Last Wednesday, on November 11, 2021, artefacts that had been looted by France 130 years ago were finally returned to Benin. As you recall, on November 17, 1892, the colonel Alfred-Amédée Dodds led a French expedition into the Kingdom of Dahomey. The colonizing troops broke into the palace of King Behanzin at Abomey, and looted a huge number of royal objects, ancient statues, royal thrones, sacred altars, and much more. Upon the troops’ return home, Colonel Dodds donated the stolen objects to the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadero in Paris; they have been housed at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac since the 2000s. It took 130 years for them to be returned to the homeland. So you can imagine the joy of the people and celebrations that followed. The collection – known as the Abomey Treasures – will remain in a room at the Benin presidency while the museum is in construction. As a slight note, only 26 colonial-era artefacts have been returned at this point, as you can imagine these represent only a fraction of the 90,000 artefacts from Sub-Saharan Africa still held in French museums.
This is nonetheless a step forward, albeit small, and Benin President, Patrice Talon, said, “The stars have been aligning for Benin for some time now. The symbolism of the return to Benin is about our soul, our identity – to use a word that is easier to put on it to understand. This return is testimony of what we’ve been. The testimony of how we existed before.”
For more information, check out the articles on Euronews, and ABC. Enjoy!
Today, we will talk about the Treaty of Bardo or Treaty of Ksar Said which established a French protectorate over Tunisia. It was signed on 12 May 1881 between representatives of the French Republic and the Tunisian bey Muhammad III as-Sadiq, thus placing Tunisia under the control of France from 1881 until World War II.
As always, the treaty, like so many signed by the French on African soil, allowed France to extend its control over a large area of North Africa, and also to “protect” the Bey from internal opposition. Right… remember how they placed most African countries under “protectorates” to protect them? from who? Often, it was always claimed that it was protection from internal opposition or external invaders, etc, when in reality, it was to protect from them, the French, because face it, they were usually the ones arming the invaders and opposition.
The name of the treaty originated from the site of the residence of the Tunis court, Le Bardo, where the Husainid beys had established themselves in the early 18th century. What is a bey you may ask? Well the bey of Tunis was the monarch of Tunis who reigned from 1705, when the Husainid dynasty acceded to the throne until 1957 when the monarchy was abolished.
How did the treaty come to be? As always France used a pretext: a raid on Algeria by the Tunisian Khroumir tribe served as a pretext for France to invade Tunisia in April of 1881. Remember the French pretext of an argument on the river Oueme to attack the King of Dahomey, Béhanzin? Well, for the occasion, the French foreign minister, Jules Ferry, deployed an expeditionary force of approximately 36,000 troops to defeat the Khroumir tribe (as you can see, 36,000 troops sounds quite a lot for a tribe, it looks more like an invasion of the territory beyond the Khroumir’s, which was the rest of Tunisia). As you can imagine, the French troops were met with very little resistance, and they kept going until they reached Bardo (a suburb of Tunis). On May 12th, 1881, the French army arrived in proximity of Bardo, where the palace of the bey was located, and handed him a treaty of 10 articles for which he had less than 2 h to examine and sign. The bey, Muhammad III as-Sadiq had no choice but to sign the treaty in his palace of Ksar Said, where he handed over the foreign affairs, the defense of his territory, and the reform of his administration to France. His country was thus placed under the “protection” of France, even though it was only until 8 June 1883 that it officially became a protectorate of France after the signing of yet another treaty, known as the Conventions of La Marsa.
The African film festival, FESPACO, is back this year after the pandemic, the lockdowns of the past year and half, and an 8-months delay (the biennial event was originally scheduled for February 27 – March 6, but had to be postponed because of the Coronavirus pandemic). It is back in Ouagadougou amidst the health situation and also the security issues that have surfaced in the Sahel region, and particularly in Burkina Faso, in the past few years.
The Festival Panafricain du cinema et de la television de Ouagadougou (FESPACO) is the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou, which happens to be the largest African film festival. It is held biennially in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. First established in 1969, and boasting some of Africa’s greatest writers and filmmakers (like Ousmane Sembene), the FESPACO offers a chance for African filmmakers and professionals to showcase their work, exchange ideas, and meet other filmmakers, and sponsors.
