Posted by: Dr. Y. | July 13, 2020

The Power of Women in the Ancient Kongo Kingdom

Queen Nzingha of Angola

Queen Nzingha of Angola

Below is a description of the power of women in the ancient Kongo Kingdom. Remember that a lot of African cultures are matriarchal. The description below is from 1704, and shows that there were women kings in Kongo, and also that the Kongo Empire had vassal kings who reported all to the one King of Kongo. There were also great queens like Queen Nzingha: Great Queen of Angola in neighboring kingdoms, to whom other kings reported. The text below has been translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com.

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The power of women in the Ancient Kongo Kingdom

In the evening I received the visit from a matron who was chief of her locality [Tubii] and other villages of the Sogno [Soyo] principality. She does not recognize any other authority above her but that of the King of Kongo. These villages are always governed by women.

Lorenzo da Lucca, 7th relation, Soyo, 31 January 1704 in Jean Cuvelier

Les Africains Vol.9, Editions J.A, C.-A. Julien, P. 58, (1977)

Congo_Brazzaville_Flag

Flag of the Republic of Congo

Many cultures in Africa are matriarchal, and it absolutely makes sense that the homeland is constantly portrayed as a woman in African poetry. Today we will talk about the poem “Congolese Eve” by Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard. Tati-Loutard is a Congolese author from the Republic of Congo or Congo-Brazzaville. As an accomplished writer, he has published several compilation of poetry, and has won several awards. In his writings, he does a deep expose of the art, life, and nature; he often incorporates the feminine element in his work. Similar to other African authors like Léopold Sédar Senghor (former president of Senegal) or Ferdinand L. Oyono (minister in Cameroon), Tati-Loutard is also a politician, who has occupied several posts in the government of his country.

African princess

African princess

Enjoy ‘Ève Congolaise‘ by Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard, published in Anthologie africaine: poésie, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, Hatier 1988, p. 136. Translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com.

 

 

 

 

Eve Congolaise

Je l’ai vue quand Dieu l’a créée sur la Montagne :

C’était une pleine nuit, la lune ayant atteint

Le plus haut niveau de ses crues de lumière.

 

Avant que Dieu ne parût comme jadis sur l’Horeb,

L’herbe alentour marchait déjà tête baissée

Sous la brise.

 

Il prit de la terre non battue de quelque pied,

Et la coula – vierge comme au Jour Premier –

Dans un long rayon de lune.

 

En un tour de main, ce fut le tour des seins ;

Et la grâce et l’esprit giclaient d’Eve

En eclaboussements éblouissants de lumière.

Puis vint le signal :

 

Dans l’espace nu, le vent se mit à tourner sur lui-même

Comme s’il avait mal de ne pouvoir se détendre

Dans un arbre. Dieu reprit l’air dans le tourbillon ;

Et dans le silence plein de clarté,

 

L’Eve congolaise descendit vers le fleuve à l’heure

Où le soleil sort en refermant derrière lui

La porte de la nuit.

 

 

Congolese Eve

I saw her when God created her on the Mountain:

It was a full night, the moon having reached

the fullest level of its light floods.

 

Before God appeared as He once did on the Horeb,

The grass around was already walking head down

Under the breeze

 

He took some dirt from some foot,

And the flow – virgin as on the First Day –

In a long moon ray.

 

In no time it was the turn of the breasts ;

And the grace and the spirit spurted from Eve

In dazzling splashes of light.

Then came the signal :

 

In the naked space, the wind started to turn on itself

As if it hurts not to be able to relax

In a tree. God took the air back in the whirlwind;

And in the silence full of clarity,

 

The Congolese eve descended towards the river at the time

When the sun comes out closing behind him

The door of the night.

Les raciness congolaises, op. cit.

Posted by: Dr. Y. | July 7, 2020

Beatrice of Congo : A Physical Portrait in 1710

Beatriz Kimpa Vita

Beatriz Kimpa Vita

Today we will talk about Beatrice of Congo, also known as Kimpa Vita, who was an African priestess and prophet who held a lot of power. Born into a noble clan, the Mwana Kongo clan, she was baptized in her youth, and later created her own religious movement which used Christian symbols but revitalized traditional Kongo cultural roots. She is seen as a strong antislavery figure; think about this for a moment, the catholic priests preaching christianity, yet silently participating in the slavery of the Kongolese. Didn’t it make total sense for her to turn away from catholicism and create a true Kongo religion? Her movement which is among some of the best documented in Kongo’s history is seen a precursor to modern African democracy movements. Below is the physical portrait of Beatrice of Congo by a contemporary Father Bernardo da Gallo in 1710 (Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com).

