published those images of Gbagbo and his wife Simone in their room surrounded by rebels, or Blé Goudé now publish one line if anything at all! Unbelievable! They should be sued for playing such major roles in destroying countries, obliterating people’s images, and causing wars! I live you here with excerpts from an article from the BBC. Note, the love the people have for him has caused the government to ask for the population not to show up at his arrival. All these tough years of claiming his innocence, all these years of constant support, and people’s prayers, dedication, love, and determination have born fruits. Truth always wins! It may take years… but it prevails!

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Charles Blé Goudé cheered by supporters upon his arrival in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, on Saturday (Source: Associated Press – USNews.com)

Ivory Coast politician Charles Blé Goudé, once seen as a divisive figure, has flown home after being acquitted by the International Criminal Court.

His charisma and fiery rhetoric led to his nickname “street general”.

Mr Blé Goudé, 50, arrived in Ivory Coast’s main city, Abidjan, on a commercial flight from neighbouring Ghana on Saturday afternoon [Charles Blé Goudé was actually met at the airport by former First Lady, Simone Gbagbo, accompanied by around a dozen people – these foreign media are always trying to remove Simone from history, but they will not succeed].

There was heavy security at the airport and his supporters were advised not to go there to show respect for all the victims of the 2010 conflict.

But thousands of them gathered in the suburb of Youpougon – a former stronghold of Mr Blé Goudé’s – where he was expected to make a statement, according to his entourage.

….

Mr Blé Goudé fled Ivory Coast the day before Mr Gbagbo’s capture, going to Ghana by road where he lived in hiding for almost two years.

He was then arrested and transferred to the ICC where he first appeared in 2014 charged with committing crimes against humanity, including accusations that he led a militia.

But both Mr Gbagbo and Mr Blé Goudé were acquitted in 2019 after the judges said that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. The decision was confirmed by the ICC’s Appeals Chamber last year.

The former president returned to Ivory Coast in June 2021, where he has since tried to play the role of a peacemaker urging reconciliation.

Mr Blé Goudé obtained a passport from the Ivorian authorities in May and shortly after got the green light to go home.

Mishap

Curdled milk (Source: https://recettes.africa/lait-caille-ramadan/)

Once upon a time, there was a young man who was going to visit his fiancée. She received him with all honors and installed him in her hut in the middle of her bed. She hastened to present him with a calabash full of curdled milk. But custom dictates that one holds back when one is at one’s parents-in-law, and the stranger apologized for not being able to drink this good milk.

Despite his beloved’s insistence, he refused to take a single drop. The calabash was thus stored on the shelf and the conversation resumed even more vigorously.

A moment later, the girl went out for a few moments. Then, the stranger, who was tormented by the desire to taste this good milk, got up to take advantage of the absence of his beloved. But, in his haste, he knocks over the calabash, and the milk floods his boubou.

Stunned and crestfallen, he awaits his fiancée’s return. Fortunately, she does not return, but sends her little brother to bring back the calabash of milk stored on the shelf. The child enters the room and, seeing the confused man huddled in a corner, he understands what has happened. Heaving a sigh, he exclaimed:

Ouch, I took the calabash, but it slipped from my hands and it fell over on the guest’s boubou!

The sister runs inside and burst into tears while apologizing to her guest for the clumsiness of her little brother.

Thus, the man was able to leave the village, not without keeping an excellent memory of the child who saved him from disgrace.

Contes Wolof du Baol, J. Copans and P. Couty, Ed. Karthala, 1988, p. 62. Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

The Importance of Nioussérê Kalala Omotunde’s Work

Today, education in Africa is Eurocentric, meaning that African history is rarely well-taught in African schools. In Francophone Africa, the school manuals are written by Frenchmen on the continent, or in France, so there is barely any emphasis on Africa. We learn about Europe, China, Japan, Napoleon, all the French dynasties, wars, etc, but very little about OUR history. Thus, most Africans grow up without knowing anything about the Ishango bone, the Blombos Cave, Lucy, the Lebombo bone, or the fact that Pythagoras or Thales theorems were actually written in Egypt by the scribe Ahmose over 1000 years before Pythagoras visited Africa; or even that C-sections were a normal part of African medicine for centuries while in Europe, women were still dying during pregnancies, or even that ancient Egyptians were black! There are countless examples showing that the falsification of African history has been ongoing for centuries, and that there is so much missing in African school manuals.

