Dutch Museum’s Slavery Exhibition confronts Cruelty of Dutch Trade

This is a bit of old news, but it sheds more light on the participation of European nations in slavery… it is about the Dutch part in the slave trade. This may be a hard read for some. Excerpts below are from the article on the Guardian website. For the full article, go to the Guardian.

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The aim of a first exhibition on the Dutch slave trade to be shown at the Rijksmuseum, launched on Tuesday by King Willem-Alexander, is not to be “woke” but to be a “blockbuster” telling a truer story of the Golden Age, the director general of the national institution has said.

…The Slavery exhibition, showcasing 140 objects, ranging from two Rembrandt portraits of married and lavishly wealthy owners of enslaved people to a display of ankle chains, examines 10 lives caught up in the Dutch slave trade between the early 17th century and 1863, when the practice was finally made illegal in Suriname and the Antilles.

An audio guide for the exhibition includes the voice and thoughts of a Ma Chichi, a woman born into slavery in 1853, who in turn tells how her grandmother, enslaved in 18th-century Curaçao, urged her to always remember that she was equal to anyone. “She never did what the lords wanted,” Chichi says in the recording dating from 1958, when she was 105 years old.

Valika Smeulders, a curator of the exhibition and the Rijksmuseum’s head of history, said it had been vital to unearth oral history due to the lack of property and written evidence of enslaved people. “[Chichi] talks about her grandmother telling her you are equal to everybody else, you are equal to the children of the master of the house,” she said. “It gives you a female perspective, which is pretty rare, and it gives you the perspective of the people who were so aware of their humanity even though they lived in a system that took all that humanity away from them.”

Documents on show also detail the horrific fate of many of those who resisted. One, Wally, who worked on a sugar plantation called Palmeneribo, Suriname, in 1707 was sentenced to be slowly burned to death, with the stipulation added by the magistrate Cornelis de Huijbert that he was to have his flesh torn off with red hot pincers in the process in order for his death to be “the most painful and protracted possible”.

Dutch traders shipped over 600,000 Africans [as we now know, this number is mosy likely higher] to north and South America and between 660,000 and 1.1 million people around the Indian ocean. Last year King Willem-Alexander apologised for the “excessive violence” of the Dutch colonialists in Indonesia. There remains a live debate in the Netherlands about the treatment of empire and slavery in schools and public places through street names and statues, as there has been in the UK.

… One of the confronting revelations of the exhibition, Smeulders said, was that a richly decorated brass collar donated to the Rijksmuseum in 1881 and engraved with the family crests of the Nassau, Vianden and Dietz families, dated 1689, was likely not to have been a dog collar, as originally thought, but one worn by black enslaved people brought back to the Netherlands as servants. “For the longest time people have not wanted to come to terms with the meaning of those collars,” she said. “They were always described as being dog collars but if you look at the paintings, the ones wearing those collars are never the dogs, they are the men.”

Wood Carving in Africa: An Ancient Tradition

African wood carver_2
African wood carver at work

A friend of mine learnt to carve wood when he was a child. He made his very first wooden figurine at a tender age, it was the head of a woman with cornrow braids. He had a good teacher, and learnt to understand the art of being one with the wood, carving to perfection, and of course that it required a great deal of patience. He is from a long line of wood carvers. Wood carving, making a sculpture is a very refined art. Don’t be fooled, it is not just cutting the wood, thinking of a design, then chipping parts of it, and then carving… oh no… it is much more than that, it is an art, and I would even go further to say that it is a science. Wait, I am not talking about these modern sculptures where dimensions are not respected, and you wonder if the artist was on crack or something… No… I am talking about the great art of African sculptors. Just a look at Bamileke masks and sculptures, or Senufo masks, Shona sculptures, there is so much geometry involved. I have always balled at hearing people say that Africans were not advanced, or like Sarkozy that they have not entered enough into history… I have also heard people referring to these African artists as illiterate because they have not gone to the “white” man’s school… Have you looked at African sculptures? The Mwash-a-mbooy of the Kuba? or the Kuosi, Bapi, Katso, and other masks of the Bamileke? or the Ashanti stools? or Chokwe masks? and so many others?  Do you think that whoever made these is not versed in geometry, symmetry, and precision? Do you know how much details goes into making some of these? Isn’t it odd that these advanced sculptures of a so-called backward people are still in museums in Europe generating millions of dollars every year (and these museums are only making ‘promises’ of maybe returning)?

