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.

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.

How many Benin Bronzes are there? The Smithsonian Returns 29 Benin Bronzes

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

On October 11, 2022, the Smithsonian museum returned 29 Benin Bronzes to the National Commission for Museums and Monuments in Nigeria. This was done in a ceremony at the National Museum of African Art, and held in conjunction with the National Gallery of Art. The bronzes, which were part of the Smithsonian museum’s collection, were stolen from Nigeria during the 1897 British raid on Benin City (Benin City: the Majestic City the British burnt to the ground). The return of these Benin Bronzes is the first return under the Smithsonian’s new ethical returns policy, policy which authorizes Smithsonian museums to return collections to the community of origin based on ethical considerations, such as the manner and circumstances in which the items were originally acquired. In my eyes, this Smithsonian ethical returns policy sounds more like the thief finding lexicon and grammar to explain its theft and the reason why it is hard for him to return the loot, or rather the reason why he needs to hold onto the loot. As always, the question remains: why now? Are the Western museums really going to deplete their museums from attractions that generate millions of dollars yearly? And then the even bigger question: how many Benin Bronzes are there, and should we applaud the return of 1 here, 2 there, or 29 here?

Benin City in 1897
Benin City in 1897

As a recap, on February 1897, an expeditionary force of 1,200 British soldiers and African auxiliaries, known as the Punitive expedition of 1897, captured, burned, and looted the city of Benin, bringing an end to the West African Kingdom of Benin.  During the conquering and burning of the city, most of the country’s treasured art, over 3,000 pieces of art work, including the Benin Bronzes, were either destroyed, looted or dispersed; see Benin City: the Majestic City the British burnt to the ground.

Exposed Benin Bronzes at the British Museum

So, according to C. Huera, 2,400 of Benin artworks including Bronzes, ivories, and more, are held in museums around the world, even though over 3000 were carried back to Europe in 1897. Of those, only 50 are in Nigeria. Today, there are over 900 objects from the historic Kingdom of Benin in the British Museum‘s collection alone. Around 1950-1951, the British Museum sold, exchanged, donated 26 to the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria (25) and the government of the Gold Coast (1) to be in their countries’ museums; it was said at the time that these were duplicates of originals still held at the British Museum (which was denied… but who can really confirm? after all, in the 1950s these countries were colonies of the Queen, did it make sense to return originals to mere colonies?). I wonder how many today are part of the Smithsonian Museum, or the Louvre, or the… the list is so long. In view of this, the return of 1 or 2, or even 29 Benin Bronzes, although laudable, can be seen as a token gesture, more than anything else. Plus, after 125 years spent outside of Benin City, who can really tell if the returned Benin Bronzes are the real ones? Also, are the returned Benin Bronzes the major ones, or part of the backup, you know the ones that never get exposed? Lastly, I hope the Benin people, and the people of Nigeria as a whole, have put in place great security systems and a loyal patriotic circle of trust so that the returned Benin Bronzes will never again leave the homeland!

King Shaka’s Warriors

Sketch of King Shaka from 1824 (found in Nathaniel Isaacs’ book ‘Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa,’ published in 1836)

Below is a description of King Shaka’s warriors. King Shaka is known for the military and social innovations he brought to the Zulu people unifying them into a formidable empire admired by some, and feared by others. What stands out is the great discipline of his warriors.  The Zulu army or Zulu impi was the most powerful war machine the British ever faced in Southern Africa.  The Zulu combat strategy was perfected by King Shaka himself, who added great organization and discipline to the traditional qualities of courage and mobility cultivated within African armies.  During the battle, the Zulu army would organize itself as an arc facing the adversary. This arrangement was known as the “bull horn” formation. At the center (known as the chest in Zulu) were found the most seasoned regiments; on the wings (or horns) were found the regiments of younger warriors.  The latter used their speed and agility to outflank the enemy by attacking him on the flanks while trying to encircle him, while the chest warriors engaged him in the front.  Behind the chest, and with their back turned so as to keep their calm, were the veteran regiments (also known as the kidneys) who will wait as reserves, intervening only to switch the battle to victory. Every man knew his place, moves, and maneuvers with extreme precision. Shaka’s methods reached their high point during the Zulu victory at Isandhlwana against the British forces in 1879.