A Conical tower at Great Zimbabwe

Why is Nioussérê Kalala Omotunde’s work important for Africans? NKO’s work is fundamental because he, like some other illustrious Africans, worked tirelessly to restore Africa’s place in the world. However, his work was not just telling us Africans that we were once great, but more importantly focused on shaking the consciences of many: if my ancestor was great, if my ancestors built the great pyramids of Egypt, how can I, African today, believe that I am meant to live in tin shacks? If my ancestors were the great architects and metallurgists of Great Zimbabwe, why should I keep adopting the European materials for building when ours have lasted over centuries? how can I wait for foreign aid, when I have been blessed with fertile lands? How can I be eating wheat from Ukraine, when I could go back to ancient grains such as fonio, sorghum, millet which have always been a part of my diet for centuries (How Africa Copes with The War in Ukraine: Alternatives to Wheat – Ancient Grains?)? How can I import paper, when my ancestors developed the first support medium for writing (paper comes from papyrus)? How can I act like I do not know mathematics, when my ancestors where the amazing Egyptian mathematicians? How can I feel so lost in medicine or just focus on European medicine, when in Bunyoro kingdom, we had master gynecologists who could perform c-sections centuries before Europe? How can I be stuck with the FCFA when my ancestors invented currencies using silver? How can I, an African child, feel so small? How can I, an African child, focus only on misery, as opposed to what nature has given me? I need to raise my head, and see, and take the grain God has given me, and turn it into a tree!

I invite you to read some of his books, which can be found at: Anyjart.

“Sois le Soleil / Be the Sun” by Nioussérê Kalala Omotunde

Jean-Philippe Nioussere Kalala Omotunde

Si tu sais être comme le soleil, tu pourras raviver tous les soleils éteints autour de toi; mais ça ne passera pas que par des mots, il faut y associer ton coeur et des actes.

If you know how to be like the sun, you can revive all the extinguished suns around you; but it will not happen only through words, it is necessary to associate your heart and deeds to it.

So Long to a Baobab of African Classical Humanities and Mathematics: Nioussérê Kalala Omotunde

Jean-Philippe Nioussere Kalala Omotunde

A great man has left us. Yesterday, the great teacher, researcher, Egyptologist, historian, and brother, Jean-Philippe Nioussérê Kalala Omotunde changed dimension. Kalala Omotunde was a bright light who worked tirelessly to teach us, Africans, about our true heritage. He was conscious that our souls and spirits had been so broken by colonization, slavery, wars, foreign invasions, and so many other ailments, that we had lost sight of who we truly were, descendants of the great pharaohs of Egypt, descendants of Mother Africa, the cradle of humanity and sciences.

Kalala was the founder of the Anyjart institute and satellite institutes in Canada, Guyana, Martinique, Haiti, and many more around the world. Via his institute, he worked tirelessly to empower Africans, and particularly the Black youth in the diaspora and beyond. His great work focused on the African classical humanities, and African mathematics and sciences. He was also Chargé de mission at UNESCO. He specialized in making the Black (wo) man whole again by teaching him about his history, his origin, his ancestors. You see… Africa has been under attack for centuries now, and along the way, her children have lost their conviction, the knowledge of their greatness, traditions, and have erred away from her by adopting other religions and even others’ distorted views of themselves.

Nioussere Kalala Omotunde

I have been a fan of his work for over a decade. I remember one time when we talked, I showed him the blog, and coincidentally the article of the day was, “How do We Continue the Fight when the Head has been Cut Off?” He made some comments and gave me pointers.  In that conversation I learned so much: for instance, the picture of Amilcar Cabral pointed left, and Kalala told me that this was looking to the past, and when we have lost a leader, we need to look forward, and build for future generations. He embodied the article itself, working tirelessly to teach the next generations how to continue the battle through education. He had a strong presence, was so confident, and so generous in sharing his time and knowledge. Such a baobab! Such a dedication to Mother Africa… He was so welcoming, so selfless, always ready to help, addressing many with endearing words such as “mon très cher”, or “ma très chère”. His institute focused on teaching ancient hieroglyphs, the knowledge of African history, African mathematics and sciences, teaching the link between ancient Egypt (and beyond) and Africa today, and above all restoring the dignity of Africa. He focused on scientifically proving historical findings about Africa… he will often have at least 5 documents to prove the veracity of a claim he made; he was methodical. He had so many great projects! The geothermic project in Guadeloupe which he wanted to see extend to Africa, the Wakanda project, and countless others aimed at empowering Africans to be self-sufficient energetically, financially, agriculturally, technologically, and much more. I console myself in knowing that he has written so many books, and that we can all benefit from his teachings, and rise up as he wished. 

