Stolen 18th Century Crown Returned to Ethiopia

Ethiopian Crown 18th Century
The crown is currently being stored in a highly secured facility in the Netherlands (Source: BBC/AFP/Getty)

Following our article back in October of last year, 18th Century Ethiopian Crown to be Returned Home from Netherlands, it is with great joy that we announce the official return of the crown to Ethiopia. Below is from the BBC.

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The Ethiopian government has received an 18th Century crown that had been stolen then hidden in a flat in the Netherlands for 21 years.

The crown is thought to be one of just 20 in existence. It has depictions of Jesus Christ, God and the Holy Spirit, as well as Jesus’ disciples, and was likely gifted to a church by the powerful warlord Welde Sellase hundreds of years ago.

Ethiopian Sirak Asfaw, who lives in the Netherlands, discovered the crown in the suitcase of a visitor he was hosting.

Upon realising that it was stolen he held onto it until 2018 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was elected to office. He then reached out to art historian Arthur Brand and Dutch police to help keep it safe until its return home to Ethiopia.

On Thursday, Mr Abiy tweeted photos of him receiving the crown from a delegation that included Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag.

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.

Bogolan
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

Bronze Cockerel from Benin Kingdom to be returned to Nigeria

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Bronze cockerel ‘Okukor’ at Jesus College in Cambridge (Source: The Guardian)

Another return of an artifact from a Western institution to an African country, which I applaud… but I remain guarded. Why am I skeptical? Well, because if over 50% of artifacts in the great museums of this world (Louvre, British Museum, MET, Tervuren, etc) which generate a lot of money, and knowledge to western schools, researchers, etc, is made up of looted treasures… will the benefactors of the loot willingly return these? And if they return these, who is to say that it is the real thing? One should not expect a thief not to cheat you again! Below are excerpts from the article in The Guardian. Enjoy!

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Rooster from Benin Kingdom (18th century)
Rooster from Benin Kingdom (18th century) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET)

A bronze cockerel taken by British colonial forces and donated to Jesus College Cambridge is to be returned to Nigeria in an unprecedented step that adds momentum to the growing repatriations movement.

The Okukor, described by the college as a “royal ancestral heirloom”, will be one of the first Benin bronzes to be returned to Nigeria by a major British institution since the punitive expedition in 1897 when thousands of bronzes were stolen from Benin City by British forces.

No specific date for return has been released but the college stated that the bronze cockerel “belongs with the current Oba at the Court of Benin”. The return was recommended by Jesus College’s Legacy of Slavery Working Party (LSWP), a group dedicated to looking at the institution’s connections to slavery, which confirmed the piece was donated in 1905 by the father of a student.

[…] Victor Ehikhamenor, a Nigerian artist and member of the Benin Dialogue Group, said: “No matter how small the gesture may look, it is a huge step towards the realisation of restitution of the works from the Benin Kingdom that were looted by the British. This is very important example, which I hope other Europeans, especially British institutions, will follow without any excuses or delays.”

Dan Hicks, a professor of archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford and a representative of the Benin Dialogue Group, said: … In the past, our attention on this matter was focused on national collections like the British Museum and the V&A – but in reality such loot is held in dozens of institutions across the regions: city museums, art galleries and the collections of universities.”

[…] The Jesus College announcement comes almost exactly 12 months after the release of a report commissioned by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, which recommended the return of colonial-era artefacts by France.

Queen from Benin kingdom
Queen from Benin kingdom (at the MET)

The report’s authors, the Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and the French art historian Bénédicte Savoy, told the Guardian that the British Museum, which houses a huge collection of the Benin bronzes, was acting like “an ostrich with its head in the sand” by not acting faster on repatriations.

[…] Since the release of the report, Ivory Coast, Senegal and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have made formal requests for the return of artefacts. European countries including France and Germany have committed to handing back objects, with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam opening talks with Sri Lanka and Indonesia and describing the Netherlands’ failure to return stolen artefacts as a “disgrace”.