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Kongo Kingdom map

Kongo Kingdom map

This young woman was about twenty two years old. She was fairly tall and with fine features. On the exterior, she seemed very devout. She spoke with gravity, seeming to weigh all her words.  She predicted “the future and announced among other things that the judgment was near.”

She walked on tiptoes (toes), almost without touching the ground with the rest of her feet; she moved her flanks and whole body, like a snake, even though her body was tense, as if deprived of spirit, and with bulging eyes; spoke frantically with delirium.

Rapport du Père Bernardo da Gallo, Rome, 17 Decembre 1710, publié par Louis Jadin

Les Africains Vol.9, Editions J.A, C.-A. Julien, P. 58, (1977)

Belgian Congo_Genocide_Leopold II

King Leopold II

It took over 100 years for a Belgian King to finally ‘express his deepest regrets‘ for Belgium’s colonial past in Congo. As we recall, King Leopold II of Belgium perpetrated a genocide in CongoLeopold II took Congo, a country at least 10 times the size of Belgium, as his private property and killed millions of Congolese. It is said that he must have executed and maimed over 15 million people!

 

So now, Belgian King Philippe wrote a letter to the president of Congo Felix Tshisekedi, on 30 June 2020, the anniversary of the Independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo, stating: “During the time of the Congo Free State [1885-1908], acts of violence and brutality were committed that weigh still on our collective memory. The colonial period that followed also caused suffering and humiliations. I would like to express my deepest regrets for the wounds of the past, the pain of today, which is rekindled by the discrimination all too present in our society.” His remarks fell short of an apology! Should we applaud for this?

 

Belgian Congo_Genocide2

Picture of men holding cut-off hands (image by Alice S. Harris in Baringa 1904)

I say NO! To the Belgian King, I say you can eat your “deepest regrets”! Many are calling this progress, but I call this arrogance to wake up one day, and finally say, “I regret the past. Yes…, my grandfather committed acts of violence and brutality, killed your fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters, … maimed your forefathers, decapitated so many of you … instilled fear into your psyche… destroyed your livelihood, your culture, and the entire foundation of your society.”

 

And so what? That’s it? Should we clap for you? where is the apology? Didn’t you think we knew that already? Where is the reparation? Don’t you know that Belgium is nothing without Congo? Coincidentally, King Philippe forgot to include the period following that time, from 1908 to the independence of Congo, and then to nowadays with the treacherous role played by Belgium in the assassination of the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, and countless others, and the unrest in the region to this day.

Patrice_Lumumba_official_portrait

Official portrait of Patrice Lumumba, Prime Minister of Congo

And to stand up there, and say I express my deepest regrets for the wounds of the past”… it’s like Hitler waking up today, and telling Holocaust survivors and their descendants, “I killed you, jailed your parents, forced you into exile, brought fear into your souls, and decimated every part of you… I regret it. What can you about it? ” It is simply arrogant! … It is just too easy. Until there is a clear “I am sorry”, until there is a clear “here is what we will do to right the wrongs,” until there is a clear “correction and inclusion in the history textbooks, opening of all classified documents”…. until there is a clear “respect for those killed, and for those living today” until then, there will be no respect for arrogant kings who claim to have been awaken by George Floyd’s killing in the USA and not the atrocities they themselves committed in Congo!

We, the people of Congo, cannot forget… we cannot forget that the unrest in Congo today is a direct result of the atrocities committed by Belgium in the region. We cannot forget the souls of our ancestors who still cry to us for justice today.

 

DRC_Republic_of_the_Congo_(Léopoldville)_-_Commemoration_Independence_Stamp

Stamp commemorating the independence of Congo

Today, to mark Congo independence day, we will go back to the speech pronounced by his then prime minister Patrice Lumumba on 30 June 1960. Enjoy!