Having been influenced by Cheikh Anta Diop, Nioussere Kalala Omotunde worked tirelessly to show the deep wealth of African cultures, and often shared the fact that the history of Black people in the Caribbeans did not start with slavery. So long brother… May your seeds bring lots of fruits. I will remember your contagious laughter, your big smile, your intelligence, and above all your teachings. I feel so privileged to have had a chance to know you, and receive some of your teachings. You always talked about African Renaissance. You showed us the way, now we have to carry on your light. May the Ancestors receive and cherish you.

Why the Name : Saint-Louis ?

Aerial view of Saint-Louis (Source: Wetlands.org)

When you hear the name Saint-Louis, what comes to mind? If you are thinking about the city with the Gateway arch, that city in the United States of America, St Louis,… then think again… today we will talk about the other Saint-Louis, the city located in Senegal, which used to be the capital of the French colony of Senegal from 1673 to 1902. You heard right… so Saint-Louis in Senegal is actually much older than the American St Louis.

View of the Saint-Louis Fort from the sea, from “L’Afrique ou histoire, moeurs, usages et coutumes des Africains”, by René Claude Geoffroy de Villeneuve, 1814

The city of Saint-Louis is the capital of Senegal’s Saint-Louis Region, and is located in the northwest of the country, near the mouth of the Senegal River, 320 km from the capital Dakar, on the border with Mauritania. The city was named after Louis IX, a 13th century king of France, and also in honor of Louis XIV who was the monarch at the time of the island’s settlement by France in 1659. It was the first city founded by Europeans in West Africa; before then, there were Portuguese, Dutch, English traders in the area, but they had not yet ‘founded’ cities. The city was originally known as Saint Louis of the Fort (St-Louis-du-Fort) after its fort. At least 200 years prior to the European arrival in the area, the site was an Wolof settlement known to locals as Ndar or N’dar which is Wolof for island. With the arrival of Europeans, the city became an important trade center for gold, gum Arabic, ivory, and slaves in Africa.

Downtown Saint-Louis, Rue Lebon, 1900

Nicknamed the “African Venice,” it is no surprise that Saint-Louis acquired the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Since then, the city has been working on renovation of ancient buildings, transforming some of the warehouses into hotels and restaurants. The city still has a lot of houses from the colonial era. It is divided into three parts: N’Dar’s island (the historical part of the city) which is connected with a bridge to the fishing village in the peninsula Guet N’Dar (the

View of Saint-louis showing its different neighborhoods (Source: Baobabtourisme.com)

Langue de Barbarie) and to the continental part with another bridge. The heart of the old colonial city is located on a narrow island which is a little more than 2 km (1.2 mi) long but only about 400 m (1,300 ft) wide. The island lies in the Senegal River. It is 25 km (16 mi) north of its mouth, but is only separated from the Atlantic Ocean to its west by the Langue de Barbarie, a 300 m (980 ft) wide sand spit. The Langue de Barbarie is the location of the seaside neighborhoods Ndar Toute and Guet Ndar. On the mainland, the east bank of the river is the site of Sor, an older settlement now considered a suburb of Saint-Louis. It is nearly surrounded by tidal marshes. Three characteristics give Saint-Louis its distinctive geographic appearance: the Sahel, the marshes, and the Langue de Barbarie.

A Signare or Negresse of quality from the Island of Saint Louis in Senegal, accompanied by her slave, Illustration from Costumes civils de tous les peuples connus, Paris, 1788, by Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur

One cannot talk of Saint Louis without mentioning the Signares. Deriving from the Portuguese Senhora, Signares were the women of mixed descent, French/Senegalese, also known as Métis, who formed a class of entrepreneurs women who managed to gain some assets, status and power in the hierarchies of the Atlantic slave trade. They were important in the economic, cultural and social life of the city. They created a distinctive urban culture characterized by public displays of elegance, refined entertainment and popular festivities. There are still families descending from these women entrepreneurs of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Some big attractions apart from the city itself include the National Park Langue de Barbarie which is in the southern tip of the peninsula, and covers a total surface of 2000 hectares, and the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary which is the third largest bird sanctuary in the world, with species emigrating there from Europe, Asia, and East Africa.

If you are ever in Senegal and would like to head north of Dakar, please take the time to visit Saint-Louis, and bathe in the mix of old colonial French style and the teranga (hospitality) so well known to Senegalese people. To learn more about Saint-Louis, check out: Saint-Louis du Senegal, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and my favorite on Spirited Pursuit.