Description of the Bornu Empire in 1582

Kanem-Bornu court in the 1700s
Kanem-Bornu court in the 1700s

As we saw from the description of a Bornu Maï (King) in the 17th century, the Bornu Empire was a prosperous empire with great kings.

Below is another description, this time of the Bornu Empire in 1582. Immediately, we notice the impressive size of the capital city most likely Ngazargamu, the respect given to the kings, who were treated just like the kings of Timbuktu. It is also good to note the level of education of these kings, as well as their relations with Libya and beyond, Turkey. Lastly, slaves were not traded here, but rather leather. Was this the source of the great Libyan leather?

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The Bornu in 1582, from an Italian Geographer : Giovanni Lorenzo Anania

Tchad_Lake Chad
Lake Chad

Then there is Borno on the edge of the Negro river (where there is a large lake formed by the said river [this is most likely the Yobe River also known as Komadugu Yobé River which flows into Lake Chad]). It is an immense city with a lot of traffic, having its own king who is treated with the same ceremonies, both by foreigners and by his own vassals, as those in use among the king of Tungubuto (Timbuktu). We kneel down on our knees, throwing sand on anyone’s head. He is served with great zeal by eunuchs and young girls whom they render sterile with certain potions.

Group of Kanem-Bu warriors in the 1800s
Group of Kanem-Bu warriors in the 1800s

In his correspondence, writing to foreign princes, he uses the Arabic language, as Giovanni di Vesti tells me, a very honorable person, and who was a slave to the son of a great count among the Turks. He himself saw a letter that the king of Borno wrote to the Pasha of Tripoli with great eloquence and art. This prince is so powerful that several times he has raised an army of hundred thousand men against the king of Cabi (Kebbi [in modern day Nigeria]). The blacks, it is said, regard him as an emperor, so great is his power. He owns a multitude of horses which Arabs bring from their country, and they make a great profit by selling them for at least a thousand or seven hundred crowns each. These horses do not stay alive for long, because when the sun enters the sign of Leo, many of them die every year from the extreme heat. Today many Turks arrive, seeking adventure, and many Moors from Barbary, who are their scholars. They are very well paid, because they are few in number, as it happens with all those blacks who are Muslims. And many merchants depart from there every year, carrying so much excellent quality leather that it seems extraordinary in Fizzan (Fezzan [in Libya]). Then they return with big quantities of horses, accompanying the caravans of black merchants.

Edition critique par Dierk Lange

Les Africains, vol. 3, Editions J.A., 1977, p. 57. Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

Portrait of a “Mai” (King) of Bornu in the 17th century

Kanem-Bornu court in the 1700s
Kanem-Bornu court in the 1700s

We can retain without great risk of anachronism the detailed description that a Frenchman – probably a surgeon by the name of Girard held in slavery for a few years in Tripoli – gives in 1685 of the sovereign according to the testimonies he collected in this city.

It is in this case the grandson and fourth successor of Idris Alooma, designated under the name of “Mahi-Hagi-Hali”, that is Mai (Hajj) Ali b. Umar b. Idris, who had reigned, according to D. Lange, from 1639 to 1677.

Idris Alooma

“Those who have seen this prince agree that he is nice looking well-built, and of rich stature, but he is black : his ordinary clothes are a robe of white or blue linen, with long sleeves, very fine and untied : he wears the white turban like the Turks, and his face is always more than half covered, because the Bornu people are ashamed (take shame) to show their mouths, and which covers their face from the tip of the nose to the bottom of the chin.”

Chronology of the Bornu Kings from 1512 to 1671. – Extract from manuscript number 12220 (Nouvelles acquisitions. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris) – Reproduced by le Bulletin de la Société de Géographie de Paris, 1849

It is good to note that, two centuries later, the European travelers who visited Bornu described the robe of the king in identical terms. Such permanence clearly indicates that this is not an occasional outfit, but one of the ritual and traditional insignia of power.