Zulu warrior in 1913

Although Isaacs’ account below of his visit to Shaka’s palace is a biased view from a European who saw everything African, Black, as inferior, it is still good to note the number, the order of the troops, the strength of the king (who was not just complacent, but an active member of his troops), and much more. This also gives a better idea of the dressing of the warriors and girls, as well as the living structure in the kraal. This account can be found in N. Isaacs, Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa volume 1.

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Reception of the Zulus for Chaka from Isaacs’s book Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa. Descriptive of the Zulus, their manners, customs, with a sketch of Natal.

This morning three regiments of boys arrived to be reviewed. There appeared to be nearly 6000, all having black shields. The respective corps were distinguished by the shape and ornament of their caps. One regiment had them in the shape of Malay hats, with a peak on the crown about six inches high, and a bunch of feathers at the top. Another wore a turban made of otter-skin, having a crane’s feather or two on each side ; and the third wore small bunches of feathers over the whole head, made fast by means of small ties. Thus accoutred and distinguished, they entered the gate, ran up the kraal, halted in front of the palace, and saluted the king.

Zulu kraal near Umlazi in Natal 1849

One boy stepped in front and made a long harangue. When the orator had concluded, the whole of his comrades first shouted, and then commenced running over the kraal, trying to excel each other in feats of agility and gesture, regardless of order, regularity, or discipline. After this exhibition, which lasted three hours, a regiment of men arrived with white shields, having on them one or two black spots in the center; they saluted Shaka, then retired to put away their shields, and assembled again in one body to dance. They formed a half circle; the men in the center and the boys at the two extremities. The king placed himself in the middle of the space within the circle, and about 1500 girls stood opposite to the men three deep, in a straight line, and with great regularity. His majesty then commenced dancing, the warriors followed, and the girls kept time by singing, clapping their hands, and raising their bodies on their toes. The strange attitudes of the men exceeded anything I had seen before.

Zulu warrior in full regalia 1860: carrying the large isihlangu war shield. The upper body is covered in cow tails, the kilt is of spotted cat, genet or civet skin and the shins are decorated with cowtails. The elaborate headdress consists of a browband and face-framing flaps of leopard skin with another band of otter skin above. There are multiple ostrich feather plumes and a single upright crane’s feather.

The king was remarkable for his unequaled activity, and the surprising muscular powers he exhibited. He was decorated with a profusion of green and yellow glass beads. The girls had their share of ornaments, in addition too they had each of them four brass bangles round their necks, which kept them in an erect posture, and rendered them as immovable as the neck of a statue. This ceremony was performed with considerable regularity, from the king- giving, as it were, the time for every motion. Wherever he cast his eye, there was the greatest effort made, and nothing could exceed the exertion of the whole until sunset, when Shaka, accompanied by his girls, retired within the palace, and the warriors to their respective huts. Many, however, first went to the river and performed their evening ablutions.

A Praise to the Great King Shaka, the Founder of the Zulu Empire

Sketch of King Shaka from 1824 (found in Nathan Isaacs’ book ‘Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa,’ published in 1836)

To celebrate South Africa’s Heritage Day which used to be known as ‘Shaka Day‘ before 1996, we share with you this beautiful praise for the great king. KwaZulu (“Place of the Zulu” in Zulu)-Natal is an important province of South Africa, and the birthplace of the Zulu kingdom.  It is the second-most populous province in South Africa, after Gauteng, and the land of the Zulu people. Before 1996, 24 September was known as Shaka Day, in commemoration of the Zulu King, Shaka, on the presumed date of his death in 1828. Shaka kaSenzangakhona (Shaka, son of Senzangakhona) was the Zulu King who played an important role in uniting disparate Zulu clans into a cohesive nation; he is known as the founder of the Zulu Empire. . Each year people gather at King Shaka’s grave to honor him on this day.

King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini (Source: yahoo news)

King Shaka was murdered by his two half-brothers Dingane and Mhlangana at kwaDukuza in 1828—one date given is September 24. Dingane assumed the throne after the assassination. Thus, September 24 is known as Shaka Day, and nowadays has become ‘Heritage Day’. This year’s celebration will mark the official public coronation of the new Zulu King, Misuzulu Siqonbile ka Zwelithini, who inherited from his father, King  Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu (Traditional Coronation of a New Zulu King).