The news comes a week after Open Society Foundations (OSF) announced a $15m initiative aimed at strengthening efforts to “restore cultural objects looted from the African continent”. …

When A Nigerian Movie gets Disqualified from the Oscars for having … too much English in it!

Lionheart_(2018_film)_poster
Lionheart (2018 film)

I was quite stunned when I heard the reason why the Nigerian movie Lionheart (2018 film) had been disqualified from the Best International Film section of the Oscars: because of … too much English in it! Can you imagine that? Isn’t English the official language of Nigeria? So no movies made in English by Nigerians should be accepted? But an Algerian movie with French in it (French the language of the colonizer) gets accepted in that section? In other words, a Jamaican movie sent to the academy cannot be in English, a Ghanaian, Ugandan, Canadian, or Australian one should not be in English, etc… even though English is the official language in these countries? But an Algerian movie could be in French, an Ivorian or Comoros movie in French, and these would be qualified as ‘international’ enough! This does not even take into account that Lionheart (2018 film) does have sections in Igbo, one of the languages spoken in Nigeria. I think, as always the oscars academy has shown why they are really not inclusive at all, and above all, quite narrow-minded!

Below is the article from The Guardian.

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Oscars_1
The Oscars

[…] The Academy was considering a Nigerian movie called Lionheart in its best international feature film category. I watched Lionheart when it came out last year, partly because of the novelty of seeing a movie from Nigeria’s burgeoning Nollywood film industry on Netflix.

Directed by and starring the Nollywood titan Genevieve Nnaji, it is a captivating look at family, class, sexism, politics and the texture of life in the Niger delta. It’s both very Nigerian and very relatable for audiences who know nothing about Nigeria. It’s incredible that Nigeria has never had an Oscars submission before, but this is a good choice for its first. Yet Lionheart has just been disqualified because there is too much English in it.

In fact, Lionheart does feature the Igbo language, which millions of people in eastern Nigeria speak. But the film reflects the way many Nigerians – as former imperial British subjects – speak in real life. As in most of anglophone west Africa, education, politics and formal economic activity is conducted in English, which people interchange with the dozens – in Nigeria’s case, hundreds – of African languages that they also speak. This is the legacy of empire. And this legacy of empire, even though they were once part of it, is what some American institutions don’t seem able to comprehend.

Flag and map of Nigeria
Flag and map of Nigeria

So the American Academy expects films competing in its “international feature film” category to emphatically not be in English. Its rules are very clear on the matter, stating that “an international film is defined as a feature-length motion picture (defined as over 40 minutes) produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track”.

But these rules have nonsensical implications. For example, the Algerian film Papicha, which is a favourite in the category, features a good deal of French – the language Algeria inherited from its colonisers. The message seems to be that as long as your imperial power spoke what Americans regard as a “foreign” language – in other words, anything but English – you can speak it and remain authentic. But if you share an imperial past with the US to the extent that English is your nation’s lingua franca as a result, then it is somehow less authentic to speak it. …

‘My Name’ by Magoleng wa Selepe

Colonization in Africa
Village school in French West Africa (AOF) 1900s – French assimilationism (Louis Sonolet, Source: http://exhibitions.nypl.org)

The poem ‘My Name‘ by Magoleng wa Selepe has touched many strong chords. It is the truth, and still rings true today. During colonial times, our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were stripped of their names and identity: to go to school, they had to have a European name, and very often their own names were distorted because the European colonizer could not spell it properly. Depending on the origin of the colonizer, whether it was France, Great Britain, Germany, or Portugal, one ended up with a French, British, German, or Portuguese name. Enjoy !!!