11th_Dynasty_Egyptian_funerary_statue_(Gulbenkian_Museum)
11th Dynasty Egyptian funerary statue (Gulbenkian Museum) – (Source: Commons Wikimedia)

Wood carving in Africa is a very old tradition, and wood carving was an integral part of Ancient Egypt (and these carvings and sculptures clearly show African features – some even wear the Afro) like the Ancient Egyptian priest Kaaper’s statue, and many more. Check out the link for Ancient Egyptian wood carving. In the Cairo museum in Egypt, there is a statue of a man from the period of the Great Pyramid of Giza, possibly 4000 B.C. The expression of the face and the realism of the carriage have never been surpassed by any Egyptian sculptor of this or any other period.

Not just any wood from any tree can be carved into x, y, or z; it requires knowledge of the type of wood. The African teak wood is frequently used, but other woods such as Ebony and others are also used for carving. The hard woods are used for sculptures, masks, doors, utensils, while the soft woods are used for drums. The video below follows modern wood carvers in Nigeria. Enjoy!

Justice at last from Shell … for Nigerians!

Eric Barizah, chief of Nigeria’s Goi community in Rivers State, shows oil pollution from leaks in the Niger delta. Photograph: EPA (Source: The Guardian)

A court has finally ruled that Shell Nigeria must pay for oil damage. How long has it been? Wasn’t Ken Saro-Wiwa already working on such issues in the 1990s? This ruling deals with oil pollution in the Niger delta region of Nigeria. Well, a Dutch court has finally asked the oil giant Shell to compensate Nigerian farmers for oil damages. This is a first… and we just hope that Shell will not play the French card, and will actually compensate for all the environmental damages, the loss of livelihood, and probably the loss of lives they caused while they made humongous benefits. This is a major win for Nigerians, for Africans, and for all the communities around the world whose environments have been polluted by these giant corporations. Excerpts below are from the Guardian.

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A Dutch court has ordered Shell Nigeria to compensate farmers for major oil spills they say caused widespread pollution.

Shell Oil Company logo

On Friday an appeals court in The Hague rejected Shell’s argument that the spills were the result of sabotage, saying not enough evidence had been provided.

The court ordered Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary to compensate the farmers for the losses caused by the oil spills in the two villages of Goi and Oruma in 2004 and 2005. The amount of compensation had not yet been decided.

It also ruled the parent company, Royal Dutch Shell, and its subsidiary must install warning equipment on its Oruma pipelines to limit the environmental damage in case of another spill.

The farmers claiming compensation argued the damage was caused by oil leaking from the pipeline, which could have been prevented if Shell had installed the correct detection systems.

Finally, there is some justice for the Nigerian people suffering the consequences of Shell’s oil,” said Eric Dooh, one of the Nigerian plaintiffs, in a statement released by Friends of the Earth Netherlands, which supported the case. “This verdict brings hope for the future of the people in the Niger delta.” Dooh’s father was one of two complainants who died during the case, which has gone on for 13 years.

Flag and map of Nigeria
Flag and map of Nigeria

The Hague appeals court ruled in 2015 that Dutch courts had jurisdiction in the case, seven years after the four farmers first sued, and after debate over whether Shell’s parent company should be held liable for the Nigerian subsidiary’s actions.

This is fantastic news for the environment and people living in developing countries,” said Friends of the Earth’s Netherlands head, Donald Pols.

It means people in developing countries can take on the multinationals who do them harm.”

Francis Bebey introducing us to the Communication System of Pygmy People

Francis Bebey_1
Francis Bebey

As we saw on Monday, Francis Bebey’s poem ‘Je suis venu chercher du travail’ / ‘I Came to Look for Work’ is the story of many immigrants, living their homes, families, friends and countries, to journey to far-away lands in search of a better living.

More than a writer, Francis Bebey was also a musician. Below is a video where Francis Bebey introduces the viewer to the one-note flute, and the communication system invented by the pygmy peoples of Central Africa to converse with each other using that instrument. As I told you earlier, Francis Bebey headed the music department at the UNESCO‘s office in Paris, where he focused on researching and documenting African traditional music. Enjoy a lesson from the maestro!