Shaka Zulu

He is Shaka the unshakeable,
Thunderer-while-sitting, son of Menzi
He is the bird that preys on other birds,
The battle-axe that excels over other battle-axes in sharpness,
He is the long-strided pursuer, son of Ndaba,
Who pursued the sun and the moon.
He is the great hubbub like the rocks of Nkandla
Where elephants take shelter
When the heavens frown…

Traditional Zulu praise song, English translation by Ezekiel Mphahlele

Portrait of Shaka, the Great Zulu King

Sketch of King Shaka from 1824 (found in Nathaniel Isaacs’ book ‘Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa,’ published in 1836)

King Shaka, Shaka kaSenzangakhona (Shaka son of Senzangakhona), or Shaka Zulu, is known today as the founder of the Zulu Empire or Zululand. He ruled from 1816 to 1828, and was one of the most influential monarchs of the Zulu, responsible for re-organizing the Zulu military into a formidable force via a series of wide-reaching and influential reforms; thus he was responsible for uniting small Zulu clans to form an impressive Empire which was a real threat to European advances in the region. Shaka was a master military strategist who revolutionized the Zulu military by dividing his army into components, sometimes on the basis of age and fighting strength. For example, he tasked young boys, perhaps in their early teens, with transporting military supplies. This allowed his fighting machine to move very quickly during raids or conquests. When Shaka first became king, the Zulu were a cluster of tribes of less than 2000 people; by the end of his reign, the population was 250,000 people, an impressive growth for a 12-year reign.

Nathaniel Isaacs, a British explorer met King Shaka. Below is a portrait he made of King Shaka found in N. Isaacs, Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa Vol I, 1836.

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Reception of the Zulus for Chaka from Isaacs’s book Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa. Descriptive of the Zulus, their manners, customs, with a sketch of Natal.

“In the evening, at the request of the king, we joined in their amusements, and could not … avoid singing: we commenced with ‘God save the King.’ On our explaining its literal meaning, Chaka was highly pleased; in fact, there was nothing but good humour to be observed in the countenances of every one present. The party broke up at a late hour; and, as is usual, in the morning we paid the king an early visit. We now expressed a wish to see him in his war dress; he immediately retired, and in a short time returned attired: his dress consists of monkeys’ skins, in three folds from his waist to the knee, from which two white cows’ tails are suspended, as well as from each arm; round his head is a neat band of fur stuffed, in front of which is placed a tall feather, and on each side a variegated plume. He advanced with his shield, an oval about four feet in length, and an umconto, or spear, when his warriors commenced a war song, and he began his maneuvres. Chaka is about thirty-eight years of age, upwards of six feet in height, and well proportioned: he is allowed to be the best pedestrian in his country, and, in fact, during his wonderful exercises this day he exhibited the most astonishing activity.”

Zambia and its Colorful Contribution to the World

Twin Rivers, Zambia

Have you ever heard of Twin Rivers in Zambia? Do you know that humanity came in contact with pigments, color, 300,000 years ago in the area of Twin Rivers? In this area of Zambia, located southwest of the capital Lusaka, is where the most extensive prehistoric mineral pigment collection in the world is found.

Language is not the only way of communicating, color is also part of it. Humanity communicated using pigments and color hundreds of thousands of years ago. Africa has some of the earliest evidence of the use of earth pigments. Evidence includes engraved ochre nodules and ochre processing areas and tools at sites such as the Blombos Cave in South Africa or Porc Epic in Ethiopia; the extensive processing of ochre at sites such as Sibudu in South Africa or Twin Rivers in Zambia, and the extensive mining of shiny bright red ochre in Eswatini (subject for another day). In 2006, in Twin Rivers, Zambia, archaeologists found that early humans used paint for aesthetic purposes much earlier than previously thought. The team found pigments dated between 350,000 and 400,000 years back. As a comparison, the oldest pigments previously found were 120,000 years old (still in Africa) and the oldest known painting is about 35,000 years old.  Huge quantities, about 70 kg or more, were found in a cave, thus implying a systematic use of pigments indicating a purposeful and repeated activity, perhaps linked to a material expression of self-awareness, displayed in the form of body paint/body decoration. Throughout the years, different rocks were excavated, ranging from limonite, hematite, specularite, and different kinds of pigments. The work done by Pr. Barham and his team, shows that even though a variety of colors of ochre were used at Twin Rivers (such as yellow, brown, red, a dark sparkly purple shade of red (specularite), pink, and blue-black) the most predominant color at the site is red.