African Heritage

African Savanna

I just thought about what happened to our fathers, mothers, grandmothers, and grandfathers during colonial times: to go to school African children were forced by European missionaries to adopt a christian name such as John, Peter (Jean, Pierre), etc… as opposed to their good old African name Nomzimo, Makeba, Ndoumbe, Keïta, etc.  Thus many Africans who would have just worn the name ‘Ndoumbe Mpondo‘ or ‘Binlin Dadié‘ or ‘Um Nyobé‘ had to adopt a European name such as John + their own name, such that they became: John Ndoumbe Mpondo or Bernard Binlin Dadié or Ruben Um Nyobé.  To this day, the tradition has remained… most Africans would have three or four names: their family name, and their given name, plus the European first name and in some cases a European middle name as well.  The poem below entitled…

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Scarification: an ‘Ancient’ African Tattoo Culture

Congo_Batetela woman Lualaba Kassai_1905
Tetela woman with intricate ritual scarification designs ca 1905, Lualaba – Kasai

Today, we will reblog our article on scarification, an ‘ancient’ African tattoo culture. Not too long ago, scarification, as practiced in Africa, was much more than art work on skin. For many, it was a way of identification (the ethnic group you belonged to), a right of passage (boyhood to manhood, girlhood to womanhood, …), symbols of beauty and status, protection against evil spirits, and a rich tradition passed on from generations to generations. So next time you think about tattooing yourself, remember the ancient ways and designs of yore.

African Heritage

Image of a young woman's face (agnautacouture.com) Image of a young woman’s face (agnautacouture.com)

These days, many of my fellow African brothers and sisters sport tattoos of some European or foreign symbols on their skins. These symbols are usually alien to our cultures, traditions, thinking, and history. So I thought about talking about scarification, which could be called an “ancient” African culture of tattoos.

For starters, Africa has a rich culture of scarification. Many cite HIV, and ugliness as being the reason why they would not do scarification and why the practice has been abandoned. I neither agree nor disagree with them, but I would like to give a history of scarification and why, this is something to be cherished as part of our history, even if it is no longer practiced and/or needed today.

Sculpture of a Mangbetu person, in Congo (this sculpture is exposed at the MET) Sculpture of a Mangbetu person, in Congo (exposed at the MET)

In the past, a woman or man would have scarification marks that…

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History of African Fabrics and Textiles

As I share this other great favorite on African textiles, I am preparing to write another piece on this subject next month… so stay tuned.

African Heritage

Wax Hollandais Wax Hollandais

Very often, Africans are depicted on old pictures as naked people, walking around without any clothing.  This seems to be quite at odd with the fact that the Dutch textile company VLISCO has been installed in Africa, more precisely in Togo, since 1846.  So how could pictures from the 1800s and early 1900s only show naked Africans?  The BBC recently ran a story on VLISCO and African textile tradition actually being European.  The New York Times claimed that Africa’s fabric was entirely Dutch.  I find this quite appalling, and I call this a falsification of history.

For starters, before VLISCO, Africa had a very rich textile industry as noted by Kankan Moussa‘s entire delegation being clothed from cotton woven with golden threads in 1300s during his pilgrimage to the Mecca (this will be a story for another day), or the Kanembu clothing tradition which dates as far…

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Adinkra Symbols and the Rich Akan Culture

Sankofa symbol
The Sankofa symbol

This is another all-time favorite… The second-most popular post on Afrolegends.com: the history of Adinkra symbols and the Rich Akan culture of the Akan people of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Enjoy!
As we revisit this favorite, please let us know if there are other things you would like to learn on the topic, and we will try to add more.

African Heritage

Adinkra in 1817 Adinkra in 1817

Today, we will talk about Adinkra symbols of the Akan people of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

The Adinkra symbols are believed to originate in Gyaman, a former kingdom in modern day Côte d’Ivoire.  According to an Ashanti (Asante) legend, Adinkra was the name of a king of the Gyaman kingdom, Nana Kofi Adinkra.  King Adinkra was defeated and captured in a battle.  According to the legend, Nana Adinkra wore patterned cloth, which was interpreted as a way of expressing his sorrow on being taken to Kumasi, the capital of Asante.  He was finally killed and his territory was annexed to the kingdom of Asante.  The Asante people, around the 19th century, took to painting of traditional symbols of the Gyamans onto cloth, a tradition which has remained to this day.