 

Happy 2020!

Fireworks
Fireworks

Dear readers, wishing you all an AMAZING HAPPY new year. May the year 2020 mark the beginning of a decade of joy, the fulfillment of old and new dreams that will last a lifetime, and the completion of past endeavors. We, at Afrolegends, would like to express our profound gratitude for your constant support, as your readership has carried us forward. Thank you to all those who visited the blog, reblogged articles, commented, and to all future visitors. 2019 was a full year: Afrolegends.com had lots of views, subscribers, and many articles reblogged on multiple sites. In August, we celebrated 2 Million Views and 10-years Anniversary on the African Heritage Blog !!! We most importantly celebrated your continued presence on our blog, and as always African achievements.

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Happy 2020

The top 6 posts of 2019 are listed below. For this new year, 2020, we will bring you even more amazing, fun, enlightening, and rich articles. We will also take you on a journey to new places. Keep trusting, reading, sharing, reblogging, and liking. We wish you a beautiful, full, and amazing new year, rich in blessings, and rich in greatness. May 2020 be the year of 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 marks the beginning of something beautiful: a new start, a new life, and a new joy! As always, like Agostinho Neto said, “A luta continua … a vitória é certa!

1. The 11 Components of the French Colonial Tax in Africa

2. Bride Price Practices in Africa

3. Adinkra Symbols and the Rich Akan Culture

4. Scarification: an ‘Ancient’ African Tattoo Culture

5. Sarah Baartman: The Black Venus

6. Samori Touré: African Leader and Resistant to French Imperialism!

South African Woman wins Prize for Water-Saving Toilet

Toilet
Toilet bowl

I always wondered why the toilet design used today in almost all bathrooms around the world is 400 years old. So many things have gone through innovation, reinvention, re-design, etc, yet the toilet design has survived 400 years! In the end, I thought it was because the subject was not particularly attractive: I mean who wants to look into toilet bowls, or even think about it, or talk about it? Yuck…! Just do the business and be gone, right? Well, one young lady from South Africa came up with a toilet design which uses 400 milliliters (0.4 L – 0.11 gallons) instead of the usual 13 litres (13 L – 3.4 gallons) consumed in regular toilets. People, this is more than a 300% reduction in water… think about your water bills savings or drought areas! Please help me applaud the work of Monni Mokwena. Her invention is appropriately called the Swallowing Toilet. The excerpt below is from Briefly where the full article is found.

Just a note on July 30, 2019: Monni Mokwena emphasized in the comment section below that her design uses a flexible S-shape design which not only reduces water consumption, but also takes care of the smell: “My toilet have a flexible s- shape compared to the traditional toilet…So when it’s inoperative it has that S shape that help to prevent water for flowing and also to prevent the smell to come back into the bowl…

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South Africa_Monni Mokwena
Monni Mokwena (Source: Sowetan Live)

Monni Mokwena is the epitome of black excellence. The 25-year-old designed a toilet that does not only save underprivileged people money, but it also preserves water. Mokwena pitched her idea at the Engen Pitch and Polish competition and she was crowed the regional winner.The young inventor was inspired by her upbringing in Bakenberg village in Mokopane, Limpopo. Mokwena was one among many living in rural areas who did not have the pleasure of flushing toilets. According to The Sowetan, Mokwena also saw her gogo spend a lot of money to pay someone to fetch water.

I am a rural girl. Toilets are a serious problems in our community. My grandmother still spends a substantial amount of money of her pension to pay people who get her water from far,” she said. 

She started doing research and found that the everyday toilet was invented over 400 years ago. Briefly.co.za gathered she came up with plans and her invention uses less than a litre of water.

I realised that the mountain of the s-shaped pipe at the back of the toilet is the one that makes the toilet to use a lot of water. This was created to prevent the smell from coming back to the house. We’ve cut that ‘mountain’,” Mokwena said.

Mokwena’s new “swallowing toilet” uses a flexible pipe instead of the s-shaped one and because it swallows the waste, the toilet only requires 400 millilitres of water – opposed to the 13 litres of water a normal toilet uses. Taking to social media, Mokwena gushed about the competition where she pitched her idea before walking away the winner.