This year’s FESPACO started on October 16thand will end on October 23rd. It promises to be great with filmmakers from around the continent coming to Ouagadougou to celebrate African cinema. After over a year of confinement, with life and particularly travel almost coming to a grinding stop, the festival promises to bring some much needed entertainment and joy.
Over 200 films made by Africans and mainly produced in Africa have been selected for the week-long event. The official selection will see 17 feature-length films compete for the festival’s top prize, the Golden Stallion of Yennenga.
Among them is Burkinabe Boubacar Diallo’s comedy Les Trois Lascars (The Three Lascars), Chadian Mahamat Saleh Haroun with Lingui, les liens sacrés (Lingui, the sacred links), Congolese Dieudo Hamadi with documentary En route pour le milliard (On the roadfor the billion), Ivorian Philippe Lacôte with his much appreciated La nuit des rois (The night of the kings), Senegalese Aissa Maiga with Marcher sur l’eau (Walking on water), Algerian Hassane Mezine with Fanon hier, aujourd’hui (Fanon yesterday, today), Tunisian Leyla Bouziz with Une histoire d’amour et de desir (a story of love and desire), Cameroonian Narcisse Wandji with Bendskins (Moto-taxis), Namibian Desiree Kahikopo-Meiffret with The White Line, Tanzanian Ekwa Msangi with Farewell Amor, … It will be impossible to list here all that the festival has to offer, but know that it is quite extensive and everybody will have its fill. Enjoy FESPACO 2021!!!
We all know who killed Thomas Sankara… and we all know that it was an international affair with Blaise Compaoré at the center, France, Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Cote d’Ivoire and even Liberians… we all know… but with all the cover-ups, and the powerful owing the justice, will we, citizens of Burkina Faso and Africa ever get justice for Thomas Sankara and his family? Well, the trial started this past Monday in Ouagadougou, without the main actor Blaise Compaoré, the coward previous president of Burkina Faso who got Ivorian citizenship to avoid getting extradited to face his crimes against the people of Burkina Faso… really a coward… how could someone like that have ever governed people? Excerpts below are from the BBC. Enjoy!
Thirty-four years, almost to the day, since the shocking killing of Burkina Faso‘s then President, Thomas Sankara, 14 men are going on trial, accused of complicity in the murder of the man known as “Africa’s Che Guevara”.
The charismatic Pan-Africanist was shot dead aged 37 by soldiers during a coup on 15 October 1987, which saw his close friend, Blaise Compaoré, come to power.
Four years previously, the pair had staged the takeover which saw Sankara become president.
Mr Compaoré is among the 14 accused but he is currently in exile in neighbouring Ivory Coast, where he fled after being forced to resign during mass protests in 2014. He has repeatedly denied involvement in Sankara’s death and is boycotting the trial.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” the former president’s widow Mariam Sankara told the BBC. “I want to know the truth, and who did what.”
Sankara remains something of an icon across Africa – … across the continent in South Africa, radical opposition leader Julius Malema cites him as one of his inspirations.
September 27th this year marks another big Ethiopian celebration. An even bigger festival than Enkutatash the Ethiopian New Year, is the Meskel “True Cross” Celebration which takes place on September 27th or 28th in leap year. Meskel 2021 is on September 27th . The festival commemorates the discovery of the “True Cross” on which Jesus was crucified, and is held annually in Meskel Square in Addis Ababa.
The word “meskel” is from the Ge’ez language which translates to “cross.” The festival is basically a celebration of the finding of the cross. The festival is held at the iconic Meskel square in Addis Ababa and draws out a large number of religious and civil leaders as well as public figures and Christian faithful. Meskel has been celebrated in Ethiopia for more than 1,600 years as an outdoor religious festival and has been registered at UNESCO since December 2013 as an Intangible World Heritage.
The legend goes that in 4BC, the Roman Empress Helena (Queen Eleni) was able to locate the important artifact in Jerusalem by using the smoke from a huge fire. The celebration is especially important to Ethiopians as it is alleged that a piece of the cross Helena discovered was brought to Ethiopia, and hidden away somewhere in the mountains of Amba Geshen, which itself has a cross-shaped plan.