Adinkra work, 1825 Adinkra work, 1825

The arrival of the…

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Ancient Egyptians were Black – Egypt unveils tomb still bursting with color after 4,300 years

EGYPT-ARCHAEOLOGY-HERITAGE-HISTORY
This picture taken on April 13, 2019 shows a view inside the newly-dicovered tomb of the ancient Egyptian nobleman “Khewi” dating back to the 5th dynasty (24942345 BC), at the Saqqara necropolis, about 35 kilometres south of the capital Cairo. (Photo credit should read MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)

As I read the article about the discovery of this 4,300 years-old Egyptian tomb bursting with colors, I was stunned to see that NO article stated the obvious conclusion: Ancient Egyptians were Black! NO articles stated it: they wonder who the nobleman, Khewi, in whose tomb this was found is, what his link to the Pharaoh is, … they ask a thousand other questions, instead of addressing the reality! This reinstate what we already knew and what the great Cheikh Anta Diop always said, that Ancient Egyptians were black and that their descendants are today’s Subsaharan Africans! One of the statues found inside the tomb beautifully shows its very broad nose, clear symbol of its Black-ness/African-ness, and of course its skin color.  Enjoy! Below are excerpts; for the full article, please go to Fox News.

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Egypt_tomb with colors Khuwy-1
A view inside the newly discovered tomb of the ancient Egyptian nobleman “Khewi” dating back to the 5th dynasty at the Saqqara necropolis, about 35 kilometers south of Cairo. (Photo by Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP)

Egyptian officials announced a stunning discovery over the weekend: a 4,000-year-old tomb of a dignitary bedazzled in colorful paintings and inscriptions.

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities unveiled Saturday the ancient resting place of the senior official named “Khuwy, [Khewi in other sources]” noting that he served during the reign of King Djedkare, a pharaoh who ruled Egypt during the Fifth Dynasty — from the late 25th century to early 24th century BC. The next day, the Egyptian government released footage that showcased what it called “exceptionally painted” limestone walls.

The remarkable well-preserved colours on the inscriptions are considered royal colours,” the ministry said in an original video posted online.

Egypt_tomb with colors Khuwy-5
Mohamed Mujahid, head of the Egyptian mission that discovered the tomb of the ancient Egyptian nobleman “Khewi,” inspects the tomb’s walls inside the Saqqara necropolis on April 13. (Photo by Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP)

[…] “The L-shaped Khuwy tomb starts with a small corridor heading downwards into an antechamber and from there a larger chamber with painted reliefs depicting the tomb owner seated at an offerings table,” Mohamed Megahed, who led a team of archaeologists in digging up the tomb, told the Egyptian newspaper.

Every inch of the tomb is covered in markings, which archaeologists are carefully studying. So far, the inscriptions have raised questions about Khuwy’s impact on the ancient community as well as his specific relationship with the pharaoh — whose elaborate tomb sits just “a stone’s throw away,” per the ministry.

[…] Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, called the burial “one of a kind in the last decades.”

Egypt_tomb with colors_181215-egypt-new-tomb-al-1210
Statue inside the tomb. (Photo by Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP)

 

The color is almost intact even though the tomb is almost 4,400 years old,” Waziri said in a statement at the time.

A Quote from Bernard Dadié from ‘The Lines of Our Hands’

Les lignes de la main
Les lignes de la main / The Lines of the hand

Les lignes de nos mains sont des lignes de Vie, de Destin, de Coeur, d’Amour. De douces chaînes qui nous lient les uns aux autres, Les vivants aux morts.

The lines of our hands Are life lines Destiny lines, Heart lines, Love lines. Soft chains Which bind us One to the other, The living to the dead.

Bernard Dadié in ‘Les lignes de nos mains’ published in La Ronde des Jours, Edition Pierre Seghers, 1956. The English translation is by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com. [Note: punctuation was added to write in one line the first sentence].