Les Africains, vol. 3, Editions J.A., 1977, p. 53. Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

Africans making Strides in the World of Wine

Tinashe Nyamudoka and barrels (Source: jancisrobinson.com)

Have you ever heard of Africans making it into the world of wine? I don’t mean South Africans who have a good history of wine-making, but other countries on the continent? Well, a while back, I had heard about an Ivorian making wines and actually having a vineyard, and now Zimbabweans. As a side story, one of my uncles was once a very pro-eminent wine-taster… I always wondered where he had acquired the taste (given that this is not a tradition for us), but he used to be called upon by the best wineries in France to taste and judge on the quality of their wines. The Guardian had a story about Tinashe Nyamudoka and a new generation of Zimbabweans getting into the wine business. Below are excerpts from that article. Enjoy!

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A bottle of Kumusha Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon

… When he left [Zimbabwe] in 2008, [Tinashe] Nyamudoka had never tasted wine. Now, he ranks among southern Africa’s top sommeliers and has his own wine label with international sales.

We have a lot going against us as Zimbabweans, and you might think there is nothing good coming out of the country,” says the 36-year-old. “So, for me to be recognised as the [top] sommeliers in the world, being African and Zimbabwean, instils a sense of hope and pride.”

Nyamudoka began his career as a waiter in a Cape Town restaurant, where he learned about the different varieties and tastes of the wines his customers drank. He moved on to become a hotel wine waiter, working alongside some of the city’s leading sommeliers.

After studying his trade [he also has a certificate in wine business management from the University of Cape Town], he won the best wine steward award in a competition for luxury hotels in the Western Cape in 2013.

… His wine label, Kumusha – “home” or “roots” in Zimbabwe’s Shona language – has benefited from his celebrity, producing 200,000 bottles a year, up from 1,200 when it was launched four years ago. “People started embracing it,” he says.

Kumusha wines, Shiraz and Merlot

… The eight Kumusha wines – three reds, four whites and a rosé – are all produced in South Africa. They are sold in the US, the Netherlands, Kenya and Zimbabwe – “my exciting market”, he says. This month, he is starting to export his wines to the UK.

I started this brand from scratch with no aid or financial handouts. It has been pure grit, passion and dedication,” he says. “I want people to understand that you can make it without prejudice.

…. “There’s been an emergence of black sommeliers in the world as the industry becomes more diverse. We see the hospitality offering in Zimbabwe improving and there will be a need for sommeliers.

Being Complicated is Incurable

tall and short

There were once two friends. One was tall, and the other short.

One day, they decided to go to the market. Since they were going through a narrow path, the tall one left the short one behind.

  • It is because you underestimate me that you leave me behind you, complained the short one.

A bit further, the tall one, trying to satisfy his friend, made him move in front.

  • It is, to better look at me, and laugh at my short height, growled the other.

They reached the market. The place was full of people. The tall one wanting to correct the errors which had been reproached him, brought his friend back to his sides and the two of them walked hand in hand.

  • You put us side by side now to show everyone that you are taller than I, growled the short one.
  • My friend, I think that it is impossible to satisfy a dwarf. You are complicated and it is an incurable disease.

Fables des Montagnes de Patrice Kayo, Collection Les CLES de l’avenir, Editions CLE, Yaounde, p. 38 (1998). Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com

Syllart Records – A Classic from Pépé Kallé & Empire Bakuba

On Monday, we talked about Syllart Records: The African Equivalent to Motown Records, a label which owns some of the largest African music catalog in the world. Let us pray it remains so, and they can be remunerated at their right One of African’s legends is incontestably Pépé Kallé. Enjoy this rare pearl of Pépé Kallé and Empire Bakuba… this is one is from the Syllart Records Youtube channel.

Syllart Records: The African Equivalent to Motown Records

Syllart Records
Syllart Records

I recently heard about the Syllart Records, a music records label which many considered to be the equivalent of the African continent’s Motown records. The record label leader is Binetou Sylla, the daughter of the founder, the late Senegalese producer Ibrahima Sory Sylla. The label owns the largest African music catalog in the world, spanning the last sixty years of music creation. Its founder, Sylla’s impact on African pop music and its global influence is really wide. Imagine the hard work, the quality, the authenticity, and innovation that went on in his studios! Yet, I had never heard of his name. However, I had heard about some of the artists produced under his label, and danced to their music, such as Ismael Lo, Salif Keïta, Empire Bakuba, Sam Mangwana, Gadji Celi, M’Pongo Love, Tshala Muana, M’bilia Bel, Oumou Sangare, Pépé Kallé, Miriam Makeba, Papa Wemba, or Africando, and so many others.