African Heritage

Today, we will do a Memory recall… Please enjoy this great independence speech delivered by Patrice Lumumba in 1960 to the people of Congo, few months before his assassination. It is a pure jewel! The French version is here LUMUMBA discours. Don’t forget to watch the video!!!

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Men and women of the Congo,

Victorious fighters for independence, today victorious, I greet you in the name of the Congolese Government. All of you, my friends, who have fought tirelessly at our sides, I ask you to make this June 30, 1960, an illustrious date that you will keep indelibly engraved in your hearts, a date of significance of which you will teach to your children, so that they will make known to their sons and to their grandchildren the glorious history of our fight for liberty.

For this independence of the Congo, even as it is celebrated today…

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Posted by: Dr. Y. | June 26, 2020

African Joke: The Sharp Father

African Venus, a sculpture by Charles-Henri Joseph Cordier 1851 (Source: Walters Art Museum)

African Venus, a sculpture by Charles-Henri Joseph Cordier 1851 (Source: Walters Art Museum)

A teenage girl is seated next to her father in the house when she suddenly sees her boyfriend approaching. Knowing that her father is very strict, she decides to strike a conversation with the boyfriend.

Girl: Have you come to borrow the book titled “DAD IS IN THE HOUSE?” by Jean Pliya.

Boyfriend: No, I want your book of songs called “WHERE SHOULD I WAIT FOR YOU?” by Bernard Dadié.

Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe

Girl: Oh. I don’t have it, but I have the one titled “UNDER THE MANGO TREE” by Chinua Achebe.

Boyfriend: Good. But please don’t forget to bring “I WILL CALL YOU IN 5 MINUTES” by Aimé Césaire, when you come to school.

Girl: Ok. I will bring Olympe Bhêly-Quenum’s new book “I WILL NEVER ABANDON YOU.”

The father (to his daughter): these are a lot of books, will he read them all?

Severin Cecile Abega

“Les Bimanes” by Severin Cecile Abega

Girl: Yes. He is good and excellent reader.

The father: Ok. Don’t forget to take to him the book titled, “I AM NOT STUPID, I UNDERSTOOD EVERYTHING” by Cheikh Hamidou Kane, and also the one which is called “BE READY TO GET MARRIED IF YOU GET PREGNANT” by Séverin Cécile Abega.

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Note: Jean Pliya, Bernard Dadié, Chinua Achebe, Aimé Césaire, Olympe Bhêly-Quenum, Séverin Cécile Abega, and Cheikh Hamidou Kane are all great African writers.

 

Orange_3

Seaux d’oranges / Buckets of oranges

L’oeil ne mange pas l’orange, mais il sait qu’elle est douce (Proverbe Mandingue – Mali, Guinée, Côte d’Ivoire). – Entre familiers on se connaît.

The eye does not eat the orange, but it knows that it is sweet (Mandinka proverb – Mali, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire). – Among familiar people, we know each other.

Posted by: Dr. Y. | June 22, 2020

Mungo Park describes Ségou in 1795

Mungo Park

Portrait of the Scottish explorer Mungo Park

Below is a description of the great city of Ségou (pronounce Segu) in Mali by the Scottish explorer Mungo Park in 1795. Here he describes the city’s population density, dynamism, architecture, and even their ways of life. He amply describes the roominess and surprised sturdiness of Ségou’s canoes which could host 4 horses. Mungo Park is simply astounded by the greatness of the civilization he encounters there, and concludes, “the crowded population and the cultivated state of the surrounding country, formed altogether a prospect of civilization and magnificence, which I little expected to find in the bosom of Africa.” Note that the city is surrounded by high mud walls probably similar to the Tata of Sikasso: an African Fortifying Wall.

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Mali_Ségou_La Mosquée (AOF)

The Mosque in Segou at the beginning of the 20th century

Sego, the capital of Bambarra, at which I had now arrived, consists, properly speaking, of four distinct towns ; two on the northern bank of the Niger, called Sego Korro, and Sego Boo and two on the southern bank, called Sego Soo Korro and Sego See Korro. They are all surrounded with high mud walls ; the houses are built of clay, of a square form, with flat roofs ; some of them have two storeys, and many of them are whitewashed.