Just imagine, a poor girl like me with my poor English, from the village pitching and competing with/to the most sophisticated people. And, I made to the top. Bafowethu – Let’s keep pushing but never forget to pray hey…. the competition is too much there,” she wrote on Facebook. 

“Independencia Total” by Alda Neves da Graça do Espírito Santo

500 Fcfa_BEAO
1000 Fcfa_BEAO

I recently read the national anthem of São Tomé and Príncipe, and thought of how much it represents the aspirations of the entire African continent, especially for French speaking countries which are still under that awful nazi currency system called FCFA through which France has been siphoning over 500 billion dollars every year for free! What do I mean by free? Well, because the FCFA (France’s Colonial Tax on Africa) is a currency of servitude and is a colonial tax paid by African countries to France (Africa is funding Europe!). 14 african countries (15 if you count also the Comoros whose currency is not called the same, but is nonetheless pegged to France) are obliged by France, through a colonial pact, to put 50% (it used to be 85%, then 65%, …) of their foreign reserves into France’s central bank under the French minister of Finance control. As we speak today in 2019, Senegal and about 13 other African countries still have to pay colonial debt to France. African leaders who refuse are killed or victim of a coup. To learn more, also read The 11 Components of the French Colonial Tax in Africa.

Sao Tome Flag
Flag of Sao Tome and Principe

The national anthem of São Tomé and Príncipe, rightfully titled Independência total (Total Independence), was written by Alda Neves da Graça do Espírito Santo, the celebrated Sao Tomean poet and writer who was a minister on several occasions and also the president of the national Assembly. Her poem for the national anthem was adopted in 1975. As you read it, wherever you see Sao Tome and Principe, replace by Africa, African continent and claim the total independence: “Warriors in the war without weapons, Live flame in the soul of the people, Congregating the sons of [Africa], Around the immortal Fatherland, Total independence, total and complete.” Enjoy!

Chorus:

Independência total,

Glorioso canto do povo,

Independência total,

Hino sagrado de combate.

 

Dinamismo

Na luta nacional,

Juramento eterno

No país soberano de São Tomé e Príncipe.

Guerrilheiro da guerra sem armas na mão,

Chama viva na alma do povo,

Congregando os filhos das ilhas

Em redor da Pátria Imortal.

Independência total, total e completa,

Construindo, no progresso e na paz,

A nação mais ditosa da Terra,

Com os braços heroicos do povo.

 

Chorus

Trabalhando, lutando, presente em vencendo,

Caminhamos a passos gigantes

Na cruzada dos povos africanos,

Hasteando a bandeira nacional.

Voz do povo, presente, presente em conjunto,

Vibra rijo no coro da esperança

Ser herói no hora do perigo,

Ser herói no ressurgir do País.

Chorus

Dinamismo

Na luta nacional,

Juramento eterno

No pais soberano de São Tomé e Príncipe.

Chorus:

Total independence,

Glorious song of the people,

Total independence,

Sacred hymn of combat.

 

Dynamism

In the national struggle,

Eternal oath

To the sovereign country of São Tomé and Príncipe.

Warriors in the war without weapons,

Live flame in the soul of the people,

Congregating the sons of the islands

Around the Immortal Fatherland.

Total independence, total and complete,

Building, in progress and peace,

The happiest nation on earth,

With the heroic arms of the people.

 

Chorus

Working, struggling, struggling and conquering,

We go ahead with giant steps

In the crusade of the African peoples,

Raising the national flag.

Voice of the people, present, present and united,

Strong beat in the heart of hope

To be a hero in the hour of peril,

A hero of the Nation’s resurgence.

Chorus

Dynamism

In the national struggle,

Eternal oath

To the sovereign country of São Tomé and Príncipe.

Queen Amina of Zazzau: Woman As Capable as a Man

Queen Amina_1
Queen Amina of Zazzau

A few years ago, I wrote about Queen Amina of Zazzau: the Great Hausa Warrior born to Rule, the woman remembered today in Nigeria as  ‘Amina, rana de Yar Bakwa ta San’ (Amina, daughter of Nikatau, woman as capable as a man). Crowned queen of Zazzau in 1576, Amina expanded her kingdom’s boundaries down to the Atlantic coast; she founded several cities, and personally led an army of 20,000 soldiers to numerous battles. During her 34-year reign, she commanded the construction of a defensive mural around each military camp that she established.  Later, those camps evolved into prosperous cities within those walls, and some can still be seen today in northern Nigeria.  Those cities are known as walls ‘ganuwar of Amina’ or ‘Amina’s walls‘.