Syllart Records_Binetou Sylla
Binetou Sylla of Syllart Records (Source: Panafricanspacestation.org.za)

Today, his daughter is working on digitizing all that hard work, and trying to find ways to give rights to the musicians. She says of her father on OkayAfrica, “[My father] preferred to let his work, his music speak for him. He was an ambassador for African music. … [He] excelled at scouting new talent and used Syllart as a launching pad for many who would rise to global stardom.” Enjoy her recent interview to BBC. Check out the Syllart Records YouTube channel.

Happy 2022!

Fireworks
Fireworks

Fellow readers, we are writing here to wish you all a HAPPY 2022! May this new year mark the beginning of new endeavors, the continuation of current ones, and/or the end of old ones. May this new year be filled with health, prosperity, joy, love, happiness, abundance, harmony, and peace!  2021 was quite a year, and many are hoping for something better. Let us turn the 2021 page, and start the 2022 chapter ready to take off for this new year, never losing altitude during this flight, and trusting for better.

Fleur13_20220102
Happy 2022

The top 5 posts of the year 2021 are listed below: an old-time favorite “My Name” by Magoleng wa Selepe took first place as the most read post of the year. We, at Afrolegends.com, would like to express our profound gratitude for your constant support, as your readership has carried us forward. Keep on visiting, sharing, and commenting.  We wish you a full and amazing new year, rich in blessings and greatness. Keep your heads up, and may your year be as beautiful as the petals of this flower! As you can see, everything about this flower is unique, the outer red color and the inner purple which mark a difference that is beautiful to see, thus may 2022 be the beginning of: a new start, a new life, and a new joy! As always, like Agostinho Neto said, “A luta continua … a vitória é certa!

  1. ‘My Name’ by Magoleng wa Selepe
  2. ‘Love Poem for my Country’ by Sandile Dikeni
  3. History of African Fabrics and Textiles
  4. The 11 Components of the French Colonial Tax in Africa
  5. “Femme Noire” de Léopold Sédar Senghor / “Black Woman” by Léopold Sédar Senghor

Who/What do we Celebrate in Africa in 2021 ?

Although 2021 has globally been a tough year, there are still events that lend to celebration. As we turn the page of 2021 and delve into 2022, it is good to note that in 2021, a lot of “firsts” have taken place on the African continent. Below are a few of the events that brought joy. There are many more, of course, but I selected 11. Enjoy, and add in the comments other celebratory events that have marked the continent this year.

  1. Hulda Swai_1
    Professor Hulda Swai

    Tanzanian professor Hulda Swai wins the 2020 prize of the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Continental Awards for Scientific Excellence in February [Professor Hulda Swai of Tanzania Wins Distinguished Science Award: ‘Women are as good as men’]. This is a highly prestigious scientific award in Africa.

  2. In May, a Malian woman gives birth to 9 babies (from natural conception). This marks the first single birth and survival of nonuplets in the world. Halima Cisse, a Malian woman, has given birth to nonuplets, 5 girls and 4 boys, in a hospital in Morocco [World Record: Malian Woman gives Birth to Nine Babies].
  3. Herero_chained
    Chained Herero men

    Germany agrees to pay Namibia €1.1bn over historical Herero-Nama genocide in May of this year. This is historic, late, and probably not enough compared to the loss in human lives… yet it is important! The money will be paid over 30 years in aid programs…  (probably a way to siphon money back to Germany, while appearing to be giving something), and pales in comparison to the billions worth of Namibian diamonds and cobalt mine that will profit German companies in fine print [Germany in Namibia: the First Genocide of the 20th Century].

  4. Laurent Gbagbo
    Laurent Gbagbo

    In June, after 10 years of imprisonment, and over 20 years of persecution, Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of Cote d’Ivoire finally lands home amidst celebrations from his supporters in the country and abroad [Laurent Gbagbo is Back in Cote d’Ivoire]. Although there have been subsequent disappointing actions on his part, it is nonetheless a victory over the International Court of Justice, and all the persecution Blé Goude (How long shall they kill our prophets…?), him, and countless others have gone through, and remains a major cause for celebration, as it shows that, for a just cause, perseverance and determination always bear fruits.