Ethiopians commemorate the find by building their own massive bonfire, the Meskel, which they decorate with yellow flowers known as Adey Abeba before burning. Ethiopia’s religious leaders lead colorful processions and prayer around the fire, and attendees intently watch to see which way the bonfire will collapse, as it is believed to predict the future.
As you can see, the month of September is a month of cultural and religious celebrations in Ethiopia.
A few days back, yours truly was invited to the celebration of the Ethiopian New year. Yes… this year Enkutatash, or the Ethiopian New year, was celebrated on September 11th, and my friend went on to tell me more about it. Did you know that we are currently in the year 2014 in the Ethiopian calendar?
The Ethiopian calendar is a solar calendar based on the ancient Egyptian calendar. The first month of the year is September, called Meskeremin Amharic, the local language. One of the reasons given is that during the month of September, the number of daylight hours and nighttime hours happen to be exactly equal in every part of the globe. Moreover, during this time of the year, the sun and the moon that are used to count time each have 12 hours before setting. Another reason often given is that it could be derived from the Bible, where the creation of the Heavens and Earth are said to have taken place in September. Lastly as in many world calendars, harvests must have been key in the setting up of the calendar.
Enkutatashis the name for the Ethiopian New Year and means “gift of jewels” in Amharic. The story goes back almost 3,000 years to the Queen of Sheba of ancient Ethiopia who was returning from her visit to King Solomon of Israel, as mentioned in the Bible in I Kings 10 and II Chronicles 9. She had gifted King Solomon with 120 talents of gold (4.5 tons) as well as a large amount of unique spices and jewels. When the Queen returned to Ethiopia, her chiefs welcomed her with enkuor jewels to replenish her treasury. The name Enkumay also refer to the countryside, which is covered by bright yellow flowers known as Adey Abeba as this time of the year also marks the end of the raining season. The appearance of the bright yellow flowers also indicates the impending harvest which is to be celebrated (see… harvest).
The celebration is both religious and secular. The day begins with big church services, followed by the family meal. Young children will receive small gifts of money or bread after the girls gather flowers and sing, and boys paint pictures of saints. Families eat the famed national flat bread injerawith the national dish doro wot (chicken stew), which takes at least half a day to prepare, and is rarely missed during these celebrations; families visit friends, and adults drink Tej, the national Ethiopian wine made out of honey… reminds me so much of King Lalibela (bees)… is this where the tradition comes from?
This year in particular, the hope is for peace and harmony… to a happy new year. Enkuan Aderesachihu!
As we continue to learn more about Lucy, and the origin of mankind, I thought of sharing the video below. It is a short interview of Donald Johanson who found Lucy in 1974 in the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia. It is “In Conversation with Donald Johanson, a film by Pierangelo Pirak” on the BBC Earth. It is just a snippets, but it helps to perceive the change that occurred with the discovery of Lucy in our understanding of the human evolution and origin. There are definitely other documentaries, much longer that will give more information, but this is to wet your appetite. Since the discovery of Lucy, more Australopithecus afarensis have been found, and even older remains like those of the Kenyantropus platyops (3.5 million years) or the Ardipithecus (dated 4.4 million years). Enjoy!
Now, you might ask, why is she called Lucy? Well, because the Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky withDiamonds” was playing on the radio when the archaeologists found her remains. Thus the name Lucy. Lucy belongs to the species of Australopithecus afarensis; afarensisfor the Afar region of Ethiopia where she was found. She is one of the most important fossils ever discovered. Her discovery helped solidify the idea that Africa was the cradle of humanity, and a crucial hub for human evolution. Before Lucy, the skeleton of the Taung child dated to about 2.8 million years old had been found in South Africa in 1924, but European archaeologists and scientists refused to admit (as always) that Africa could be important in the study of human evolution. As always, they thought that Europe and Asia were the centers. Aren’t we tired of this Eurocentric view of the world which pretends to give meaning to everything it does not understand? Oh Mama Africa, your beauty and splendor is truly too much for these people that they have to keep denying your place and importance in the world!