Queen Amina’s achievement was the closest that any ruler had come in bringing the region now known as Nigeria under a single authority. Enjoy this trailer for the movie Amina by Izu Ojukwu and the website for it: AminaQueenOfZazzau.com; the BBC also made a cartoon about her. With Hollywood’s recent lack of imagination and appropriation of other people’s culture, I would not be surprised that they copy her story to bring it onto big screen. However, Africans should put forward their own stories and value them… not wait for some imagination-hungry entity to come grab it, to all of a sudden value their own history (Black Panther).

Why the Warthog goes about on his knees

Jackal
Jackal

Oh, Gogo,” little Sipho asked one evening, “could you tell us the story of clever Jackal again?” Sipho, whose nickname was Mpungushe “jackal,” never tired of hearing tales of his beloved namesake.
Hawu, Sipho,” moaned several of his siblings, “Not again, little Jackal! You will wear out our ears with stories of Mpungushe!

Gogo laughed her deep, round laugh. Soon each of her grandchildren were laughing along with her.

I, too, love the stories of the Jackal!” Gogo looked at Sipho. “But we do not want to cause your brothers and sisters to become deaf. I think there is another tale that I can tell you of an animal who tried to be as clever as Jackal!

Kwasuka sukela …

Warthog_1
Warthog

WartHog had made himself a lovely, spacious home in an old termite mound that an aardvark had cleared out. He had built it up and made a wide entrance. He thought it was the most magnificent home in Africa and would often stand at the entrance of his dwelling with his snout in the air as the giraffe, wildebeest and zebra passed on their way to the watering hole. “Hah,” he thought to himself, “no one has such a fine home!

One day as he looked out from the entrance of his cave he was horrified to see a huge lion stealthily stalking toward him. He started to back away, but because he had made the entrance to his place so grand, the lion would have no difficulty in following WartHog right in. “Ahhhh,” panicked WartHog, “Bhubesi will eat me in my own lounge! What will I do?

WartHog decided to use an old trick he’d heard Jackal bragging about. WartHog pretended to be supporting the roof of his hole with his strong back, pushing up with his tusks. “Help!” he cried to the lion, “I am going to be crushed! The roof is caving in! Flee, oh, mighty Bhubesi, before you are crushed along with me!

Now Lion is no fool. He recognized Jackal’s old ploy straight away (“Do you remember that story, children?”), and he wasn’t going to be caught out again. He roared so fiercely that WartHog dropped to his knees, trembling. WartHog begged for mercy. Luckily for him, Lion was not too hungry. So he pardoned WartHog and left, saying,

Lion
Lion

Stay on your knees, you foolish beast!

Lion laughed to himself and shook his shaggy head as he walked away. Imagine, slow-witted WartHog trying to copy Jackal’s trick! WartHog took Lion’s order to heart. That is why, to this day, you will see Wart Hog feeding on his knees, in a very undignified position, with his bottom up in the air and his snout snuffling in the dust.

A Traditional Zulu Story

Fossi Jacob and the French Genocide in Cameroon: Testimony

Cameroun_Chutes de la Metche_1Below is the testimony of one of Fossi Jacob ‘s daughters. If you ever get a chance, you should read “My Dad was Fossi Jacob: Itinerary of a martyr of the Cameroonian Independence” written by Fossi Jacob’s first son, Abraham Sighoko Fossi (“Papa s’appelait Fossi Jacob: Itinéraire d’un martyr de l’indépendance du Cameroun“). To learn more about France’s genocide in Cameroon, the books ‘Kamerun. La guerre cachee de la France en Afrique noire‘ (Kamerun. France’s Hidden War in Black Africa) and Mongo Beti ‘s ‘Main Basse sur le Cameroun, autopsie d’une décolonisation (Cruel hand on Cameroon, autopsy of a decolonization).

12 September should be commemorated in Cameroon in memory of Fossi Jacob, a man who, by his selfless act, saved countless lives, and in memory of all the victims of the French genocide.