Mali_Segou_Palais d'Ahmadou Tall

Entrance to Ahmadu’s palace in Segou-Sikoro published in the 1868 edition of the book by Eugene Mage Voyage dans le Soudan occidental (Sénégambie-Niger), Paris: Hachette

Besides these buildings, Moorish mosques are seen in every quarter ; and the streets, though narrow, are broad enough for every useful purpose, in a country where wheel-carriages are entirely unknown. From the best enquiries I could make, I have reason to believe that Sego contains altogether about thirty thousand inhabitants. The king of Bambarra constantly resides at Sego See Korro ; he employs a great many slaves in conveying people over the river, and the money they receive (though the fare is only ten cowrie shells for each individual) furnishes a considerable revenue to the king in the course of a year. The canoes are of a singular construction, each of them being formed of the trunks of two large trees, rendered concave, and joined together, not side by side, but end ways ; the junction being exactly across the middle of the canoe ; they are therefore very long and disproportionably narrow, and have neither decks nor masts ; they are, however, very roomy ; for I observed in one of them four horses, and several people crossing over the river. When we arrived at this ferry, with a view to pass over to that part of the town in which the king resides, we found a great number waiting for a passage ; they looked at me with silent wonder, and I distinguished, with concern, many Moors among them. There were three different places of embarkation, and the ferrymen were very diligent and expeditious ; but, from the crowd of people, I could not immediately obtain a passage ; and sat down upon the bank of the river, to wait for a more favourable opportunity The view of this extensive city ; the numerous canoes upon the river ; the crowded population and the cultivated state of the surrounding country, formed altogether a prospect of civilization and magnificence, which I little expected to find in the bosom of Africa.

 

Mungo Park, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa: Performed Under the Direction and Patronage of the African Association, in the Years 1795, 1796, and 1797.

Sego = Ségou

Bambarra = Bambara

Sego Boo = Ségou-Bou

Sego Korro = Ségou-Koro

Sego See-Korro = Ségou-Sikoro

*The four cities mentioned here are actually on the southern shore, but there are on the northern shore some neighborhoods to which Mungo Park attributed excessive importance.

Troupeau de vaches

Youth guarding a herd of cattle

Dieu garde le troupeau en ton absence (Proverbe Kirundi – Burundi).

God keeps the flock in your absence (Kirundi proverb – Burundi).

Burundi_Pierre Nkurunziza_8

Pierre Nkurunziza during a community event (Source: PressHerald.com)

Given all the negative rhetoric played by the foreign media, I thought it will be good to remind all of Pierre Nkurunziza‘s achievements. I will focus mostly on his work within his country of Burundi. As we saw earlier, internationally he helped broker peace in Somalia.

A popular president

A president in office doing manual work, taking part in soccer games, had never been seen before. This president, Pierre Nkurunziza, was not a “traditional” president in his white marble castle, but was seen rather as a simple man, a man of the people, a man like the people he served. He was seen cycling, and taking part in community work. He was also an avid soccer player and lover; he owned a soccer team and trained them.

Children_2

Some children

Free education and health

During his investiture, some of his first adopted measures were free primary school education (i.e. from Kindergarten through 6th grade), free childbirth, and free health for all children under 5. This might not be seen as much, but in a poor country such as Burundi, free primary school education definitely increases the literacy of the people and offers parents very needed help. Similarly, free health services for women during childbirth, and for children under 5 is a tremendous help. This is an achievement not seen in many places in the world, not even in Western countries.

A religious president

Nkurunziza was not afraid to show his faith. He was deeply religious. For each public event, or manual work, prayers were said at the beginning and at the end of these events. This led him to put God first in the constitution of the country, as well as establishing a day of national solidarity.

Burundi_Flag

Flag of Burundi

A Patriot

He deeply loved his country Burundi and his people. He pushed for ancient local cultures and values long forgotten to be re-instated and taught in schools. He established the national day of the commune which is celebrated in the old fashion.

 

 

The works

Road_2During his tenure, from 2007 to 2014, 5200 schools were built, compared to 1900 schools from 1962 to 2007. Several roads were asphalted and created RN12, RN13, RN15, RN18, RN19, … Hospitals and community universities, classrooms, stadiums, modern markets, including the new Ntare Rushatsi presidential palace were erected.

Most importantly, he is the first president of Burundi to have ruled the country without a civil war.

So long Pierre Nkurunziza: we, the people, salute your patriotism, love of your country, and people. You will be remembered for your great achievements.

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