  5. In June, Petra Diamonds pays Tanzanians for its abuse [Petra Diamonds pays £4.3m to Tanzanians ‘abused’ by its contractors]; this is significant as it shows that it is not impossible to demand reparations from these giant companies that pollute our lands and abuse us. It sets a precedent.
  6. Tokyo2020
    Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo (Olympics.com)

    Late July marks the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after one year of postponement, and Africa wins new victories. Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui offers the African continent its first medal of the games, by winning gold in the 400m freestyle swimming; Hugues Zango of Burkina Faso gives his country its first ever medal at the Olympics by winning the bronze medal in the men’s triple jump; while Eliud Kipchoge successfully defends his Olympic title at the marathon becoming the 3rd person in the history of the games to win successive marathons [African Wins at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics].

  7. In October, Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah is awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature, making him the fifth African to win the illustrious prize [Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah awarded Nobel Prize of Literature]. As you can see, the African literary scene is flourishing.
  8. Somalia_The Gravedigger Wife
    “The Gravedigger’s Wife” by Khadar Ahmed

    A Somali love story, the Gravediggers’ Wife is this year’s FESPACO winner [Somali Love Story, The Gravedigger’s Wife, is this year’s FESPACO winner]. The FESPACO, which is one of Africa’s biggest film festival, took place this year after the pandemic and lockdowns, and an 8-months delay because of security reasons [FESPACO 2021: One of Africa’s Biggest Film Festival is back!].

  9. 100 years after René Maran, an African wins the prestigious French Prix Goncourt. The award was given to Senegalese writer Mohamed Mbougar Sarr. This is the first time that a Sub-saharan African person wins the prize, and the third time for a Black person in the almost 120-years history of the title [100 years after René Maran, An African wins the Prestigious Prix Goncourt], even though people of African descent make up so much of the French population over the past century.
  10. Benin_Fon statue symbolizing Behanzin Man shark
    Benin Fon statue symbolizing Behanzin man shark (Musee du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac)

    In November, France returns some artifacts of the kingdom of Dahomey to the present-day country of Benin; these were looted when the French burnt down the capital of King Behanzin at Abomey over 120 years ago [France returns 26 Artifacts from Behanzin’s Era to Benin]. Similarly, the Benin Bronze cockerel held at the University of Cambridge from the famed Benin Kingdom [Benin City: the Majestic City the British burnt to the ground] has been returned to Nigeria. This is still little, as they should all be returned to their rightful owners; it should not even be up to negotiation.

  11. Congolese Rumba has been recognized as a UNESCO Intangible World Heritage. Congratulations to both Congos, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for working together. We do hope that this is just the first step in a collaboration that will extend to other domains including economic success and beyond [Congolese Rumba Wins UNESCO Protected Status].

Now, there are a lot more such as David Diop winning the International Booker prize for his book “At Night All Blood is Black” which focuses on Tirailleurs Senegalais; or the Senegalese influencer Khaby Lame being ranked number 2 on Tik Tok for his wordless humor which transcends language barriers and cultures (he is the fastest growing Tik Tok influencer with 120 million followers); or even Madagascar’s secretary of police, Serge Gelle, swimming for about 12 hours to reach shore after his helicopter crashed in the Indian Ocean off the northeast coast of the country. When rescued, Gelle said “My turn to die has not yet come, thank God.” So let us all be grateful for this year, and for the people and events who have brought joy to our lives, and let us move forward to a new year. 

Who/What did we say Goodbye to in Africa in 2021?

2021 was no doubt a tough year the world over, with a continued global pandemic, stressed economies, and much more. What a year! Africa said goodbye to quite a few people, events, and more. Below are a selection of 10 events of 2021. I am sure that I have left quite a few out…

  1. John Magufuli_2
    President John Magufuli of Tanzania

    In March, President John Magufuli of Tanzania changed dimensions. It was heartbreaking to see someone who had done so much for his country go away so suddenly. Nicknamed the “bulldozer” he had a reputation to be incorruptible [So Long to President John Magufuli of Tanzania: The Bulldozer], and under his leadership Tanzania saw growth and development. Magufuli was focused on Tanzania’s economic success and sought to implement ambitious projects that would lift more of his people out of poverty. Under his reign, he expanded free education, and rural electrificationTanzania was one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, thanks to his hard work [President John Magufuli in His Own Words].