Enjoy the article below from Colorful beginning for humanity on the BBC, Newsbriefs Archaeology, and check out the extensive work of the Liverpool team.

Africa’s Oldest Dinosaur found in Zimbabwe

Artistic reconstruction of Mbiresaurus raathi, which has been discovered in Zimbabwe (by Andrey Atuchin)

Scientists have unearthed in Zimbabwe, the oldest dinosaur ever found on African soil which lived 230 million years ago. As a parenthesis, dinosaur fossil hunting research is not big in Africa, so it is no surprise that on the cradle of humanity, people are still unearthing fossils. I am sure that if African scientists got vested in fossil hunting, the world will most likely awake to the era of the dinosaur, i.e. Africa being also the cradle of dinosaurs. Excerpts below are from the BBC; for more, also read the New Scientist. Enjoy!

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Scientists have unearthed in Zimbabwe the remains of Africa’s oldest dinosaur, which lived than 230 million years ago.

The Mbiresaurus raathi [love the name, named after Mbire in the Zambezi valley where the discovery was made, very African] was one metre tall, ran on two legs and had a long neck and jagged teeth. Scientists said it was a species of sauropodomorph, a relative of the sauropod, which walked on four legs. 

Flag of Zimbabwe
Flag of Zimbabwe

The skeleton was discovered during two expeditions, in 2017 and 2019, to the Zambezi Valley. When we talk of the evolution of early dinosaurs, fossils from the Triassic age are rare,” Darlington Munyikwa, deputy director of National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, and who was part of the expeditions, told the BBC. He said that fossils from that era – which ended more than 200 million years ago – had been unearthed in South America, India and now Zimbabwe.

The find is expected to shed more light on evolution and migration of early dinosaurs, back when the world was one huge continent and Zimbabwe was at the same latitude as those countries, he said. Zimbabwe has been aware of other fossils in the area for decades and Mr Munyikwa said there were more sites that needed further exploration in the area, subject to funding availability [exactly, more African researchers need to delve into the field, and $$$]. It shows that dinosaurs didn’t start out worldwide, ruling the world from the very beginning,” Christopher Griffin, another scientist involved in the expedition, told the BBC. They, and the animals they lived with, seem to have been constrained to a particular environment in the far south – what is today South America, southern Africa and India.” He added that the find was the “oldest definitive dinosaur ever found in Africa“.

Prof Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, a palaeontologist at the University of Cape Town, told the BBC that the discovery was important because it was part of the lineage that gave rise to the sauropod dinosaurs, which includes the diplodocus and the brontosaurus. … [Last July, she and her colleagues described a new iguanodontian dinosaur (Iyuku raathi) found in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. Thus, this is the second dinosaur find in less than a month].

… The near-complete skeleton of the Mbiresaurus raathi is stored in a room in a museum in Zimbabwe‘s southern city of Bulawayo. It is thought to date to the Carnian stage of the Triassic period, when today’s Zimbabwe was part of the massive supercontinent Pangaea.

Traditional Coronation of a New Zulu King

King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini (Source: yahoo news)

The Zulu people of South Africa now have a new king, Misuzulu Siqonbile ka Zwelithini who was crowned king in a traditional ceremony last Saturday. The coronation comes after 50 years of his father’s reign, King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu, and a year-long family feud to determine the rightful heir. For many Zulu people, it is a rare event, the first in 51 years, and totally worthy of celebrations as it welcomes the dawn of a new king of the Zulu Kingdom.