Lucy was an upright walker, i.e. she walked standing up, thus dating the bipedalism observed in humans to at least 3.2 million years. She was only about 1 meter tall (3.5 feet). Lucy was a full-grown adult, because she had wisdom teeth and her bones had fused. Unlike modern humans, it would seem that she had grown to full size very quickly, and was about 12 years old when she died. From a 2006 study, the findings of a 3-year-oldAustralopithecus afarensis suggested that their brains reached their full size much earlier than modern human’s does. Lucy was ape-like in appearance and brain size, but could walk upright like more advanced hominins that lived later like the Taung child (2.8 million years) or the Australopitecus sediba (2.2 million years old). She had powerful arms and long curved toes that paleontologists think allowed her to climb trees as well as walk upright.
Lucy’s finding marked a turning point in our understanding of humanity, and the human lineage. She is a treasure, and although older skeletons have since then been found like the Kenyantropus platyops (3.5 million years) or the Ardipithecus (dated 4.4 million years), she remains a treasure. No wonder, Ethiopians call her Dinkineshor “you are marvelous” or “marvelous one“, for Lucy truly is marvelous as she has allowed to place Africa back at the center as the cradle of humanity (Africa was always at the center, but some Eurocentric views would not let her shine). If you are ever in Addis Ababa, please do not forget to visit her (her cast) at the National Museum of Ethiopia . Enjoy!
This week more history has been made for Africa at the Olympics. Records have been broken and Africans have responded present with strength.
Tunisia, with Ahmed Hafnaouioffered the African continent its first medal of the games, by winning gold in the 400m freestyle swimming. Then, Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi won silver in the Men’s 58kg Taekwondo.
Burkina Faso got its first ever medal since the creation of the Olympic games. Hugues Fabrice Zango won the bronze medal in the Men’s triplejump. It was really good to watch him, and I am proud for this son of the land of Thomas Sankara. Moreover, he won his medal, Burkina Faso’s medal on the 61st anniversary of the country’s independence (as you know most Francophone countries are not really independent from France because of the FCFA, but this is a story for another day).
NamibiaChristine Mboma came back from behind to win silver in the Women’s 200m in front of some of the world’s best. Now remember that Christine Mboma and her compatriot Beatrice Masilingi were barred from running their favorite distance, 400m, just a month ago, and had to all of sudden readjust to run 200m. They were declared ineligible for the longer race because of a genetic condition that raises their testosterone levels. South African Caster Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion in the 800m (2016 and 2012), is the most famous DSD (difference in sexual development) athlete who has been stopped from running in Tokyo. All three 800m medallists at the 2016 Rio Olympics – Semenya, Burundi’s silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba and Kenyan bronze winner Margaret Wambui – were DSD athletes… I am not sure I understand the whole issue, because for me, I wonder how one can be born female and then one day some organization tells them that they are not female. I find it hard to fathom. So let’s see what will happen. Mboma is the first Namibian female to win an olympic medal… she is following in the tracks of the great Namibian athlete Frankie Fredericks (Frankie Fredericks: Sprinting to the Finish for Namibia).
Blessing Oborududu of Nigeria won Silver in the Women’s freestyle 68kg. Ese Brume did not disappoint and won Nigeria’s first medal of the Tokyo Olympic Games, taking bronze in the women’s long jump.
Ethiopia Selemon Barega gave Ethiopia its first Men’s 10,000m gold since Kenenisa Bekele in 2008. Lamecha Girma won silver in the Men’s 3000m steeplechase. Gudaf Tsegay won bronze in the Women’s 5000m race, while Letesenbet Gidey won the bronze medal in Women’s 10000m.
Uganda Joshua Cheptegei, the World champion and world record holder, ran a controlled race to take the men’s 5000m gold; last week, he had also won silver in the Men’s 10,000m. Jacob Kiplimo won the bronze medal in the Men’s 10,000m race. Peruth Chemutai became the first Ugandan woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal on Wednesday – triumphing in the Women’s 3,000m steeplechase.
Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, who had been training with legends like marathon world record holderEliud Kipchogethwarted World champion’s Sifan Hassan’s plans of winning a distance treble in Tokyo by retaining the women’s 1500m title by pulling ahead after the bell and winning gold. Her compatriot Peres Jepchirchir won the women’s marathon, defeating world record holder Brigid Kosgei in the closing stages and winning in 2h27min20s, and Kosgei had to settle for silver. Hellen Obiritook home silver in Women’s 5,000m, while Hyvin Kiyeng won bronze in Women’s3000m steeplechase. The men’s 800m gold went to Emmanuel Kipkurui Korir of Kenya, and his teammate Ferguson Rotich took silver. Timothy Cheruiyot took silver in the Men’s 1500m, while Compatriot Benjamin Kiven took bronze in the men’s 3000m steeplechase. Eliud Kipchoge successfully defended his olympic title at the marathon; he is only the 3rd person in the history of the games to win successive marathons.
South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker won gold, and broke the Women’s 200m world record for breaststroke on Friday. This earned her a call from the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, to congratulate her on her victory. Schoenmaker had previously won silver in the Women’s 100m breastrokes, while Bianca Buitendag took silver in surfing,
Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali triumphed in the Olympic Men’s 3,000m steeplechase – ending Kenya’s 41-year unbeaten run on the distance.
Egypt’s Giana Farouk (Lotfy) won bronze in the Women’s kumite karate. Seif Eissa, Hedaya Malak, and Mohammed Elsayed Elsayed all won bronze medals in the Men’s 80kg taekwondo, Women’s 67kg taekwondo and Men’s 67kg Greco-Roman wrestling respectively.
Ruth Gbagbiof Cote d’Ivoire won bronze in the Women’s 67kg Taekwondo. She had won Bronze also in Rio 2016. Ghana also took home bronze in the Men’s Feather (52-57kg) boxing with Samuel Takyi.
Lastly, Team Botswana (Isaac Makwala, Baboloki Thebe, Zibane Ngozi, Bayapo Ndori) surprised everyone by giving a beautiful performance and winning the bronze amidst some of the world’s bests in the Men’s 4x400m relay.
Overall, it was a good game… As we turn the page of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics which took place in 2021, we do hope that the Paris 2024 Olympics will be better for Africa, and that the world will be in a better place.
Africa is well-represented at the Tokyo olympics this year. Even though it has only been 5 days, Africans have already won quite a few medals, starting with a gold metal from the Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui in 400m freestyle swimming, and silver medals for South Africans Tatjana Schoenmaker and Bianca Buitendag in 100m breastrokes and surfing, and Mohamed Jendoubi of Tunisia in Taekwondo; while Ruth Gbagbi of Ivory Coast, Hedaya Wahba and Seif Eissa both of Egypt all took bronze in Taekwondo.
This year, five new events have been added: surfing (not sure how many countries play this sport to be at the Olympics?), sport climbing (what sort of climbing is this? I have climbed so many trees I should be an olympian), baseball/softball (how many countries actually have teams for these, except those influenced by the US?), skateboarding (Olympics sport?) and Karate (It’s about time – always wondered why this global discipline was not part of the Olympics anyways).
There are quite a lot African athletes participating at the 2021 Tokyo 2020 olympics. Below are a few to keep an eye out on :
Nigeria: the anticipated long jumper and runner Blessing Okagbare, and Ese Brume
Seychelles: Rodney Govinden in sailing (second participation for the Seychelles)
South Africa: the super star swimmer Chad Le Clos (2012 gold, 2 silvers in 2016), Akani Simbane in running, Caitlin Rooskrantz in gymnastics (first participation of South Africa), Tatjana Schoenmaker (swimming) and Bianca Buitendag (surfing), Erin Sterkenburg (surfing), Boipelo Awuah (skateboarding – she is the youngest African athlete at the Olympics this year)
Tunisia: Ons Jabeaur in Tennis, Ines Boubakri (2016 Rio bronze medal) in fencing, this year’s gold winner in 100m freestyle Ahmed Hafnaoui, and 2008 and 2012 Olympics gold medalist Oussama Mellouli (long-distance swimmer), Mohamed Jendoubi
Uganda: Runners Jacob Kiplimo and Joshua Cheptegei