  2. SA_Goodwill Zwelithini
    King Goodwill Zwelithini (Source: sahistory.org.za)

    In March, King Goodwill Zwelithini of the Zulu people of South Africa passed away. He had been king of the Zulu for over 50 years, since 1968 when he had succeeded his father, King Cyprian Bhekuzulu. Over these 50 years, he saw his country change from the apartheid regime to the Rainbow nation. At the time of his passing, the King’s Great Wife, Queen Mantfombi Dlamini was appointed as interim leader of the Zulu Nation under the title of queen regent from March 2021 to April 2021, when she passed away suddenly. King Goodwill Zwelithini was succeeded by his son King Misuzulu Zulu.

  3. In June, the very popular Nigerian pastor T.B. Joshua departed from this planet. He was a legendary charismatic pastor who was visited by presidents, and people from around the world; it is said that his church was Nigeria’s biggest tourist attraction.
  4. Kenneth Kaunda
    Kenneth Kaunda

    In June also, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, first president of Zambia joined his ancestors. At 97 years old, he was one of Africa’s last surviving liberation leaders. To a generation of Africans, he epitomized the Africa struggle for independence. Affectionately known as Mzee, Kaunda worked tirelessly towards the freedom of the whole of Southern Africa from white rule; he supported the fight of other countries against repressive, racist regimes in South Africa, Malawi, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Southern Rhodesia (Why the name: Zimbabwe?). It took several years, but his support never faltered.

  5. In September, Sultan Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya of the Bamun people of Cameroon perished at the hands of the virus which has paralyzed the planet. He was the 19th reigning monarch of the Bamun Kingdom in the Western province of Cameroon. He had succeeded to his father, the sultan Seidou Njimoluh Njoya in 1992. He has been succeeded by his son Nabil Mbombo Njoya. At 28, Nabil Njoya is now the 20th in the Nchare Yen dynasty of the Bamun people.
  6. In November, F.W. De Klerk, former president of South Africa, and last president of the Apartheid era, passed away. He is known for releasing Nelson Mandela from prison, after 27 years, disassembling the apartheid system, and sharing the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela.
  7. Ethiopia_flag
    Flag of Ethiopia

    Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis started bringing tears to our hearts… Not sure how to explain the Nobel Peace prize given to Ethiopia’s prime minister Ahmed Abiy in 2019, when I see him choosing the war path instead of peace now. He is presiding over a protracted civil war that by many accounts bears the hallmarks of genocide. This leads to skepticism towards these “prizes” handed over by the “international” community. It has been over a year now that Abiy ordered a military offensive in the northern Tigray region with the promise to have it resolved quickly. Thousands are now dead, 2 million people displaced, and much more.

  8. Mozambique_Flag
    Flag of Mozambique

    Loss of peace in Mozambique. Last year, I told you about this amazing oil fields and precious minerals found in Mozambique, and all of sudden the presence of Islamic insurgencies [seriously?… Islamic insurgencies… I think these people probably take us for idiots] starting there right after Total signed one of the biggest contracts ever for over $14 Billions, and the united nations of thieves [seriously check it out, banks for Japan, EU, France, India, US, etc…] descended on the country [Who/What did we say goodbye to in Africa in 2020?].

  9. King Kêfa Sagbadjou Glèlè, monarch of the once-powerful Dahomey kingdom, in the country of Benin, has joined his ancestors. Bear in mind that King Kêfa descended from the Agoli-Agbo line, the one installed (not the rightful bearers of the traditions) by the French after King Behanzin was deported to Martinique and then Algeria.
  10. South Africa_Desmond Tutu_1
    Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Source: The Namibian)

    Just the day after Christmas, we learned that Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner and iconic anti-apartheid fighter was deceased on December 26. As the tributes pour in from around the world, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta said, Tutu had “inspired a generation of African leaders who embraced his non-violent approaches in the liberation struggle.” At 90, Archbishop Tutu had lived a long fruitful life, battle-tested by life under apartheid. The plans include two days of lying in state before an official state funeral on 1 January in Cape Town.