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and Queen Mantfombi Dlamini (Source: Sundayworld.co.za)

The new king, Misuzulu ka Zwelithini, is 48 years old, and although he is the son of the previous king, some royals had argued he was not the rightful heir and that the late king’s will was in fact forged. Many believed that the feud stemmed from the fact that King Misuzulu’s mother was the late Queen Mantfombi Dlamini Zulu of royal blood given that her father was the late King Sobhuza II of Swaziland and her brother is King Mswati III of Eswatini; her marriage to the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini came with the condition that her first-born son would be first in line for the throne in the event of his father’s death. However, for some Zulus, even though Queen Mantfombi Dlamini held the highest status among the king’s wives as a royal descendant, she was still considered an ‘outsider’ or ‘foreigner’, not a Zulu. In her husband’s will, she had been named as Queen regent – caretaker until a successor was found; however she also passed one month after becoming regent, and left a will in which her son Misuzulu ka Zwelithini was named successor. Since then, there have been a lot of contests in the family.

Celebrations at the new Zulu King’s traditional coronation (Source: Yahoo News)

None of that could dampen the joyous spirit of the thousands that descended upon the KwaKhangelamankengane Palace on Saturday for the traditional coronation of the new Zulu monarch. It was a beautiful celebration. The new king will be officially installed at a public coronation on 24 September – a public holiday in South Africa previously known as Shaka‘s Day – a time when thousands of Zulus would visit his grave to honor him for uniting the Zulu nation.

Please check out images of the celebration on the BBC.

Life in Walata in 1352: an Ancient City of the Ghana Empire

Ghana_empire_map_c300-c1200
Map of the Ghana Empire ca 300 -1200

In the past, we have talked about the great Ghana Empire of West Africa whose main center of trade was Koumbi Saleh, and whose economy was based around gold, salt, copper, and other goods. The imports included textiles, ornaments, and other materials. Many of the handcrafted leather goods found in old Morocco also had their origins in the Ghana Empire. Several strong cities of the Ghana Empire are today on the UNESCO World Heritage List, such as Koumbi Saleh, OuadaneChinguetti,or Oualata. The historian and scholar Ibn Battuta visited Oualata in 1352, and gives an amazing report of the people of Oualata (Walata). Enjoy! These can be found in the Travels of Ibn Battuta called A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Traveling, better known as the Rihla (or “travels”). In Oualata, Ibn Battuta mentions his amazement that the society is matrilineal which he had not seen before anywhere in the world except among Indians of Malabar, and notices the importance of women in the society, and how they are well-treated, and mutual respect between men and women. A lot of these traditions are still be observed throughout Africa today.

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Ghana Empire_Oualata old town and new ruins can be seen
Aerial view of Oualata which was north west of Koumbi Saleh, and part of the Ghana empire. Ruins of the ancient city can be seen (Wikipedia)

My stay at Iwalatan [Walata] lasted about fifty days; and I was shown honour and entertained by its inhabitants. It is an excessively hot place, and boasts a few small date-palms, in the shade of which they sow watermelons. Its water comes from underground waterbeds at that point, and there is plenty of mutton to be had. The garments of its inhabitants, most of whom belong to the Massufa tribe, are of fine Egyptian fabrics.

Their women are of surpassing beauty, and are shown more respect than the men. The state of affairs amongst these people is indeed extraordinary. Their men show no signs of jealousy whatever; no one claims descent from his father, but on the contrary from his mother’s brother. A person’s heirs are his sister’s sons, not his own sons. This is a thing which I have seen nowhere in the world except among the Indians of Malabar. But those are heathens; these people are Muslims, punctilious in observing the hours of prayer, studying books of law, and memorizing the Koran. Yet their women show no bashfulness before men and do not veil themselves, though they are assiduous in attending the prayers. Any man who wishes to marry one of them may do so, but they do not travel with their husbands, and even if one desired to do so her family would not allow her to go.

Ghana Empire_Trans-Saharan routes early
Ghana Empire and its Trans-Saharan trade routes (Wikipedia)

The women there have “friends” and “companions” amongst the men outside their own families, and the men in the same way have “companions” amongst the women of other families. A man may go into his house and find his wife entertaining her “companion” but he takes no objection to it. One day at Iwalatan I went into the qadi’s house, after asking his permission to enter, and found with him a young woman of remarkable beauty. When I saw her I was shocked and turned to go out, but she laughed at me, instead of being overcome by shame, and the qadi said to me “Why are you going out? She is my companion.” I was amazed at their conduct, for he was a theologian and a pilgrim [to Mecca] to boot. I was told that he had asked the sultan’s permission to make the pilgrimage that year with his “companion”–whether this one or not I cannot say–but the sultan would not grant it.